Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Can This Be True (Or Did These Schools Just Change Naturally)

Question for Special Ed parents:

Do you know if some schools are quietly doing away with Special Ed services (for whatever reason)? Does it seem like schools are trying to do less?

I ask because as I was perusing the many responses to the Times' article about the situation of twins not getting into the same school in the NE area (there were about 60 responses most of them venting against Seattle public schools and most without clearly understanding the facts), there was this post:

"Ann Seattle wrote: "A fine school, but last year 93 families were vying for 44 kindergarten slots--20 of which are for special needs kids."

So ...are you incredulous that children who receive special education services should have a shot a school that YOUR child should attend? Do you think they should be locked up on an island somewhere in quarantine? Guess what? After first grade McGilvra expels those children. McGilvra, like Bryant, has "opted out" of serving children who need special education services beyond kindergarten. What is shocking tis that they've gotten away with it year after year after year. Shame. Shame on the district for letting McGilvra and other elitest schools get away with not serving all the children that they enroll through the fifth grade."

One, do you sense some kind of resentment over set-aside spots? This used to be the case for Spectrum but I had no idea it might be the same for Special Ed.

Two, why do you think this person thought McGilvra ended its Special ed services? Bryant, as well? This is one issue with charter schools who say they, like public schools, have to take all students except, of course, if they don't offer the services those students need. Does this mean there are schools who don't really want Special Ed kids?

I guess I really don't know how these services get assigned to what schools. And, what will happen when the assignment plan rolls around?


anonymous said...

My son goes to Bryant, and one of his good friends has a disability and though he is not in a separate sped classroom he does receive pull out special ed services and has an IEP. He is in 4th grade. I know Bryant also has a blended sped kindergarten classroom. I'm not sure about the full extent of their sped services so I looked at the annual report for Bryant. Here is what it says.

" Many students receive special services. Special Education is offered to students with identified disabilities who receive specially designed instruction provided or supervised by a qualified special educator. Bilingual services are offered to students who have limited fluency in English."

In addition it shows that Bryant has a 5% sped population while the district average per school is 9%.

Bryant has an inclusive philosophy. They do not have Spectrum or self contained sped classrooms. But as far as I can tell they do service spec ed students.

anonymous said...

"Ann Seattle wrote: "A fine school, but last year 93 families were vying for 44 kindergarten slots--20 of which are for special needs kids."

And yes, whenever there is a shortage of seats, and half (20) of the available seats are set aside for any reason (Spectrum, spec ed, low income, ethnic diversity, families new to the district, etc) parents are not going to be happy. Nobody is happy when they are pushed out of their neighborhood school because space is so limited. Not the spec ed families, and not gen ed families either. I think you are being a bit harsh here Melissa, especially calling schools elitist.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hey Ad Hoc,
If you read my post, it says that quote is from the comments section of the Times article. I put the quote in "quotes". I didn't say any of that; I put it in to draw attention to this issue.

Please take the time to read a post in its entirety.

anonymous said...

Hey Melissa,

I read a post wrong. My apology. A polite correction might have been more appropriate for one of your regular readers and contributors.

Dorothy Neville said...

"Two, why do you think this person thought McGilvra ended its Special ed services? Bryant, as well?"

Good question. I have no idea. But I do know Bryant has that kindergarten classroom specially designed to be inclusive, right? So a decent percent of the kindergarten class would be special ed. I don't know how many, but surely more than 5%.

Therefore, if the school as a whole is only 5% special ed, then clearly, special ed kids are leaving at a high rate after kindergarten. Where do they go and why?

Charlie Mas said...

According to the Bryant annual report for 2007, 26 of the 510 students at Bryant are special education students.

A review of the Bryant budget shows the distribution of those students by level and grade.

There are 7 Level 3 SPED students, all of them in the kindergarten.

There are 17 Level 2 SPED students in the other grades (none in kindergarten). 3 in Grade 1, 3 in Grade 2, 3 in Grade 3, 4 in Grade 4, and 4 in Grade 5.

A review of demographic summaries shows that Bryant consistently has about 5 or 6 Level 3 SPED students each year, but it doesn't indicate their grade level.

I don't know if the Level 3 SPED students at Bryant will remain there after kindergarten or not. I don't have access to a prior year budget to see what grade Bryant Level 3 SPED students in prior years, but the data I can see is consistent with the allegation that Bryant has level 3 SPED students for kindergarten only and then the students are relocated to another school. They don't prove it, but they are consistent with that story.

anonymous said...

The blended spec ed kindergarten class at Bryant has 20 students - 10 of which are special ed, and 10 are typically developing. Since the school has 500 students, 10 special ed kids is about 5% of the schools population. I really don't know if the kids are relocated after kindergarten, but I will try to find out and post again.

old salt said...

I know families who have been in the Bryant blended K both as general ed & special ed.

When Bryant started their blended kindergarten class, the district said that it would serve 7 spec. ed children who would be placed in that class with the goal of being able to progress to a mainstream classroom for first grade. For the first couple of years that is how it worked.

It was a very popular program when it was administered as it was first conceived.

Lately more children have been assigned to bryant's blended kindergarten, who need a higher level of intervention. They are not able to be placed in a regular ed 1st grade. Heartbreaking for the families involved.

I understand that the new spec ed assignment plan may change that. All spec ed children will be assigned to general ed programs in local schools with the same choices that gen ed students get. So services for more levels & types of spec ed will have to be provided at each school. I assume that means that level 3 children will be served in gen ed classrooms.

Does that also mean that hearing impaired program will be not be concentrated at View Ridge & the autism program at Thorton Creek?

Dorothy Neville said...

The blended K at Bryant started about five years ago. A friend's kid was in the first class and IIRC, she starts middle school this Fall.

AutismMom said...

Charlie is completely confused about special education service. Here's a tutorial. ALL LEVEL 3 special education programs are at "generic self-contained" programs. Level 3 students are NOT at McGilvra, NOT at Bryant. They don't want them. Level 2 special education is resource room only.... and is available at every school. It is essentially general education with a little tutoring in the resource room.

You also seem confused about how level 3 and 4 programs work. Students are transferred willy nilly anywhere there is an opening, and at any point. There are 30 programs, all level 4, serving students in a very restricted age range. These programs ALL require students school transitions at weird points. It's not uncommon to find students transitioning schools 4 times in elementary school. Does that seem fair to you? There are a number of programs that DO serve the full age range of their schools.

Students in the blended K's are level 4. These students are forced into a fews schools with blended K's, then dumped after 1 year and forced to transfer. Students at Bryant transfering into general ed (or Level 2) often are reassinged to Bryant. Good. McGilvra, very rarely. So, even if a student CAN be served at McGilvra without extra services, the district denies that right and transfers the students to Madrona in first grade.. even though they were forced into McGilvra's blended K in the first place.

Sure there's crowding in many places... and there's also redlining of special education students. 13% of students have disabilities in every neighborhood. It isn't the role of the worst schools to pick up these 13%. 90% of this year's special education programs were to schools that were underenrolled, highly special ed concentrated, and failing schools. If you need the list, it can be provided.

AutismMom said...

PS. The "blended K" model is level 4. It consists of 10 students without IEP's, and 7 students WITH IEP's, served in a kindergarten classroom. There are 2 teachers, one with special education certification. Everyone benefits from the concentration of service available in the classroom.

By the way, all students with IEP's are also general education students first. So it is a bit weird to call one group the special education students, and the other the special education students. Special education is a service, not a place, and not a particular student. Especially, when they're all in the same class, and many are indistinguishable from others.

Charlie Mas said...

I may well be confused. Like I always say, I don't know the truth, I only know what the District tells me.

I assure you - and you can follow the links I provided to the budget documents or the demographic summaries - the District documents make clear and unmistakable references to the number of Level 3 Special Education students at Bryant.

So autismmom may be right. There may not be any Level 3 Special Education students at Bryant. I don't have first-hand knowledge; I only have District reports. The District reports say that Bryant has consistently been the school for five or six Level 3 Special Education students for each of the past several years.

If autismmom is right, and she may well be, then we have to wonder why the District reports are wrong.

By the way, there are many places in this country where "Hey" is a friendly greeting (read "To Kill a Mockingbird" for examples). There are other places in the country where it is a rude method of getting someone's attention. And there are places in the country where it is neither inherently friendly nor rude. I've been surprised in the past when my use of it as a friendly greeting (a wave) was misinterpreted as rude (a shake). It is often the case that the tone of voice we presume when reading comes from the reader more than the writer. Have you ever seen Steve Allen's "Letter to the Editor" routine? One of the reasons I am so loquacious is to prevent this sort of misinterpretation of tone by setting the context of my statements.

Before I take offense at what someone has written, I try to give the words the most sympathetic reading possible and I review them carefully several times to confirm their precise meaning. As a result, I'm pretty hard to offend. It is a practice that has served me well and I recommend it.

anonymous said...


You are right, "hey", can be used in a very friendly way. I use it to call my kids all the time..."hey Tommy, check this out". It can also be used in a rude way - no matter what part of the country you live in.

Melissa responds to many posts, but only chooses to use "hey Adhoc" when she is not in agreement with what was said, or feels the need to defend herself (thus my reading a tone into her use of the word).

In the post I think you are referring, Melissa goes on to say:

"If you read my post"

"I put the quote in "quotes"

"Please take the time to read a post in its entirety."

I'm certainly not offended by this, I grew up in New York and it takes much more than that to offend me. That said, there is no doubt in my mind that Melissa's writing reflected her irritation.

If one of my children were writing the reply, I would have advised them to be more gentle with their words. Perhaps something like:

I didn't write the post that you are referencing, it was written by the Times. I posted it for sake of discussion, and am interested to hear the many different points of views expressed here on this blog.

It makes the world a better place when people are civil and friendly.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not going to belabor this but I was judged about using a word I didn't and called "harsh" for using it. You'd be a little irritated too if your words were not read correctly. I took pains to clearly explain how those were not my words because there were at least 2 opportunities for readers to realize it.

AutismMom said...

Actually Charlie, you may be correct about the Level 3. (Hopefully, "actually" is ok everywhere!) The nearly identical program at McGilvra is level 4. Mea Culpa! In any case, they are both blended K programs. They both REQUIRE students to transfer at first grade.

The levels are simply a funding level and unique to Seattle. Then there's the district's programs. You can see the huge number of programs that require students to transition out of their assigned school, say, after 2nd grade, and that's if everything goes well. If something doesn't... another set of transitions for the kid.

Funding doesn't follow the student, it follows the program. Schools try to fill up their programs with the easiest possible cases. And that practice maximizes overall costs.

Seattle Public Schools has 12.7% special education. That is exactly the state's funding limit. Some coincidence. So, schools with 5% special education are significantly underserving students with disabilities in their own regions in terms of absolute numbers served.

Charlie Mas said...

The new vision for Special Education in Seattle Public Schools is for the majority of students with IEPs to be assigned to schools through the regular assignment policy used for general education students and for the schools to serve those students who come through their doors.

Programs will, for the most part, be replaced with services in inclusive classrooms.

This will require a lot of training and support for principals and general education teachers, the creative and efficient deployment of special education teachers, and a higher degree of supervision from principals. I am now convinced that almost any teacher, with the proper training and support, can effective conduct an inclusive classroom. I have come to see them as opportunities instead of challenges - for all students. I think a properly run inclusive classroom may unlock a more accessible path to differentiation for every student in the room regardless of skill level.

If you're wondering about the source of this confidence, I would encourage those with doubts to read this and follow some of the links in the comments.

There will continue to be some students who, due to the nature of their disability and the specialized equipment or personnel they require, will have to be grouped together into programs for service. The idea is to keep these to an absolute minimum.

Then, maybe, we wouldn't see students separated from their siblings, we wouldn't see students and their families jerked around from school to school, we wouldn't see the ghettoization of students with IEPs or their relegation to the lowest of low expectations, and we wouldn't see these students essentially UN-served in general education classrooms where there is inclusion in name only.

If that were to happen, then what would the Program Placement Committee do?

AutismMom said...

Most of us have read the review, and find the results excellent. It is nothing radical or new as lots of people fear. Even Bellevue essentially implements its findings. And Bellevue isn't some big disaster. They don't have 25 program models or levels. BUT, the SPS is massively entrenched in it's program models. The union contracts are even made around them. So, it's hard to see how they are going to wind up getting there. Most of us fear that the implementation may well be a ploy to reduce funding. EG. Just ship all the kids to their neighborhood schools... and then neglect to send the support. And most likely problem I see is that the "inclusion-kids" will be sent to neighborhood schools and then given a lot less support, like resource room only. Self-contained kids will all argue that they are the specialty case and so those cheaper programs will remain as is.

I disagree that students are UN-served in inclusion programs. While improvements can be made, for the most part, these are very popular and good programs, and demand for them has grown. If an inclusion student doesn't learn exactly the same thing, or the same amount as someone else... it doesn't mean they are unserved.

And finally, we shouldn't have to wait for the implementation of the review(which may not even happen), to fix obvious problems. EG. Why put an autism program serving all NE and NW kids, at Cleveland HS? Cleveland already has the highest percentage of special ed students in the district. Will that help Cleveland? Will the autistic students even be safe at Cleveland?

old salt said...

I find it difficult to see how services can be provided at each school that will serve children as well as when services are concentrated in certain locations.

Will the district provide equipment to serve hearing impaired children to each school? Will an autism specialist be in every building where there is child with an iep in autism?

Recently bilingual programs were further concentrated into fewer schools in NE cluster in order to provide more services. Would it make more sense to scatter them & could service be provided at the same level? Why would it be a good thing for children with iep's but not bilingual, or advanced learning?

I am not arguing that all students with ieps should be assigned together. I am curious about how the funding will be changed to provide equal services at every school.

reader said...

Getting back to what started this --one parent complaining that her children might be bumped from a school due to set asides for special ed students, another parent replying about the number of times special ed students get bumped from school to school during k-5 alone-- the question is, why are special ed students getting passed around like popcorn from school to school (here for kindergarten, there for first and second grade, over there for third grade, and so on)? For these children, social relationship building and continuity are as vital as the insulin is to a diabetic, or oxygen for someone with low lung capacity. Would the district take the insulin from a diabetic child? The crutch from someone with a broken leg? The oxygen tank for the child who is struggling to breath? If these were children of a particular ethnic or racial group would schools say "whoops sorry we can't serve your kind here you'll have to leave?" Economies of scale may explain clustering to some extent, but it does not explain (i) unnatural transitioning of children while their non-disabled peers get to move from grade to grade as a cohort, or (ii)why special ed programs are getting clustered in the schools that are least selected by families.

anonymous said...

"why special ed programs are getting clustered in the schools that are least selected by families."

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the reason the district is placing spec ed programs in less popular schools is that these are the buildings with excess capacity. They have space for the special ed programs. Perhaps, with the space, will come more continuity and less transitions?

If you are looking for a school to place a program, and there are some schools with space, and some without, logically, you would choose the schools with space. It just makes sense, unless there is a strong counter argument against it. Does anyone have an argument to support why programs shouldn't go into buildings with the space to support them? And, I do think there probably are some valid ones.

Jet City mom said...

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the reason the district is placing spec ed programs in less popular schools is that these are the buildings with excess capacity. They have space for the special ed programs. Perhaps, with the space, will come more continuity and less transitions?

And why do they have more space?
Why are the neighborhood kids not going to that school?
Does maybe the school have high teacher turnover?
Little involvement or support from parents and the community?
Rotating principals either in an attempt to shore up the school, or find a slot for a principal they can't get rid of?
Unappealing physical plant, perhaps even dangerous?

Why should students, who may not even live in the neighborhood, who already struggle with additional challenges as evidenced by an IEP or 504 plan, be assigned, to such a school.
Is this going to give them the support they need to be successful?

Charlie Mas said...

This speaks to the history of program placement in Seattle Public Schools. It is a sordid history.

I learned about the Program Placement Committee about four years ago when I was active in the Spectrum community and the District decided to place the Spectrum program for the West Seattle-South cluster at High Point (now called West Seattle Elementary). This was an absolutely INSANE program placement. When investigating how this disaster happened, I learned about the Program Placement Committee.

Until last year, program placement in Seattle Public Schools was was either capricious or corrupt. Programs were just stuck wherever there was available space and a few powerful principals could veto placements no matter how badly the students or the district needed them. Politically favored principals got whatever they wanted; those out of favor politically got nothing. On top of that, principals swapped programs like baseball cards. It was driven by politics, personalities, school budgets, and operational expediency.

The decisions were ostensibly made in the Program Placement Committee, chaired by the Chief Academic Officer. The Committee met almost in secret and the membership of the committee was also clouded in some mystery. Most people didn't even know that the committee existed. I spoke to Board members who were in their third year before they had heard about it.

The whole nasty rat's nest was finally revealed last year when the District tried to split middle school APP between Washington and Hamilton. The decision was in violation of the District Policy, but the Board gave a twisted interpretation of the Policy to mean that the District COULD do it, but that it required Board review.

So the Board, the Student Learning Committee, was going to do a quick, rubber-stamp review of the decision. But, when they started asking even the most basic questions they were shocked by the answers. I think they were truly horrified when they learned the political and capricious way the Committee made their decisions.

There were two results: 1) the District delayed the decision to split middle school APP and 2) the Board drafted and adopted a Program Placement Policy.

It's hard to say if the Program Placement process has been reformed. Certainly not completely, and there is a long list of legacy decisions that need to be corrected. The decisions are still made in the Program Placement Committee and the same people still sit on that Committee, but the process has been daylighted a bit and the Committee is supposed to follow a set of guidelines. The Program Placement decisions made for 2008-2009 are inconclusive. Some look good, some look questionable.

Here is the good news: Anyone - and I mean anyone, including YOU - can propose a program placement. I'm going to propose a few myself. The form for Program Placement proposals is available online. Fill it out and submit it by the due date (in the Fall), and the Committee is supposed to seriously consider the proposal. I doubt you would be allowed to attend the meeting when they consider it, and I'm not sure you would get a report back, but you should try to correct a program placement that you consider sub-optimal.

AutismMom said...

Well, of course special education programs are put in underenrolled and failing schools. For one thing, the parents at those schools are usually too disorganized to put up big a protest. But the upshot of that practice is special education redlining. Popular schools and clusters are essentially shipping off students with disabilities to unpopular regions. Several are in my kid's school. The fact that somebody would complain that seats are reserved at Bryant illustrates the point. Kids with disabilities in Bryant's reference area ARE already shipped off all over the city because Bryant is not serving them. Bryant reserves a grand total of 7 seats (yes a whopping 7 seats!) for kindergarten students with disabilities... and then, "opts out" of serving them past K. As the years roll on, all schools do place students in resource rooms if they need the service, but these are not reserved seats. The fact is, Bryant is a place that actually needs MORE programs, to meet the needs of its residents.

AutismMom said...

Special education needs to be taken away from the enrollment center. The IDEA requirement is that special education is a service and most specifically, not a placement (or program placement). However, the enrollment center seems to think that it IS a program and really it's something like a "montessori"... and you can put it anywhere. And 1 or 2 year programs is cool too. And it's fine to put it in failing schools because people chose it. But the fact is, receiving the service isn't voluntary, and it greatly disrupts families.

anonymous said...

Would the special ed students be served in self contained classes at Cleveland? If in self contained classes what would it matter which building the program is housed in? As far as redlining, that's a harsh word. Would you say that alternative school kids are red lined to the north end since this is where the majority of alternative schools are located? How about APP students are they red lined to the central area, since their entire program is located at Lowell? How about the JSIS in Wallingford, are students being red lined there to get an immersion program? What is different about special ed services, being housed where space is available? I'm not being condescending, I really am trying to understand the difference, since it seems like many programs have limited placements.

I had children in an alternative school for many years, and the school was moved to different buildings many time throughout it's history, and nobody ever really minded. We wanted a quality program/service to stay intact but didn't necessarily care about the bricks and mortar. Why is location more important than a quality placement, perhaps a placement with less transition and more stability?

As for Bryant, they took 81 kids this year, 7 of which were special ed students. That's 9%. What percent of the available 81 seats at Bryant should be allotted to special ed in your opinion? curious.

anonymous said...

New great programs are also opening up in under enrolled schools with space.

I am thinking about the IB program at Ingraham. Ingraham was the least popular HS in the north end, and it never filled up. Now they have added an IB program to Sealth in West Seattle.

How about the stongest AP program and band program in the entire the district being housed at Garfield. Garfield couldn't fill their building before the AP classes attracted the APP cohort.

How about the new immersion program that will open at Beacon Hill this year, in the south end? Beacon Hill was definately not a popular school in the south end.

It is not just special ed services that are being proposed in the south end. You have to look at the big picture, and if you don't like it, by all means advocate for change, but have an open mind.

And by the way, I don't think Cleveland high school is any more "dangerous" than any other in the district. They have done nothing to earn or deserve that comment.

reader said...


Where do you find the program placement proposal form online?

Does anybody have experience with this?

Does anybody know who is on the program placement committee? Does the Board have any involvement?

To all, it sounds like ad hoc has not seen the statistics that show the redlining of students who receive special education services. If anyone can dig them up --I know they have been posted on this blog somewhere-- it would be useful.

Thank you.

Thank you.

anonymous said...

Don't know where to start, since I don't understand the red lining of spec ed students please explain it to me. What I see is many programs with limited placement (I prefer to use the term limited placement over red lining, and find the gravity of the work red lining way to heavy to use in this situation). I outlined a few programs with limited placement in my post above. How is the special ed situation different from say, sending all APP students to Lowell, which is in an less than desirable building in the Central area, and out of most kids home neighborhood? Why do you not define this as red lining?

Maybe I just don't understand as I don't have a special ed child, and don't know much about the needs or issues? I am very open to learning though.

AutismMom said...

Ok Here's the new special education programs this Year. Special education program placements made in the SUMMER!!!! Special education school placement was done AFTER everyone else was already assigned.

Some NE families received highly undesirable placments just this week. Guess what? Across town for their kindergarteners at Gatzert. No Bryant for them. No McGilvra either. NE and NW students also are assigned to Cleveland. No Roosevelt, Hale, Ingrahm, Ballard, Garfield, for them. It's pretty obvious these schools are not serving their residents.

Here's the current schools with the to-date special education %'s. Average is 12.7%, and about 11% for high schools as most drop out.

Redlining Sped Placements:
These are all highly underenrolled.

Roxhill: 29%, most of any elem
Cleveland: 16%, most of any HS
Madrona: 20%, failing
Summit: 14%, failing, alternative
Leschi: 11%, grossly underenrolled

Ordinary Sped Placements:
Ballard HS: 10%
Schmitz Park: 4%

(Both of these program ordinary placements faced opposition from the schools, but happened anyway.)

anonymous said...

I just had a look at the annual reports of several high schools and unless I'm reading the wrong they show that all have special ed students, and almost all have more than the districts average of 9%.

Hale has 12% special ed students
Roosevelt has 9%
Ingraham 11%
Franklin 7%
Rainier Beach 11%
Ballard 10%

All of these schools house more than the districts average of 9%, with the exception of Franklin which is in Autismmoms red line district?? Interesting.

The only other school that had less special ed students than the district average was Garfield which had 5%. I assume this is because they take almost the entire cohort of APP kids, which are in themselves a special ed group.

anonymous said...

And as for Roxhill Park, they have one of the few special ed pre-schools in the district, as well as a full time speech and language specialist. That could account for their higher than average special ed population.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a link to the Program Placement Proposal form.

You can also find it on the District's web page by following the links for "About Us", then "Central Departments", and then "Program Placement".

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, just speaking for myself, I consider Special Ed a very, very different issue than programs like APP, language immersion and the like. Those are programs that parents choose but Special Ed is a program that is (in many cases) an actual physical need.

In pointing out the numbers, it really depends on the level of Special Ed you are talking about. Many schools are okay with some levels but just don't want the highest need kids. So the numbers per school may look equal on the surface but they aren't.

Garfield became the APP high school not because they had the most AP classes. The district designated them as such and then they got those classes. (And FYI, Roosevelt beat Garfield in the Essentially Ellington competition in NYC so they have bragging rights this year. Both schools have excellent jazz band/music programs but Ballard likely has the best marching band program.)

Also, I've met with Cleveland's PTSA presidents; they consider Cleveland to be a school with many security problems as does Michael Tolley, the district's high school director.

Jet City mom said...

I miss where anyone actually referred to Cleveland as " dangerous", although I did notice that Rainier Beach, which is underenrolled, has an 11% SPED population as of 2007 .
That also was the school where a young woman- with disabilities was raped, and where the school mishandled their response.

I would suggest that while a school may not be perceived as " dangerous" for most students, students with disabilities are viewed as especially vulnerable, and so for some, viewed as targets.

Which is why I think housing SPED kids at Lowell with APP students works, but housing SPED kids at a school which already does not have much SPSc support or parent involvement- is less than optimum.

AutismMom said...

Just a few corrections:

There many developmental preschools scattered throughout the district, Viewridge has one, Madrona has one, T. Marshall has one, etc. They are not part of the percentage.

The district is NOT 9% special ed. It is 12.7%, look it up on ospi. . That is what the state will pay for, so that is what we have. I know you'd like to think that schools with 1 or 2 special ed kids are pulling their weight. They simply are not. It's true that the levels matter, but the schools with the highest numbers of challenging students are now getting even more students and more students with absolutely the highest needs. That's simply the fact of the matter. You can call it what you'd like, but redlining is the usual word we use to describe that sort of practice.

anonymous said...

Well this is another case of the district posting different or inconsistent information in various places. If you look at ANY SPS public schools annual report it compares their special ed population with the district average, which it shows to be 9%. That's where I got the figure.

I'm still unclear as to why grouping students is a bad thing? Autismmom keeps saying that some schools have more sped students than others, but this is true for almost every other program in the district. Is it bad for all of the other programs to be grouped together? ELL, APP, hearing impaired? I guess I really just don't understand.

reader said...

I am not sure this really needs clarifying but just in case it really is not as obvious as it seems to be: as I understand it all the %s include resource room-receiving students. The students with higher level needs --autism inclusion, behavior disorder-- are the students who are made to hop from school to school (like taking the insulin away from the diabetic, as I suggested earlier) and who wind up in places that families are not selecting.

Charlie Mas said...

So when will the new vision of Special Education, the one described in the review, be realized? Obviously not next year for 2008-2009, but what about 2009-2010? Will we see it then?

And if not, why not? What are the obstacles (I mean training, equipment, and personnel availability - not cultural) to realizing this change?

How can we push the process forward? Will it help to submit program placement proposals in which we propose the dismantling of various special education programs and the dispersal of the students to inclusion in their school of choice?

Can we expect Dr. Stump to push this forward until the new Special Education Grand Poobah is hired? What will be Dr. Stump's role going forward?

Teachermom said...

My understanding is that Dr. Stump's last day is July 31. Don't know what will get done by then.

Every school serves level 2 students (is there a level 1?). And whoever is identified as having level 2 needs throughout the school year is served by the school they were in when identified.

It has been poor planning on the district's part to put the blended K's in schools that do not continue to have programs for kids with higher needs as they move up. I can't begin to understand why this was done in this way. I would like to think that it was just poor planning, and not adults rejecting students with disabilities. I think also that the hope is early intervention will help these kids enough that they will only need level two services come 1st grade. Don't paint me as an apologist for the schools, though, just want to look at the situations from multiple angles.

I do look forward to some implementation of the recommendations in the review, but it will take time. Of the 4 principals I have worked with in this district, only one was knowledgeable about special ed. The other three were dangerously underinformed. The principals will need a lot of training and support.

As it is right now, a principal can disregard special ed law and best practice with no repercussions, because of site-based management. I blame the lack of leadership in the special ed department for this as well. It is completely unacceptable.

On the other hand, I can see how some principals would not want to have a classroom for kids with intense behavioral needs if it is not properly staffed and supported by the special ed people downtown. I would imagine that some have had really bad experiences with this.

I have read here and on other blogs that the teacher's union supports this type of programming by basing their contract on it. How does that work? Or is it a chicken/egg kind of question? As far as I know, the union contract is based on class size limits that vary based on level of student need. I assume that would change when the types of programs change to include kids of various levels, but there would still be union negotiation about caseloads/class sizes.

Lots of good discussion here.

Teachermom said...

Also, this is the job description posted for the new director of Special Ed.

Seattle Public Schools
Exciting Opportunity - Executive Level Position
Executive Director of Special Education
Seattle Public Schools is recruiting candidates for the positions of Executive Director of Special Education. The district has 93 schools and serves almost 6000 students in its special education program.
The position requires innovative leadership and knowledge of best practices as the district redesigns delivery of services to eligible students. Knowledge of special education theories and practices, state and federal laws and regulations, budget development procedures and staffing processes is necessary.
Candidates must have a Master's in education, 3-5 years administrative experience and 3 years of teaching experience.

"Salary negotiable based on experience."

Interested applicants should send a letter of interest to Carla Santorno, Seattle Public Schools, cjsantorno@seattleschools.org. The position is open until filled.

And 22 of the 62 teaching positions still open for 2008-2009 are special ed positions.

AutismMom said...

Sorry to give out so many facts, but they seem to be sorely needed on this blog.

The district's report card demographics under-reports special education students by about 2,000 students. There are 6,000 students, not 4,000 as those little report card states. I'm not sure why, but perhaps it is because they are required to provide services until age 21. But, who really knows who they aren't counting or why. The sped review states the number is 6,000, so does anybody working in the district. The accurate reporting of funding, enrollment, and progress report will be from OSPI. SPS isn't too good at reporting on itself.

Teachermom, it isn't just the blended K's that abrubtly stop serving students, there's 30 programs that serve a limited age-range. 30. Can you fathom that number.... 30 programs dumping students out after 1 or 2 grades? K-2 programs, 1-2's like at Adams, Transitional K's, 3-5's, etc. If you are in a K-2, and your school has a 3-5... you aren't even guaranteed a seat in the program across the hall! If you're in a K-5... you aren't guaranteed to stay there either. You could be asked to leave at any point, and it has happened this year. And then, if your program doesn't work out, students can be forced out of one, and into another age-limited program and then transition the next year because he finished the program he transitioned into. I think you get the idea.

Level 1 means "related service only". EG. Students gets speech therapy, or occupational and/or physical therapy only. No resource room. No program.

When there were people working on it, they were saying they would start getting it going in 2010 and go very slowly.... Now, they've decided they need a whole new team. All of the original team is gone. It sounds like a process too slow to be of any use to anyone with kids now. We can't wait for some review implementation to fix obvious problems.

AutismMom said...

PS. Teachermom, No, I don't think the blended K's are the result of malice. They were a great idea... to a point. The idea was "Give some borderline kids intensive service, and then the kids would could surive in a less restrictive environment." Cool idea. Plus, the UW has a model demonstration blended K, leading the way.

BUT... they've kinda become problematic because they have no outgoing path. Not a good path for those who succeed in the goal of needing less support (because, those students are kicked out of their school) and no path for students who still require more service, because no service is available and they are kicked out too. (Some schools like North Beach do have inclusion programs that blended K'ers can graduated into) But the blended K's are a WIN-LOSE proposition. Some students DO get to stay... just depends on the roll of the enrollment center dice.

No telling about the "primary", 1-2, or K-2 programs. I have no idea how that happened.

Charlie Mas said...

Old Salt asked an excellent question that really deserves an answer:

"Would it make more sense to scatter them & could service be provided at the same level?"

It makes sense to Old Salt (and, apparently, Seattle Public Schools) to group together students with similar special needs into a program where they can be provided with the resources (teacher, equipment, supportive administrator) they need. If they are strewn across the district, as they would be with the inclusive model, they will get uneven and, in a number of cases, inadequate support. Wouldn't they?

This is a perfectly legitimate question that should not be brushed off as "old thinking" or as an effort to insulate general education children from those with IEPs. Self-contained classrooms or grouping into programs, although a somewhat industrial model, seems to make a lot of sense and it continues to be in wide use in our district and across the country.

First, I would suggest that Old Salt read the Special Education Review. It's part of the background material for the strategic plan. Then I would suggest following the link to the blog page about how inclusive classrooms work when they work right.

You will see that the key to an effective inclusive classroom is one in which students are respected as individuals with individual needs that may or may not fit neatly into our generic expectations for them. It requires a bit of training, but mostly an shift in perspective and a shift in the model for how a classroom is supposed to work by the teachers and - and this is critical - by the the principals. It requires a degree of trust - in every direction - and it requires trustworthiness in return.

I'm often surprised by the number of times that district officials ask for our trust yet fail to offer trustworthiness in return. Next time someone asks you to trust them, feel free to ask them to be trustworthy. See how that goes over.

Students with IEPs are not so different that they cannot be adequately served in an inclusive setting and, if done right, the inclusive setting is better for everyone in the classroom, not just the special education students.

There will be some students who, due to the nature of their disability, cannot be adequately served in an inclusive classroom. In those cases it will continue to make sense for the District to gather these students into programs. But! The District should place these programs thoughtfully so there is sufficient capacity throughout the district and to reduce or smooth the transitions for them. No more bus rides across the city. No more K at school A, 1-2 at school B, 3-5 at school C. That has to end.

hschinske said...

Does the district reporting 4,000 instead of 6,000 simply mean they're leaving out the kids at Level 1? The omission of any notation for Level 1 students on the Bryant budget page suggests that might be the case. It doesn't seem an unreasonable thing to do, really, especially as the number of Level 1 students served might vary quite a lot without anything changing much for the school as a whole. (In my experience with speech therapy, individual kids may go back and forth in status.)

Helen Schinske

AutismMom said...

No telling. But I doubt there are that many Level 1's. I believe there's probably another explanation.

Level 1 is left out of the budget information because the service they receive is not paid by the school. The service provider may come only 1 day a week or less to a given school, and typically serves many schools. The therapy and related service price tag for students of all levels is also left out of each school's budget. EG. The speech therapy given to a student in the blended K at Bryant, is not reported on Bryant's budget. So, there is no need to report any extra funding for so-called Level 1's.

old salt said...

Thank you Charlie, for addressing my question.

Actually, I am convinced that inclusive classrooms work.

I am skeptical that the district will provide the support needed to make the model work.

Currently there are students at Eckstein who can not take certain classes because a limited number of rooms are wired for hearing-impaired students. That does not make me feel optimistic that the district will have every school wired by next year, as children are dispersed from current programs.

That is only one of the accommodations that will have to be added to each school.

My concern is that accommodations & services will be provided at a decreased level because it will be more expensive to provide them at every school rather than concentrate them.

What makes you optimistic that the necessary services & accommodations will be provided at every school?

hschinske said...

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/speced/UrbanCollaborativeReportFinal.pdf says that about 26% of special ed students are Level 1. It also says the total enrollment in special ed in 2006 was just under 6,500. So that would give you about 1,700 Level 1 kids -- eh, probably not enough to account for the discrepancy. It was just a thought.

Helen Schinske

AutismMom said...

There are really 2 different issues here:

1) self-contained vs. inclusive
(which is location of service)
2) natural ratios vs. concentration

The review never recommended doing away with self-containment. The review simply found that 30% of our students are too restrictively placed. The district will gladly place anyone in a self-contained program. The inclusion programs are the result of intense parent demand, and the district tries to keep as many as possible out of them.

Of course, we must keep the self-contained location of service. IDEA requires a "continuum of services" and they are on the continuum. Clearly, you're going to find self-containment nationwide. SPS self-contained programs? We have students given NO access to any general education, a poor and illegal practice. (also noted in the review). We have programs too narrowly tailored, or label-based. This results in many, many school transitions since nobody truly fits. Programs where nobody can speak is a huge problem. (Seattle has many) Non-verbals students still need to be in the presence of language. Can you imagine classes where no kid speaks? If they're learning to speak, who are they going to hear or speak to? If you are EBD, are you well served by spending your whole day with other behavior problems? Clearly programs like that are NOT best for those in them. And finally, these ultra-restrictive programs are used as a threat when families make requests for changes to their programs. EG. "If you need some additional assistance, we'll send you to Lowell." That sort of threat, keeps requests low.

The other issue is concentrated service vs. natural ratios. There's reasonable clustering in successful schools, and there's redlining... placing the special ed kids after everyone else has picked their assignment, at the least desirable schools, without any choice... and without considering family needs. The review recommended natural ratios. Natural ratio's solves the problem of schools "passing the buck". But it has problems too. It could be more expensive. And it could leave students without peers they are comfortable with. It really depends on how it's implemented. The review said it would be cheaper; possible, but it depends on the details. The program model, which is based on concentrated service, encourages schools to fill programs with easy kids, to avoid serving challenging kids. Essentially, never exiting anyone. That too is expensive.

Unknown said...

Teaching at an SPS high school, I would say that SPS has failed many students.
The low end and high end special education students are not given comprehensive and cohesive services. It is ad hoc across the system. Everyone is put into the same pot and stirred. As a result up to 50% of my 9th grade classes have had elementary level skills in reading and math, and my gifted talented and genius students are 3-4 years behind the skills level they would be at had they received a cohesive education directed toward their needs from elementary onward.

Sibling students are split between schools, students ride buses for over an hour to attend an unsafe school. Floors are not mopped all year long, textbooks are filled with mistakes, chairs are broken, maintenance is non existent and rats roam schools from Ballard to the South end. While central office has Kohl faucets and million dollar grants to train teachers. Seattle is upside down.

I would even charge that a component of the unsafe nature in the center-south to south end schools comes partially from racial politics. For personal fear, and fear of being considered discriminatory or biased, or for wanting to give the underdog a break, unacceptable behavior is allowed (and the elementary skill levels tell you that it has been allowed since elementary) that is not only unsafe, but destroys the learning environment. It is actually compounded neglect.

These at risk populations of students are suffering with community unrest and poverty. Being in disorder at school, cannot but compound the situation.