Follow us:

Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: special education

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

January 20, 2015 at 5:00 AM

On the agenda: free conference to help parents speak up for kids

Whether it’s speaking up for kids in Olympia, challenging a district’s disciplinary policies or making sure a child with disabilities gets the right services, parents must sometimes tangle with bureaucrats. The polite word for that is advocacy and parents who want to get better at it might check out a free, day-long conference on Jan. 24 at…


Comments | Topics: parents, school funding, special education

December 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Some education news to watch for in the upcoming year

As the final days of 2014 tick by, here are five of the education stories we plan to keep an eye on in 2015:

From left, Kelsey McCleary, 20, mother and plaintiff Stephanie McCleary, and son Carter McCleary, 15. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

From left, Kelsey McCleary, 20, mother and plaintiff Stephanie McCleary, and son Carter McCleary, 15. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

1. More money for schools

Lawmakers in Olympia will wrestle this session with how to meet a court order to give more state dollars to public schools and pay for a sweeping class size initiative that voters approved in the November election. Some lawmakers say they’re ready to send Initiative 1351 back to voters with a price tag and a proposal for how to pay for it.

But lawmakers will have a tough time dodging the state Supreme Court’s unanimous September decision to hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to ramp up public school spending quickly enough, which the court ordered back in 2012. The court gave lawmakers until the day after the session to come up with a plan to increase school spending to the required levels or convince justices they shouldn’t issue sanctions.


Comments | More in News | Topics: 2015, Initiative 1351, Larry Nyland

December 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Governor seeks money to train special ed leaders

It’s hard to imagine a more complex and demanding responsibility for a school district administrator than overseeing the education of children with disabilities.

Such leaders are in high demand; Seattle Public Schools’ new special education director, Wyeth Jessee, is the ninth person to hold the job in 10 years.

A new two-year master’s degree program to train future special ed directors has begun meeting that demand, graduating its first group of 10 students last summer. All the graduates, who already had at least five years experience in special education, received job offers.

The program, Enhancing Capacity for Special Education Leadership, is run by the University of Washington Bothell and Washington State University.

Graduates receive a UW Bothell Master’s degree in Education with emphasis in Educational Leadership.

State and federal dollars pay 90 percent of the cost for each scholarship in the program. Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed $2.3 billion education plan includes $800,000 to pay for 20 new slots and also to create a central location for “best practices” in special education at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Comments | Topics: special education, University of Washington Bothell, Washington State University

December 22, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Guest: We can do better for students with special needs

Ramona Hattendorf

Ramona Hattendorf

Special education in Washington is a mess. For families, it can be adversarial and emotionally draining. For students, it can be isolating, even traumatizing. We need to create equal opportunities to learn.

For those in the field, that can be hard to hear, and certainly we have some phenomenal staff members working with children with disabilities. Still, conflicts with special education are the most common calls to the state’s Office of the Education Ombuds, by far. And many problems with discipline and bullying loop back to it.

Parents struggle with delays or denial of interventions and accommodations. Children struggle with segregation and a sense of failure that erode their emotional health.

All this was captured in a recent report to the Legislature calling for a commission to usher in change. But what got lost in translation was the proposed solution.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: special education

December 10, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Seattle’s special education leader resigns after months of leave

Seattle Public Schools’ executive director for special education, who has been on paid leave since early August, has resigned for personal reasons, district officials announced Wednesday.

Zakiyyah McWilliams was placed on administrative leave in August amid a district investigation into the hiring of a special education consultant this past spring. Though a spokeswoman at the time said the review would take a few weeks, the district granted McWilliams medical leave on Sept. 10, effectively extending her absence. Spokeswoman Stacy Howard said Wednesday the district’s investigation into the consultant process is now complete, but the district has yet to provide any details.

Wyeth Jessee, who has been heading the district’s special education division in McWilliams’ absence, will take over the department full-time, the district said in a letter to parents. He will become the ninth person to hold the district’s top special education job in 10 years.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools, special education

November 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Special education is ineffective and too expensive, report says

In 2013, 76 percent of Washington’s students graduated from high school within four years, but only about 54 percent of students with disabilities got their diplomas on time.

Graduates with disabilities move on to higher education at less than half the rate of their peers.

And in several large Washington school districts, special education students are between 2 and 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their peers.

But the vast majority of children  in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

Those are among the findings of a report to the state Legislature released Wednesday detailing the need for a statewide “blue ribbon” commission to improve the way the state’s schools educate children with special needs.


Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, Seattle Public Schools, special education

November 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Wanted: Perspectives on special education in Seattle schools

Seattle Public Schools is looking for volunteers to weigh in on how the district serves — or fails to serve —  its more than 7,000 students with special needs.

The district is looking for anyone — especially principals and special education teachers — to be on an advisory committee that will make suggestions to district staff on special education issues. Wyeth Jessee, the district’s interim director of special education, said he hopes the committee becomes a place where the district can hear from a variety of voices.

The district’s special ed department has been under scrutiny in recent years. This fall, the state withheld $3 million in federal funds — about a third of the department’s federal funding but only a fraction of its overall budget — until the district can fix compliance and management problems. The district is in its second year of an improvement plan that was supposed to have been completed June 30.


Comments | More in News | Topics: parent engagement, Seattle Public Schools, special education

August 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Guest: Special-ed programs fail to meet needs of immigrant families

Ginger Kwan

Ginger Kwan

Research has demonstrated that meaningful family engagement leads to better student performance, and yet our local schools still struggle to engage families from racially, ethnically and culturally diverse communities, particularly when it comes to parents who have limited English proficiency or have children in special education programs.

As a result, many special-needs students from these diverse backgrounds end up getting left behind as their peers advance.

At many school districts in King County, more than 50 percent of students speak a language other than English at home. Serving and communicating with parents who have limited English proficiency should not be a new thing for schools. And yet, many parents are left wondering why it is so difficult for schools to engage diverse families of children with special needs. Is it because the schools lack knowledge of the best family engagement practices? Or because schools do not value special-needs students from other cultures? Or are schools simply unwilling to make needed changes to correct their own cultural bias and the institutional racism against this target population?

The answers are multi-faceted and not easy to answer. The challenges from schools to engage these diverse families are no less than what these families encounter when trying to interact with schools.

Across the system, schools generally lack the language and cultural capacity to engage these families meaningfully. School-hired interpreters are often not trained properly, are not familiar with special education, or speak different dialects than the family. Some families are also told to bring their own interpreters or have their children to interpret for them. In addition to verbal communication challenges, written information has been primarily printed in English or posted on school websites only. All of these obstacles can prevent meaningful communication between families and schools.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Ginger Kwan, Open Doors, special education

August 30, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Rewind: Watch a replay of live chat on special education in Seattle

Education Lab hosted a live chat on special education in Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 11.

The discussion was based off our earlier story about Seattle Public Schools’ long-troubled special-education program and a related report on how San Diego school officials fixed the communication problems in their own special-ed department. Reporter John Higgins facilitated the discussion.

Joining him was Stacy Gillett, a former special-education teacher who directs the governor’s education ombudsman’s office; Phyllis Campano, vice-president of the Seattle Education Association; and Mary Griffin, the mother of a child with disabilities and the immediate past president of the Seattle Special Ed PTSA.


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: live chat, special education

August 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Seattle special education chief placed on paid leave

  The Seattle school district’s executive director of special education was placed on paid leave Friday afternoon while the district investigates whether proper procedures were followed when the district hired a national consultant last spring. The executive director, Zakiyyah McWilliams, will be out during the review, which is expected to take a few weeks, said district spokeswoman Lesley Rogers. “This is not…


Comments | More in News, Seattle Public Schools | Topics: Seattle Public Schools, special education, T.I.E.R.S Group

Next Page »