Around 10% of students in the San Jose Unified school district have an individualized education plan (IEP) that describes the specific support a student with disabilities needs in order to succeed academically. Innovate Public Schools released a report on the state of education for these students in San Jose Unified.

“Students with disabilities are one of the most underserved groups in the Bay, yet their academic results tend to be very hidden,” said Jeimee Estrada, Innovate Public Schools Director of Research and Policy. “School leaders and policy makers haven’t always held themselves accountable for supporting these students. We thought that made it particularly important to research the problem, and make school results more transparent to parents.”

Innovate’s report explored two questions: In San Jose, are students with disabilities achieving their academic goals? And, are families of students with disabilities receiving the district support they deserve?

Some key findings:

  • San Jose Unified is trailing most other Bay Area school districts in serving students with disabilities – especially when compared to other mixed-income districts.
  • Fewer than two in every 10 students with disabilities in San Jose Unified read and do math at grade level.
  • The majority of students with disabilities in SJUSD are falling far behind their peers – with just 16% proficient in English and 14% in math. Only 64% are graduating high school within four years.
  • The 31 charter schools in the city of San Jose aren’t doing any better with just 12% of students with disabilities proficient in English and 13% in math.
  • The picture is even worse for students in the poorest schools (whether district or charter). English proficiency rates in SJUSD range from as high as 42% at wealthy schools to 5% at high-poverty schools.
  • For the past several years, SJUSD has had many more special education legal cases than districts that are similar in size.

Estrada shared the report with parents of students with disabilities, and they found that it reflects their experiences. “After viewing this report, one of the most impactful reactions we receive is ‘I’m not crazy,’” she said. “This report proves these problems really are there.”

Our report can help inform parents of children with special needs of the system-level issues of special education in San Jose.

To learn how to get involved in the fight for better special education, contact Amy Parada at