Thrice Betrayed – Special Needs Kids and Education

Less than 15 percent of our special needs kids are performing at or above grade level in English Language Arts and Math in the San Mateo Foster City School District…

Achievement target (Standard Met): 13.9% for ELA; 12% for Math
SMFC: 11.3% ELA; 10.52% Math
 – Page 10 – Special Education Performance Presentation – 17 May 2018


… but, at least it isn’t invisible anymore.

Ground Rules

First of all, we are grateful that the school district is reporting on special education performance for, as far as we can tell, the first time. I suspect no one is, or should be, happy with these numbers.

Second, the current situation is all of our responsibility. Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Boards, California, and the US. We built this system over decades and it is an improvement over what came before… but there is a very, very long way to go.

But, from today forward, we are all responsible to all special needs kids to make things better.

And better is possible. As I noted in my comments to the board – Closing the School Performance Gap (7 December 2017), there are more than twenty local school districts whose special needs kids are doing at least twice as well as our district and 5 that are doing at least 4 times better. In fact, Palo Alto Unified School District‘s special education students are basically doing as well as our general education students with only 34 percent of students not meeting standards in English and 37 percent not meeting standards in Math!

Much better is possible.

Much better is our responsibility.

Betrayed by Biology

Most, not all, special needs kids have fully functioning minds. They have a disability.

They are not defective.

They are real people.

They have real minds and souls.

They deserve a real education…. an opportunity for a real life – just like the rest of us.

Have you had a friend or relative who has had a stroke?

If so, you know the symptoms can be devastating. Paralysis. Loss of memory. Loss of speech. The list goes on.

Even worse, you can look in their eyes and see that they’re trapped by their condition.

We see this. We know this.

We fight like hell to help them out.

We need to do the same with special needs kids.

Instead, too often, we write them off and don’t see past their symptoms.

Betrayed by Institutions

A Free and Appropriate Public Education promised under law to all disabled children has never been fulfilled. The federal government has never funded the program as promised. States do a bit, but most of the responsibility has fallen to local school districts… and, here in California, our funding is 46th in the nation.

If we can’t provide adequate general education funding, how can we do it for special education?

It is time for all of us to ask this question… and find a way to do right by all of our children. General education and special education alike.

It is time for you to ask for the resources to allow our kids to learn at grade level… and it is time for us to help you get those resources.

Low expectations are unacceptable. They may be more crippling than our kids disabilities.

Betrayed by Family and Community

We have let our special needs kids down by accepting the current situation. You tell us that we should be the strongest advocate for our kids – and you are right.

We are here now.

We are here to advocate for our kids.

Our expectations are those of every parent:

  • That our kids will achieve the most that they can.
  • That our kids will work hard.

We won’t go away.

Our Achievement Target

Our achievement target for our kids is simple.

It is just the same as you for your kids.

  • Perform at or above grade level.
  • Work as hard as you can to achieve the most you can.

We expect nothing less of them…

… and we expect nothing less of you.

This will require leadership and innovation.

This will require real planning.

This will require funding.

We’re here and ready to do our part.

If you are, great.

If not, know that we are watching and will hold you accountable.

Sample Email to Your School Board

For the San Mateo Foster City School District, the school board members are:

Audrey Ng

Shara Watkins

Noelia Corzo

Rebecca Hitchcock

Kenneth Chin


Special Education Performance – UNACCEPTABLE


The performance standards that our special education students are achieving today are unacceptable. We hold you, the school board, ultimately responsible for ensuring that ALL children, including all special needs kids, are held to one standard, and that is excellence.

We’ll do our part to work with our kids and get you the resources you need.

We expect you to do your part – to give our kids a real education and ask for the resources you need if you don’t have them.

We’re here to help.

We’re looking forward to what you do next, because all our kids’ futures depend on it.



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