06 Apr State Requires Alhambra Unified to Give Special Education Students More Time in Mainstream ClassroomsApril 6, 2017
By: Hayley Munguia
Source: The Pasadena Star-News
The state’s education department has directed the Alhambra Unified School District to improve its special education program by giving those students more time in classrooms with other students.
Federal law requires that students with disabilities be assimilated into classrooms with their nondisabled peers to the “maximum extent possible.”
Joseph Schwartzberg, an expert consultant on special education in California, said this is important for special education students for a couple of reasons. First, it’s important for students to be in an environment similar to what they’ll experience when they leave the education system.
Additionally, special education students are best served by a general-education curriculum, which Schwartzberg said is “best presented in a regular public school program.”
It’s important that these students are “not just modeling types of behavior they themselves manifest, or those that are exhibited by other children with disabilities,” he added. It helps them to have “role models” who have different types of behaviors and characteristics than they do, Schwartzberg said.
To enable this, California’s Department of Education has set targets that school districts should meet, which determine what percentage of a student’s day will be spent with students not in special education. The tricky part, Schwartzberg said, is determining what’s the most appropriate approach for students with a wide range of disabilities.
While Alhambra Unified meets the state standard for special education students with mild disabilities, the state found that students who may need more individual attention with a special education teacher are still not receiving the adequate amount of time in a mainstream classroom.
Gary Gonzales, Alhambra Unified’s assistant superintendent of educational services, said the district’s plan to correct its course will involve using two specialists for students — one who specializes in content and one who specializes in accommodating the student’s disability.
The district will also put special education students in a mainstream environment for certain subjects. Kindergartners will have time with nondisabled students that includes sessions such as time in the library and computer lab, as well as read-aloud time.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students with disabilities categorized as “mild to moderate” will be in mainstream classrooms for social studies or science, as well as physical education. At the high school level, special education students will be taught history, government and economics, depending on their grade level, along with PE, alongside their nondisabled peers. Special education teachers will provide support in these environments.
Schwartzberg said these kinds of required plans are “not uncommon.” He said “oftentimes, extraordinary means must be taken in order to make that (assimilation) possible, but the law requires school districts do just that — do whatever they can to provide that level of assimilation and mainstreaming.”
Gonzales said Alhambra is working to provide students with a beneficial experience.
“AUSD is committed to ensure that all of our students receive the best education possible,” he said.