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Special Education Supports Information System (SESIS)


In 2007, California implemented a renewed Strategic Action Plan which was broadly aimed at examining practices related to recruitment, training, and retention of special education personnel. In order to improve special education services to students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) at the local level, more data was needed, particularly with regard to school climate, administrative support, and working conditions.To address this need, the CDE Division of Special Education funded an expansion of the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) to create a Special Education Supports Information System (SESIS).

The Overview to the SESIS (pdf) summarizes the survey content, strategies for promoting staff participation, issues to address in survey planning, reports provided, and tools that are available to help understand and use the survey results. It includes graphic illustrations of the system as a whole, the survey planning and participation process, and the report dissemination plan.

View the SESIS Overview (pdf)

Download a presentation (ppt) or watch a recording online of Using and Promoting the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) and the Special Education Supports Information System (SESIS)—January 2013

Dr. Gregory Austin, Director of WestEd’s Health and Human Development Program (HHDP), and Ms. Dona Meinders, Project Director of WestEd’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention (CPEI), present on the following:

  • Data and resources available through the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) of school staff and its Special Education Supports Information System (SESIS)
  • Why school climate matters to special education
  • Example of data use
  • Key state findings
  • Current challenges to sustaining the system, and how to address these challenges


The purpose of the SESIS is to provide a cost-effective, user-friendly self-assessment tool and data analysis system to be used at the local level to identify school practices and district polices that contribute to a positive school climate, as well as those practices and policies that detract from creating a positive school climate for students and staff.

Main SESIS Features

  • Addition of a Special Education Supports Module (SESM) to the survey and questions to identify staff who have special education responsibilities
  • Preparation of a supplemental CSSS Special Education Report for each district, comparing results reported by special education and general education staff
  • Biennial preparation of similar aggregated statewide and regional reports for each Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA)
  • Annual website report posting for public dissemination
  • Development of the Workbook for Improving School Climate and Closing the Achievement Gap: Using Your California Healthy Kids and California School Climate Survey with accompanying supports, to assist in understanding the survey results and complement other school improvement efforts


  • Raise school and general public awareness of the needs of students with IEPs and the staff who provide services to them
  • Promote dialogue at the local, regional, and state level on meeting the above needs
  • Monitor and promote a better understanding of how well schools are implementing programs and services for students with IEPs in fulfillment of the California Strategic Action Plan and No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
  • Help retain high quality special education staff and identify their needs
  • Promote the collaboration of special and general education
  • Improve supports for special education in the broader CDE effort to close the racial/ethnic achievement gap (CTAG) and address issues of disproportionality

Survey Content

The Core CSSS Survey

The Core CSSS module asks all staff to identify if they have teaching or other responsibilities in special education, and whether they have the resources and professional development they need to work with students with IEPs. The Learning Supports Module further asks about the extent the school provides services for students with disabilities or other special needs.

The Special Education Supports Module (SESM)

  • Contains 24 questions designed to be answered by all staff who have responsibilities for teaching or providing related support services to students with IEPs.
  • Provides data about the perceptions and concerns of school special education personnel to guide program and service improvement, particularly in: (1) understanding how to effectively meet the needs of students and staff; and (2) recruiting, training, and retaining special education staff.
  • Developed by an Advisory Group consisting of CDE special education staff and representatives of the California Strategic Action Plan Leadership Team.
  • Influenced by California research (pdf) and national research that indicate workplace conditions, control over workload, and perceptions about administrative support are highly correlated with teacher attrition rates, especially within special education.

Five SESM Main Content Areas

The questions on the SESM fall into five content areas, as described in the SESM Overview

  • Educational and Credentialing Levels of the Respondents (4 questions)
  • Barriers to Effective Service Delivery (3 questions)
  • Integration and Collaboration between Special and General Education (5 questions)
  • Expectations and Supports for Special Populations (5 questions)
  • Personnel Supports Provided by the School (7 questions)

Special Education Reports & their Dissemination

District Reports

A supplementary district-level CSSS Special Education Report is sent to all school districts that meet the minimum number of respondents with special education responsibilities needed to preserve confidentiality requirements. This report provides the results reported by special education staff compared to those of all other staff. Public dissemination of the data must be coordinated with, and not occur before public release of CSSS results.

Statewide and Regional (SELPA) Aggregated Reports

Starting January of 2011, aggregated (combined district) regional results will be prepared and sent to each Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) director. Every two years, aggregated statewide reports will also be prepared that highlight key findings and their implications for special education service delivery to focus attention on meeting the statewide needs of students with IEPs and the staff who serve them.

Download the 2010-2011 SELPA reports.
Download the 2008-10 CSSS Statewide Special Education Reports:

Report Dissemination and Public Posting

In the fall of each year, reports from the previous year will be posted on the survey websites with other CSCS district reports, so that anyone may access them.

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