On August 17, 2017, Mark Miller and Meredith Wadley shared a “Spec Ed 101” general overview of special ed in California and in our district with the Board. Parents of students with disabilities attending had hoped, given recent events revealing numerous missteps with spec ed, that the “workshop” presentation would delve into details about the successes and problems in the district’s specific special education programs. Instead, they saw only generalized overviews which unfortunately failed to provide any specific goals for the upcoming year. Some of the data used in the slides had been expressly rejected by the district’s special ed committee as unreliable.
In response, parents gave public comments highlighting how the testing results reflected in the accountability report cards (aka "SARCs") of the district’s two high schools which primarily house the special ed programs, showed systemic failures and yet were not included in the presentation. One parent shared how zero percent of students at TP with disabilities were deemed college ready in math per state testing.
Recent state scores also revealed that over 90% at both LCC and TP were not proficient in math (TP dropped 15%), and how over 70% at these two schools were not proficient in English/language arts. Another parent shared work samples to demonstrate how her son's work at the ATP program was more similar to kindergarten activities than the work he was doing at LCC before he transitioned to the ATP program. Other parents shared how the special education tracks have little structure or accountability.
Several parents urged the district to finally pay attention to these programs to make sure that the special education administrators turn these failures around by providing more support and providing courses. Parents in the past have argued that students in the special education tracks should have courses to select from like their nondisabled counterparts to ensure instructional consistency and access to curriculum, both of which have formed the subject of complaints for years. Parents also encouraged the spec ed administrators to provide details on the actual programs themselves in future presentations so that the board can learn about the district's individual programs, versus simply providing a district or state overview.
Over recent months, parents brought to the board’s attention how students with disabilities were being jammed into two portables instead of regular classrooms, again, on the site of the Earl Warren Middle School even though the relocatables could not sufficiently house the number of people in the program and even though the program segregated the students in violation of state and federal laws. The district acknowledged this mistake and the lack of being prepared for the number of students attending the program. Mark Miller, who supervises the special ed program, claimed he was not aware that his staff was moving forward on the nearly half a million dollar project despite the ATP program having been a significant discussion piece at the district’s Spec Ed Forum Committee meetings this past year (which met for two hours a month), announcement of the facility in the district’s spec ed newsletters in November 2016 and March 2017, and the proposed agendas for those committee meetings listing ATP this past year.
It is unclear why students in the special education tracks do not have special education courses but clearly the “activities” model being used has not been working. Parents (and students) have appeared before the board for the last two years, donated their time as volunteers on the special education forum committee, prepared a 50 page petition highlighting the issues and the laws that support the issues, and raised concerns at the public forum held recently.