Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Special Education Update: Inclusion Students Unbound!

Last night, SFUSD Special Education Assistant Superintendent Ceclia Dodge proposed to the Board of Ed that inclusion kids now be able to apply to any school, and not just be limited to particular schools. Rachel Norton has more details on her website --- www.rachelnorton.com -- but this is an important change that will affect middle school placement for our son Ben. Up until now, we had been limited to particular middle schools that offered inclusion, most of which were large middle schools, but now we will be able to apply to any middle school, including smaller ones.

We have also toured the charter options for special education for middle school. I have written up my review of the two charters we chose -- Gateway, a charter high school that is now opening a middle school starting in Fall 2011, and Edison, a K through 8 charter that has recently had a management change. (The tour notes should be posted shortly; right now they are available in the database but under the "comments" section.) Of these, Gateway stood out for us both in the professionalism of the adminstrators and teachers and the success they've had at Gateway's high school. Gateway really seems to have figured out a way to integrate special education students into the general student population -- and seeing that at the high school level was really exciting. Gateway does have some "ifs" about it -- it is not clear where the middle school will be physically located, and there's an unknown right now about whether middle school students will automatically get into Gateway's high school. But for middle school special ed parents -- particularly those looking for smaller grade and class size (25 students in a class), this is an option you should not miss!

29 comments:

  1. old system seemed fineNovember 9, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    any idea how much this will cost the district and what else will need to be cut to accommodate having inclusion at all schools? Also, if seats for inclusion students are held open until Rounds 2 or 3, will this reduce the % of gen ed students receiving their top choices?

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  2. Parent advocates, if you are out there reading, please work with the district towards increasing inclusion opportunities for preschool students. Right now there is ONE school in SFUSD with inclusion for preschoolers. Strange, eh?

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  3. 11:17, which school?

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  4. Presidio CDC. Only aggressive advocates like Katy/11:17 are able to enroll their kids there.

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  5. inclusion for preschool? I don't get it - why aren't you paying for preschool (private) like the rest of us??

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  6. Good luck with this. I am sure ALL of the middle school teachers will be trained in time to teach these inclusion students (doubt it).

    Don't blame the district when your child is sitting there "learning" how to take notes, with no pencil or paper.

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  7. Cost is of no concern to the special interests. How can every school be expected to provide inclusion services while other gen ed services are cut to the bone? There should be a happy medium that gives inclusion parents choice without demanding that all schools provide equal inclusion services. Would I be on solid ground demanding that all schools provide Chinese immersion? That would be unreasonable.

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  8. This is GREAT NEWS and saves parents having to reclassify their kids to fit into these pretty arbitrary "program" constraints. It's also mandatory if they really want to go to a feeder system next year. At the middle school level I don't think this will cost that much or be that hard (there are so few of them). At the elementary level it might be more expensive but perhaps not too bad. These schools all have RSP programs and sped staff anyway and inclusion students' needs are frequently are not much different. Parents of kids with larger needs will initially tend toward the schools with existing inclusion programs so the changes will likely be gradual.

    This is a big relief to us and to anyone who has to explain to their soon to be middle schooler why they're not allowed to go to the school their friends are going to.

    Remember that a good sped staff will select the teachers for their sped students carefully. This means teachers that don't deal well with sped students will likely not get sped students. Our elementary school has a great staff but still one of the best things that having an IEP has done for us is to know that the teacher (and sometimes a few peers) are carefully chosen to match the needs of our kid.

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  9. This is likely being changed to allow the implementation of the ES neighborhood assignment and MS feeders without fear of a costly lawsuit from the SpEd community.

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  10. 1:07 - I think you are correct as to why this came about. This should help with the implementation of the feeder school concept for middle school going forward next year.

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  11. how does elementary sped assignment happen this year?

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  12. Alamo went through a $7 million ADA upgrade to make the school wheelchair accessible beginning this school year. But we don't have a single student assigned to Alamo who benefits by this expense.

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  13. 10:58 AM, the CDCs are for low-income families (though I hear there's some cheating). So anyone needing special ed at the preschool level is sh*t out of luck if they are poor, which you seem to think is just fine.

    11:59, when there is an Americans with "Chinese" Language Act, then yes, you will be able to demand "Chinese" immersion (I can only hope you mean Mandarin or Cantonese, since Chinese isn't a language).

    Don, just because there isn't a kid needing wheelchair access this year doesn't mean there never will be. But without accessibility, of course there never would be. You have to build the access before anyone can take advantage of it.

    The nastiness toward children with special ed needs and disabilities here is breathtaking.

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  14. Hey, I have a child who is in special ed. I'm just saying that if the public is going to spend this kind of money to accommodate students with special needs than it ought to do so with the same sort of economy that is employed in other areas of education. No nastiness here - just an interest in aligning costs with needs.

    In the case of Alamo, the school was already largely wheel chair accessible before the upgrade, though it is surely more so now. And to paint the whole picture properly, the upgrade has been an improvement for the entire student body with better lighting, larger classrooms and new bathrooms, just to name a few things.

    Though these upgrades have been long in the making, they contrast sharply with the massive staffing cutbacks. We can afford to spend million on the structure but don't have the resources to hire for basic needs. What good does it do to have nice large well lit rooms if we don't have the staff to give students the proper educational services that they need? I 'd much rather have it the other way around.

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  15. http://www.flayme.com/troll/#Why

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  16. For accessibility requirements - the District has no choice in the matter. ADA requirements mandate that accessibility code standards are met for all public institutions. No ifs, ands, or buts. Take it up with Congress since it is a federal law.

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  17. 10:08 asks a really good question -- how is this going to impact K enrollment this year? My understanding is that every elementary will now be able to offer inclusion. When our kid started K, he had an IEP, but we had no idea about "RSP" versus "Inclusion" versus anything else. When I read Rachel's website and see that some parents are pushing the district for the designation, I realize how much we messed up at that time. So just the fact that you are asking these questions is good! To me, the key is not what special ed designation a elementary has, but the quality of the principal's commitment to special ed and the quality of the special ed professionals on the ground at the school. So a prospective K parent really needs to do LOTS of spade work here! (Stuff we didn't do. Grrrr!)

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  18. "Build it and they will come"

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  19. "To me, the key is not what special ed designation a elementary has, but the quality of the principal's commitment to special ed and the quality of the special ed professionals on the ground at the school."

    True true true - this is the key. Even the "best" schools (for general ed) can fail for special ed.

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  20. Could folks who've been through the K search with a special ed child make comments here about what to look for in a elementary? With the fair tomorrow, this is a good time for us oldies to give any pointers we have to the newbies -- and goodness knows the parents with special ed kids need all the help they can get!!!

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  21. What is the kid's disability or difference in learning style? If you already have an idea as to what would be an appropriate method for your child's need, ask what the school offers and see if there is any match. I can not emphasize enough the need for a parent to do research on the disability in question. The school may try to throw out a lot of jargon. You need to understand what is being said and be prepared to question the methods being offered. They may not be appropriate and they probably will not be sufficient. Do not be intimidated by the educators. By the end of the process of educating your child, chances are you will end up being the expert, more so than some of the teachers and administrators.

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  22. Can someone please explain how this plan is to be implemented?

    Elementary classrooms have 22 kids/class. Does this mean that now - some of those kids will be special ed kids with no additional teachers or paras? Or does each special ed kid have his own assistant?

    I don't understand. thanks

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  23. 2:20 pm -- not sure what you mean by each special ed child "having their own assistant" as I have never seen that in a public school -- or at least the two my guys have been at. But if you are asking whether a school that hitherto did not have inclusion is going to have additional special ed professionals to handle the extra work, the answer is: we don't know. Now, honestly, some of this is a matter of labeling and, to the extent that a elementary is already handling special ed students under the "RSP" rubric, they should be able to handle kids who are under the "inclusion" rubric. But you are right that, to the extent that adding students labeled inclusion adds to the special ed workload at a particular school, one would expect that it may require addition of special ed staff. Whether the District will do that is another story.

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  24. Don,

    You know that the school district does not really have a choice with the upgrades. The fact that they coincide with this budget crisis is only incidental.

    Good job in not responding to the put down from 7:53. Just ignore her. If she wants to clutter up another thread with her mania she'll have a harder time of it if you just turn the other cheek. She's a real piece of work.

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  25. My child was identified in 2nd grade so I have no experience looking for a school that would suit him. Overall, I am very satisfied with the assistance he has received at Alamo.

    I have not followed the assignment issue as it applies to sped. More gen ed students will be assigned to ES based neighborhood, but do sped students get a preference?

    Now that the Students First neighborhood school initiative "Quality Neighborhood Schools For All" is going to be on the ballot for Nov. 2011, how will this affect the District's rollout of the new sped guidelines? Will pressure to keep kids closer to home also apply to inclusion and will more schools have to develop inclusion programs as a result. The measure is non-binding, but it will have an affect on policy as the campaign gets under way in spring regardless of whether it passes or not.

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  26. 10:58
    Yes, it is the lower income families with kids in preschool who really can't get their kids what they need and deserve. Unless your child is "severely impaired" and put in a "severely impaired special day class" in preschool there are limited services. The special day classes are not bad but since sfusd only places severely impaired kids they are not appropriate for kids with mild-moderate needs (like a smart kid with autism, or a well-behaved kids with a huge speech and language delay) who could benefit from more early intervention. There are great kids spending much of their day not learning much in their cdc, cheap private pre-k or head start because they need support to be fully included. Their higher-income counterparts are benefiting from private therapies and tutors, at huge cost to their parents. Then there are kids with visual or orthopedic impairments--parents need to pay out of pocket to have support for their kids in preschool--or not send their child to preschool at all. Kids of all income levels are supposed to have their special education needs met by the school district, but in SFUSD this is not happening. Preschool is when kids benefit most from intervention so this is bad policy on many levels. If you have a preschooler please fight aggressively for inclusive services for your child!!

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  27. Don is an idiot. Don't listen to him.

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  28. Are you going to ruin every discussion? Go away.unfors

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  29. It seems like the SpEd community will do fine after all without Brodkin (as well as Norton) on the BOE.

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