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What Districts Can Learn From One Community's Special Ed Shift

One California school district is boldly restructuring its staff in an attempt to make learning opportunities more accessible for students with special needs. At the start of the 2014-2015 school year, dozens of special education aides and teachers will be moving from their current placements within the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to other schools.

Administrators within SFUSD have been preparing for this shift for several years. While the new placements are upsetting for some educators who have been employed for some time at any given school, the district is convinced that by moving teachers and aides around, special education students will receive expanded learning opportunities. As one school board member recently explained to local media, "It's gotten hard for the adults. That's the idea. Make it harder for the adults so it's not harder for the kids."

Nearly 7,000 children in the SFUSD system are in need of special education. At present, the services that children with any given disability need may only be available at one or two schools. By shifting the district’s population of special education teachers around, these necessary services will be available at many or all schools in the district. In addition, the shift will allow more children to be schooled primarily in mainstreamed environments.

If this transition is successful, SFUSD could become a model for special education structures in other districts throughout California and the nation. And if the transition is not as successful as administrators hope that it will be, the lessons that SFUSD will learn by restructuring special education in this way will be valuable to other districts considering similar reforms as well.

Source: SFGate, “S.F. schools' special-education shift creates upheaval,” Jill Tucker, May 23, 2014

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