Wednesday, September 03, 2008

DCPS continues to fail at special education

The monitor appointed by the Federal court to oversee special education within DCPS reports that the District's public school system continues to fail to meet the guidelines stipulated by the court.
The court monitor, Amy Totenberg, said parents looking for assistance for children with special needs often must deal with lengthy delays and a maze-like school bureaucracy in which records are often missing, communication is poor and officials are distracted by other reform efforts launched by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
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"Despite the best of intentions and enormous hard work ... the Defendants have not come close to meeting the Consent Decree's objective performance benchmarks," Totenberg, a former general counsel for the Atlanta school system, wrote.

Totenberg's report was also critical of Washington's 81 public charter school campuses, where 2,307 special education students are enrolled. Totenberg said interviews with parents and advocates suggest that some charter schools may be discouraging families with disabled children from enrolling. She also said charter school parents are sometimes hesitant to disclose their children's challenges.

The initial case backlog from the 2006-07 school year has been eliminated. But serious delays in subsequent cases are still present, Totenberg said. According to a consent decree, the city had until last June 30 to execute all hearing officer decisions or settlement agreements that were more than 150 days overdue. But as of June 30, Totenberg said, 411 of those cases were pending.

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