Special Education Programs in WCCUSD

Parent Q&A

  • WCCUSD for Learning Differences

    (1 reply)

    I have a second grader and I am looking for a public school in West Contra Costa Unified School District for my daughter.  We have identified several learning differences and need a school that can make appropriate accommodations with or without an IEP.  So far she has not qualified for any services under an IEP (although outside professionals say that she should).  We need a school that can work with a bright energetic girl that needs to move her body, support with social cues, support with learning differences, and sensory integration challenges. I would love to know if anyone has any experiences with Kensington Hilltop in regards to learning differences and/ or social emotional support.  We are zoned to Hilltop, but would attempt to transfer to which ever school in WCCUSD is best for learning differences.

    Thank you

    I have a fifth grader with an IEP at Fairmont, our neighborhood school. He's had it for two years, and a 504 for a year before that. Fairmont hosts the EC family of elementary schools special ed program as well as being a full inclusion school, so we have felt like once he got "in the system" there has been a ton of support from the teachers as well as the special ed staff on site. I would say there is a relatively high level of tolerance of students with differences, whatever that may be, because there are many on campus, both mainstreamed and in the special day class. I have heard from other parents that their children with significant-level IEPs zoned for other schools in EC have been directed to Fairmont, explicitly or implicitly.

    I will say that if you don't have a 504 or IEP, you really should pursue that because otherwise you are asking a LOT of the school and teachers, especially if you are new to the school. I don't know what you mean by "outside professionals say she should". I would contact DREDF for an appointment with one of their counselors and review the process for initiating a 504/IEP evaluation request. It may be that she has lots of differences but doesn't meet the legal threshold for an IEP/504, and then you might be better off staying where you are already in school and working with the team you know. Keep in mind the class sizes in the WCCUSD are large.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Best Person for Educational Testing?

Nov 2015


Our son is in second grade in the WCCUSD. He appears to have some learning issues. We have not been impressed with the IEP testing process. From what we've observed, they will do backflips to conclude that the child is within the normal range of development.

We're looking for referrals to someone extremely well regarded and credible to do independent testing for him. This needs to be someone independent with nothing to gain from good or bad test results. The goal would be to get the testing done by someone whose results I can trust. I don't trust anyone employed by the school district or anyone associated with a private educational organization who stands to make money through enrollment.

We understand that this will be expensive. That's not our primary concern at this point. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks

I've recommended them before, but I want to recommend UC's Psych Clinic for testing. They do a very thorough job, and the graduate students are well-supervised. They also meet the criterion of being objective. A further thought -- it is difficult to get services in 2nd grade, because (at least in Berkeley) eligibility for services requires being two grade levels behind -- i.e. a second grader testing at the K level. Even if a child has a large discrepancy between areas, if they are at or above grade level it is pretty much impossible to get services in the areas where they need them (at least in Berkeley.) We ended up paying for OT and some other services out of pocket and using a 504 plan to get accommodations. However, it is good to have a better understanding of what is going on in order to advocate for your child. anon

Hi - I also have a 2nd grade son in the WCCUSD. Last year we went through the process of getting an IEP assessment for him for speech issues - at times he was so inarticulate at home that even his parents couldn't understand him. However, the school speech pathologist found that his speech problems didn't meet the district (actually State, I believe) standard for intervention. We then went to Kaiser (our healthcare provider), had him tested again, and Kaiser found him to be right on the borderline - they didn't recommend intervention, but they would have paid for a short course of therapy to see if it helped. I think this is because my son is a pleaser, tries very hard with new people/authority figures (other than parents, ha!), and yeah, as a result doesn't present his biggest problems to outsiders. I can't disagree with the result of the assessments, and I found everyone at the District level (and at Kaiser) to be professionals. Now, my son's issues turn out to be bigger than speech, and at the moment I'm preparing to start the 504 assessment process for him. DREDF (in Berkeley) has a parent training monthly on IEPs/504s that I found to be somewhat helpful (although I'd say it is most applicable to parents with profoundly disabled children), and there are lots of online resources about the limitations and benefits of each type of plan. As you may already know, WCCUSD hosts both a monthly special ed formal meeting as well as biweekly (?) parent coffee chats about IEPs/special ed generally. Good luck with your child's journey.

I am currently in the assessment and IEP process in BUSD so I don't have a recommendation on a specific person but you should know that if you are dissasisfied with the results of the your district's testing you have the right to ask for an outside assessment at their cost. You get to choose the person who does it and the District pays. You can speak with a counselor at DREDF for more specifics on this process. They are located in Berkeley at Ed Roberts Center and have a special line to answer questions. Hoping (but not conviced) the District will dothe right thing!

WCCUSD accommodations for Asperger's and ADHD

Sept 2011

Our wonderful eight year old daughter has just been diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD. She is currently in a public school in the West Contra Costa district and is doing fine academically, but has been having trouble making friends. I'm wondering if anyone has worked with West Contra Costa school district to get disability accomodations, I would love to hear any advice you would be willing to share. Thanks so much! worried mom

I have worked as an advocate with several families of children with Aspergers in WCUSD. Is your daughter already receiving special education or 504 services? If so, request a meeting in writing to discuss your concerns. The link below contains phone numbers and emails for special education personnel. If your daughter is not already receiving services, write to ask for assessment for 504 and special education services and say that you would like them to proceed simultaneously. The IEP process is long and onerous, and possibly unnecessary if her needs can be met by a 504 plan. A 504 plan provides modifications and accommodations that are needed for her to have an opportunity perform at the same level as her peers, and may proceed more quickly than special education assessment. It's not a substitute for special education, however, if that is what she needs. In addition to whatever recommendations you get from other parents, I suggest you just call or email the program specialist for your area with your specific questions and to find out whether any schools already have social thinking programming (check out www.socialthinking.com too). The beginning of the year is frantic, so you may need to follow an email or faxed letter with a phone call. You can find the special education directory here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/3u4xd5s dana


Special Education at Kensington Hilltop?

Feb 2008


We are looking into kindergarten options. Our son was diagnosed with high functioning autism and has sensory processing issues. He is too advanced for a special day class but needs help with social skills and is a bit uncoordinated. Academically, he is on target.

We live in Kensington and want him go to our local school (with his twin sister and a bunch of other neighborhood kids) but are getting mixed signals from the school district. We had always envisioned him going to Hilltop in a general ed class with support-- possibly a shared aide and OT and speech therapy on site.

My main question- are there any Kensington residents who send their special needs kids to Hilltop? If so, how has it been? What about El Cerrito and Richmond families who live close by? I know that the school has an OT room and 2 speech therapy rooms so it seems to me that they are structurally set up. The principal is a former special ed teacher so it would appear that there might be support from the administration.

Any other Kensington residents in the same situation? We could ban together and show that there is a need for services and support at Hilltop. It just doesn't make any sense to me to send children with special needs away from their community and social structure. We think that children not only learn in the classroom but by relationships with kids on the block and after school playtimes.

My friends ended up leaving there and transfering to Madera and ended up at Castro full inclusion, where they are happier. The people who are trying to dissuade you from attending there probably understand the school-staff-community dynamics and know what might happen. Although the school does have speech and OT rooms it doesn't mean the staff are trained to work with these children whose needs are more intense. Also the staff don't have the support or material on site (ie a Special Ed teacher or things such as programs to make visual schedules). The admin people actually might be trying to save him from all the negative past experiences of other children with special needs. It is sad to think that attending your neighborhood school may not be the best place for your child but you also want to do what's best for him. You also need to trust your gut instinct, if you feel like the school doesn't have ALL the resources you need then you need to look elsewhere or make sure they are in place and that the staff know how it is to work and are willing to do it BEFORE you child steps foot into the classroom. This is a lifelong process that never gets easier, just changes as the kids grow. Best of luck down a LONG road. isn't it sad?

I am not a parent of a special needs kid, but I have two kids at Hilltop, and my daughter's class, in particular, has special needs kids in it, at least one with autism. I think both teachers (at least the 1st and 2nd grade teachers I've had experience with) and the principal are attentive to addressing any special needs in the classroom-- as you mentioned, just talk to Principal Sanders about it-- she is very responsive. anon

I do not have a special needs child at Hilltop, but my child attends Hilltop, has some learning issues and has an IEP. Not really sure who you spoke to in the district and I am not sure what you were expecting the district to tell you. They probably would prefer that you sent your child somewhere else as it is less for them to deal with. By law they cannot tell you that and they have to serve the needs of your child.

If you have not done so, please call Principal Judy Sanders and at the very least have a phone conversation with her. I am sure you will find her to be a fine Hilltop Ambassador, and I think you could get a clear idea of the services that will be available to you. You can then decide whether you think this would work for your child.

You might also ask the BPN for some opinions on CASTRO, which although is not in Kensington, has an excellent special needs program.

Overall, they have bent over backwards to address my child's needs. I think the teachers so far have been exceptional. They have used every trick in the book, every motivator, every alternative learning method available to make it work. I've been impressed. Anon