Update: from the district on Sped this year.
A lot of good stuff including regional meetings and revamping the Deaf/Hard of Hearing program (thanks to the huge efforts of School Board candidate, Laura Gramer).
However, there was also this gobbly-gook about having "96% of FTE Sped staff positions filled by start of school" and yet they say they have 19 more to fill and hope to have 10 more by the start of school. And, that last year they had 42 at the start of school.
What exactly does that all mean? They will hire 10 more people by Thursday? And what's the actual number this year?
Also, they mention SEAAC but not the Sped PTSA. Not good.
end of update
Dear Directors, Dr. Nyland, Mr. Knapp and Ms Campano,
Special Education PTSA Board and its membership have followed closely
the progress of District and SEA contract negotiations. We’re encouraged
that the District is finally implementing the best practice service
delivery model emphasizing inclusion, as conceived by the Joint Special
Education Task Force. This is a plan that has been years in the making.
The PTSA stands firm that the ACCESS (inclusion) model be implemented
with fidelity to the fundamentals and the spirit of its design.
that reason, the PTSA Board is dismayed by the District’s bargaining
proposal to set untenably high ratios for our secondary students in
ACCESS programs. We take issue with the proposed changes for the
following reasons (to be elaborated below):
• Special Education at the secondary level needs vast improvement, not backsliding;
• Increased ACCESS ratios impact students with Autism Spectrum disorders the most;
• Less inclusion support at the high school level runs counter to students needs at those grade levels;
• Increased ACCESS ratios will exacerbate the opportunity gap and graduation rate for many classes of our youth;
• Access or inclusion support is not intended to be cheaper than
intensive special education; it is a necessary investment to: comply
with IDEA mandates; provide a true continuum of placements; and,
guarantee the success of our students’ outcomes.
As it stands, the
District’s secondary level special education services are frequently
silo-ed, rely heavily on “Life Skills” and “Study Skills” cookie-cutter
courses or modified academic classes, and offer few opportunities for
students in self-contained classrooms to access the breadth of
academics, enrichment activities, electives and social settings in high
school. Special education at the secondary level needs improvements to
achieve a true continuum. The current, widely varying programs violate
the IDEA mandate that special education students be offered a continuum
of placements and opportunities to be educated in the least-restrictive
environment with their typical peers.
The PTSA Board notes that many
students in ACCESS are on the Autism Spectrum, have significant
disabilities, and would typically be assigned to SM4 classes with
opportunities for inclusion. The staffing ratio for SM4 was 8:1:2; SM4
is now called “Distinct” and is proposed at 7:1:2 staffing. This has
heretofore provided support for students with ASD in the general
education setting. We are pleased to see the district’s continued
emphasis on staffing for these students.
The District now proposes
to double the ACCESS ratio for high school to 15:1:3 – well beyond the
10:1:3 staffing developed by the Special Education Task Force. Simply
because students rise to secondary school does not mean that their needs
are any less. Students with disabilities, particularly at the
secondary level, are very often required to take special education
classes such as “Study Skills” or “Life Skills” to receive the necessary
specially designed instruction specified on their IEPs (a defect in the
district’s design of special education service delivery in high
school). The side-effect of these special education classes is that
students have a reduced opportunity to take academic, elective,
enhancement and exploratory classes. Failure to consider students with
disabilities over the entirety of a school’s offerings weakens their
social and academic standing in communities and results in marginalizing
students to second class citizen status.
As students age, the
significance of inclusion increases, NOT decreases. Students take
academics and electives that develop interests and talents which could
lead to a wish to stay in school, earn scholarships and train for
careers. As the importance of these classes increases, the availability
seems to decrease for students with disabilities, even as students with
disabilities need these offerings even more. Academic, extracurricular
and elective classes provide much needed social connectedness, community
engagement, and career preparation. The law requires the District to
appropriate support these students and provide equitable access. The
ACCESS ratios of 10:1:3 for students with significant disabilities would
accomplish this; ratios of 15:1:3 would not.
Denial of our
students’ equitable access to all that high school has to offer will
further exacerbate the opportunity gap for: students with disabilities,
the poor, and students of color too often misidentified as requiring
Too often these students are enrolled in modified
academics classes which are remedial in nature, because this is a
convenient way for school buildings to handle these students, track them
into specific pathways, and ill-prepare them for post-secondary
education or training. Students with disabilities who struggle with
minimal support will, at minimum, fall in the gap, and at the worst be
forced into more expensive placements – self-contained and out of
district placements. This not only costs more money – it ensures a worse
educational experience and worse outcome.
ACCESS/Inclusion is not
intended to be a less costly alternative to self-contained; it is a
different placement, and a different level and location of service; one
required to maintain a “Continuum of Placements”; one that must be
resourced enough to succeed lest it become another ICS debacle.
PTA mission is “To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging
and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children”.
Special Education PTSA advocates on behalf of students with disabilities
and their families. The PTSA Board asks that the District and the SEA
work together to negotiate an agreement that place the welfare and
educational outcomes of our students FIRST. Do NOT increase ACCESS
ratios and thereby decrease support for our young people trying to make
their way into the world.
Cecilia McCormick, President
Lori Hiltz, Co-Vice President
Anne Sheeran, Co-Vice President
Ayn McNutt, Treasurer
Lauren Feaux, Staff Representative