San Francisco schools to retool the way they address special education students 

click to enlarge The SFUSD superintendent has touted treating students in special education more like students in general education, but some parents want action.
  • The SFUSD superintendent has touted treating students in special education more like students in general education, but some parents want action.

The San Francisco Unified School District is poised to introduce new principles for including students with disabilities in regular classrooms, but some parents say it’s not going far enough.

The effort is the district’s latest push to educate students with disabilities alongside their nondisabled peers.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Richard Carranza will introduce a proposal that urges school district employees to treat special-education students like general-education students who need additional services.

“Their success, therefore, is the joint responsibility of all SFUSD educators,” his proposal states.

In 2010, a report criticized the district’s approach to special education as “outdated” because such students were separated from the larger classroom population. That report called for a drastic makeover of San Francisco’s program to let such students into regular classrooms. Last school year, classroom slots were set aside for students with disabilities at every school. Only 39 schools previously had such students.

Katy Franklin, the chairwoman of the district’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Special Education, said she is grateful for the proposed principles but they don’t go far enough.

“I was hoping for something with more heart in it,” Franklin said. “I would have liked to have seen something about how they’re going to do it.”

Franklin called the proposal vague and ridden with jargon, citing as an example one passage that states, “It is a basic characteristic of school restructuring to improve student performance.”

“What does that even mean?” Franklin asked. “The district has this thing of moving ‘beyond the talk,’ but I get weary of the promises or statements when systems are not in place to back them up.”

But board President Rachel Norton, mother of a daughter in special education, said it is the district’s goal to ensure that all students are getting everything they can out of general education classes. That goal is being realized, she said.

“It’s complicated to change these systems,” Norton said. “And in an environment where we have no money to do anything new, it’s miraculous we’ve gotten this far.”

Norton said the new proposal is a way to ensure that “when we change or evaluate our policies that we will consider the effects on special-?education students and their access to general education.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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