So we are now in the middle of our search for a middle school for our son Ben, who is in special ed. First, we've made a big decision. We just decided to change Ben's program designation from "Inclusion" to "RSP." Some parents who have kindly commented on my blog postings in past said they made the switch as a way to expand middle school options as Inclusion was only offered at a limited number of middle schools. But, as I have mentioned, the school district just mandated that ALL elementaries and middle schools now offer Inclusion. Only well maybe they did. After touring three different middle schools that have not had Inclusion in the past but now have it, we have become concerned that, at least for next year, this planned push out of Inclusion is going to be, well, bumpy. I have no doubt that the District wants all schools to offer Inclusion. But actually getting the schools to do it appears to be a different story. Our questions have been met with everything from blank stares to outright rejection -- as in "We know the District wants Inclusion at our school but I can tell you right now that there will be no Inclusion kids at our school next year." There is confusion as to whether extra support will be rolled out at these schools. Moreover, and I am just beginning to understand this, Inclusion seems to mean something different at the middle school level than it does at the elementary school level. At the elementary school level, Inclusion has come to encompass all kinds of kids from ones, like Ben, who have ADD but can generally keep up with the general ed class' curriculum (with support) to kids who need significant modification of that curriculum and/or have significant behavioral problems (which Ben doesn't have). For some middle schools, Inclusion seems to be the box where kids who need curriculum modification and/or who are disruptive go. Kids like Ben to them are RSP kids. Now I don't know if this is the way the District interprets these designations, but I have now heard it from too many special ed professionals at middle schools and, since those are the folks I'm going to be dealing with next year, their interpretation is what matters. So we made the switch at Ben's IEP. Our hope is that this change will make it easier for us to actually get a school that will work for us.
And finding a school that will work is a bit of a work in progress. Here's my two second take on special ed at the large middle schools we've seen so far: (1) Giannini -- special ed professionals seem good and earnest and the school seems orderly, but the school is so academically inclined that we just don't think it will go well for Ben's self-esteem; (2) Hoover -- the school just seems so chaotic to us, plus we have heard too many concerns about increased discipline issues at the school and have too many friends who have had to pull their special ed kid out of it; (3) Roosevelt -- we liked the slightly smaller feel of the school, but we got a negative vibe from the principal about special ed (he was the only principal that didn't want to talk about special ed, but rather sent us directly to the special ed professionals); (4) Lick -- loved the principal but we are worried that the school has too many kids with issues and our Ben will just get lost in the woodworking there; plus we got a sense that some of the special ed staff was not well-trained; (4) Aptos -- of all the big middle schools, this was the one that seemed like it might work; nice mix of kids and relatively orderly and the special ed professionals seemed nice and on top of things.
We've still got a couple more, but that's where we are at.