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Research shows need of urgent changes in special education in California

schoolgirl looking at the camera while his classmates and her teacher are around a table

Special education in California should be overhauled to focus on the individual needs of students, with better training for teachers, more streamlined services and improved screening for the youngest children, according to a compilation of reports.

Those were some of the recommendations proposed in ” Special Education: Organising Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California”  a package of 13 reports and a summary produced by Policy Analysis for California Education, a nonpartisan research and policy organisation led by faculty from UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Southern California and Stanford University. The research papers looked at dozens of ways to improve special education, including how to recruit and train teachers, better ways for schools and other agencies to coordinate services for disabled young people and how schools can help special education students with career and college planning. Researchers praised districts such as Sanger Unified in the Central Valley and the Orange County Office of Education that are already taking steps to improve special education services and can serve as models for the rest of the state.

Their recommendations come after years of concern about the state of special education in California, which currently serves more than 725,000 children with a range of physical and intellectual impairments, including autism and specific learning disabilities like dyslexia. Last year, almost 1 in 8 California students in K-12 schools were in special education, an increase of almost 14 percent from 2014-15. Much of the increase is due to more diagnoses of autism, although the majority of students overall in special education have learning disabilities.

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