City’s special-ed approach ‘outdated’

More special-education students should be moved into general-education classrooms as part of a drastic makeover of special-
education programs, a report ordered by the Board of Education ­recommended.

According to the report released Tuesday, the San Francisco Unified School District needs to change the way it serves the nearly 7,000 ­special-education students in order to help them achieve better ­academic success.

The percentage of special-education­ students who test at or above proficiency in English and math is the smallest of any group of students, according to the report.

The low test scores are a major reason the in-depth review of special-education programs, the first of its kind in the district, was completed, according to Richard Carranza, deputy superintendent of instruction innovation and social justice.

Special-education students are currently separated from the general-education population in different classrooms, an approach the report called “outdated.”

The report said the district needs to shift “from a programmatic integrated approach to a service” that would enable students to attend the schools they would if they weren’t disabled and include them in ­general-education classrooms, as long as proper support for students and teachers is provided.

Carranza said increased inclusion of students with disabilities increases those students’ exposure to grade-level standards and high-quality teaching.

“This is not a special-education issue,” he said. “But it’s a districtwide instructional issue.”

By not including students with disabilities in general-education classrooms, special education becomes increasingly segregated, which is the reverse of the school district’s overall goal, according to the report. Though some integration is already happening in San Francisco schools, according to district officials, it’s not consistent.

Another concern highlighted in the report is the number of black students who are enrolled in special-education programs. Though such kids make up only 11 percent of the district’s 53,952 students, they are 35 percent of the special-education population.

School board Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer called the report’s findings “sobering.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to read, even though we knew it was not good,” she said. “But the extent of ‘not good’ is sometimes hard to hear.”

The report will be discussed at three community meetings through October. The full board will take action on recommendations and changes to special education.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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