Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007I am replying to your August article about the San Diego Unified School District board’s funding of the Seminar Program. I was at the School Board meeting when the current funding was continued for the Seminar Program.

Seminar students are needy students. The Seminar Program was started because these students have special needs that were not being met in the general classroom. Seminar students are special education students. Many of these special education students have poorly developed social skills and problematic emotional behavior. Most of these seminar students learn, think, and respond in unconventional ways. Their unconventional behavior and learning styles lead to being ridiculed, picked upon and marginalized by other students in the general student population.

The Seminar Program was started not to make these students smarter but to save them from failure in a general student population classroom. The Seminar Program was started because these students were dropping out of school and were seen to have a much higher suicide rate. My Seminar student has been working with the school’s speech teacher for four years and has already spent two years in therapy. She spent all of the second grade being disruptive and calling her class work a repeat of kindergarten.

There are several other reasons that seminar classrooms are needed at each grade level.

San Diego Unified places seminar students in a age appropriate grade not in an intellectually appropriate grade. San Diego Unified routinely socially promotes failing students but will not allow gifted students to skip grades. San Diego Unified does not have a magnet program or school for these gifted but unconventional students.

The lower 20-to-1 class size for seminar students is needed and is it not a waste of funds. These students must be challenged in the classroom, must be allowed to work at an advanced and individual pace, and must be directed by a seminar trained teacher. Seminar students need project oriented learning environments that require more hands on teacher time, individually oriented teacher direction, and special emotional and social control by a trained teacher. In a general education classroom, a teacher could give the same lecture to 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 100 students. Lower class size is important in a seminar classroom because a teacher is directing 20 different individual projects. There is no lecturing to the mean level of understanding in a seminar class unlike a normal classroom.

Finally, I was saddened by the opposition to the seminar program on the school board.

It seemed that having too many neighborhood and white students was the main problem for at least one member of the board. Also, I was upset that the board and San Diego Unified did not bother to get input from the Seminar Program teachers.

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