An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


Mar. 21, 2014 Issue 15

Special Education


Marin County parent Alyson Sinclair said it was difficult to find information that clearly explains the options available to students in special education. Credit: Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource
Eight minutes into a public meeting on how to reform the state's vast special education system, the woman who ran special education in California for nine years came up to the microphone. Alice Parker was blunt.


"I wish I could have a 'do-over' for the 45 years I worked in special education," Parker, who retired in 2005 as director of the California Department of Education's Special Education Division, told representatives of a new Statewide Special Education Task Force at a public forum.


Parker regretted a system that she said has a history of labeling children as barely able to learn, rather than revamping the way teachers provide instruction in reading, writing, speech and math - particularly for the vast numbers of students with learning disabilities. In an interview after the meeting Parker added: "Our kids aren't disabled, our system is." Read the full story in EdSource Today

As part of a national effort to improve instruction for children with learning, behavioral, physical and other disabilities, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has been awarded a $200,000 federal grant for an intensive review of training for the state's teachers and administrators - in both general and special education settings.


Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the grant is part of a $25 million, five-year push by the federal Office for Special Education to roll out special education reforms in 20 states, including this newly announced effort in California. Read the full story in EdSource Today.

School Climate

Chronic absenteeism -- missing 10 percent of school days -- is linked to student and family physical and emotional health, including such issues as dental disease, asthma, depression and drug use.  


State Attorney General Kamala Harris and a team of legislators recently introduced a package of bills to battle chronic student absenteeism, in yet another sign of the growing reexamination of school attendance and discipline policies. 


One legislator called his anti-truancy bill the first step in dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. Another said the new truancy legislation would provide services, such as counseling, health care and other support, for chronically absent students and their families, not criminal sentences. And Harris said that asking why children are not in class requires school districts to look more deeply at the lives of their students.


"We must be compelled to think about that child in the context of the family," Harris said, Read the full story in EdSource Today.

Ready access to counselors and a school nurse. The latest technology. Focused students. Individualized instruction. An expanded school day.


This doesn't sound like a school of last resort, but that's just what it is. Those are the characteristics of Broadway High, a San Jose continuation high school. Read the full story in EdSource Today.


Most days, you can find Melissa Estrada at Monseņor Oscar Romero Charter Middle School in Central Los Angeles where her son Angel Hernandez is in eighth grade.

While Angel is in school, Estrada has taken classes to learn how to track his attendance online and talk to him about health issues including drugs and safe sex. Read the full story in EdSource Today.
Student Health

A new all-electric school bus picks up students in the Kings Canyon Unified School District. Credit: Motiv Power Systems

An all-electric school bus quietly began transporting students in the Escondido Union High School District on March 13, part of a state-funded pilot program meant to introduce districts to the merits of bus fleets that are electric-powered, emissions-free and silent.

The electric bus, along with an electric school bus introduced in Kings Canyon Unified School District in February, is a demonstration project funded in part by the California Air Resources Board. The project was developed in response to a regulatory push to reduce harmful diesel fuel emissions at schools. Read the full story in EdSource Today.

California legislative update

AB 420 - Student discipline
  • Assembly Bill 420, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, would eliminate willful defiance or disruption of school activities as a reason to expel students and would limit its use in suspensions.
  • Why it's important: The "willful defiance" category, which accounts for more than 40 percent of suspensions statewide, is subjective and has been used disproportionally in many districts against African-American and Latino students. Discipline issues have also received increased scrutiny under the new Local Control Funding Formula for schools, which requires districts to create a Local Control and Accountability Plan that must include how they plan to improve school climate, including minimizing expulsions and suspensions. AB 420 is Dickinson's second attempt to limit the use of willful defiance. The bill was first introduced last year and passed in the Assembly, but was held over to the current session to hash out remaining disagreements. The bill now sits in the Senate Education Committee's inactive file; discussions between Dickinson's staff and Gov. Jerry Brown's staff are ongoing because Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2012.
  •  Previous EdSource Today coverage 
AB 1866 - Student attendance
  •  Assembly Bill 1866, by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, would collect data on absenteeism using the California Department of Education's student record system. The bill is one of a package of five attendance-related bills backed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris to address what she calls an"attendance crisis"in California.
  • Why it's important: Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10 percent or more days during the school year, is a strong predictor of dropping out, yet the California Department of Education currently does not track absenteeism on a statewide basis. Bill advocates say tracking chronically absent students will allow schools to use more effective interventions.
  •  Previous EdSource Today coverage  
AB 1432 -- Mandated child abuse training 
  • Assembly Bill 1432, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angleles, would require annual training of school employees in how to spot and report child abuse.
  • Why it's important: School employees are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Training employees in how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect would improve their ability to report.
  • Previous EdSource Today coverage  

March 26 launch of 2014 County Health Rankings

Researchers from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin will release and discuss via webinar their 2014 County Health Rankings report. The rankings are an evaluation of nearly every county in the country using health measures such as access to fast food, physical activity, drinking water safety, poverty and teen birth rate.

The rankings will include a key findings report of how five featured measures -- children in poverty, college attendance, preventable hospital stays, smoking, and physical inactivity -- are influencing health nationwide, the webinar hosts said. 


Date: Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:30 a.m. PT. Register here

Recent Editions of the EdHealth Newsletter:

EdHealth Newsletter Issue 14: Educating special ed students isolated in juvenile facilities
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 13: Trying a "trauma-informed" approach in special education
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 12: Largest districts vary in use of "willful defiance"
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 11: Trauma-informed teaching to reach troubled youth
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 10: New law increases awareness of concussions
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 9:   More teens drinking sugary beverages

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