At tonight’s meeting of the student assignment redesign committee, several important changes to the Superintendent’s proposal were suggested and accepted by Commissioners in attendance (committee members Wynns, Mendoza and Kim, and invited Commissioners Norton, Yee and Maufas. Commissioner Fewer was absent). These changes are:
- The Superintendent suggested an amendment to the proposed policy to introduce a one-month public comment period on the proposed attendance area maps before they are accepted by the Board and implemented as part of the new student assignment policy. This would give community members a chance to see the maps and comment on them before they are formally incorporated into the policy. No timeframe for the maps to be released was specified, but the policy must be fully implemented by November 2010. Presumably, the maps would be available for public inspection by September at the very latest.
- The Superintendent also proposed amending the CTIP definitions as follows: CTIP 1 would now comprise the 20% of census tracts with the lowest average scores on the California Standards Test (CST); CTIP 2 would comprise the 80% of census tracts with the highest average scores on the CST. A map of average CST scores, by census tract, appears below (the dark green areas are the new areas proposed for CTIP 1, and the light green areas PLUS the dark green areas are the PREVIOUSLY proposed CTIP 1 areas. Dark purple, lavender, and light blue are CTIP 2 areas; the new proposal would add the light green areas to CTIP 2. To make this crystal clear, download this larger image, containing a key (and also Treasure Island, which I cropped from the image below):
- The final change was proposed by Commissioner Wynns and found acceptable by Board members in attendance. For elementary school, CTIP 1 preference would now come higher than local preference, and the policy would also contain language establishing a reciprocal preference for residents of CTIP 2 areas who want to attend CTIP 1 schools. Board members liked this approach, after assurances from Orla O’Keeffe that flip-flopping CTIP 1 and local preference in the policy proposal would have little effect on school composition, but would give residents of the most underserved areas additional preference to attend higher-performing schools. In combination with the above proposal (to shrink the CTIP 1 preference area to the lowest performing 20% of census tracts), Board members felt the adjustment would better align the policy with what we heard from the PAC and Parents for Public Schools during the community engagement effort.
We also had a lengthy discussion about special education. It continues to frustrate me that the staff is talking about “service areas” and creating a parallel system for students with disabilities. The law is clear: whenever possible, students should attend the schools they would have attended if not disabled; if their individual needs can be served more appropriately at another school, then the district may offer them another placement. In any event, the district is obligated to offer students with disabilities a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) — defined as: receiving an education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and remaining in regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
The problem is that the district is maintaining that putting special education students through a “separate but equal” kind of lottery is adequate to meet these legal requirements. I disagree, as do most other special education parents and their advocates. In other school districts, offers of placement are generally made at IEP meetings (an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, developed by a team of general educators, special educators, parents and any other persons knowledgeable about the child’s educational needs — the “IEP team”). In San Francisco, parents receive a “program” offer — e.g., inclusion or a special day class — and then an opaque and highly secretive school district process determines the actual school where the program is delivered.
I am instead advocating for a simple sentence to be included in the district’s new student assignment policy under the “Special Education” heading: For students in special education, school and program placements will be determined by the IEP team.