This thread is about legally mandated programs for students that have been an issue for the district for a very long time, namely, ELL, Special Education and Advanced Learning.
I'm not going to go into a dissection of each because I'm not qualified to speak fully on ELL or Sped. (And I'm not looking for another discussion on Advanced Learning. Please do not go off-topic on this point.)
The issue is that our district has consistently either failed to provide services, provided partial service or failed to provide services in a timely manner for all of these programs at one time or another. This has happened for many years.
The district has been under review for both Special Education services and ELL services by OSPI over the last year.
To be fair, I know that ELL and Special Education services are expensive and it is a challenge for every single district to provide these services. Perhaps there needs to be a review of what can be offered and for how long in order to curb costs. But this would likely need to come at a federal/state level and I don't know when/if that may be happening. (Please note: I am not saying these students should not be served but, for example, you could start phasing out some ELL service after a certain number of years depending on starting age of the student.)
There is also the issue of lack of substitutes (this has been in the news over this school year) and lack of certification by Gen Ed teachers for Special Education. I know this is on the wishlist for the district but I have no idea when/how they can make this happen. And again, even if GenEd teachers do have certification, large class sizes will still make this a challenge.
I do not believe there is bad intent in any of this. But it seems that when push comes to shove, the district leadership tends to believe that IEPs and Special Ed services are, by and large, provided.
I can say this as a parent of a former K-12 student - there is no panic like the panic you feel when you worry about the ability of your child to learn. As a former K-12 Special Ed parent,I know there is the panic when you know your child is capable of learning but needs help/structure to get there and you don't see those supports in place. And, as we ALL know, a school year is a lifetime for children and even losing a couple of months can have lasting effects.
The case study here is Stevens Elementary where some Special Education parents have done a very good job detailing how Special Education services at Stevens have failed over this school year. They filed a Special Education Citizen Complaint (SECC) No. 15-10 with OSPI.
Editor's note: apparently parents at BF Day read this OSPI Corrective Action Report and have asked the district to compensate their students this way. The district has agreed to do this. I'm putting the outcomes of this complaint at the beginning of this thread, rather than at the end, to show a couple of things. One, that the district could be accused of trying to push the envelope in NOT providing services. What if none of these parents had the wherewithal to complain? No district service make-up provided. Two, the district struggles with staffing and it would be nice to have a clear explanation of why that is. As well, when staffing needs are not met, the schools then have to struggle to make a patchwork of staff to fill in. That's not good for either staff or students. There was this as well from the Stevens parent who wrote to me:
It is not uncommon for the police to show up or for some poor child to have a complete volatile and loud meltdown in the hallway. There have been many days that I have walked into the school and I can hear a kid screaming in the hallways. If I can hear it, so can all the neighboring class rooms. I also know that there have been children who have witnessed violent behaviors due to the lack of adequate support.Outcomes
OSPI accepts the District's proposed correction of providing all students in the Access and EBD programs with compensatory services over the summer of 2015. The District will provide students with 64 hours of services to be delivered over a four week period, not to exceed four hours per day.
The summer program must also be staffed at the same ratio the District staffs the Access and the EBD programs during the school year. The District will also provide transportation for students to the summer program consistent with the provision of transportation to the students during the school year.
In the Complainant's reply, the Complainant requested that parents be allowed to use the compensatory services offered by the District to enroll their students in community based programs designed to help students improve social/behavioral skills or academic skills over the summer of 2015. OSPI also accepts this proposed corrective action. If parents of students in the Access and EBD programs elect to enroll their students in community based programs or tutoring programs designed to improve social/behavior skills or academic skills, instead of participating in summer program, parents may submit invoices to the school District to be reimbursed for services in an amount up to $4,800 (64 hours x $75 per hour). These services must occur between June 22,2015 and August21,2015. The District must also reimburse the parents for the cost of providing transportation for these services at the District's privately owned vehicle rate.Start of Case Study
The complaint states that these parents believe that:
the District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or a regulation implementing the IDEA, with regard to the education of students who attend the Access program or were assigned to a program for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities (EBD) at the elementary school.It details - via a timeline - of what did (and did not) happen over the course of the school year.
The Overview explains the issue (partial):
During the 2014-2015 school year, the District elementary school operated an "Access" program for students eligible for special education under the category of Autism. Additionally, the elementary school operated a primary and intermediate program for students eligible for special education under the category of emotional behavioral disability (EBD).
Finding of Fact (partial):The Complainant alleged that the District failed to provide instructional aide support for students in the Access program and EBD program during the 2014-2015 school year that were consistent with the students' lEPs. The Complainant also alleged that the District failed to provide specially designed instruction for students in the Access program and EBD program consistent with their lEPs during the 2014-2015 school year. The District admitted that it did not consistently provide instructional aide support for students in the Access program and EBD program, due to staffing shortages. The District also admitted that due to the staffing shortages, students in the Access program and EBD program were not consistently provided with specially designed instruction as stated in their lEPs. To address these failures, the District proposed providing compensatory services for the affected students during the summer of 2015' The District also proposed conducting a review of the affected students' IEPs to address any issues with the actual delivery of services.
During the 201 4-2015 school year, a District elementary school operated two special education programs: an "Access" program for students who were eligible for special education under the category of Autism; and a program for students who were eligible for special education under the category of emotional behavioral disability (EBD.
According to the District's documentation, at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, there were 10 students in the elementary school's Access program.Students in the Access program are taught by a special education teacher (Access teacher) with assistance from three instructional assistants (lAs). The Access program model is designed so that participating students spend at least part of their school day in a general education classroom with their same grade peers.
I'll pause here to state that it is not the district's fault the teacher was hurt in an accident. But when you see this kind of finding:
This was in September and the principal knew that that that student was eligible for services and yet made a decision that the student would not get those services - for months - based on ....what? Saving money or helping the IA find a full-year job? Because it doesn't appear it was done on what was best for the student. And, none of this "fading out" of this student's services was updated in their IEP.The principal also stated that there had been a substitute 1:1 lA for Student 3 the day before, but that substitute had now taken a long term position at another school. The principal stated that because the school was "working toward fading out" the 1:1 lA based on Student 3's needs, the school had decided not to replace the previous 1:1 lA, because the new 1:1 lA would be out of a job in December 2014.
Additionally, the principal appears to have accepted the funding for this 1:1 IA, but chose not to use the funds for this position. It is unclear why the principal did this or what the funding was used for. Was this in the best interests of the student in question?
But again, something happened and one of the IA got placed on administrative leave in late September to November 10th. This IA was in support of one student. They brought in a sub who was only there for 24 of 34 school days and they would have the assistant principal come in to support students. Naturally, this flow of different IAs/adults makes it hard to make connections with students. So what happened?
However, [Student 3] has received 0% support for most of the 14-15 school due to continued issues securing a substitute or permanent lA." The mother was concerned that without the lA support, Student 3 was "slipping backward in his goals and may ultimately require continued one-on- one support to get back on track." Additionally, the mother expressed concern that Student 3 had been placed in the hallway without supervision due to his disruptive behavior, and was therefore unsupervised when another student became violent in the hallway.The mother of the student asked that the District explain its plan for this student. The student's teacher said she supported getting the help to the student and that the teacher had shared the parents' e-mail with District staff and school administrators. But the program specialist stated that he could not help the teacher and asked that the parents concerns to to District HR and elementary administrators.
There had also been a desire by staff to have a "lunch bunch" group to help students with social needs.
On October 13,2014, the Access teacher emailed the elementary school principal and the assistant principal and copied the District program specialist and the EBD program teachers. The Access teacher stated that "until staffing is consistent we cannot do [social] groups, keep kids and adults safe and keep people from burning out. If we don't have groups, we are not able to proactively address our students' needs and only react to their behaviors...This means that students will continue to miss SDI [specially designed instruction] minutes. The other option is to pull all kids who cannot be independent. This does not give students access to their least restrictive environment. Without staffing and time to plan with IA's we cannot do both."There were then continued issues with staffing. At least one parent consistently asks how the District will make up for these missed services. Finally in December,
The next day, the District regional special education supervisor emailed the Complainant, stating that she believed the District staff members had been able to clarify where and how Student 1's IEP services were being delivered. The regional supervisor stated that she would be working on a calendar of compensatory services to show the number of hours that would be provided. The District would also send the Complainant a letter regarding the District's offer of compensatory services. The District later sent the letter on December 19, 2014, and the Complainant accepted the offer of compensatory services.
At the same time, one parent e-mailed the District executive director of Sped saying "issues were now reaching a crisis level and needed more District-level attention."
Mid-winter break happens and then the original parent again writes to school and District staff and includes other Sped parents.
The Complainant stated that the parents had met to discuss their concerns about the special education program at the elementary school. The parents believed.that the IDEA had been violated, and that the students were not receiving a free and appropriate education. The parents were concerned that the Access program did not currently have a teacher, and that there appeared to be no plan in place to have teacher in the position for the remainder of the year. The parents requested that a meeting be scheduled to discuss their concerns in a "direct forum."The principal responded with an e-mail, outlining what steps they were taking to give these students services, they had a substitute teacher for the Sped teacher and would schedule a meeting in early March.
The District admits that it did not provide students in the Access program and students in the EBD programs with aide support consistent with their lEPs during the 2014-2015 school year. The District's documentation shows that part of the reason that aide support was not provided was a lack of available substitute instructional assistants (lAs). The District's documentation also shows that lA support was not provided because the elementary school did not have a service schedule in place at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year in order to ensure that instructional support could, and would be provided consistent with the students' lEPs (discussed further below in lssue 2).
It is also noted that the documentation shows that District staff believed that it was appropriate to assign Student 3's 1 :1 lA to provide support for other students even though the District was reimbursed for a 1:1 lA for Student 3 through the safety net process. It is not appropriate for a designated 1:1 aide in a student's IEP to be assigned to provide support to other students, especially when the District has certified through the safety net process that the lA was only available for Student 3.
The District also admits that it failed to provide students in the Access program and the EBD programs with specially designed instruction consistent with their lEPs. In its response, the District again points to a lack of staff as the primary reason that the students did not receive their specially designed instruction. However, the District's documentation shows that the major reason the District failed to provide specially designed instruction is because the District failed to a have a plan in place at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year to provide the students with the instruction stated in their lEPs. Had the elementary school started the school year with a clearly defined service schedule in place, then students would have received services beginning the first week of school and even if substitutes were utilized, the students would have consistently received at least some of their specially designed instruction. Instead, the District's documentation shows that students were not scheduled to begin receiving specially designed instruction until three or four weeks after the school year began.
The practice of waiting until after school has begun to start scheduling students to receive their specially designed instruction as stated in their lEPs is inconsistent with the IDEA, and in this case led to a failure to provide students with required services from September 2014 through February 2015, because a service delivery schedule was never properly developed or implemented.
Additionally, information provided by the District suggests that the elementary school also has a service model which keeps students in the EBD classroom for a greater amount of time than stated in their IEPs, and then gradually increases the amount of time the students spend in a general education setting as the students' social/behavior skills progress apparently based in part on "professional judgement". The amount of services stated in an IEP is not a guideline or to be determined by staff. The amount of services included in a student's IEP reflects an IEP team's determination that a student's educational needs warrant the amount of services stated in the lEP. lf the District believes that some students are in need of increased or decreased amounts of specially designed instruction at the beginning on the school year, the District must hold IEP meetings to make such determinations. Similarly, if the District believes that after a certain time period, the amount of services in a student's IEP is no longer appropriate, or that the student requires a change of placement, the District must hold IEP meetings to amend the student's IEP to reflect the student's current needs. The District may not unilaterally increase or decrease. services, without consulting the student's IEP team, including the parents.