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A change in how San Diego Unified describes what services it will provide for each special education student has worried parents, volunteers and school district staff, who cited it as a top concern in an annual special education report.

Here’s a short explanation of the change from an article I wrote in March on the issue:

Today, special education students who don’t attend ordinary classes are split between four programs, which use different teaching methods and are tailored to different disabilities. Elementary schools, which tend to be small, usually host only a few of the programs, if any, at their sites. That means that many disabled students can’t attend their neighborhood school.

Instead, specific schools that offer the programs act as magnets, drawing disabled kids from a larger region. Emotionally disturbed kids board buses to a handful of schools, where specially-trained teachers coach them; most mentally retarded kids head to another school, equipped with another specialist.

Those categories will vanish in name this fall, disappearing from the individual education plans that schools write for disabled students. And over the next two years, San Diego Unified plans to dissolve those categorized classes, which split kids among schools based on disability. Instead, disabled kids will attend their neighborhood schools, where a cadre of special education teachers will tailor the classes offered on-site to the kids.

The yearly report of a special education committee cited the changeover as causing “a great deal of confusion and misinformation,” topped only by the perennial concern that San Diego Unified doesn’t follow the legally binding plans. Other concerns are excluding disabled students from standardized testing and a lack of well-trained staff.

The school board will review the report Tuesday.

EMILY ALPERT

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