Overview of Special Education and Capacity Management

Reprinting from another thread because I believe this important information.  The writer is Mary Griffin, Sped parent and president of the Sped PTA. She says:

NOTE: The following does NOT constitute any kind of official response from SpEd PTSA or SEAAC. It's just me.

I have been fielding a lot of questions regarding SpEd and PTSA. Here is my standard email response to questions regarding special education and the "New Model." It is likely SEAAC and SpEd PTSA will have more of a consensus once the interim plan is out there.

"We have had lots of questions about these kinds of issues the last few days. The first thing that people need to be aware of is that the current model is only a draft and will be revised by next Friday, October 18, when a new draft will be presented to the board. When the next draft is ready, SpEd PTSA and SEAAC will be primed to review it (as will many other PTA’s.) Final presentation and voting at the school board level will be on Wednesday, November 20 at the regular school board meeting. A great resource page is available at http://bit.ly/1bEDgOH. Clicking on some of the links for handouts is very useful.

I have identified four concerns from people's comments:
1. That the new growth boundaries need to support the "New Model" of special education service delivery
2. That English Language Learner (ELL) services are available to any student who qualifies for both special education services and ELL
3. That students who receive special education services are not being redlined or being forced to travel too far to buildings to receive services
4. That there should not be a disproportionate amount of special education services being delivered at one or more buildings.
The handout of linked schools, http://bit.ly/15Y27VY for some reason, discusses ELL and APP, but not SpEd. The information about the location of "intensive services" at elementary schools is located here: http://bit.ly/1hzaoVt. Intensive services are labeled Behavioral, Contained and Distinct in the new model (BCD). Access(A)is the name for “resource room type services” combined with access to general ed for those students in the more intensive models when gen ed access is desired.

The following elementary schools are being designated as capacity for intensive special education continuum services to support new service delivery model (this would include Hawthorne.) Space is set aside at twenty planned sites:

o Arbor Heights (ELL available at Roxhill)
o B. F. Day
o Broadview-Thomson
o Daniel Bagley (ELL available at B. F. Day)
o Graham Hill
o Hawthorne
o Highland Park
o Leschi (ELL available at John Muir)
o Lowell (ELL available at Stevens)
o Loyal Heights (ELL available at Adams)
o Olympic View (ELL available at Olympic Hills)
o Pathfinder K-8 ?
o Queen Anne ?
o Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill (ELL available at Gatewood)
o South Shore PreK-8 ?
o Stevens
o Thornton Creek ?
o Van Asselt
o View Ridge (ELL available at Sand Point)
o Wing Luke

Location of sites may change based on final design of new service delivery model and due to changing student needs over time. Some West Seattle special education preschool services will be consolidated as part of an Early Learning Center to serve students with disabilities along with typically developing peers. This will be located at current Schmitz Park building after Genesee Hill building opens.

I have coded the schools to indicate availability of ELL services.
  • Schools with nothing after their name have ELL services available in the building. 
  • Schools which don't have any services have the "linked" schools after their name. I was not able to identify whether or not there were ELL services available at 4 K-8 schools. These schools' names are followed by a question mark. 
  • Of the remaining 16 schools, half (8) have no in-school ELL services and are have a linked school for ELL services. (ELL services are available at all middle and high schools.) This would seem like it would mean families would have to choose between ELL and SpEd services, which is illegal. I need clarification on this issue from Tracy Libros.
The effect this may have on a particular building may mean capacity drops by 100 students or more. This is because in elementary schools, grade banding will mean that for every service, you will need two classrooms. With full implementation of the ABCD model at a school, this will mean four classrooms per school of special educations students (per Tracy Libros.) Different schools may have different combinations of A with B, A with C and A with D. I have not heard that all four services will be available in the same building. As an example if you have two self-contained classroom, your school will also have two access classrooms.

In conclusion, it does seem there has been an effort to identify schools for full implementation of the ABCD model. ELL services and SpEd services should be available in these buildings and fully half do not accommodate that mandate. This point needs some sort of explanation or adjustment. The effect that this has on certain buildings may mean a higher concentration of SpEd students as well as a drop in capacity.

Rollout of the ABCD model this year has been minimal. There are 7,000 students who receive special education services. The rollout has begun in seven schools with the Access (A) program only, so it has impacted about 70 students or 1% of the special education enrollment. From what I have heard from SpEd leadership, there are some kinks in the program that need to get ironed out. I have not heard any complaints from any families who are receiving the new services. People need to keep in mind that the ABCD model AKA the "New Model" of special education service delivery was developed with parental input. It is being rolled out slowly to prevent the kind of issues that happened with the rollout of the previous inclusion model that flopped due to lack of planning and support.

I don't know the district well enough to know if the amount of rumor that is being generated about this issue is normal in this situation or not, but there are a lot of rumors floating around. For one school in particular that I have heard comments on, and that "Questions" also mentioned, the drop in capacity may also be attributed to an incorrect room census. Someone from enrollment services went to B. F. Day today to recount the classrooms.

That's what I know/think at this point.


Anonymous said…
I responded to Mary's post on the QAE thread, so I will re-post here.


JA K-8 @ Pinehurst is not on the list of Sped schools? Currently, I believe they have self-contained sped classrooms, plus ELL, and I believe developmental preschool classes as part of their program in the Jane Addams building. I thought there were plans for Sped classrooms at the new building at the Pinehurst site?

Also, doesn't Pinehurst (AS-1)also have developmental preschool classrooms housed in their building (which is due to be demolished this year)? Where will these preschool classrooms go?

Seems like they will have to shrink Olympic View by quite a bit, in order to put Sped in there, especially if it is to carry all the NNE sped population.

-North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Thank you for posting this. I have long been irritated with the general lack of info available about special education - I should be able to go to the SPS website & get a LOT more info than what is there. Is there a page that explains the new ABCD model? Maybe I'm not as computer-literate as I should be, but I can't find one. I have two in Special education, for widely different issues, but they are both young so there haven't been too many issues yet. My immediate concern is deciding where my daughter with Down syndrome should go for Kindergarten next year, and understanding at least the theory behind the programs would help. I do seem to have some options, which is good, but basically my plan is to visit different schools, observe the classsrooms & talk to the staff to see what might be the best place for her (the school where her siblings are, while fine for them, is probably not the best place for her).

Mom of 4
mirmac1 said…
Mom of 4,

Your comment highlights a major issue SEAAC has had for years. We have asked for, and the superintendent has agreed, to provide us with, a list of program locations with accurate descriptions of services in those programs. An SM4 at one HS could be totally different than at another: one with full inclusion and academics, the other teaching life skills and composting.
Jet City mom said…
I suspect that had I stayed in the LWSD our experience would have been much different for our family.


As it was, we had borrow money to hire tutors to help, because her pullout was not anymore helpful than study hall some years.
Anonymous said…
The Oly View SpEd siting is interesting and not, IMO, optimum. Given that it would be capacity craziness v. 4.0 to co-house APP with Oly Hills in their new building, and the Oly Hills principal apparently thinks so, it might make more sense to put SpEd in that building rather than Oly View.

Yes, it decreases Oly Hills capacity, but not by as much as half or even 1/3 of APP would. And the new ADA compliant building and more central location for the NNE is certainly a benefit to the local SpEd community. Plus Oly View, an older, smaller building than the new Oly Hills will be, is perhaps less able to absorb the change in its percent of SpEd and general ed. I don't know, but I'd love to hear an informed perspective on those two schools, with the assumption that the district backs off the cohouse APP at Oly Hills plan (AND NOT AN APP DISCUSSION - A SPED DISCUSSION on pros and cons of Oly Hills vs Oly View).

My main problem with all of this about SpEd locations is the timing. The District is looking at boundaries in October, and the boundaries are being reworked now. So how can the placement of SpEd be finalized after that? It makes no sense, and will lead to ... over crowded schools w/SpEd, or others without enough neighborhood kids. Ta-DA! Bad decision-making.

(By the way, this delay absolutely belongs at the feet of Teaching and Learning.)

The SpEd decisions should have been made months ago, put out to the communities well before boundaries, so that both the SpEd and the school communities could consider whether or not a school was appropriate, and then and only then should boundaries have been crafted. This is why I inadvertently (sorry!) followed mirmac into the discussion on the QA thread - b/c it is crazy for the district to try to build boundaries if the SpEd piece has not been landed, b/c they could easily remove 100 seats from a school.

But then again I live in a dreamworld where things happen in a logical order and for clear, transparent reasons.

Signed, Questions
Anonymous said…
So, the new Sped recommendations draft will be given to the Board on Friday, October 18th, the day AFTER the Oct 17th Growth Boundaries work session?


-North-end Mom

mirmac1 said…

My fault, sorry but not really. Yes, it is the chicken or the egg dilemma.

: )
Anonymous said…
Funny thing, I just talked to a parent who found out that her school is an ACCESS school. She can't figure out what ACCESS means and can't detect shifts in the building to suggest that a new model is being implemented. Is this all on paper?

not laughing
Anonymous said…
Yes, thank you for the translation. I often find that when I read the information, especially on special education, the district speaks in gibberdygook. I suspect the choice of language is to avoid saying anything that might have legal implications.

It's useful to me to have someone who doesn't have to worry about legal implications to translate. I understand that you are speaking just for yourself and your understanding, but having someone else's interpretation of the information that seemed impenetrable to me us useful.

Anonymous said…
Would love to see more special ed kids at QAE. I have witnessed how awesome Mr. Elliot is at doing what needs to be done for our current population of kids with disabilities, so I would expect special ed families will be pleased with what QAE offers them. Also, as a parent of a non-disabled student, I think it's good for my kid to be around kids with disabilities. It gives him a chance to make friends who are different from him, which is a great life skill, and one of the few things lacking at QAE now (diversity is not our strong point, including diversity of ability). Space will get tricky before the building addition is done, but like everything, QAE will make it work somehow. That staff is amazing at making lemonade out of lemons.

QAE Parent
Anonymous said…
Right on ZB. The district indeed speaks gibblty-gook to avoid saying anything at all. Unfortunately, it means when your kid arrives at a special ed class - well, there's nothing at all there. For example, a lot of special ed programs are called "SM4"? Now what, pray tell, might SM4 actually be? Is it a new curriculum? Is it a book? Is it something ed-reformers have put on us? Is it a test? NO!!!! It is none of those things. It's is a staffing ratio! That's it! It means any 8 kids, and any 2 adults who can make it to an interview for the job of IA, and a special ed teacher. There's NOTHING about service or needs at all! Any butt, any seat! As a consequence of butt driven, non-description, there's no materials available in those classrooms. Nothing. No book. No teaching materials. Nothing. How's that for something great! (How could they provide anything when there's no description of the "service" nor needs of the student?)

What is "ACCESS"? Let's answer that by looking in the newest CBA. (NO! Access is not resource room. We already have resource room!)

Access Services: Students who receive access services are those students with intensive special education needs who benefit from spending the majority of their instructional time in the general education setting with support. Students may qualify in any one of the thirteen federally mandated categories of disability. Staffing ratio is 10:1:3

sped reader
Anonymous said…
At the last School Board meeting, Sharon Peaslee asked if Olympic Hills could be built to a capacity of 800-something seats.

That would provide a lot of space for sped, ELL, APP, etc..., but it seems crazy-big!

- online watcher
Anonymous said…
It's ridiculous to just count seats. If a school is designated as special ed continuum site, it will need 4 classrooms for students assigned out of assignment area. These classrooms will need 38 seats. No, not 800. And, they needn't always be full classrooms. It's reasonable to say the equivalent space would hold 75 Gen ed students. These students also need Gen ed seats in Gen ed classrooms.

Sped Reader
Naomi C said…
Mary, thank you so much for this explanation! I have one child in a self-contained classroom and one who receives resource room support.

It has been very difficult for me to find any information on the "new model" so far. It's past time for me to join the Seattle Special Education PTSA to help me stay informed.

Thank you for you time, effort, and insight.

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