Showing posts with label #SpecialEducation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #SpecialEducation. Show all posts

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Questions from the Press, Thursday, October 12, 2023.

On Saturday, October 7, Sonoma Valley Unified conducted a study session of its special education programs.  I received questions, per usual practice, from the Press Democrat/Sonoma Index-Tribune. Answers are below. 

I've uploaded the pdf of the presentation, because I think this is something the public should be able to review over time. There's handwriting from me on the document, noting that the parent surveys only reach parents whose children are receiving services, which I compared to searching only under streetlights for lost keys. We need to hear from parents whose children aren't receiving services, but should. 

Further, I wrote "insular minor," a reference to footnote 4 of Carolene Products. (United States v. Carolene Products Co. (1938) 304 U.S. 144 [58 S. Ct. 778; 82 L. Ed. 1234].) That footnote points out that "discrete and insular minorities" that cannot expect the normal protections of the political process deserve a heightened standard of review. In Sonoma Valley, while 2/3rds of our students are Latinx, 2/3rds of our voters are white, the type of situation I think contemplated by the court in that case. 

Photo this time is of Margie at a recent soccer practice. Without further ado: 

1-5. (answered together): Why was the meeting important? What do you feel were the main findings presented? What are some of the problems the district is having in addressing the needs of special education students? What are some specific steps that need to be taken?

Sonoma Valley Unified consistently directs Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions (which Special Education is a part of) towards white students at double (Speech/Language Impairment) to nearly triple the rate (Specific Learning Disability) it does for Latinx students. This is a wildly disproportionate allocation of resources, suggesting that Sonoma Valley's structural racial discrimination problem is being replicated in the administration of its special education program. I believe this is almost certainly due to under-identification of Latinx students; I am not persuaded there is any "over-identification" of white students.


Our District needs to identify those students who SVUSD should have known require services (our "child-find" obligation). The existing data suggests that we are failing to pinpoint at least 50 Latinx students who require Tier 2 and Tier 3 support. If the prevalence of Speech/Language Impairment and Specific Learning Disabilities is akin to that in our White population, the number in our Latinx community could reach as high as 350 missed students. Based on my experience reviewing student disciplinary files as a trustee over the past seven years, which is often where the unidentified students are revealed, I estimate that the actual figure is likely between the two numbers, probably around 170-190 students, equating to approximately 10-15 students per grade.


To provide those services, Sonoma Valley Unified should fully implement Universal Design for Learning ("UDL") strategies. These form the cornerstone of our multi-tiered systems of support ("MTSS"). Our Tier 1, our general education program, serves as the initial instructional approach and is expected to address the needs of approximately 85% of students. Our Tier 2 supports, partly administered by our special education department, are designed to support roughly 10%, whereas the remaining 5% should be obtaining Tier 3 support.


Overally, Sonoma Valley Unified is a wealthy basic aid school district that nonetheless exhibits poor performance across a range of measures. This situation is unusual, considering that rich districts like Sonoma Valley make up only about 9-10% of the approximately 1100 districts in the State, and are anecdotally known for their good results. Likely, the persistent poor performance despite ample resources is linked to how many students are not receiving the services they deserve. I believe this has probably led to behavioral issues that fester over time, as students are not being educated in a fashion consistent with their rights under the law.  


Further, the situation has been exacerbated by a footprint that is too large for the current student population, which has declined nearly 35% in the past decade. Realignment is urgently needed to focus resources on our at-need students. Spreading out Tier 1 implementation across too many sites, while not effectively supporting any of them, robs Tier 2 and Tier 3 of the resources to identify and serve students who are at need.

6. Would you like to say anything else?

On a personal note, I had a very hard time reviewing this information, and anyone who would like to view the Youtube video of our meeting is welcome to go and see that. I do not apologize for my emotional reaction. This is a situation that should shock our consciences. We all should be upset, together, to see that this situation has been allowed to develop, and to continue, for so long. Only concerted action will begin to address the situation and right the wrongs that have persisted without remediation, which will take action by the entire community.