At PBS NewsHour, John Tulenko of Education Week reports on special education in Los Angeles:
JOHN TULENKO: Eighty-nine students from McBride and other schools moved into Grand View, increasing its special education population by 50 percent.
Most of the new students spend the majority of their day in classes like Maria Ventura’s. She teaches eight students on the autism spectrum. To help develop their social skills, every morning, she invites kindergartners to her classroom for a shared lesson.
MARIA VENTURA, Special Education Teacher: This is circle time. As a kindergarten teacher, I used to do that. And so when becoming special ed, I collaborated with another kinder teacher and said, you know what, bring me your kids, so that my kids can use them as a model.
Now you can’t even tell the difference between my kids and the gen-ed kids, because they have learned by watching their peers, oh, this is how I need to sit in a class.
JOHN TULENKO: Looking around the room, I noticed that nearly half the students with autism weren’t participating.
You’re bringing them together, but maybe they’re still staying apart.
MARIA VENTURA: Well, I can’t force it on them. It’s basically their demeanor and how they do it. For example, Sean and Austin and Marigold, they’re much more open to change. Depending on David’s temperament, if he’s not having a good day, I don’t want to force it. We slowly bring them in when they’re ready, because, if we rush them, then it actually goes against what we’re trying to do. We wanted to make a good experience for them.
JOHN TULENKO: Right.
MARIA VENTURA: Yes.
JOHN TULENKO: So it takes time.
MARIA VENTURA: Exactly. It does take time.