March 9, 2015
Special Education Task Force Submits Recommendations to Improve Outcomes for
Students with Disabilities, Establish One Coherent System of Education
SACRAMENTO—The Statewide Special Education Task Force chaired by former District Superintendent Carl Cohn and funded by a set of California foundations is calling for a unified education system in which all children, including students with disabilities, are considered general education students first and foremost.
The task force's report envisions general education and special education working seamlessly together as one system designed to address the needs of all students as soon as those needs are apparent, from the time they are born through preschool and until they reach the age of 22.
Originally called for by California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Chair Linda Darling-Hammond, the task force has been operating for months to evaluate the status of special education in the state, to examine best practices here and across the country, and to propose recommendations for strengthening the system. Members of the task force represent parents and advocates, teachers, administrators, and experts with deep knowledge of the issues.
"Effectively educating students with disabilities is our collective responsibility. The bold ideas and recommendations in this report contribute to California's expanded educational mission for high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
California serves more than 600,000 students with disabilities. About 60 percent of California's students with disabilities graduate from high school, compared to an 80 percent graduation rate for non-disabled students. The report outlines how to improve outcomes and services at the local, state, and federal levels.
"The members of the task force have provided a thorough and thoughtful vision for integrating services and supports for students with disabilities seamlessly within California's education system. These recommendations are timely, and they will have our serious consideration," said Kirst.
Darling-Hammond added, "Many California teachers receive less preparation for serving students with disabilities than general and special education teachers in most other states. California needs, and its students deserve, a coherent vision of teacher and administrator preparation and a common foundation for all instruction."
Recommendations focus on seven areas: early learning; evidence-based school and classroom practices; educator preparation and professional learning; assessment; accountability; family and student engagement; and special education financing.
Torlakson, Kirst, and Darling-Hammond said they already are working collaboratively on implementation options in response to the recommendations.
The Statewide Special Education Task Force Report [http://www.smcoe.org/about-smcoe/statewide-special-education-task-force/] can be found at the San Mateo County Office of Education Web site.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100