Special Education services in DCSS cost approximately $90,000,000 a year, nearly 10% of the entire budget. DCSS employs 1,369 Special Education teachers (almost 20% of our total teachers versus 87 Gifted teachers). Per Ms. Tyson’s cost per teacher of $65,000, this would equal $88,985,000 in salaries and benefits spent for Special Education teachers alone.
The state of Georgia has put DCSS under Focused Monitoring with respect to mathematics for our students receiving Special Education Services.
According to a Georgia Department of Education (DOE) study conducted at the end of 2008, DeKalb County services for Special Education students with respect to mathematics are not in compliance in a number of areas, and we may be subject to sanctions from the DOE if we do not show the necessary improvement.
Much of the findings have to do with Assistive Technology. Does the DCSS Information Systems group have a plan to provide these students with the assistive technology they need? DCSS taxpayers spend $19,000,000 in annual personnel costs for our MIS group, millions more for Dell to install and maintain the computers and Activboards, and even millions more for eSis and SchoolNet, integrated systems that are supposed to give teachers the information that will allow them to individualize instruction.
Another area of concern was the Student Support Team process. Educators involved in SST didn’t seem to understand the process.
Individualization for Special Education students was found lacking. For example, flexible grouping and materials organized in advance for students with special needs were weak areas.
Finally, training was seen as a weak area. 35% of all professionals were not familiar with the Special Education manual and 60.8% of paraprofessionals said that they need more training to assist them with accommodations/instructional adaptations.
How can we spend so much while our Special Education students receive so little?
"Summary of On-Site Findings:
The monitoring team found noncompliance in the following area(s):
- Some students with disabilities are not receiving a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
- Some student referrals are not preceded by evidenced based academic and/or behavioral interventions.
- Some students with disabilities do not have appropriate Transition Services in place to facilitate the student's movement from school to post-secondary services
Required Evidence of Improvement:
The system's 2011 assessment data must meet the annual measurable objective of 75.70% proficiency in mathematics by making AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. Systems that fail to meet the target and fail to meet compliance criteria within one year may be subject to sanctions from the GaDOE
A review of the data shows that when DeKalb County School System is compared with the 12 other systems in the same size group, the percent of students with disabilities meeting standards in mathematics is below State Target. A review of previous years’ data also shows that the percentage of students with disabilities meeting standards in mathematics was below State Target.”
Many thanks to "DeKalb Parent" for this blog post.
For more info:
Direct link to the GA DOE report;
Wikipedia has a pretty good overview of IDEA.
The Office of Special Education Programs offers an informative parent and teacher tool kit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities. Click here for the link.