Special Education

Since I was elected to the Board in 2008, I’ve worked hard to change the Special Education conversation from “encroachment” and “adversarial” to “investment” and “collaboration.” Decades of under-funding have left our system under tremendous stress, and it has been challenging to build trust between administrators and parents, who are supposed to be acting together as equal partners in what is best for a particular child.

The district has made progress: the special education department has been entirely restructured and is implementing a strategic plan based on the findings of an independent review of our special education strengths and practices. Superintendent Carranza has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he “gets it” with respect to inclusion and improving outcomes for our students with disabilities. Every school in SFUSD is now an inclusive school — something that seemed impossible to accomplish 10 years ago. I feel far more hopeful about the future for students with disabilities in SFUSD than I did when I first ran for the Board in 2008.

Where do we go from here? Continue supporting our educators to build their skills to differentiate for a broader range of learning styles. Continue to invest in behavioral Response to Intervention — a way to quickly identify and support students with behavioral problems so that they do not disrupt their own learning and that of other students. When implemented correctly, RTI can reduce the number of children referred to special education. Finally, build more robust recruiting pathways to increase the number of credentialed special education teachers in the district, because this is an area of perennial need.

Below I have collected several past interviews, blog posts and published articles to highlight my views on inclusion and other special education reforms.

Putting a price on special education,” Crosscurrents interview, KALW-FM, broadcast May 28, 2013 (I did not write the headline :-)

More thoughts on the special education audit,”  blog post, Sept. 22, 2010

What does ‘encroachment’ mean?” blog post, Sept. 9, 2009

2008 Senior Dad Candidate Forum: Special Education (podcast); Oct. 15, 2008

Video: “What would you do to improve special education?”
Oct. 7, 2008

Autistic Woman’s Story Shows How Far we Have to Go, originally written as a guest post on SF Examiner’s education blog; July 24, 2008

Reaching Special Education Ideals are Still Far Off
BeyondChron series May 31 – June 2, 2006:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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3 responses to “Special Education

  1. Rachel, best of luck with your campaign! As was once said to me “Special Education is not a place, it is a group of services.” I believe this to be true & thank you for representing all students, but especially your commitment to the SE Community. Thanks Tony.

  2. I would be surprised too, since as you know transportation is obligatory if is part of the IEP. Can you email me off blog at rachel “at ” rachelnorton.com and i will look into this for you ( i need the school name).

  3. chris francisco

    Rachel: My son who is in a sped class in middle school and who has transportation included in his IEP was told, along with all his classmates, that his/their sped transportation services would be stopped in the next two to three weeks. He was extremely upset, as am I. HIs teacher said that letters had been mailed. I have not received anything and have no knowledge of this change. Can you clarify if this is a new policy? I am astonished that my son would hear of this change in the middle of class without me having any information.

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