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As part of BUSD’s 2020 vision, what do you see is the role of special education in closing the achievement gap?

Answers: 
Ty Alper

High-quality special education is critical to realizing the 2020 Vision. This District should be a leader in special education, and no parent should have to hire an army of lawyers to get a child the services he or she needs. I believe in full inclusion, as data shows the value to the student and the classroom outweighs the costs, but it has to be accompanied by sufficient support for the classroom teacher. Moreover, there are subtler issues that arise when discussing this topic that need to be addressed as well, such as doing a better job providing our teachers with training to work with children with dyslexia, regardless of whether they are qualified for special education services or not. A commitment to equity demands that we excel in our special education services, and I would make this a high priority on the Board.

Josh Daniels

The achievement/opportunity gap that exists in the District manifests itself in special education as well where African-American students are disproportionately identified as needing special education services. While the 2020 Vision does not have a specific indicator related to special education (the indicators are kindergarten readiness, third grade reading, ninth grade math, and high school attendance), this disproportionally is antithetical to the purpose of the 2020 Vision. This is way the board has paid close attention to this metric. In fact, information on the disproportionality in special education was presented to the board at the most recent meeting on October 22. (Start of page 70 of the agenda packet, which available here: http://www.berkeleyschools.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/10-22-14-packet.pdf.) Simply put, we cannot address the inequities in our district without address the root causes of disproportionality in special education.

Norma J F Harrison

The way not to have an achievement gap is for everybody to do things – to see what’s being done, to do some of it – Please, read through my book. We’re all geniuses. There’s no genius gene. School is designed to suppress that so that we get the lower medium higher level of worker – to stratify us, to stratify jobs. We need all work equal to all work; no higher or lower pay. The work that needs to be done needs to be done. Much of it doesn’t. Get rid of it. Share – share our production so we all have sufficient material comfort because of our work. Share so we are all secure, so we all have plenty all our lives, guaranteed, unto our children’s children...

Karen Hemphill

I believe that the District needs to address the disproportionality of students of color being identified as having special education needs – especially when there is not a clear diagnosable learning related condition such as autism, speech, or dyslexia. Students that are academically struggling should have early intervention through RTI and only be referred to special education for specific learning issues. Currently 25% of African American students are being classified as needing special education (non-GATE) which in my opinion is a misuse of the program and not in the best of interests of the students being served.

Julie Sinai

As one of the founding members of the 2020 Vision, we analyzed District data, including Special Education. At that time, the data demonstrated significantly disproportionate referrals of African American students into Special Education. Working together with the District Special Education department and community based mental health providers we secured federal funding for School-Based Mental Health Initiative and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS). We worked together to develop Universal Learning Support Systems (ULSS) that brought school based resources for PBIS, community based mental health, and family support services to families through the schools. The District then adopted the Response to Intervention (RTI) so that students were identified early in the year and provided with the supports they need to succeed. The goal is to ensure Special Education resources for tier 2 and 3 of RTI are dedicated to the students who are in need of more intensive resources. By providing early intervention for students in tier 1 and more intensive resource to those in need, we can impact the gap.