Op Ed: Why (and How) San Diego Schools Restructured Special Education

Marion Herbert's picture
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I've been contacted a few times over the last week or so by representatives of the San Diego Unified School District and other parties who think I've been a little unclear, and possibly unfair, in my exploration into the district's paradigm shift in special education.

They've argued that I should have explained better how and why the district phased out separate special education classes and transitioned thousands of children with special needs into general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools.

So, let me share what I've learned about why the district changed course and how it restructured its provision of special education.

Why the Change?

The philosophy driving this shift was explained to me by Joe Fulcher, director of special education for San Diego Unified.

Fulcher said previously special education at the district was thought of as a place — a location where students with disabilities went to receive specialized instruction. The district wanted to move away from that model. It wanted parents to think of special education as a service that's provided to students in their neighborhood schools.

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