Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Attorney General Peter Nickles gave an update today on the District’s progress in creating a special education program that can serve the needs of all special education students in the District. In addition to the highlights announced today, DCPS officials will testify before the Council tomorrow on the status of special education in the District.
“While DCPS special education services still have a long way to go, District families need to know that we are working tirelessly on their behalf,” said Mayor Fenty. “All of the agencies charged with caring for our special education students are doing their part to swiftly eliminate inadequacies in treatment and support, and each day we are moving closer to providing a top-notch education for every student.”
Blackman Jones Implementation Plan
On December 1, DCPS and OSSE filed Implementation Plans to the Court that outline the school District’s plan to further reduce the Blackman Jones backlog of cases. DCPS has significantly increased the timeliness rate for student hearings from 20 percent to 38 percent as of the last month. As part of the Implementation Plan the District for the first time, has full-time case managers, a special education parent resource center managed by Advocates for Justice and Education Inc., a new special education data system, and more staff committed to implementing hearing officer decisions. DCPS recently hired more than 30 full-time staff to meet its consent decree commitments in Blackman Jones. DCPS’ last visit from the court monitor for Blackman Jones was favorable and the District continues to build strong ties with the plaintiffs allowing for better cooperation and progress on special education issues.
Court Case Improvements
The District of Columbia has made important strides in their ongoing special education court cases. In the J.C. v. Vance case the District has successfully lowered their list of outstanding items required for material compliance from 76 in September of 2007 to fewer than 15 items. The District continues to move aggressively towards material compliance by working with the District Department of Corrections to make sure that youth incarcerated as adults are getting the full special education services they need.
“As we continue to strive for significant improvements in student achievement we cannot lose sight of the perpetual neglect special education students have endured for decades,” said Chancellor Rhee. “Providing quality special education services means more than settling court cases; welcoming every student back into the classroom with an inclusive learning environment is still our number one priority.”
To assist with litigation concerning younger children DCPS has opened up a new early childhood center at Payne Elementary School with a new state of the art audiology booth. The District continues to transport children under the Petties case on time.
DCPS and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have also started to work together to decrease the number of frivolous lawsuits brought against the District. The OAG has already filed a suit against a private District lawyer for meritless special education litigation and will continue to file such suits as it sees fit in order to prevent unnecessary legal costs for the District of Columbia and its residents.
Serving Students in All Educational Settings
In order to ensure that students under DCPS care in non-public schools are receiving high-quality special education DCPS has increased the staffing for oversight of non-public schools from 18 to 33, an over 80% increase in staff. The increase allows DCPS to have an on site presence at non- public schools, connect with families and promote inclusivity in all educational environments. It is always the goal of the District to provide excellent special education services within DCPS. The Administration continues to work to bring our students currently educated in non-public schools back to a public setting.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Fenty updates progress on SpEd front
Mayor Fenty released the following update on the status of special education in the District.