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Letter: 'No' on parcel tax would be leaving kids behind

Original post made on May 22, 2009

Dear Editor,

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (35)

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 8:24 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"Twenty percent of any classroom needs special attention of some sort."

Then stop mainstreaming the children that need special attention into regular classes and taking away the attention from the other 80%.


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Posted by teacher
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 8:37 am

Not legally possible, Stacey. You need to have special needs kids in the "least restrictive environment". Special needs situations are legal land mines for school districts. You really have to bend over backwards to accommodate their needs, even if it is at the expense of the other 80%... and it often is, unfortunately.


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Posted by Agree with Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 8:38 am

Mainstreaming was never the right answer. Kids with special needs need teachers with the specialized training to address those needs. Asking teachers to spend 80% of their teaching time to work with the 20% of kids who need specialized help is not fair to the teachers or the other students.
Someone please tell me where in the Measure G ballot language is it written that class sizes will be less than 30 students if Measure G passes.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 8:44 am

Stacey is a registered user.

teacher,

That's unfortunate. Which laws govern that? I bet they can get changed.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 8:46 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Wait, are you saying that students with behavioral issues or other social-emotional issues are considered to be in the same category of students as honest-to-goodness disabled students?


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 8:52 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Do IDEA funds go towards paying for CSR?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on May 22, 2009 at 9:16 am

No, they don't. IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Class Size Reduction is a separate categorical.

Links on the State DOE website:

IDEA: Web Link

CSR: Web Link


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

Stacey is a registered user.

It seems to me like IDEA funds should go to help fund CSR since IDEA children are being put into full classes and CSR is being used to as a classroom management tool for these IDEA children.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 9:32 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Let's take a class of 20 kids. 20% of those kids are "special" according to the letter writer. That means four kids in the class. Someone above mentioned that up to 80% of the time is taken with these kids. So let's say a 6 hour day, that's 380 minutes. 80% of that is 288 minutes or 4.8 hours. There's 185 days in the school year. That comes out to 888 hours. Each "special needs" child is using 222 hours during the entire school year. IDEA should pay for those hours.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2009 at 9:36 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Web Link

"Parents of Disabled Students Push for Separate Classes"


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Posted by Pablo
a resident of Danbury Park
on May 22, 2009 at 9:47 am

Is she saying that there is something deficient in 1 out of every 5 children?


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Posted by Agree with Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

Not only is an incredible amount of teaching time being used to focus on a small number of students, those students aren't getting the specialized teaching they need.

I know many parents who have kids with learning disabilities, and very few of them rely just on the schools or the classroom teachers to help their children learn. It's not because they think the classroom teachers don't want to help or don't care. It's because they know their kids and they know their kids learn differently, and those differences mean it's more time consuming to teach their kids.
These parents use outside sources like tutors trained in methods proven to work with specific learning disabilities. Many of the parents get trained themselves so they can help their kids.

One mom I know has two sons. One son is considered gifted, the other is even more intelligent, but has a learning disability that makes traditional teaching methods not work for him. She's always said that it's ironic that she has no problem getting her gifted son's needs met in the schools, but can't get her other son's needs met within the schools. She'd prefer that her son with the learning disability, not be mainstreamed, but be in a class with others who have learning disabilities and with a teacher trained in working with students like him. Her son can do well enough in a regular classroom to get Cs and stay under the radar, but when he's tested in a way he understands, he easily gets As.

She's had to spend thousands of dollars over the years getting her son the specialized help he needs so he can learn to the best of his ability.

She does not blame her son's teachers, but she thinks that mainstreaming doesn't work. She considers herself fortunate that she is able to afford to pay for all the extra tutoring for her son and the training she took in order to help her son. But she knows others are not that lucky.


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Posted by doh
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 10:20 am

PUSD teachers are ill-prepared to work with gifted children. The "one size fits all" approach is common in most PUSD schools. GATE-identified students are taught the same materials as all other students. All 4 of my children are GATE students and the materials they learn are exactly the same as those who are not in GATE.

What's the purpose of the GATE program anyway? I end up having to spend more than $5000 per quarter enrolling my children into the Johns Hopkins gifted youth programs to meet their learning needs. Now I'm suppose to give up more of my money to this fund these inadequate programs?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on May 22, 2009 at 10:22 am

I agree that some students do not benefit as much as others from being in a mainstream classroom. (Yep, that's right, I agree with Stacey about something!)

But, mainstreaming is not a policy created by the local school board. It was a state and national movement.

The school board cannot break state laws about how funds will be used.


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Posted by Heads up
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 11:40 am

Special educator here...I'm on a leave of absence (maternity) so don't start slingin' mud that I'm blogging during classroom time...etc. Plus, I live here, I don't work here.

First of all, some of you made a valor attempt at explaining things, but you are missing way too many facts about special education. It is a crazy system - so I understand the confusion!

First of all, just because a child is in special education, does not mean they are taking up too much time from a regular ed teacher.

The goal of all education is to teach kids. You do so by keeping them in the classroom. That is where the learning takes place - curriculum standards that the teacher is trained in, etc.

When children begin to fail at the curriculum secondary to a diagnosed learning disability or a developmental disability, the special educators take over. The child leaves the classroom for support services from the Resource specialist for academic support, and the Speech Pathologist for speech/language/hearing, issues, etc.

If the TOTAL time a child spends in these special ed locations (when they leave regular ed classroom to go to the resource class or to the speech class) exceeds 50% then they are placed in a Special Day Class with a special education teacher FULL TIME. IF, a child is in a SDC and gets to have some mainstreaming time back into a classroom, the system reverses, meaning now they have a small percentage of time in the regular classroom (usually music, activity times), it is most notably always under the circumstance of sending an assistant with them to help keep them from being disruptive and to help the child with what they are learning.

Some parents of children with Autism who are higher functioning and want their children in a classroom have a FULL TIME assistant, as an example.

There is regular education funding, there is special education funding. The point of the education law for those with disabilities that was intiated in the 1970's and progressed through the creation of the IDEA in the 90's and it's recent reauthorization, was to create the LRE (least restrictive environment) for children with disabilities. Before the 1970's children were institutionalized so they wouldn't be a "bother". What a sad statement.

I realize you all want the more typical, "Normal", children in the classroom to have the full attention of the teacher, but don't blame the kids I work with for that. We pay for them, have special services for them. They deserve to be in a classroom also. They leave for services and the regular education teacher only has to spend a little time in a meeting or two per child, per year (IEP reviews). The resource teacher, school psych, and speech path all suport the classroom teacher with assistance in training and classroom modifications.

The real problem in the ever-increasingly problematic educational system is the good voters that took away ESL support. Expecting all teachers to be able to handle the major influx of non-english speakers into our schools is a real problem. We decided they should "sink or swim"...well...that wasn't helpful to the classroom teacher and subsequently for your kiddos that need the teacher's attention.

Please lay off the special ed kids and families in these posts and in class size reduction funding. If kids are that "involved" with their needs, they aren't actually in a regular ed classroom.

Thanks!


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Posted by Agree with Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Heads Up,
I wasn't criticizing special ed kids or their families, but questioning whether mainstreaming is the best solution for everyone. While the least restrictive environment might seem like a good idea, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best learning environment for kids with learning disabilities.
My friend's son had an IEP and every single day she had to call at least 2 or 3 of his half dozen high school teachers and request the information they were supposed to provide daily (written instructions on homework)because otherwise, it didn't happen. She doesn't blame the teachers. She knew they were busy and the particular district her son was in was one that put a lot of emphasis on API scores. There was a lot of pressure on the teachers to make sure students got high scores. The teachers who did regularly make time to help her son were kind enough to meet with him after school so they could give him their undivided attention. The district really didn't want my friend's son in their school, and they suggested to her numerous times that she should enroll her son in a private school where "kids like him," could get the kind of help he needed. They also suggested she not send her son to school on the dates testing would occur because his scores would bring down the district's averages.
Her son's self esteem was low because he couldn't perform well in a regular classroom environment and being shipped out every day for special ed classes embarrassed him because his classmates associated special ed with being mentally deficient. He was not a kid who was disruptive in a classroom, just an incredibly bright kid who learned things a bit differently and felt very isolated in a regular classroom.
The mom wished that the school had offered classrooms where students who had learning disabilities could get the specialized help they needed to succeed. It was her efforts to get her son the kind of tutoring he needed for as long as he needed that enabled her son to graduate and go on to college.
Knowing what my friend went through, I can't feel confident that mainstreaming is the right answer for all kids.


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Posted by Doug
a resident of Del Prado
on May 22, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Why are mentally retarded children and non english speaking kids going to public schools?


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Posted by duh
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Where else would they go, Doug? To your place?


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Posted by Doug
a resident of Del Prado
on May 22, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Well there duh duh,

the non english speakers could go back to mexico unless you need the parents for your yard work and the mentally handicapped should go to a special school.


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Posted by Stay Classy, Dougie
a resident of Castlewood
on May 22, 2009 at 2:24 pm

>the non english speakers could go back to mexico

Dougie, that's a great solution for the Farsi, Mandarin, and two Russian-speaking children in my daughter's class.


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Posted by Heads - up
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Agree with Stacey,

No worries - I didn't think you singled out the kids/families, but the general tone on this thread was that these kids shouldn't be in the regular classroom. How would you feel if there was no say and you were the parent of a child with a special need - no matter how minor.

The point is, what rights do each of these kids with disabilities have? Each child receiving even the most modest amounts of special ed services requiring an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) deserves to be with their peers. It isn't more compassionate to keep them away and with others "like them". That lacks so much understanding of the value these children have in the classroom with their peers. I think it is more important for the regular kids to know about children with disabilities. Often a regular ed kid becomes a buddy, and when the special ed friend has writing issues, we can do a lot like give the "buddy" carbon copy paper, so when they write the classroom notes, the other buddy can do their best but at the end of class can have an instant copy of notes. It encourages the child with a disability and it makes the buddy feel like a hero. This is only one example.

The intial IEP that brings a child into the special education system involves testing thier abilities and achievement levels. The results of the testing by professional diagnosticians are reviewed and functioning levels of a child are established and presented to the staff and parents. It isn't some mamby-pamby method. These are standardized testing measures.

The results of the testing drive the engine of what the child needs in a program. Goals and objectives are designed to help a child in actual need to achieve a bit more towards the state educational goals for children, and so the goals and objectives in an IEP drive the program setting (or the classroom setting) where these G and O's can be met.

We strive to provide services for the needs of the child that keep them in the natural learning setting, the classroom. The resource class or the therapy room simply cannot emulate each grade level, so it is important to keep them there.

I understand your friends kid's situation, but I am not moved by the story for a couple of reasons that are commonplace with children in special education. First of all, by law these chilren are exempt from state-wide testing. They have a disability, we document their own achievement levels annually, so there is no need to put them through it. Second of all, if parents want their children to go through the testing, they can, but again, parents may request modifications during the testing. It nullifies the results toward the school numbers since not everyone has the test read to them or is helped with more time to complete the test, but the parent can at least see how their child "would" do.

As far as her son's self esteem goes, what is it that you want? A parent can ask for a more LEA if they want it -it is all negotiable. I already addressed an SDC. An SDC is a classroom setting for kids K-12. All schools have them because even if one child needs one, it has to be provided. We have a "SELPA" for this reason. To help with the costs, we pool with Livermore, Dublin, Sunol, Mt. House, etc to keep these kids together and to offer programs. I'm not sure what your friends experience was, but I can tell you it doesn't sound correct. I think you may be missing a few facts. The law is the law. It isn't one thing in one district and another in another. It's like driving down the highway...you may be in Pleasanton on 580, but when you get to Castro Valley or anywhere else, the freeway speed has to be observed. The laws are clear in the ed code. As I stated earlier, the testing reveals the child's needs. The goals/objectives/service providers/service locations are all INDIVIDUALIZED based on the testing info. So while I am sorry to hear how this young man felt, your friend, his mother, could have had her son put anywhere she wanted. There are no absolutes with IEP's. And the IEP supercedes all. It becomes the "law" for that child and everyone, nation-wide, as to honor an active IEP.

Special ed children make up less than 10% of school aged populations, so in a Kindergarten through 5th grades there may be two kids in each class. In adults, disabled make up for less than 1% of our population.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Castlewood
on May 22, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Does anyone know the rules for exemption from the parcel tax if approved? My understanding is that individuals over the age of 65, low income, or individuals whose primary residence is not in Pleasanton can get an exemption true?


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Posted by Yes
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Yes, you are correct.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Castlewood
on May 22, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Yes,

The reason I ask is that I have a home in Pleasanton but I have been working full time in Canada for the past 3 years and expect to be here for at least another 4 or so and as such have established Canadian residency and do not even have a California drivers license anymore.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on May 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm

I do not believe there is an exemption for anyone whose primary residence is not in Pleasanton. Sorry, Paul.

You can contact the school district to obtain an exemption form.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Castlewood
on May 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Sandy,

Thank you


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Posted by jb
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Paul, you will have to pay the tax. Does not matter where you live or your nationality. If you own property in Pleasanton, whether you live in the house or not, you will pay the parcel tax, unless you are over 65 and file an exemption every year at the right time.


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Posted by Agree with Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Heads up,
I should have mentioned that my friend's son didn't attend school in California.
What she found most difficult was that the district she was in was very unwelcoming to students with learning disabilities. Even when she contacted the school administration about the teachers who didn't follow the IEP, she got very little help and instead was labeled a complaining parent. While the IEP may be the "law," it's not an easy thing to enforce it, particularly for a parent. She learned very quickly that unless she was willing to spend the time and money to pursue legal action against the school district, she wasn't going to get anywhere. All the things you've written about the way things are supposed to work are just that - the way things are supposed to work. But that's not always the way things are.
In the end my friend realized that she could either spend her money suing the district, or using it to get her son the education he needed and deserved. She chose to help her son.


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Posted by exemption
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 7:37 pm

There are no exemptions in the parcel tax for low income residents.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 23, 2009 at 11:29 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Special Ed teacher,

Thanks for the information.

About so-called English Learners (EL) and K-3 CSR, there's an age factor in language acquisition that is being ignored. Young children still benefit from their natural language acquisition skills. Does CSR as a classroom management tool for young English Learners make sense?

My husband spoke no word of English when he entered Kindergarten. He had no form of intervention and went on to earn degrees in two different subjects. Well, he never majored in English, but he's quite fluent.


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Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

The exemption is for seniors 65 years or older as of June 30, 2010 and own and occupies as principal residence a parcel in Pleasanton.

The exemption form must be sent in each year and it requires both residence verification and age verification.


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Posted by Heads-up
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 23, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Stacey,
I'm not sure if I undertand your exact question, but I'll try to answer what I think you are asking...

Children completely acquire their primary language in most cultures, by approximately age 5. Some delays can always happen, but generally, this why a child enters school at this age to begin to learn to read and write, the correlates to listening and speaking a language.

Second language learners are another story. Most children go "silent" for a year or so in their first year of exposure to a new language. Valley View's DI Spanish/English program would be a good place to get more info on local cases.

Beginning to learn a new language is difficult, but as long as a child is adequately learning their primary language, secondary language acquisition should progress without problems. The tough part is learning the oral lanugage to then tag on the written. When you throw the written first, it doesn't work in the correct progression.

In special ed, I do not work with ELL students unless they have an issue in their primary language (Autism is Autism, language delays, Down's syndrome, etc). Only regular education teachers were required by law to have their CLAD certification - an expensive program to establish all teachers capable of teaching ELL children in the regular classroom and not have them leave for a special English class, for example. I think the percentage of ELL students in a classroom will/will not significantly alter the needs of the class. CSR is one tool to help a burdened classroom teacher (my friend is a regular ed teacher in Sacramento and has 19 ELL children in her class of 25 with 12 different languages represented.

I hope I have answered your questions...


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 23, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Heads-up,

You had written: "The real problem in the ever-increasingly problematic educational system is the good voters that took away ESL support. Expecting all teachers to be able to handle the major influx of non-english speakers into our schools is a real problem. We decided they should "sink or swim"...well...that wasn't helpful to the classroom teacher and subsequently for your kiddos that need the teacher's attention."

And the letter writer had written: "Twenty percent of any classroom needs special attention of some sort. Class size reduction has allowed us to accommodate these kids."

So I'm still on the subject of CSR (in K-3) as a tool for "accommodating these kids" who need "special attention of some sort", only this time about English learners.

In my university linguistics classes we were taught that it's age seven, not five, at which the biological advantage for language acquisition starts to degrade. I didn't want to climb up into the attic and pull out my old linguistics books so I found this on Wikipedia instead: Web Link It mentions ages 4-5 from a 1964 publication and ages 6-12 from a 1994 publication for primary language acquisition.


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Posted by Heads-up
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Hi Stacey -

Oral language development is typically complete for children, with a few language components like grammar needing further refinement for a bit longer (think irregular past tense verbs, for example).

Some societies, like Sweden, I believe, give children longer before placing academic demands on them (I'm fairly certain a professional research journal cited age 8 as to when reading instruction begins in Sweden, for example).

As far as second language acquistion in the public school goes, children typically develop social language first. It is a means to get needs met immediately. Academic language layers onto the social language foundation, if you remember from your linguistics training.

I would wager that CSR would be a wonderful tool to use if possible, but clearly, these ELL students wouldn't necessarily "require" this to learn English. It is more often found in the simple proximity to the teacher, literally sitting closer to her/him for listening and tactile cues (touching their shoulder to get attention), visual cues like gestures, and also for the auditory intensity on grammar markings, etc that would be more beneficial. I think an ELL child in a classroom of 10 or 30 would need the same requirements - sitting closer to the teacher when he/she is speaking and that can happen in a class of any size.

However, that stated, I can't point you to an article online to justify that statement.

A teacher deals with all things in a public school classroom. Perhaps a child is distracted because of a home issue; a new child to the classroom came from Russia/China after just being adopted by a Pleasanton couple who couldn't concieve a biological child; A child is aggressive towards other children; A child transfers from a school with a lower reading level than the class mean, etc, etc. These are just the facts you choose to deal with when you choose the profession.

I know many special education teachers who after several years of sp.ed. decide it is "easier" in the regular ed classroom and move over. It is all perspsective. I think you need to work with whatever kids you get in whatever enviroment you are give to the best of your ability. But that is the perspective of a special education professional: While I have had all disabilities represented on my caseload, as an SDC teacher or a resource teacher, I have a caseload limit. The speech pathologists do not have a limit in most districts and can have caseloads as high as 80 students or more in one week (seen multiple times, I understand).

I see CSR as a stress limit for teachers. It is always nice when my class starts out small. It is easier on everyone, but as my caseload build up over the year, it is harder. It's just more work, with more students. I can see why teachers don't want it and I can see why parents don't either.

I'm fairly neutral with this parcel tax. I'm going to vote, but I'm not too concerned with what will happen (even though I have a 5 year old heading into the district this fall).

I'm certain that if the measure fails, and the district increases class sizes, parents in this community will rally and volunteer more to help the teachers with classroom management.

ALL will be fine...


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Posted by Heads-up
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 23, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Meant to say...

Oral language development is typically complete for children, with a few language components like grammar needing further refinement for a bit longer (think irregular past tense verbs, for example)

...BY AGE 5.


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