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Real High School Diplomas for All Students

By Steve / 2023-05-11
Posted in ,

While it is great seeing so many parents here fighting for access to higher mathematics, I’m here asking for Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) to bother to teach my son to add.

There are around 60 to 90 specific common core standards for each grade in elementary school which get turned into the 30 to 40 criteria reported in a standard report card.

In my son’s latest draft Individualized Education Program from the district, we don’t get a report card and the district proposed just 3 common core standards.

3 out of 60 to 90 standards.

They aren’t even trying to provide a real education.

Basically, PAUSD put my son on the “no high school diploma” track last year in the Second grade

This is the opposite of what is supposed to be happening in California with The Alternate Pathways to a High School Diploma.

Palo Alto needs to change course to meet these goals and do what is right for its students who face the most challenges.


Pathways to a High School Diploma – Legislative Report –

Workgroups Provide Special Education Recommendations –

California Alternative Pathways to a High School Diploma Workgroup Report –

California Statewide Individualized Education Program (IEP) Workgroup Report

Employing Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities in California

Ensuring All Students with Disabilities have a Pathway to a High School Diploma in California


Palo Alto’s 504 Plan Puzzle

By Steve / 2023-05-11
Posted in , ,

Palo Alto Unified School District’s 504 Plan demographics are substantially different than California’s or the rest of the US states with around 7% of our students having a 504 plan (see attachments) vs. the national average of 2.7%, California at 4% and the highest state average New Hampshire at 6.2% (tab 2 of “Enrollment-Overall”)

Thank you to PAUSD Staff

First, thank you to Amanda Bark and the PAUSD staff for providing this data. I only looked at this because the 504 numbers were broken out in the recent mid-school math report and they were surprisingly high.

What is a 504 Plan?

Students with 504 plans typically do NOT have IEPs and are NOT covered under IDEA.

504 plans are focused on education accessibility and addressing discrimination as opposed to supporting individualized learning needs.


There have been cases that I’ve heard in other school districts pushing students to get 504 plans instead of IEPs (and PAUSD has a low number of Students with Disabilities defined by IDEA both vs. California and nationally). State IDEA metrics do not flag schools for low IDEA metrics, so I do not know if PAUSD is notably low at the state level (there is no slick dashboard for IDEA data like there is for general education)

504 plans are not monitored with any of the attention that is given to IDEA, unfortunately, so, it is much harder to “see” what is going on.

I do not know the reason for this number – it is just a notable outlier.

I believe that the district can break this down by disability category and certainly look at the trends over time. Given other disproportionality issues, it might also be worth looking into ethnic, SED, and other demographic groups to see if there are other drivers.

All my best.


  • Note the “Enrollment Overall” spreadsheet was retrieved from the Office of Civil Rights reporting at the US Department of Education.


Segregated Special Education in Palo Alto – a long way to go

By Steve / 2023-05-11
Posted in , ,

“when students are included, they have more access to the general curriculum
and effective instruction, they achieve at higher rates of academic
performance, and they acquire better social and behavioral outcomes.”

According to the latest report under IDEA for Palo Alto, 7.75% of students spend less than 40% of
their day in general education (reports from 2021).

Compared to California, this is good as California’s average is 18.2%.

However, California is the second worst state (for segregated special education) in the US (only ahead of New York).
There are 11 states that average better than Palo Alto.

  • West Virginia 7.4
  • Alabama 7.2
  • Iowa 7.2
  • Kansas†† 7
  • Connecticut†† 6.6
  • North Dakota 6.4
  • BIE schools 5.5
  • Nebraska 5.4
  • South Dakota 5.4
  • Wyoming†† 5.4
  • Colorado 5.3
  • Vermont 4.5

“..when educated in inclusive classrooms, peers without disabilities experience
either a positive academic and social impact or at least no negative impact on
academic achievement”

If you include students at separate schools, we perform even worse. We have 3.23% of students in
separate schools, worse than California’s average of 2.3% and worse than all but 15 states.

If you combine these numbers, there is a total of 10.98% of students in highly segregated settings –
worse than 16 states.

  • Puerto Rico 10.6
  • Vermont 9.8
  • Idaho 9.6
  • Indiana 9.2
  • Kentucky 9.2
  • Kansas†† 8.9
  • Alabama 8.5
  • Iowa 8.1
  • Oklahoma 7.9
  • West Virginia 7.6
  • Nebraska 7.2
  • Colorado 7.2
  • North Dakota 7
  • South Dakota 6.4
  • Wyoming†† 6
  • BIE schools 5.6

“ special education classes, 58 percent of the time was not devoted
to instruction, in contrast with only 35 percent of non-instructional time in
general education.”

For general education, fundraising by PIE, and most other areas, Palo Alto Unified School District
benchmarks its performance and targets being one of the best in the USA.

Why not special education?

California Special Education Reports by LEA –

Palo Alto Unified Report Volumbe in California IDEA Report for 2021 (page 43)

43rd Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, 2021
– – see pages 150-151.

The Segregation of Students with Disability – 7 February 2018 – National Council on Disability –


California Care Court Bill

By DNW Contributors / 2022-05-10
Posted in ,

The California Legislature is considering creating a “CARE Court” to fast track determinations of mental competency to mandate treatment.

The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Program is being proposed to both the California Assembly (AB2830) and State Senate (SB1338).

This bill is being strongly opposed by many disability rights organizations with letters from Human Rights Watch and a coalition led by Disability Rights California.

What is your opinion?

Care Court Form

Your name (optional)

Key points

1. Homelessness in California

Address housing and you address a large number of problems. If you drive around California cities and actually look around, you’ll find streets lined with RVs, campers, and cars where those who can’t find or afford housing are living rough. This is in addition to those who are living both homeless and car-less on the  streets.

2. Grossly underfunded disability and mental health services

Since the first Great De-institutionalization under Reagan, home and community based services have never been adequately funded. Also, the because Disability Services are funded as Benefits (like welfare) and not Insurance, disabled people are essentially forced NOT to work, build assets, or even get married to protect their meager services.

3. Second class citizens (or worse)

In addition to being denied the actual right to participate in our economy, disabled people are already subject to punitive court action through Conservatorships which can casually strip them of their rights (and it can happen to anyone) with minimal oversight or recourse – as seen most recently in the FreeBrittany case for Brittany Spears… unfortunately, most people subject to conservatorships don’t have millions of fans and fame to help them.

4. … and then there’s Race

Diagnoses of mental illness are quite disproportionate by race. This starts in our schools with “Emotional Disturbance” diagnosis falling on African American boys far out of their proportion of the population and proceeding through adulthood.


CARE Court promotes a system of involuntary, coerced treatment, enforced by an expanded judicial infrastructure, that will, in practice, simply remove unhoused people with perceived mental health conditions from the public eye without effectively addressing those mental health conditions and without meeting the urgent need for housing. We urge you to reject this bill and instead to take a more holistic, rights-respecting approach to address the lack of resources for autonomy-affirming treatment options and affordable housing. – Human Rights Watch

“There’s no compassion with people with their clothes off defecating and urinating in the middle of the streets, screaming and talking to themselves,” Newsom said. “There’s nothing appropriate about a kid and a mom going down the street trying to get to the park being accosted by people who clearly need help.” (Knight)

What can be done?

Let’s start working the pervasive problems rather than the rare symptoms

1. Get really serious about addressing housing

Housing people is the right thing to do. And, many studies have shown that it is also much cheaper overall to guarantee housing rather than provide services on the street

2. Fully fund Home and Community Based Services

Providing a solid safety net for all disabled, mentally ill, and elderly people so that they can live in their communities will help many people and radically reduce the number of people whose condition will decline to where they are perceived to be a “public nuisance”.

3. Transition to Universal Disability Services Insurance

Change our model for mental health and disability services so that people can work and participate in our society as much as possible instead of continuing our “Poverty by Design” benefits system

4. End Mental Health and Disability Hot Potato

California has many overlapping, gap-filled, competing and mostly confusing systems for supporting disabled, elderly, and mentally ill people. Finding services, separately applying to each agency, working the different systems would be exhausting for a healthy person who doing this as a full-time job. No one is in control. No one is accountable. This new CARE Court is a patch on top of a Rube Goldberg Device held together by tape and band aids.

These systems need to be combined, integrated, and made accountable before we contemplate adding yet another system.


Human Rights Watch’s Opposition to CARE Court –

Disability Rights California & Coalition’s Letter in Opposition to CARE Court –

Exclusive: Gavin Newsom has a bold new mental health plan, inspired by the misery on S.F. streets. Will it work? Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle –


California Special Education Study Released – Big Changes Needed

By DNW Contributors / 2022-01-06
Posted in
A major report on the state of Special Education in California finds that big changes are needed.  California has one of the worst rates of inclusion in the US – in the bottom 3 of the 50 states using data from the US Department of Education.

Some selected findings

  • For students with an IEP, including students identified in each disability category,
    greater participation in a general education setting is a strong predictor of
    academic growth and improved outcomes as measured by statewide
    assessments (i.e., the CAASPP and the CAA).
  • Although California requires SELPA community advisory committees (CACs) to
    support LCAP parent advisory committees as a way of ensuring that parents of
    students with an IEP are represented in the LCAP process, CACs have relatively
    little access to and provide relatively little input on LEAs’ general education
  • For the years studied, California as a state had among the country’s lowest rates
    for including students with an IEP in general education for at least 80 percent of
    the school day and had among the highest rates for including these students less
    than 40 percent of the school day.
  • Subgranting and distributing IDEA funds to SELPAs and allowing multi-LEA
    SELPAs, in turn, to subgrant funds to their member LEAs does not promote
    transparency and may be inconsistent with federal policy guidance.

Selected Recommendations

  • Recommendation 2. Provide each LEA with the sole decision-making authority,
    autonomy, and necessary resources for entering into and exiting from
    agreements with other LEAs, either individually or as consortia, and other types
    of agencies (e.g., COEs, SELPAs, nonpublic agencies) to offer a flexible
    continuum of services to meet the variable needs of its students with an IEP..
  • Recommendation 4. Increase transparency and alignment of the state’s general
    and special education accountability, monitoring, and technical assistance
    structures. Amplify the voices of special education stakeholders, including
    families, in all governance and accountability structures

  • Recommendation 5. Increase state communication and guidance to LEAs,
    communities, and families about the state’s special education priorities and
    available resources for increasing the provision of special education services in
    general education settings and improving academic and functional outcomes for
    students with an IEP.

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