At the April 16th school board meeting which I was unable to attend, Special Education Director, Ms. Rincon, went through 14 evaluation measures submitted annually to the Department of Education. This report is so deeply buried on the DOE site that despite years of familiarity with the site, I was unaware of it and only by learning the actual name of the report was it possible to find it. In the video, you will hear Ms. Rincon talk about the 14 measures of SPED performance and Timberlane’s strong showing.
That was good to hear but how, Arthur Green wondered, do the comparable districts do on these same 14 measures as reported to the DOE? Here’s a table that shows just that (please “zoom” on it):
This is all information submitted to the Department of Education. Detailed explanations of the measurement criteria are here, and the source profiles are here. (“CS” means there were not enough students to make a statistically valid response. “N” means “no.”)
In the context of other school districts our size in the state, our overall SPED statistics seems generally on pace – neither stronger nor weaker than our peers, except for a few critical areas.
- Why does Timberlane have significantly more IEPs than comparable districts our size?
- Why do our students lose so much ground in reading between elementary school and high school when the reverse seems to be true in most other comparable districts?
- Why is our high school reading proficiency so low compared to our peers and below even the state actual?
- What are we doing to bring up our math proficiency in SPED?
Special Education by Town
The chart above shows the broad numbers for Timberlane’s Special Education program, but when you break them down by town more questions arise. Here is information Arthur Green culled from studying the Adequacy Aid each town receives for Special Education. IEPs are increasing even though our student enrollment is falling, and there is a vast disparity in the number of IEPs between Atkinson and Sandown.
Ms. Rincon asked at the board meeting, “What do you want to know that I can’t tell you?” I have compiled a list of questions that I have just sent over to Ms. Rincon, Ms. Steenson and Dr. Metzler. Given that it is vacation week and that the answers will take a little time to compile, I will be patient. The answers will be published on this blog when they are received and I thank Ms. Rincon in advance for her kind assistance in helping all of us learn more about Timberlane’s Special Education program.
1) What are the number of IEPs as reported to the DOE each year starting in 2007 broken out:
- by ages 3-5, 6-21
- by grade level of student
- by town of residence
2) Why has the 5-year graduation rate fallen so significantly over one year? What is the actual number of students reflected in the percentage of graduates reported to the DOE?
3) Where the DOE reports the percentage of graduates, please provide the actual number. Why is there no 2013 four-year graduation number?
4) Please provide the number of students who have not graduated after 5 years broken out by town.
5) Please provide the NUMBER of students
- in each identified area of primary need
- broken out by town.
6) Out-of-district programs:
- please state the names of the programs being used out-of-district,
- the cost per year,
- the number of students sent to each program beginning with 2007 broken out by students’ town of residence.
7) With respect to the cost per town of SPED services, please provide the government assistance relating to these services broken out by each type of financial payment for each town beginning with 2007.
8) Why are we significantly lower on Early Childhood programs (re: 6A) ?
9) How is preschool rate of growth assessed?
10) How does the district know the post-graduation employment of SPED students?
Why Did I Ask to Discuss an Audit?
Although the school board chair, Ms Steenson, could have easily postponed discussion of my request for a special education audit given my notice to her of my absence, this courtesy was not granted me. I asked for the board to consider a SPED audit because:
- the sheer numbers of students in our district with IEPs is large compared to other districts with a similar sized student population;
- there is a vast disparity among towns of identified students;
- the number of IEPs is growing while student enrollment is going down which means a larger percentage of students are using special education services than in the past.
These facts lead me to wonder if our primary instruction is failing students in some way? This is not a rhetorical question. I simply don’t know the answer and I believe an outside audit would help to answer this fundamental question – as well as assess how the initial identification of students is being done compared with other districts in the auditors’ experience.