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IDEAS that Work!California Department of Education, Special Education Division’s special project, California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT) is funded through a contract with the Napa County Office of Education. CalSTAT is partially funded from federal funds, State Grants #H027A080116A. Additional federal funds are provided from a federal competitively awarded State Personnel Development Grant to California (#H323A070011) provided from the U.S. Department of Education Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education act (IDEA). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U. S. Department of Education.

The Special EDge

Summer 2011
 Volume 24, Number 3

Special Insert: California Advisory Commission on Special Education

ACSE Annual Report 2011

Advisory Commission on Special Education

Overview from the Chair

During its 2010–2011 meeting year, the Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) worked to address issues related to the education of children with disabilities, particularly that of ensuring all students of access to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. The ACSE envisions and works toward a day when all students, with and without individualized education programs, receive the supports and accommodations they need to thrive in school.

Some students are currently receiving these kinds of supports, as seen in the excellent programs that applied for the GOAL award (page ii). Despite budget challenges, these programs remain flexible and creative in meeting the needs of students with disabilities in California.

However, the state's budget challenges are causing a shift in the landscape of special education. From stakeholders across the state the ACSE has learned how this financial crisis has forced school districts to adopt innovative and flexible means to meet the needs of their students. These changes can be both challenging and confusing to stakeholders who are used to a traditional method of delivery and supports. Yet if implemented with efficacy and fidelity, innovative service delivery has the potential to give students more opportunities for participation and greater educational success.

Unfortunately, unintended consequences have emerged from efforts to provide schools with greater flexibility in how they serve students, and there exists significant misunderstanding in the field, particularly around specialized academic instruction (SAI, page iii), a misinterpretation that in part comes from the inability of some schools to provide appropriate services with fewer resources, all the while managing larger class sizes—another discouraging fallout of near-empty state coffers. As seen in the aftermath of the passage of Assembly Bill 3632 (page iii), a multitude of factors influence special education funding and service delivery.

And yet the past year has offered important positive notes, in addition to those related to the GOAL award. The ACSE takes encouragement from the headway being made in the state to address measurable alternatives to the California High School Exit Exam (page iv), disproportionality (page v), and the delivery of special education services in charter schools (page v). The attention being paid to early intervention and transition services for infants and young children (page vi) could significantly and positively influence the lives of the children served; and the state's focus on parent and community involvement (page vi) stands as a critical reminder that a child's development and education are influenced by multiple factors that, when working effectively together, can create a world where all children truly do thrive.

—Kristin Wright, ACSE Chair

The GOAL Award

The California Advisory Commission on Special Education created the GOAL Award in 2005–2006 through a generous contribution from film producer Brian Grazer, who donated $100,000 over a ten-year period to award programs in the state that demonstrate exemplary practices in special education. GOAL—Grazer Outstanding Achievement in Learning—celebrates both the programs that support California youths with disabilities and the professionals who serve them. This year many excellent programs applied for the award, and ACSE is proud to announce the two GOAL winners highlighted below. Both of these successful programs can be replicated. For more information about the Rocket Shop Café, contact Ann M. Linville, Director of Transition Services, at For more information about TRACE, contact Colleen Harmon, Resource Specialist, at The GOAL runners-up are featured at

The Rocket Shop Café, California School for the Blind

The Rocket Shop Café at the California School for the Blind (CSB), Fremont, is an innovative, student-run business that integrates academic and career experiences for students who are enrolled at CSB and preparing to transition into adult life. Begun in 2009, this program grew out of a collaborative effort that faculty and students initiated with the Business Enterprises Program-Youth Employment Program (BEP-YEP), with support from the California Department of Rehabilitation. BEP-YEP makes it possible for individuals who are blind to study, train, and job shadow successful business owners who are also blind.

Students work in the Rocket Shop Café selling food and meals to students and visitors—including fortune cookies for the CSB's Braille Fortune Cookie Company—and school merchandise to parents and families. Students in the program also learn to make and sell homemade dog biscuits under the Good Dog Bakery label. This venture teaches students some of the skills they would need to run their own businesses. Students also practice a range of job skills that will carry over to other work settings. The Rocket Shop Café is a collaborative effort that includes classroom teachers, technology specialists, job developers, program assistants, and job coaches who work together to ensure program quality and student success.

Transition Resources for Adult Community Education (TRACE)

San Diego Transition Resources for Adult Community Education (TRACE) is a community-based program of support for young adults with disabilities, 18–22 years of age, as they transition from public school into adult life. The purpose of TRACE is to encourage students to become as independent as possible and ensure that all students, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, can live, work, and participate in their communities. This dynamic program has been in existence since 1987 and currently serves 736 students in the San Diego Unified School District.

Developed in cooperation with nationally recognized scholars in the field of transition services, TRACE uses a person-centered approach, which enables students to be directly involved in planning their own futures. A key component of TRACE is the development of transition goals across six "life domains": adult education, vocation, recreation/leisure, self-advocacy, community, and domestic skills. A wide range of services are available to TRACE students: psychological, medical, language, and recreational. All TRACE students participate in job training, and they work in at least one job each semester. A major goal of TRACE is to place its students successfully in competitive employment by the time they leave the program.


Priorities and AB 3632

The ACSE legislative priorities for 2010–2011 included providing high-quality special education services to all students with disabilities, including those in charter schools and other settings; securing adequate funding for programs and services for students with disabilities; reducing class sizes and caseloads in special education; and ensuring the rights of students with disabilities to statewide assessments and accountability measures. Given the ACSE's support of efforts to maintain the excellence of California's special education programs, the repeal of funding for Assembly Bill 3632 was of particular concern to the commission.

Passed in 1986 and designed to help agencies coordinate services to students with disabilities, AB 3632 originally made local school districts responsible for providing counseling and guidance services to students, and it made county mental health departments responsible for providing mental health services. The cost of these services has increased dramatically in the intervening years. In October 2010, then-Governor Schwarzenegger eliminated funding for AB 3632 health services, while suspending the mandate on counties for the 2010–2011 fiscal year. With county mental health agencies discontinuing or reducing their services, Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) and school districts (LEAs) often must pay for both residential and outpatient costs, particularly when the originally promised services are written into individualized education programs (IEPs).

While the proposed 2011–2012 budget provides money for mental health services, it is unclear how these dollars will be appropriated. The ACSE is deeply concerned about the undue financial burden these legislative actions may place on LEAs and SELPAs and even more concerned about how students with some of the most challenging disabilities will fare while service and payment responsibilities remain in question. The commission will continue to follow this issue and advise in any way that helps LEAs and SELPAs develop collaborative approaches to meeting the needs of these students.

Full Funding for Special Education

California's state representatives have mandated educational services for students with disabilities, and school districts are required to pay for these services. Consequently, while special education services have to be provided, other educational services are frequently short-changed.

In its advisory capacity, the ACSE promotes the full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). ACSE is concerned about the quality of education for all students—general education as well as special education—and full funding for IDEA would help school districts everywhere. If special education were to receive its requisite funding, school districts would not find it necessary to deprive general education students of services and supports because of mandated special education needs.

The ACSE encourages anyone with a stake in the quality of education in California to contact legislators and policy makers, attend relevant meetings, and do whatever is possible to make it known that full funding for special education benefits all students.

Programs and Policy

Special Education Service Delivery

School reform initiatives are transforming how special education services are provided to students with disabilities. At several ACSE meetings, stakeholder groups shared concerns about the struggles school districts are having with budget constraints while implementing changes in the delivery of appropriate special education instruction to students with disabilities.

Specialized academic instruction (SAI) is one of the new models of service delivery that districts are exploring. Both stakeholders and commissioners have described how these new models are creating confusion about what constitutes appropriate service delivery, and they have raised particular concerns about how SAI is being perceived and implemented in the field.

In response to these concerns, the ACSE recommended that the CDE develop and issue a guidance document that explains the continuum of special education services for school-age students with disabilities and clarifies the purposes of consultant teacher services, resource specialist programs, specialized academic instruction, integrated co-teaching services, and a variety of other topics related to education programs for students with disabilities. The resulting document defines SAI as those instructional services in the IEP that typically involve "adapting, as appropriate to the needs of the child with a disability, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum" and that "meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children."

The ACSE strongly believes that any new service delivery model should focus on improving student achievement and providing instruction in the least restrictive environment. Given the importance of effective and appropriate service delivery, the ACSE will continue to monitor this issue during 2011–2012.

Guidance on Specialized Academic Instruction

CDE provides guidance on SAI at

Resources for the California High School Exit Exam


The California High School Exit Exam and Student Assessment

During 2010–2011, the State Board of Education (SBE) asked the ACSE to provide recommendations on the following issues related to student testing:

  1. The option of using scaled scores for the California Standards Test (CST) in English language arts (ELA) and algebra as an alternative to the ELA and mathematics sections of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) for eligible students with disabilities (considered a tier I option).
  2. The option of using the California Modified Assessment (CMA) in ELA and algebra as an alternative to the CAHSEE for eligible students with disabilities (also considered a tier I option).
  3. The option of using a student's work, including standardized work samples, to demonstrate the same level of academic achievement that is required for passing the CAHSEE (considered a tier II option).
  4. The feasibility of conducting a field-based pilot study of the recommendations for tiers I and II.
  5. The appropriate use of the remaining funds allocated by AB 2040* to implement the pilot described above.

An ad hoc group of ACSE commissioners worked with the California Department of Education (CDE) and SBE to develop a deeper understanding of the process and statistical approaches used to determine equivalent scaled scores on the CST. The workgroups also examined tier II alternative programs used in other states.

The group made the following recommendations:

  1. Adopt scaled scores of 290 for the CST in ELA and 269 for the CST in algebra as alternative CAHSEE passing scores for eligible students with disabilities.
  2. Establish an alternative score for the CMA as quickly as possible, once performance levels in the CMA are set.
  3. Pursue a field-based pilot study of the tier II alternative. (There was no need to pilot the tier I alternatives, since the statistical work had been completed for the CST and is scheduled to be completed on the CMA.)
  4. Use the remaining funds allocated for the AB 2040 panel to design and implement the tier II pilot study.

ACSE chairperson Wright presented these recommendations to the SBE in March. Each recommendation was adopted, with one exception: the SBE adopted a scaled score of 300 for the CST in ELA; the recommended scaled score of 269 on the CST algebra was adopted as equivalent.

In its support of efforts to help students with disabilities demonstrate academic mastery, the ACSE views as particularly important these testing tiers being explored by the SBE, as well as the ways the CAHSEE interfaces with the CMA. The CDE's current pilot study is designed to determine how and to what extent a tiered alternative approach will help to level the playing field for students with disabilities. Currently, eligible students with disabilities are exempted from taking the CAHSEE until July 1, 2012.

The ACSE realizes that, while some approaches to an effective and fair assessment may be ideal, these approaches also may not be financially practical. However, to move forward with confidence in the appropriateness of any approach to testing students with disabilities, the state needs a more thorough and accurate system of data reporting. The ACSE supports California's recent adoption of Common Core Standards, which gives the state the opportunity to practically and efficiently align standards and instruction with accurate assessment. As it continues to work with CDE and SBE, the ACSE is committed to providing students with disabilities an alternative, fair, and accurate means of demonstrating the knowledge and skills necessary for high school graduation.


* Assembly Bill 2040 required the creation of an advisory panel to recommend alternative means for eligible students with disabilities to demonstrate the same level of academic achievement as that required for passing the CAHSEE.

Charter Schools

The rapid growth of charter schools in California creates challenges for the state's Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs). The ACSE is interested in how SELPAs are managing these challenges. In 2010, the California State Board of Education decided to give charter schools the ability to seek local education agency (LEA) status for purposes of special education and to join a SELPA outside of their geographic regions. Charter schools seeking greater autonomy in special education service delivery and parity in funding are exploring these new options.

Another "charter first" involves SELPAs themselves. The El Dorado County Office of Education Charter SELPA is the state's first out-of-geographic-area SELPA and first charter-only SELPA. Made up of more than 100 charter schools from across the state, the Charter SELPA allows charter schools to "effectively and efficiently support the implementation of appropriate and compliant special education services in charter schools," while maintaining greater control over their special education funding and service delivery.

The Los Angeles Unified School District SELPA is addressing the needs of its charter schools through various reorganizational efforts; LAUSD charters are now able to choose among the following participatory options: (1) operate as a "school of the district" in the District Operated Programs department; (2) operate independently as part of the Charter Operated Programs department; or (3) apply for LEA status in a SELPA outside of the district.

In addition to this reorganization, a Los Angeles Charter Schools' American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contract features a number of positive supports for special education delivery in charter schools, including a needs assessment of special education services across charters, a system for student-level data analysis aligned to special education requirements, training for pre-identification intervention/response to intervention (RtI), and extended school-year options, among others.

Because of the importance of maintaining a balance between flexibility and accountability within California's schools, while ensuring that students with special needs have high-quality options, the ACSE hopes that some of these new initiatives may serve as models for how traditional public schools and charter schools can work together to share expertise, services, funding, and decisions within a single SELPA. The ACSE will continue to monitor with interest charter school developments throughout the state.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires states and local education agencies to take steps to address the disproportionate representation of certain racial and ethnic groups in special education. In response, the ACSE invited several educational entities to provide updates of their studies on this issue in California schools.

Consultants from the California Department of Education and members of the African American Advisory Committee shared with ACSE the results of the research they had conducted on the topic of disproportionality. They recommend preventive measures, such as early screening and appropriate instructional interventions, to help educators in general education meet the needs of at-risk minority students whose instructional needs are not always best met in special education programs. These bodies also recommend that schools communicate and promote high expectations; make decisions based on current and confirmed academic research; focus on securing the necessary academic foundation in the early grades; implement research-based practices in reading/language arts; hold all educational leaders accountable; promote a rigorous curriculum and multiple measurements of assessment; and ensure that community and student engagement are a priority in all educational decisions. The ACSE supports all of these recommendations in the effort to ensure equitable educational opportunity for all of California's students.

Charter Schools

Information about special education compliance and other issues facing charter schools is available at The document Charter Schools Toolkit: Understanding the Options Available when Accessing Special Education Services for Students in California's Charter Schools will download automatically from shared/static/ta8thny40g.docx.


Early Childhood Transition and Intervention

This year the commission focused on two important early childhood issues: (1) early intervention and (2) transition at age three from IDEA Part C (birth to three) to IDEA Part B (preschool and school age).

Because the long-term, positive benefits of a robust system of early intervention services are well documented, the impact that funding cuts have had on early intervention service delivery causes legitimate concern statewide.

The benefits of effective transition are also widely known. When transition is managed well, it creates important opportunities for establishing positive relationships between schools and families—relationships that foster long-term success for the child. Of the 13,356 children who were served by Part C in 2009–2010 and referred to Part B for eligibility determination prior to their third birthday, 97.4 percent were found eligible for Part B. This number alone makes a strong argument for the importance of any effort to establish more coordination between Part C and Part B agencies to secure a seamless transition for every eligible child.

This fact is not lost at the national level. As required by the federal government, Indicator 12 in California's State Performance Plan identifies transition from Part C to Part B as an important focus for improved efforts throughout the state.

Representatives from the California Department of Education's Department of Developmental Services and the Alta California Regional Center described to the ACSE the efforts among state agencies to collaborate in the delivery of early intervention services and to create a standardized service delivery system that will seamlessly translate across all agencies that provide early intervention services under IDEA Part C in California. These representatives explained their process of referring each child for assessment to the local school district six months prior to the child's third birthday, which will ultimately result in the determination of eligibility and, when appropriate, the creation of an IEP by the time the child turns three—an important event for successful transition.

The commission will continue to focus on early intervention and transition from IDEA Part C to IDEA Part B, especially during these years of fiscal challenge that threatens so many beneficial initiatives. The commission hopes that a focus on these areas will encourage a robust effort to provide both early intervention services for young children and positive, effective, and timely transitions for children at age three, when their special education services cease to be provided through caregivers and service providers and become instead the responsibility of the schools.

Parent and Community Involvement

Seven ACSE commissioners are parents of children with disabilities and know the importance of parent and community involvement in the educational lives of all children. This involvement continues to be a top priority for the ACSE, as well as for California. The State Performance Plan specifically targets parent involvement in its Indicator 8. The commission has appointed an ad hoc committee to explore the following related issues:

Given its importance and influence in the lives of children with disabilities, the involvement of parents and community members and organizations will be the focus of continued attention throughout the 2011–2012 ACSE meeting year. Early Intervention Early Intervention involves assessing and providing services to young children and their families to support normal cognitive and emotional development and to remediate, lessen, or even prevent a disability or developmental delay. For more information about early intervention, visit Compelling data related to the paramount importance of early intervention is featured at five-numbers/ Parent and Community Involvement Information for parents and family members about becoming involved in the education of their children is available at A webinar about involving community business leaders in developing positive outcomes for youths is available at

Liaison Efforts

The ACSE is committed to maintaining its positive working relationships with stakeholders, organizations, and agencies that are active in promoting effective education for students with disabilities. ACSE commissioners regularly attend the meetings of various groups, share agendas, and coordinate activities. At each of its meetings, the ACSE also welcomes input from parents, students, teachers, advocates, and organizations.

Numerous individuals regularly appear before the commission and provide valuable information. These include representatives from the State Board of Education (SBE), the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), the Youth Leadership Association, the California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Association of Special Educators (CARS+), the California School Employees Association (CSEA), the Charter Schools Association, the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA), Special Education Administrators of County Offices (SEACO), the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Association, and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

Commissioners record the comments and concerns that these people bring to meetings. In 2010–2011, the ACSE documented several recurring themes.

The concerns of parents and students with disabilities focused on issues of due process, timely educational assessments, eligibility and placement decisions, access to effective and appropriate social and educational opportunities, and the ability of parents to obtain what they considered to be appropriate special education services for their children.

Organizations representing special education professionals expressed grave concerns about two issues in particular: (1) the impact of inappropriately applied approaches to response to instruction and intervention (RtI2) and (2) some fairly widespread misunderstanding of the specialized academic instruction (SAI) designation. The resulting negative consequences are especially seen in unmanageable caseload sizes and the subsequent inability of teachers to provide quality, individualized services to students with disabilities.

The ACSE commissioners deeply appreciate the efforts of those individuals who often travel great distances at personal expense to keep the commission fully aware of the issues that affect students with disabilities and the parents and professionals committed to their education. The input these people offer helps the commission to structure its future agendas and, whenever possible, target advisory efforts.

Looking Forward

The ACSE believes the decade ahead holds great promise in education for all students, particularly students with disabilities in California. With the adoption of state Common Core Standards, the ACSE looks forward to advising on California's implementation of those standards, helping ensure access to curriculum and differentiated instruction, and guiding the development of accountability measures that include students with diverse learning needs.

The ACSE is optimistic that the reauthorizations of both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will put more teeth into RtI2 for better early intervention services and give states a clearer roadmap of the changing landscape of special education. As more districts implement best practices and proven strategies around RtI2, positive behavioral supports, and inclusion, students with disabilities will have greater opportunities and greater access to the general education environment.

Meanwhile, the ACSE stresses the need for vigilance by all stakeholders to maintain school quality, accountability, and access. Stakeholder education is key to meeting this need. The ACSE looks forward to expanding partnerships with Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Family Education Centers (FECs) that will keep parents and educators apprised of the changes to California's educational landscape for students with disabilities.

Participating in the ACSE

The ACSE welcomes input at its meetings from anyone with an investment in positive educational outcomes for students with disabilities. Guidelines for participating in an ACSE meeting are available at

Live Webcasts of ACSE Meetings

ACSE meetings can be viewed via live Webcast from the following URL (see page viii for the meeting schedule):

The California Advisory Commission on Special Education . . .

. . . is an advisory body mandated by federal and state statutes to provide recommendations and advice to the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Legislature, and the Governor in new or continuing areas of research, program development, and evaluation in California special education: "The State has established and maintains an advisory panel for the purpose of providing policy guidance with respect to special education and related services for children with disabilities in the State. "Such advisory panel shall consist of members appointed by the Governor, or any other official authorized under State law to make such appointments, be representative of the State population, and be composed of individuals involved in, or concerned with, the education of children with disabilities."

— Public Law 108-446; 20 United States Code (USC) 1412(a)(21) A-D Section 612

2011–2012 Membership Directory

Commissioners Stacy Begin, State Board Appointee

Jan Brown, State Board Appointee

Morena de Grimaldi, Senate Appointee

Ken Denman, Senate Appointee

Diane Fazzi, Governor Appointee

Ronald Gonzales-Lawrence, State Assembly Appointee

Judith Holsinger, Vice Chair, State Board Appointee

Betty Karnette, State Assembly Appointee

Christina Michel-Albers, Senate Appointee

Laurie Newton, Governor Appointee

Tomislav Peraic, State Board Appointee

Naomi Rainey, Governor Appointee

Laureen Sills, Governor Appointee l

Jim Woodhead, State Assembly Appointee

Kristin Wright, Chair, Senate Appointee

Student Member

Matthew Stacy

Executive Secretary

Fred Balcom, 916-445-4602, 916-327-3706 (fax),

Legislative Members

Senate Member: Carol Liu 818-409-0400, 818-409-1256 (fax),

Staff Representative: Robert Oakes,

Assembly Member: Joan Buchanan 916-319-2054, 916-319-2154 (fax),

Staff Representative: Colleen Haley,;

Staff Representative: Sarah Tomlinson,

Governor's Office, Secretary for Education Liaison
Dena Wilson, 916-323-0611, 916-323-3753 (fax),

State Board Liaison
Yvonne Chan, 916-319-0827,

State Special Schools Liaison
Ronald Kadish, 916-327-3850, 916-445-4550 (fax),

Commission Staff Liaison
Kathleen Smith, 916-327-3698, 916-327-3706 (fax),


Commission Meeting Dates and Locations 2011–2012

September 1–2, Sacramento

November 3–4, Sacramento

January 4–5, Sacramento

February 23–24, Riverside

March 22–23, Sacramento

May 24–25, Sacramento

Location: California Department of Education, 1430 "N" Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

* Exact dates may change. Please visit the ACSE Web site ( or contact the commission's secretary for the most current information or to obtain a schedule. All ACSE meetings can be viewed on live Webcast at


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