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Alameda Unified School District Cannot Document Active Procedures to Identify Students With Disabilities

Over a period of 60 days, Action Alameda News made multiple requests to the Alameda Unified School District asking the District to provide documentation on its procedures to actively identify in-district students with disabilities, and documentation on its latest “child find” survey. So far, the District has failed to provide documentation.

According to federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA 2004), local school districts “must locate, identify, and evaluate all children with disabilities who are enrolled by their parents in private, including religious, elementary schools and secondary schools located in the school district,” and local districts must maintain “records on number of children evaluated and number found eligible as part of child find and the number of children served.” This is the so-called child-find survey.

Twice since June 23rd, 2010, Action Alameda News twice asked for details on AUSD’s child find survey, and processes for identifying children with disabilities that the District is supposed to provide services to. On June 28th, AUSD’s in-house counsel Danielle Houck acknowledged our request:

This email will acknowledge your request for:

1) A copy of AUSD’s child find procedures;
2) A count of the number of children documented through child find procedures;
3) A copy of the most recent child find survey with the date of the survey;
3) The number of children evaluated as a result of the survey; and
4) the number of children determined to have disabilities and served as a result of the survey and evaluation.

As of press time, the District had responded with records primarily documenting the Alameda County North Region SELPA’s child find procedures. The SELPA is responsible for distributing federal funds to support disability programs, and ensuring that every eligible child receives services. One document provided by the District says that “Alameda Unified School District shall actively and systematically seek out all individuals with exceptional needs, ages 0 through 21, including children not enrolled in public school programs that reside in a district or are under the jurisdiction of a SELPA or a county office.” However, the District provided no documents that explain how, specifically, the District “actively and systematically” seeks out individuals with special needs. As of press time, the District had not responded to a follow-up request for more details or to answer questions on the documents they provided.

Additionally, the District provided no records to document the number of children identified in the most recent child find survey, or any information requested pertaining to the most recent child find survey, the number of children identified and so on. Again, as of press time, the District had not responded to requests for more information.

According to the most recent California Department of Education Special Education Annual Performance report for AUSD, the District did not meet its target for graduating special education students for the 2008-2009 school year, with 74.5% of students graduating against a target of 83% The report is reproduced below. This District also did not meet its target for determining eligibility for special education, determining eligibility within a 60-day window 88.7% of the time when the State’s target is 100% (Indicator 11 in the report.) The District also failed to meet its benchmark of minimizing racial and ethnic disproportionality (Indicator 9) among students ages six to twenty-two, with 18.42% of African-American students in Special Education in the District, (the highest percentage) and 5.48% of Asian students (the lowest) in Special Education.

AUSD Special Education Report for 2008-2009

10 comments to Alameda Unified School District Cannot Document Active Procedures to Identify Students With Disabilities

  • Barb

    Students are the 2nd or third priority at AUSD. First comes the administrators’s salaries and pensions, then maintaining the status quo for everything else.
    One of the key goals our society needs to meet to preserve our country and our democratic values, is eliminating the achievement gap between students. All our district can seem to do, is place the next pacel tax on the ballot.

  • It’s simple. Without reform, such as here, where Action Alameda has clearly identified a need for reform, no more parcel taxes. And no re-election of a current Trustee, Mike McMahon, who supports the status quo, and promoted the unfair and egregious Measure E. As one news site puts it, “McMahon Must Go!” and in the meantime, if we hear from “Hot R,” most likely AUSD President Ron Mooney, we simply need to imagine a Bronx Cheer, and if you don’t know what that is, just put your lips togethers and “BLLLAAAATTTTT!” Get it? Got it? Good!

  • Hot R

    This is not a story nor is the headline accurate. If you want your site to have credibility then cover or uncover a news story otherwise its Greenie talking to Barb.

    What would you like reformed, the way students with disabilities are identified? Don’t you first have to identify what you claim to be “wrong” or is that not part of good reporting? As currently worded you have nothing.

    Who, what, where, when, why? Do any other districts meet their targets in this difficult area? How many students are we talking about? Do you have stories from disgruntled parents? Do you have an interview with the head of special education for the district> What is the state average? At least do some reporting.

    Your last education effort had you claiming to “help” the district with a new parcel tax initiative. Change of mind or just insincere?

  • Barb

    Hot R asks some very good questions. But the point here is to make us think and demand answers from AUSD. It is up to AUSD to answer Hot R’s questions, not Action Alameda. I don’t really care about how other districts are faring, only AUSD. To expect one person who maintains a web site on a gratis basis, to answer all the above questions, misses the point. Why can’t or won’t AUSD answer the requests for information when it comes to explaining how our tax dollars are or aren’t being spent? We have a number of candidates running for office claiming that they are for transparency and open government. Why won’t AUSD respond?

  • Danielle Houck, Counsel for AUSD responded yesterday, after we posted the article. Her response is included below. We note here, and we wrote back to Ms. Houck, that the California Public Records Act states that agencies must provide assistance by helping to identify records and information relevant to the request and suggesting ways to overcome any practical basis for denying access. ( California Gov’t Code Section 6253.1) and that Section 6253 (a) 4 provides agencies with extra time to compile data. 6253 (d) provides that nothing in 6253 provides a justification to obstruct the request. We have not asked for student records, but merely a count of children identified through the child find survey exercise. We’d like AUSD to compile the data, and indicate if they need time to do so.

    From Danielle Houck:

    This email will acknowledge your further request for records and will serve as the District’s further response. This response is delayed due to staff’s unavailability at the time of your further request.

    1. The number of children identified through child find procedures.

    The District does not possess a document which reflects the total number of children identified through child find. Rather, this information is contained in several student records, none of which are subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. (See Govt. Code section 6254(k); Educ. Code section 49060 et. seq.; and 20 US Code 1232g.)

    2. A copy of the most recent child find survey with the date of the survey.

    Staff believes that it has fully responded to this request, but we are reviewing our records and will provide a further response on or before September 3.

    3. The number of children evaluated as a result of the survey.

    See response to Request Number 1 above.

    4. The number of children determined to have disabilities and served as a result of the survey and evaluation.

    See response to Request Number 1 above.

    5. Can you confirm that AUSD has no active and systematic process to find kids for special ed? No ads in the newspaper, no mailings to private schools, no regular, annual meetings about the topic with private schools, etc?

    No, I cannot confirm that AUSD has no active and systemic process to find students with special needs. Staff is working with the Special Education Local Plan Area to determine whether there are additional documents responsive to your request. AUSD is a member of a SELPA. As such, many of the District’s required duties are carried out in conjunction with and through the SELPA as required by law. Thus, the SELPA’s procedures are the District’s procedures by virtue of our membership in the SELPA.

    Again, we are continuing to review our records and requesting the SELPA’s assistance as well to determine whether we have additional documents to provide as a further response to your request. If we have additional documents, we will notify you on or before September 3.

  • This District might have offered to make someone available for interview, and they might have been more active about responding to our requests, instead of waiting for an article to be posted after not responding to follow-up e-mails. The original request was sent June 23rd, and acknowledged June 28th, and partially fulfilled at the end of July. Their response appears to be incomplete. Administrative staff are supposedly working through the summer.

    The District has certain obligations under federal law to students with disabilities in the community. They get federal money to serve those students. It’s not certain that they are fulfilling those obligations. What’s “wrong” is that they can’t document that they are. And Barb is correct – how other districts fare in the CDE report is irrelevant. AUSD’s obligation to meet those targets is to students in the local community, not to anyone else. If they don’t meet those targets, it raises the question of what their priorities are, how they allocate resources, etc.

    AUSD can’t even answer a simple question like “How many special ed kids in the community did you identify for services last year?”

  • Hot R

    All right, I think that is reasonable to ask how many students and what means are used to identify them. But remember that this is one of those areas where the State mandates that certain services be provided, and then fails to fund it fully, despite the fact it is the most expensive per capita expenditure per student the District has. Thus the fact they aren’t beating te bushes looking for more special education students is not that surprising. And further it looks like SELPA is in charge of it, not the District.

  • It’s actually a federal mandate, and the feds do provide funding. Where’s your evidence that the federal money is insufficient to support the program? You can’t just trot that excuse out everytime with no facts to support it.

    We actually did speak with a representative at North Regional SELPA, and she talked about some of the steps that SELPA takes, but also ended with – and my final note in my notepad – “Each District is obligated to do their own.”

    The federal law is clear – they can’t just slough this off on the SELPA.

  • This afternoon, Danielle Houck of AUSD confirmed that AUSD has no record of the number of children identified through their “child find survey” activities, and no way to calculate or compile that number.

    “In addition to contacting the SELPA, staff has reviewed our student information databases to determine whether we can run an electronic query that might produce responsive requests. There is no such query as the student records are not maintained in this manner. If the information regarding the survey is contained in a particular student record, that information would be contained in the notes section and not in an easily identifiable data field. The information you are seeking, if contained in a particular student record, is not reasonably segregable from the remainder of the student record.”

    Ergo, AUSD cannot demonstrate that they are meeting the federal mandate of active child find surveys on the part of the District, and can’t even point to the number of children they have identified through child find surveys, to show they are meeting, or attempting to meet the mandate, or to show how they justify the federal dollars they get for special ed services.

    The District clearly has no active process of their own for child find surveys, as they are only able to repeatedly refer to SELPA “We are continuing this effort in working with our SELPA to determine if the SELPA houses documents which may be responsive to your request. ” for information on child find processes. A SELPA rep already told Action Alameda News that “Each district is obligated to do their own.”

  • Hot R writes, “Thus the fact they aren’t beating te bushes looking for more special education students is not that surprising.” When I interviewed Trustee Mike McMahon, he referred to SpecEd as a major reason for AUSD budget shortfalls, that the Feds have failed to provide as much funding as they promised. I got the impression then that AUSD would not be beating the bushes, (as required by law), to identify and serve such students. Hot R, as an apparent insider, merely confirms that fact. I’d say Action Alameda is doing some excellent in-depth reporting and that critics like Hot R can unintentionally reveal motives for public taxpayer concern.

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