Improving Special Education in California – Public Policy Institute of California

By Paul Warren, Laura Hill

What are the most significant challenges in California’s K–12 school system today? A new report, Getting Down to Facts II, recently released comprehensive findings. PPIC was asked to weigh in on the topic of special education.

We contributed an update to our 2016 report, Special Education Finance in California. This report concluded that state funding for services to students with disabilities is inequitable, inadequate, and lacks transparency. It also fails to provide the same level of local control as other state funding programs. In addition, preschool services to infants and toddlers with disabilities are lacking.

Our new report, Revisiting Finance and Governance Issues in Special Education, expands the analysis of these issues. Overall, we suggest that weaving greater accountability into governance and finance of special education has the potential to improve equity for students with special needs.

Source: Improving Special Education in California – Public Policy Institute of California

Dollars for Child Care and Preschool in 2018-19 Near Pre-Recession Levels With Boost From One-Time Funding – California Budget & Policy Center

By Kristin Schumacher

For the fifth year in a row, funding for California’s subsidized child care and development system has increased. This system provides critical child care and early learning opportunities for a limited number of children from low- and moderate-income families, but state funding was cut dramatically during and after the Great Recession, while federal funding for subsidized child care remained relatively flat.[1] This meant that fewer children and families received subsidized care than prior to the onset of the Great Recession. However, state policymakers have incrementally reinvested in these programs and services beginning with the 2014-15 state fiscal year, and bipartisan support for subsidized child care at the federal level has resulted in newly available federal funds, as well. Due to these investments, after adjusting for inflation, overall funding for California’s subsidized child care and development system in the 2018-19 fiscal year is $3.887 billion, 15% greater than in 2017-18 ($3.375 billion), and nearly even with funding levels in 2007-08, prior to the onset of the Great Recession (see chart).

Source: Dollars for Child Care and Preschool in 2018-19 Near Pre-Recession Levels With Boost From One-Time Funding – California Budget & Policy Center

Minorities Labeled Learning Disabled Because of Social Inequalities | US News

By Alexa Lardieri

The high number of racial minorities placed in special education for learning disabilities is largely because of social injustices separate from schools, not racially biased educators, according to a new study.

The study by Portland State University published in The Sociological Quarter used a statistical method to compare kids with comparable academic levels and socioeconomic status and found that racial minorities are actually less likely than white children to be labeled as having a learning disability, according to a press release from the university.

Dara Shifrer, lead author of the study and sociology professor in the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, believes a student’s socioeconomic status is a strong indicator of academic performance, which is often used to diagnose learning disabilities. Because African-American and Hispanic students are often at a socioeconomic disadvantage compared to white students, they may not perform as well, leading to a learning disabled diagnosis.

Source: Study: Minorities Labeled Learning Disabled Because of Social Inequalities | Education News | US News

Has Inclusion Gone Too Far? Weighing its effects on students – Education Next

By Allison F. Gilmour

The model of special education known as inclusion, or mainstreaming, has become more prevalent over the past 10 years, and today, more than 60 percent of all students with disabilities (SWDs) spend 80 percent or more of their school day in regular classrooms, alongside their non-disabled peers (see Figure 1). This is not the full inclusion favored by some disability advocates, wherein all SWDs would be educated in inclusive classrooms all day; however, many supporters celebrate the increasing acceptance of differently abled students in general education as an opportunity to improve the academic and long-term trajectories of these traditionally underserved learners. In theory, inclusion provides SWDs with access to the grade-level curriculum and the same educational opportunities as their peers.

Unfortunately, research has yielded only weak evidence that inclusion confers benefits on SWDs. Studies that report better academic and behavioral outcomes for SWDs who are taught in a general-education setting suffer from methodological flaws. Even less evidence suggests that general-education teachers are adequately prepared to meet the unique academic and behavioral needs of SWDs. Further, studies of inclusion seem to assume that SWDs are educated in a vacuum; that is, they fail to examine the experiences of non-disabled classmates.

Source: Has Inclusion Gone Too Far? Weighing its effects on students with disabilities, their peers, and teachers – Education Next : Education Next

Departing Students Are Victims Of High-Stakes Testing – Forbes Education

By Nick Morrison

Schools have been accused of pushing out students with low levels of achievement, in a practice where the students become the victims of a high-stakes testing regime.

School inspectors have identified 19,000 students who left their publicly-funded school shortly before crucial public examinations.

And while around half of those moved to another state-funded school, around half did not, and simply vanished from school registers.

Some may have moved into fee-paying schools, but with no information on their destination, the likelihood is that many will have effectively left education altogether.

Source: Departing Students Are Victims Of High-Stakes Testing

Special Education Bias Rule Put on Hold for Two Years by DeVos Team – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

The U.S. Department of Education is delaying, by two years, implementation of a rule that would require states to take a closer look at how school districts identify and serve minority students with disabilities.

The “Equity in IDEA” rule, issued by the Obama administration in December 2016, would have gone into effect for the 2018-19 school year. It created a new process for states to follow when they monitor how districts identify minority students for special education, discipline them, or place them in restrictive classroom settings.

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act requires this monitoring. Districts found to have “significant disproportionality” in one or more of these areas must set aside 15 percent of their federal special education funding to spend on remedies.

States have always been in charge of determining how significant a problem must be before it merits the set-aside. And, just a fraction of the nation’s school districts have ever been identified as having problems severe enough to require federal dollars to remedy. (About 3 percent of districts were identified in the 2015-16 school year.)

Source: Special Education Bias Rule Put on Hold for Two Years by DeVos Team – On Special Education – Education Week

Winner of Special Ed Learning Award Congratulated – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson today congratulated the La Sierra High School Adult Transition Program in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District on winning the 2018 Grazer Outstanding Achievement in Learning (GOAL) award, which recognizes outstanding programs in special education.

La Sierra High School Adult Transition Program is located on the California State Fullerton Campus and provides community, vocational, and social opportunities to students ages eighteen to twenty-two with moderate to severe support needs.

“This program is a great example of how to prepare students to become self-reliant and self-sufficient,” Torlakson said. “Providing students with career training that can lead to a job, exposing them to real world social activities, and teaching them how to live independently will enable these students to become productive, contributing, and thriving young adults.”

La Sierra High School Adult Transition Program started in 2009 with one teacher serving 12 students at a single location and is now districtwide with over 100 students enrolled. The program’s innovative practices are based on a planning structure that exposes students to a vast array of vocational, social/recreational, and independent living experiences.

Source: Winner of Special Ed Learning Award Congratulated – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)

Athletes carry the torch during annual Special Olympic Law Enforcement Torch run – The Reporter

By Kimberly K. Fu

Cheers and applause and uber support just never gets old, especially when you’re a Special Olympics athlete.

That’s what three Solano and Napa runners received Wednesday morning as they crossed over to Cal Maritime in Vallejo, about to embark on the third of the eight legs of their journey during the first of two days of the annual Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.

By 10 a.m. they’d already been on the road two hours, with Benicia police passing the torch to Vallejo and Cal Maritime police.

At the academy’s boat dock, the runners received words of encouragement before passing the torch to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office’s Marine Patrol.

Source: Athletes carry the torch during annual Special Olympic Law Enforcement Torch run

Solano Voices: Year-end events celebrate accomplishments – Daily Republic

By Mayrene Bates

As I do every year, I make every effort to attend as many year-end events as I possibly can. I love to celebrate the accomplishments of educators, students, parents, nonprofits, the business community and, even the newspaper reporters who take the pictures and write the stories.

That’s what makes all of these events so great, because we celebrate as a community the accomplishments of everyone involved. Needless to say, there’s not enough space here to write about every successful program across the county.

Someone once said that throughout history, there have been few events of significance that have occurred purely by accident. We know that success happens, because many care enough to make a difference for the good of all. According to Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”

Source: Solano Voices: Year-end events celebrate accomplishments

Promise of prom: Special-needs, general ed students dance morning away – Daily Republic

By Amy Maginnis-Honey

Gustavo Macias didn’t need music to enjoy the annual Adapted Physical Eduction prom Friday morning at the E. Gary Vaughn gymnasium on the Armijo campus.

Before the DJ started playing tunes, Macias was already showcasing his joy. Once the music began, the Armijo High student could be found near the free throw line, breakdancing.

His prom dates, Julia Harrison and Madison Kudsk, both members of Armijo’s leadership class, cheered him on.

“It’s fun to see the kids so happy,” Kudsk said.

Source: Promise of prom: Special-needs, general ed students dance morning away

Travis holds its first Special Olympics at Vanden’s George A. Gammon Field – The Reporter

By Joel Rosenbaum

More than 150 students from kindergarten to 12th grade throughout the Travis Unified School District gathered Tuesday for their first Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program.

At George A. Gammon Field at Vanden High School and accompanied by a sound track to popular music and cheering fans, the athletes competed in events including: shot put, javelin, standing long jump and two running events all overseen by members of the Vanden High School student body.

Vacaville officer creates program to help first responders better help special-needs children – Daily Republic

By Ian Thompson

Vacaville first responders may soon be better prepared to respond to situations involving special-needs children.

The city’s Police Department is finishing up a program that has been teaching the city’s police and firefighters about engaging with special-needs children and will soon allow parents of special-needs children to list them in a database which firefighters and police can access if they are called to that address.

They are also working to expand that listing to involve special-needs adults and Alzheimer’s patients.

The program is the brainchild of Vacaville Police Department School Resources Officer Jeremy Johnson, who is also the father of a 6-year-old child who has autism.

Source: Vacaville officer creates program to help first responders better help special-needs children

Scores Stagnant For Students With Disabilities on ‘Nation’s Report Card’ – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Students with disabilities posted stagnant scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 and failed to close the gap with students not identified as having disabilities, who also reflected generally flat performance on the latest results for what’s been called the “Nation’s Report Card.”

Fourth-grade students with disabilities earned an average of 187 on the NAEP’s reading test and 214 on the NAEP’s math test, both of which are scored on a 500-point scale.

For 4th-grade students without disabilities, however, the average score was 227 on the reading test and 243 on the math test.

Eighth grade students with disabilities earned 232 on the reading test and 247 on the math test. Reading was a small bright spot—that score was a 2-point gain for students with disabilities from the last time the test was administered, in 2015.

Source: Scores Stagnant For Students With Disabilities on ‘Nation’s Report Card’ – On Special Education – Education Week

Assemblyman Jim Frazier tours Irene Larsen Center – The Reporter

By Kimberly K. Fu

Giggles and glee rippled through the Irene Larsen Center Monday in Vacaville as students cradled squishy silkworms, threw confetti into the air and essentially had a grand old time learning.

Such was the experience Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, walked into as he toured the county facility, which primarily serves students with special education needs from newborns to age 22.

The Vacaville school has infant-toddler programs, preschool programs, an inclusive ChildStart Program and a post secondary program for developmentally disabled adults.

Frazier, who is known as a champion of children with special needs and chairs the Select Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said he wanted to assess the needs of the Larsen Center and see how he could be of service.

Source: Assemblyman Jim Frazier tours Irene Larsen Center, pledges more aid for youths with special needs

Transition fair for Solano students with disabilities set Tuesday – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

A Transition Information Fair for parents and guardians with students with disabilities will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Solano County Office of Education.

“The Transition Information Fair is an opportunity for our youth to engage with Solano County resources which will assist them to successfully acquire the daily skills and independence they need to move into the next phase of their lives,” Lisette Estrella-Henderson, Solano County superintendent of schools, said in a statement.

Source: Transition fair for Solano students with disabilities set Tuesday

BUSD provides update on BHS special education model at board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

More than six months after its implementation, Dr. Carolyn Patton— Benicia Unified School District special services director—delivered an update on Benicia High School’s curriculum support model for its special education students at Thursday’s school board meeting.First, Patton highlighted some components of the Performance Indicator Review (PIR), one of five monitors which the state uses to indicate the special education performance of a school district.

The PIRs have different targets, which may change each year and examine students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) as well as how students are performing academically in addition to discipline with students compared to the state and peers within the district. If the district does not meet its target for the same indicator two years in a row, then the district has to complete a root cause analysis, develop a corrective action plan, include a Special Education Local Plan (SELPA) in its developing plan and have it approved by the California Department of Education.

Source: BUSD provides update on BHS special education model at school board meeting

Fairfield-Suisun USD to discuss 2018-19 budget priorities – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

A discussion of 2018-19 budget priorities will be among the more significant items of an otherwise relatively light agenda when Fairfield-Suisun Unified leaders meet tonight in Fairfield.

Michelle Henson, assistant superintendent of business services, will lead the discussion, which will be based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s $190 billion 2018-19 state budget proposal, released in January and due for revision in May.

Her presentation, casting an eye on the impact of the state’s numbers on the district’s, will come two weeks after she led a budget presentation at the trustees’ Jan. 25 meeting.

Specifically, Henson will note that projected average daily attendance (ADA) funding for the coming year will be about $9,450 for each of the district’s estimated 20,550 students, yielding some $194 million in state funding under Brown’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula. Additionally, she will tell the seven-member governing board, one-time discretionary funds from the current year will account for some $6 million in additional funds spent on students.

Source: Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District to discuss 2018-19 budget priorities

Committee seeks nominations for those who serve Solano students with disabilities – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

Nominations are being accepted for the 12th annual Community Advisory Committee Recognition Awards, recognition given to people who have gone “above and beyond” in their service of students with disabilities.

Awards are presented to educators, youth and community members. Recipients are from each school district within the Solano County Special Education Local Plan Area: Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield-Suisun, Travis and Vacaville, as well as the Solano County Office of Education.

Additionally, a student and representative from a community organization who have demonstrated dedication to supporting people with special needs will be honored.

Source: Committee seeks nominations for those who serve Solano students with disabilities

Retirement incentive program, two special ed contracts on VUSD agenda – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

A teacher retirement incentive program, a substitute classified employee salary schedule for the current year, and two major contracts for nursing services for two special-needs students are on the agenda when Vacaville Unified leaders meet Thursday.

The Vacaville Teachers Association has agreed to offer an early retirement program to members. If they submit nonrevocable resignation letters between Friday and Feb. 12, they will receive an extra $1,000 in their June 30 paycheck.

Trustees will consider the matter as a memorandum of understanding, dated Dec. 14, and are expected to approve it.

The seven-member governing board also likely will approve an adjustment to the substitute classified employee pay schedule, with pay rates, depending on the job (student monitor to payroll technician, for example), to range from $12.40 per hour to $18.90 per hour. It will take effect Thursday.

Source: Retirement incentive program, two special ed contracts on VUSD agenda

What I’ve Learned From Special Ed Teachers | Edutopia

By Peg Grafwallner

Special education teachers are expected to do quite a lot: Assess students’ skills to determine their needs and then develop teaching plans; organize and assign activities that are specific to each student’s abilities; teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one; and write individualized education plans in parent-friendly language.

In addition, they must know and apply the dozens of acronyms used in their field: ADA (American with Disabilities Act), DOR (Department of Rehabilitation), LEA (local education agency), PDD (pervasive developmental disorder), and LRE (least restrictive environment), to name just a few.

Source: What I’ve Learned From Special Ed Teachers | Edutopia