Friday, February 4, 2011

Further Update on Special Ed Middle School Search

We are coming up to the final days before the February 18th deadline for public school applications and are having some problems. My other half and I seem to be better at figuring out which schools we don't want Ben to go to than which schools would be good for him. And we are, ahem, arguing a lot about that list. We both feel that the K-8's would be the best for him -- Rooftop, San Francisco Community Alternative, and Claire Lillienthal -- and are fine with putting those down. But the fact is that the odds of getting into any of them are zero -- particularly in this first round of assignments. Of all the big schools, Aptos seemed to be the one that we thought was going to work. However, the special ed folks at our school remain concerned that, since Aptos has not hitherto had Inclusion kids, it may not be set up to handle Ben's issues right away. We did switch Ben out of Inclusion and into RSP, and the labels shouldn't matter, but hearing our elementary special ed folks express concern is worrisome. And, to make things worse, Ben hasn't exactly had a good January at his school. His social skills, which were improving over the Fall, seem to have taken a turn for the worse. His focus level, which was really improving in the Fall, seems to have stalled. I think this is what may be motivating the concern from our school. They keep saying he'd be much better off in a smaller middle school, and goodness knows we agree, but saying that and getting that are two different things. My guess is that trying to hold out for a K-8 probably would entail a long wait through the spring and into the summer, and neither of us are really ready to handle the stress of that. (We are also nervous how that would play out with Ben, once he hears others at school talking about the middle schools they are going to.) The special ed folks at our school feel that, rather than Aptos, Giannini or Hoover would be better as schools we could actually get into in the first round. And here's where we are having an argument. My partner absolutely is opposed to Giannini. He worries that the more academic vibe at Giannini is just going to beat down Ben, much like his previous elementary did. I'm worried about Hoover. I know three families over the past four years who had special ed kids at Hoover, and had to pull them out. I know that someone else's experience does not necessarily translate into what might happen to our kid, but it is really hard to put down a school when you know people who had bad experiences at it. So, we are effectively canceling each other out. So that's where we are at.

32 comments:

  1. I don't understand why you switched your child's designation to RSP, from Inclusion. Inclusion applicants have priority over RSP applicants. RSP applicants must enter the lottery along with everyone else.

    Inclusion is now available at every school, (for applications into transitional grades) so changing to RSP gave you no advantage. Perhaps when you changed you thought it might give you more choices? Because our kids used to be banned from 60% of all schools?

    I wouldn't worry too much about schools not having had inclusion before, in a way, it could be good because the school staff may not be set in their ways, they may be flexible, and open to learning best practices.

    SF Community is probably your best bet. I hear it is a caring, close-knit school, and it is a small school.

    The Roosevelt administrator didn't seem to take ownership of students receiving special education, when I toured, but it might be OK.

    I've heard horror stories about things that happened to kids in inclusion programs at Aptos and Giannini and Hoover, and while that doesn't necessarily mean it will happen to your child, how those schools handled the bullying I heard about is a cause for concern.

    Don't let this cause grief between you and your husband. You guys should go out to dinner, relax, and not fight about it ... life's hard enough without adding to the stress, you guys need to support each other.

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  2. Just read what Moggy wrote... Can you change back to an Inclusion designation in time to submit the application? (Maybe it could be "pending" when you submit.)

    Before I read Moggy's post, this is what I had prepared (and maybe it will still be a little helpful):

    If you end up at Aptos, my son (an 8th grader next year) could check in on Ben. I’m sorry you have so little chance of getting into a placement (K-8) you think would be most appropriate, though.

    We faced a similar situation with our adult daughter many years ago. She is quadriplegic with a speech disability, as the result of cerebral palsy, and she was assigned to Marina Middle School. There were only two middle schools to which OH (orthopedically handicapped) students were assigned at that time- Marina and AP. (We lived in Bernal Heights!) The principal at Marina would not allow our daughter to be included (“mainstreamed” back then), but since we could see our daughter was never going to catch up academically if she didn’t get out of what she later referred to as a “special ed ghetto,” we fought to get her transferred to AP. (Not easy!) We also wanted to get her out of there because the special ed teacher demonstrated very negative attitudes towards students with disabilities, too. (And LOW expectations.)

    Before the transfer to AP, we did seek out K-8 options (since we also felt they would be more suitable), particularly SF Community School, which was located near Marina back then. SF Community was willing to consider the idea, but there were just too many logistical problems regarding wheelchair access, the need for a para for bathroom assistance and the access to OT, PT and speech therapy. So… we went with AP.

    The classes were self-contained for 6th grade then (a HUGE advantage for a child first being included). Our FANTASTIC 6th grade (GE) teacher, Eileen Atkisson, used the Tribes program, and it was perfect for my daughter’s situation. The kids in her Tribe looked out for her, learned to understand her speech… and one of those “kids” is still her good friend today. When she twice ran for Treasurer- in 7th and 8th grades- he interpreted for her as she gave her campaign speeches at the assemblies… and in 8th grade, she was elected! She and a girl from her 6th grade Tribe did their 7th grade science fair project together and won first prize. My daughter was in GATE by 8th grade (not for math!)… and then went on to Lowell and Cal. She has accomplished a great deal in her life, and has been honored many times (including at Lowell) for her service to the community, but it all could have gone very differently if we hadn’t gotten her out of Marina.

    So… not to make you paranoid, but you are right to take this very seriously. On the other hand (to give you hope!), if it doesn’t work out, it is possible to get a better placement.

    I think it might be easiest to get into SF Community (from your K-8 choices). If you list that first, is it still an advantage? (Not sure how/if the “lottery” has changed this year…) Our son has really liked Aptos, but we are new this year, and I don’t know anything about the situation for students with disabilities. (The principal is a great guy, though.)

    Also, have you checked out the new Gateway Middle School? I know it isn’t K-8… but the 6th grade class is supposed to have 100 students, and then those sixth graders will always be the oldest as they move to 7th grade, then 8th grade. (Am I making sense?) If it worked out, I assume Gateway MS students become Gateway HS students? (If so, that would mean one less transition!)

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  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments. I think you are both right. First, I think we made a mistake in switching out from inclusion. We did so because folks at the k8s we talked to seemed to indicate they weren't going to take inclusion kids. But we now know the chances of getting a k8 are zero, and, in a way, we have undermined whatever priority we might have for one of those schools. (Once again, i have shown people what not to do.) Sfusd hq is adamant that, whatever these schools are saying, they are going to have to take inclusion. Second, we have applied to gateway. I should have mentioned that here. Gateway is really now our number one, two and three choice. If we get in, we will go there. If we don't we will wait list for it, and wait list for k8s. And, yes, of k8s, SF Community is our number one and I think there is a slight chance of getting in there, particularly over the summer.

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  4. Hey Moggy,

    I think writing in your own name has been like a tonic for you. Keep up the good work!

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  5. This thread is about special ed middle school enrollment, not about what trolls think.

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  6. Oh well, I guess it was too much to expect.

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  7. Joseph,

    I will be keeping my fingers crossed for Ben getting your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice!

    If possible, maybe you could still try to get that designation changed back… to optimize your chances of getting him an appropriate assignment, just in case. (Maybe give a call to CASE, DREDF or Disability Rights California- after checking with Support for Families- just to see if it is possible?) Seems like you only changed the designation so he wouldn’t be discriminated against…

    Also, I hope my previous post didn’t seem like I was boasting about my daughter’s accomplishments. I am very proud of her, of course, but my point was that the principal and teacher at Marina had very limited expectations for her, and they couldn’t have been more mistaken. Unfortunately, expectations can become self-fulfilling, so how much would she have achieved if she had stayed at that school… and what about the kids with disabilities who couldn’t leave?

    And…. I may have left the impression that once we got her into AP, all was nirvana. As I’m sure you know by now, that will never be the case. There were still stereotypes to confront, a couple of biased GE teachers and administrators, some bullying in 8th grade, many struggles for greater accessibility, etc.. I also had to work with her many hours after school each day to get her up to grade level (and beyond). But the move to a new school afforded her so many more opportunities than she ever would have been allowed to have at Marina. (Then she made the most of them.)

    Sending BEST wishes for Ben!

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  8. M,

    It is great to read a success story; mostly I hear the bad stuff and it makes me so sad. Boast away!

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  9. Now that we must register, I ask the moderator to also track IP addresses and block the puppetry. Or just delete all posts that are off-topic, like the posts at 10:18, 5:24, & 7:01.

    Thanks.

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  10. M- thanks for the post. I was highly encouraged. I have a child with a learning disability about to enter 6th grade. In looking at schools, her first choice was AP. I discussed that it would be an academicly challenging school. She said she was tired of being coddled. And I am thinking this is a fantastic attitude. It is important not to underestimate our kids.

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  11. Yup, it's the low expectations that really hurt our kids.

    One SFUSD administrator recently gave a speech and said something like:

    "it's a crime that in SFUSD, African American students score even lower than the special ed kids do"

    ... they EXPECT students receiving special education services to score badly, but why? A very small percentage of children receiving sped services are cognitively impaired; they CAN learn, they just need different sorts of methods to help them learn.

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  12. Children with cognitive delays are also capable of learning ...
    when people make an effort to teach them.

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  13. M wrote: "if possible, maybe you could still try to get that designation changed back… to optimize your chances of getting him an appropriate assignment, just in case. (Maybe give a call to CASE, DREDF or Disability Rights California"

    The easiest way to go is to just ask the special education teacher to hold a mini-IEP addendum meeting, and change the designation. It's a friendlier SPED administration nowadays, I'd hope they wouldn't jerk you around about something like this. It doesn't have to be a big deal, it doesn't have to be a huge IEP meeting with a bunch of staff.
    It's best to always try to work things out nicely, first, before calling CASE or DREDF. Parents are so used to the SPED department being unreasonable, they assume it will always be adversarial. Things are slowly getting better.

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  14. "It's best to always try to work things out nicely,..."

    Wow, is this the same person?

    Now that she has to sign in suddenly the blog is on track and accusations don't fill up have the posts. And it is no coincidence her posts take up about half. And they are on topic and add something. They seem to be pretty good advice in fact since she seems to have a solid background in sped issues.

    Having to sign in has been a real positive and I hope Kate will consider keeping it. Since Moggy is so intent upon tracking addresses maybe Kate will grant Moggy access so she can do it herself.

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  15. 10:06 is another example of an off-topic post that has nothing to do with the subject and is only meant to insult and harass.

    Moderator: Please delete all off-topic posts. Please track IP addresses and stop his sock-puppeting.

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  16. Well, then Moggy, perhaps you can try to follow your own advice in the future. Your neverending posts on sockpuppeting are also off topic. Or are we to suppose only your admonitions are of value?

    Stick to something you know about and stop assuming that know who writes half the anonymous posts - the half are yours.

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  17. correction "you know" - before the sockpuppet and grammar police attack

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  18. Joseph here again -- The issue with respect to Giannini is a tough issue. I'm going to give some personal information here, because I think this is a tough, tough issue and I'd like to hear what others think of how we are viewing it. First, there are sped kids who do better in more academic environments. I can think of a friend's child who is extremely smart, but just has tremendous problems in social interactions with kids her age. Ben is not like that kid. We have had his IQ tested on our own, and, while his slow processing is a serious problem, he has low average IQ. So if his processing speed were working at 100%, according to the person who tested him for us, he'd still be a struggling student. Now, I'd like to know how someone can tease out a kid's "true IQ" in a situation where slow processing speed permeates his cognitive processes. But this person -- who I paid $3000 to do this -- says that this is possible. And, given that, we are really worried about putting him in any kind of academic situation. Furthermore, he was in a more academically-challenging elementary, and he really struggled with being the "slowest" in the class. In his new elementary, there is a wider range of kid talents and he doesn't feel so isolated. Again, we are worried that, at Giannini, he'd be isolated out as the slow one in his class.

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  19. "M wrote: "if possible, maybe you could still try to get that designation changed back… to optimize your chances of getting him an appropriate assignment, just in case. (Maybe give a call to CASE, DREDF or Disability Rights California"

    The easiest way to go is to just ask the special education teacher to hold a mini-IEP addendum meeting, and change the designation. It's a friendlier SPED administration nowadays, I'd hope they wouldn't jerk you around about something like this. It doesn't have to be a big deal, it doesn't have to be a huge IEP meeting with a bunch of staff.

    It's best to always try to work things out nicely, first, before calling CASE or DREDF. Parents are so used to the SPED department being unreasonable, they assume it will always be adversarial. Things are slowly getting better.

    February 6, 2011 11:18 AM"

    That's a good point, and I'm VERY glad to hear things are improving! I also realize now that my suggestion sounded a little more adversarial than I intended. When I suggested contacting Support for Families first, that was in order to see if they had some quick advice that might help resolve the situation ASAP... but if not, THEN to try one of the advocacy organizations... not to start a lawsuit, or something... but to determine exactly what Ben's rights are in this situation. (And then to proceed accordingly, depending on the advice given-- and the District's subsequent response.)

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  20. "Again, we are worried that, at Giannini, he'd be isolated out as the slow one in his class."

    My daughter's years at AP are ancient history, so not helpful, but when we were more recently checking out MS options for our son, if I am remembering correctly, AP doesn't have Honors in 6th grade. So... Ben would be in classes that would include a fair number of future Honors students (Honors classes start in 7th grade at AP, I think) at a school with an academically competitive reputation.

    At any rate, some schools, like Aptos, separate Honors from non-Honors students from the beginning (though there is still the possibility of movement), so you might want to consider the Honors situation in 6th grade (and beyond) in deciding what is most appropriate for Ben.

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  21. With all due respect to Moggy's heretofore hidden background in special education, Don is the clear winner. Registration is what he's been asking for for some time.

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  22. "I discussed that it would be an academically challenging school. She said she was tired of being coddled. And I am thinking this is a fantastic attitude. It is important not to underestimate our kids."

    SF gal,
    That IS a fantastic attitude!!! WAY more mature attitude than I had at that age. (Or probably now, for that matter...) Tell her my daughter and I are very impressed and expect great things from her.

    My daughter has some major learning disabilities associated with the cerebral palsy, but they didn't get officially identified until she was at Cal.

    Wishing your daughter all the best in this new adventure!

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  23. Moggy's the winner because she is now a contributor.

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  24. 10:47, 10:49, 4:12, and 5:13 are more examples of idiotic off-topic posts that have nothing to do with the subject and are only meant to insult and harass.

    Moderator: Please delete all off-topic posts. Please also track IP addresses and stop rampant sock-puppeting.

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  25. 10:34, 9;26, 10:35, and 6:42 are more examples of off-topic posts that have nothing to do with the subject and are only meant to insult and harass.

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  26. Moggy, I know it is hard, but ignore him completely. It is obvious to everyone reading this thread that you are dealing with an unstable stalker.
    Contact the police, if you haven't already.

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  27. More accusations. Just what the blog needs!

    What must be obvious to everyone is that you have no problem making any accusation that suits your fancy.

    That's not something that the average person engages in.

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  28. "cottsby" is a sock puppet, and so is "Tina." Readers beware: it takes less than five minutes to create a sock puppet, and this blog is overrun.

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  29. Joseph,

    I think comparing kids is hard. The current nomenclature for learning issues is “difference” rather than “disability” and I think that is the key. All these issues do seem to manifest themselves differently depending on the child. I think the key is to know your kid and do with what you feel is right rather than being too dependent on test results and expert opinions.

    My child does not test all that well on the intelligence part of the test. I do not particularly agree with that analysis. Her strength strikes me as being able to understand to big picture, cutting through details and getting to the heart of the matter. Does this trait show up in the testing? I have no idea. I trust that analysis more than an outside evaluator (and I have paid big bucks for those also).

    Have you asked your son as to his preference? In my case, I did solicit her opinion on the middle school matter. In part, due to her ability to see the big picture, I find that it is beneficial to listen to what she has to say. And in getting her opinion on the matter, the child will be more apt to take ownership of the decision. If she wants something that is academically challenging, and we follow through on that decision, then I cannot help but feel that she will be empowered by the results. It also shows that we respect her opinion and that we support her. The child’s preference may not be viable in every situation, but it is something to consider.

    I would look at what worked for him in elementary. If being in a less academically challenging environment seemed a better fit for him, I would try to emulate that. I recall that you threw out Lick as a possibility, but I have heard that the school (and their small class size) work s well for kids that struggle (this from moms whose kids have IEPs and who go there).

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  30. Sock Pups R EZ,

    I suggest you take the sockpuppet/ off-topic posts to the thread about registration unless you want to engage in the very behavior you claim to dislike.

    You are right in one sense: We are overrun - not with sockpuppets, but with bloggers who show precious little self- restraint. It is all to easy to throw out accusations on-line.

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  31. Thanks, SF Gal, that's REALLY helpful.

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