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Special Ed Teachers: Useful Information

This is a work in progress. If you have ideas for information to add, please contact BFT.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are a temporary or probationary teacher we recommend contacting a Site Rep or the BFT office about any of the items below before talking directly with your principal.

Work Hours and Schedules

Q: What is my duty day?

A: The duty day for Special Education teachers is 7 hours and 10 minutes per day.  All Special Ed teachers should have a daily duty-free lunch of at least 30 minutes, and the equivalent of a daily prep period.

Q: What should I do if I cannot get a daily lunch and/or daily prep for whatever reason (lack of sub IAs, IA positions that are not currently filled, etc.)?

A: You should use the form provided by BFT to document this problem, especially if this is an ongoing problem. Send the form to the supervisor in an email with a cc to BFT. Let your principal know that you look forward to solutions to any structural issues. If your supervisor cannot solve the problem after having some time to make changes, BFT will seek extra compensation on your behalf.

You can also talk with your supervisor about the need for all IAs, including long-term subs, to submit absences through Aesop, and to put the absence as far in advance as possible. The supervisor can communicate as needed with IAs.

Q: Can I build a case management period into my schedule?

A: BFT recommends having this conversation with your principal.  The BUSD Special Education budget is severely constrained, so there will not be funding available to increase IA staffing in most cases.  Hence, the impact of a case management period on students would need to be considered in making this decision. All special education teachers should have one period per day where they are NOT with students.

Q: Can I be required to do certain things during my prep period?

A: No, your prep period is yours to use as you decide is best.  You cannot be required to do testing or any other activity on your prep.

Q: What are my rights in terms of meeting the demands of case management, assessments, report writing, or the development of IEPs?

A: Article 11.6.1 of the BFT/BUSD contract says that special education teachers MAY be granted as many release days as necessary by the supervisor (your principal or Program Supervisor) for case management, assessments and report writing. If a request is denied the District Director of Special Education must meet with BFT to resolve the denied request.

Teachers should send these requests to the Program Supervisor with a cc to the principal.

If release time cannot be utilized, special education teachers shall be provided with one in-service credit for movement on the salary schedule (or one day of sick leave credit if the teacher in on Column VII of the salary schedule) for every fifteen (15) hours of service beyond the duty day for case management, assessments, report writing or the development of IEPs. See the Inservice Credit for more information.

Documenting Services

Q: What documentation of services can be required? How detailed do these logs need to be?

A: Some kind of log or record in SEIS of Specialized Academic Instruction that has been provided to the student can be required, and is good protection for the teacher. The record of services can be a very brief description of what was provided, and whether a teacher or an IA provided the SAI.

Q: Who is legally able to provide Specialized Academic Instruction?

A: The special education teacher, the literacy coach, the RtI teacher, the ELD teacher and/or an Instructional Assistant can provide this instruction.

Q: Do these logs have to be provided to parents upon the parent’s request?

A: No, they do not. These logs are not part of the student record and should not be provided to parents. Only a principal or a Program Supervisor can request logs from a teacher. You should direct a parent requesting the logs to the principal.

Q: Am I required to complete reports of progress on IEP goals?

A: Yes, these are required. See the second question, above, for information about time in which to do these reports. These reports can consist of a single statement regarding the level of progress the student has made toward the annual goal. These reports need to be provided “concurrent with the issuance of report cards”, so could be done at K-5 in the week between when the trimester ends and when parent conferences occur.

Caseloads and Assessments

Q: What are the caseload limits for special education teachers?

A: Preschool Mild/Moderate Caseload Management shall have no more than fifteen (15) students. At the K-8 level, the maximum caseload size is 21 students for mild/moderate and 11 students for moderate/severe. The K-8 mild/moderate caseload average shall be 20:1 district wide. The K-8 moderate/severe caseload average shall be 10:1 districtwide. Starting in 2022-23, at Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technlogy Academy, the maximum caseload size is 21 students for mild/moderate and 11 students for moderate/severe. The High School mold/moderate program caseload average shall be 20:1 schoolwide. The High School moderate/severe program caseload average shall be 10:1 Schoolwide. 

 Moderate/Severe teachers should have not more than 8 students with severe disabilities as defined by the California Education Code. The definition that has been used by past practice is: “Students labeled with severe disabilities are 
those who traditionally have been labeled as having severe to profound 
mental retardation. These people require ongoing, extensive support in
 more than one major life activity in order to participate in integrated
 community settings and enjoy the quality of life available to people with
fewer or no disabilities. They frequently have additional disabilities, 
including movement difficulties, sensory losses, and behavior problems.”

The current Education Code reads: "’Severely disabled’ means individuals with exceptional needs who require intensive instruction and training in programs serving pupils with the following profound disabilities: autism, blindness, deafness, severe orthopedic impairments, serious emotional disturbances, severe intellectual disability, and those individuals who would have been eligible for enrollment in a development center for handicapped pupils under Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 56800), as it read on January 1, 1980.” (56030.5)

Teachers of CEC classes can have no more than 12 students on their caseloads.

Once the manager has reached the maximum caseload, an additional student may be assigned 

Q: Can the Mild/Moderate teacher(s) and the Moderate/Severe teacher(s) share the overall caseload?

A: Yes, this can be done and is a best practice in the view of BFT. A student with moderate needs can be on either teacher’s caseload.

Q: If I’m a Mild/Moderate teacher do I need to spend half of my time on RtI intervention services?

A: This should be discussed with your principal. If there is not enough time in the day to provide all case management and services required for students with IEPs, to have a daily lunch and prep AND do RtI services, the principal will need to establish priorities.

Q: If it is impossible to provide the minutes of service required by an IEP what should I do? If the IA supports that I believe are required by an IEP are not provided what should I do?

A: You should document this in writing to your principal and your Program Supervisor. Be careful not to give up your daily duty-free lunch or prep in this situation. It is very important to document this in writing once it is clear that this is the case. If you inform your principal and your Program Supervisor and nothing changes, your responsibility is to continue to document those services that are provided. The larger issues are the responsibility of the principal and the Program Supervisor.

Q: What are the formal assessment limits?

A:  Special education mild/moderate program or case managers at grades K12 shall have a limit of 12 formal assessments per school year per case manager. Special education moderate/severe program or case managers at Grades K-12 shall have a limit of 6 formal assessments per school year per case manager. A formal assessment shall be defined as an initial, triennial, or supplemental assessment that will require more than 10 hours of staff time. Moderate/Severe will not be assigned initial assessments. Triennial assessments will be prioritized and the case manager will provide the District Special Education department with a list of covered

Triennials, due dates and scheduled dates no later than the end of the fifth week of school. Any Triennials in excess of the limit described above may be offered to case managers at the student's school site in seniority order and the case manager completing the assessment will be compensated for up to 15 hours at the teacher hourly rate per completed assessment.

Working with Instructional Assistants

Q: Can I be required to create schedules for the IAs at my site?

A: BFT believes it is the current practice at most sites for the moderate/severe teacher, working with the principal, to create schedules for the paraprofessionals working with students on their caseloads. BFT strongly advises mod/severe teachers to involve their principal in these schedules by showing a draft to the principal and consulting with the principal whenever changes are made (before the change is made). In addition, we encourage special education teachers to request that the principal consult with you before THEY make any changes to IA schedules. We are happy to consult on this question with individual sites.

Q: What should I do if an IA is late to assignments or refuses to work with certain students, or if I have other concerns?

A: You should put these concerns in writing to your principal. The principal is the supervisor and evaluator of all IAs. Our contract says: “A teacher may provide input for the performance review of an Instructional Assistant or Substitute Teacher, but shall not serve as the primary reviewer. The District recognizes that teacher input in the performance review of Instructional Assistants is both desirable and valuable for maintaining/improving the quality of learning support activities in the classroom.” (BFT/BUSD Article 15.9.7) 

Teacher and Student Safety & Parents

Q: What can I do if I feel that a student threatens my safety or the safety of other students?

A: Please see the BFT FAQ on Safety. This FAQ has detailed information and advice.

Q: What can my principal do if a parent is hostile or aggressive?

A: It is important to immediately create a written summary of any incident in which a parent is hostile, abusive or aggressive. This summary should be provided to the Principal, to the Site Rep and to BFT. The Principal should be asked to contact the Director of Schools, or the Manager of Student Services if that has not already occurred. Depending on the circumstances a seven-day “stay away” order can be implemented. For more information please see the BFT FAQ on Safety.

Q: What should I do if a parent has filed a complaint against me (and possibly others)?

A: You have many rights in this situation. The complaint cannot go into your personnel file and you cannot be required to meet with the parent about the complaint. It is the principal’s job to do everything possible to resolve the complaint. Please see the BFT FAQ on Parent Complaints  for more information and advice.

Q: What is the limit on how often I need to communicate with a parent?

A: This should be discussed as part of the IEP process and the limits of staff should be kept in mind in coming to an acceptable schedule. If the parent and the rest of the IEP team cannot come to an agreement this question should be referred to the Program Supervisor and the Principal, and BFT should be contacted.

Working with Substitutes/Being Absent

Q: What should I do if I am regularly being asked to cover general education classes when there are unfilled sub assignments?

A: You should politely decline to do any time that is best for you and your students, and definitely when this service is a hardship. You should definitely decline when this will mean not receiving a duty-free lunch or a daily prep.

Q: What should I do if the sub assigned to MY absence is reassigned at the last minute to a general education classroom?

A: You should discuss the negative impacts of this action with your principal, focusing on the negative impacts for students. If the pattern becomes routine you should contact your Site Rep and ask them to contact BFT.

Q: Do I need to call for a sub when I will be absent?

A: Yes, even if a sub is not needed you need to record your absence in Aesop. You can indicate “no sub required” if that is the case.

If you believe that having a sub is the best thing for your students, you should request a sub when you record the absence in Aesop. If you are told that you should NOT request an actual sub, please contact BFT so that we can advise.


Q: What is a reasonable expectation with regard to responses to my emails to principals or Program Supervisors?

A: You should receive a reply within two business days. If that is not occurring, please contact BFT.

Q: Are there BFT Union Site Reps specifically for Special Education teachers?

A: Yes, BFT has two Site Rep positions specifically for Special Education teachers in K-8, one for elementary and one for middle schools (BHS already has a specific Special Education Site Rep position). 

Updated 8/27/21