As educators, we are here for students and because of students. We are here to collaboratively support families and the community. We are deemed successful when, post-high school, students are engaged in society, and empowered to pursue careers, college, or independent lives. The beauty in this is that there is diversity in each student; how they think, learn, socialize, dress, believe, and produce outcomes. This requires that we look at each student for who they are, through the lens of equity, and educate based on the same.
A population that we all own is students who are eligible, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, for specialized academic instruction and/or related services. These are students who have been assessed and identified under one of thirteen eligibility categories for Individualized Education Programs, some with disabilities that are apparent, others with disabilities that appear silent. The categories include autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disabilities, language or speech disorder, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment. They are identified if, because of a disability, they require special instruction and services to access the general education curriculum.
There are almost 35,000 students attending public school in San Luis Obispo County. Of these, 4,592 are students with IDEA disabilities. This number has grown an average of 103 students per year over the past four years, while the overall enrollment has decreased an average of 61 per year during this same time period. This pattern is consistent throughout the state. With, or without this growth, we each have a responsibility, within our areas of expertise, for the students who require more to get the same. This is the equity lens. For each student, more may not look the same. The more could be tangible like time, financial resources, interventions, staff engagement, professional learning, and social emotional supports. More might be the intangibles like caring, empathy, compassion and a commitment to learn how to reach each student.
The SELPA’s equity imperative is to support ALL staff with practices that actively support ALL students’ growth. SELPA and the Educational Support Services Department are partnering to align resources for professional learning opportunities designed for everyone who works with students, on behalf of all students’ learning. When these opportunities post for 18/19, please participate, share and invite!
Liz Smith, Director
Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA)