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Thompson: Districts May Serve More SPED Kids, But Not Very Well

Special-Education-WordleThe key finding in the recent GAO report on special education disparities is that 15.5% of special education students in public schools have disabilities that require them to be outside of regular classes 60% of the time. Only 6.7% of IEP students in charters have disabilities that severe.

But the report shouldn't be used to focus exclusively on charter school SPED programs.  While districts serve more of their fair share of special education students, they don't necessarily do so particularly well. Erica Green's recent Baltimore Sun article (For Baltimore Schools, Special Education Still a Work in Progress) reports that auditors found Baltimore's IEP students didn't get one-fourth of the accommodations listed in their individualized education plans. Auditors said that "while it's laudable to integrate special education students into regular classrooms, the district still needs to learn how to do it well."  A retired assistant state superintendent for special education concluded, "The city has moved very quickly in putting a lot of kids in the least restrictive environment, and for every kid, it's not the best thing." Baltimore has improved tremendously, "but it's not like they've figured out how to really teach kids with disabilities."

On the other hand, Green described a full inclusion program utilizing co-teaching as an example of Baltimore's successes. "It's almost miraculous what can happen, because it's extra everything with two heads in a room," said a psychologist. But, only 14% of that school's students are on IEPs.  With numbers that manageable, it might as well be a charter school.- JT(@drjohnthompson) image via.

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Silver lining of growing LD diagnoses: it'll get politically harder to under-serve kids with disabilities as a group?

It’s really kind of appalling. If I understand it correctly, they’re using a statistic because it looks good, not for what it really reflects. I have a real problem with the victimization of any student for industry benefit, and here’s a prime example.

The GAO report said that 11% of students in traditional public schools have IEPs compared to about 8% for charter schools. How is a traditional public school school with 14% of its students on IEPs more like a charter school?

Art,
Only 14% is just 1/4th more than average. Its about average for my district, for instance. Its only 2-1/3rd times greater than the charter average.

Neighborhood secondary schools in my districts all have more than 20% on IEPs. With Rtti, IEP numbers have declined, but most of our secondary neighborhood schools traditionally have 25 to 30% on IEPS. And they are disproportionately the most serious IEPs, with emotional disturbances and conduct disorders. So, in non-tested core classes like mine, typically we have 40% of the class of 30 on IEPs. In elective classes, they may have 20 to 25 kids on IEPs. I had more IEP students in my first two hours than all of the districts charter schools put together.

All of this is in addition the the other challenges of a 100% low income neighborhood school. Like I said, a 95+% low income neighborhood school has challenges that are far far greater than a 95+% low income charter school. They are two completely different critters.

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