Educational Service Delivery
This chapter reviews the educational service delivery system of Venus Independent School District (VISD) in the following sections:
- Student Performance
- Instructional Resources
- Gifted and Talented Education
- Compensatory Education
- Special Education
- Bilingual/English as a Second Language Education
- Career and Technology Education
- Library/Media Services
- Student Discipline and Alternative Education Programs
- Computer Technology
E. SPECIAL EDUCATION
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), districts must provide appropriate public education for all children with disabilities regardless of their severity. The act requires districts to provide educational services in the “least restrictive environment” and to include students with disabilities in state and district assessment programs. Districts also are required to develop an individual education plan (IEP) for each of these children with input from regular education teachers. The IEP must provide special education students with curricula related to those of children in regular education classrooms.
The IDEA says an effective special education program provides the items listed as follows:
- Pre-referral intervention in regular education. When a student experiences an academic problem in the regular education program, the regular teachers should intervene and attempt to solve the problem. If the regular education teacher cannot solve the problem, it should be referred to the special education staff.
- Referral to special education for evaluation. Referrals to special education require an official request supported by documentation. The referral information must explain the steps that have been taken in regular education to solve the student’s problem before the referral.
- Comprehensive nondiscriminatory evaluation. Once a student has been referred, the district must provide a comprehensive, nondiscriminatory assessment within a prescribed amount of time.
- Initial placement through an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee. After the evaluation is complete, an ARD committee meets to discuss the results of the evaluation; decide if the student qualifies for special education services in one of 12 federal special education categories; and, if so, write a plan for the student’s education.
- Educational services and supports according to a written Individualized Education Plan. The individualized education plan developed by the ARD committee includes information about classes, subject areas, developmental areas and/or life skills courses in which the student will be instructed; the amount of time that will be spent in regular education; and related needs such as speech therapy or counseling.
- Annual program review. Each year after a student’s initial qualification and placement, an ARD committee reviews the student’s program to ensure it remains appropriate.
- Three-year re-evaluation. Every three years, the student undergoes a comprehensive individual assessment. The ARD committee meets to discuss the results of the re-evaluation and determine the student still qualifies for special education services in the same category.
- Dismissal from the special education program. If and when a student no longer meets the eligibility criteria, he or she is dismissed from special education. The ARD committee must make this decision.
VISD has a pre-referral process to determine if students require special education services. This process includes several intervention strategies that address student needs before referral for special education services. Student assistance teams at each school meet regularly to discuss student remediation prior to special education referral. The district places special education students new to VISD in the special education program if they have been receiving special education services in their prior school district. VISD honors all ARD placements from other school districts. The district evaluates the documentation received from other school districts and holds a transition ARD meeting to make sure that transferring special education students’ needs will continue to be met in accordance with the ARD recommendations.
Exhibit 2-19 shows that VISD ranks fourth among its peer districts in its special education per student expenditures. VISD ranks second with 25.7 percent of its students in special education.
VISD Budgeted Expenditures for Special Education
VISD, Peer Districts and State
District Number of Students Enrolled Percent Budgeted Special Education Expenditures Percent of Budgeted Expenditures Per Special Education Student Expenditures Dublin 171 13.0% $612,353 7.3% $3,581 Godley 391 28.4% $1,110,175 11.3% $2,839 Grandview 203 18.0% $945,082 11.3% $4,656 Rio Vista 159 17.8% $745,949 11.1% $4,692 Venus 480 25.7% $1,196,309 10.3% $2,492 State 492,973 11.6% $2,877,983,372 10.98 $5,838 Source: TEA, PEIMS, 2002-03.
VISD provides special education services through the Johnson County Special Education Shared Services Arrangement. This agreement established the Johnson County Special Education Co-operative (Johnson County Co-op) for VISD, Godley, Grandview, Keene and Rio Vista ISDs. Each district pays a proportionate share of the coop employees’ salaries. Special education resource teachers and their special education aides are not considered co-op employees and are paid by their respective school districts.
Exhibit 2-20 shows that the three-year average cost to VISD equals $192,833 per year and $16,069 per month for Johnson County Special Education Co-operative instructional and administrative services.
VISD Special Education Costs
Johnson County Cooperative
2000-01 through 2002-03
Contract Cost 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 3 Year Average Annual Contract $169,586 $201,472 $207,441 $192,833 Monthly Payment $14,132 $16,789 $17,287 $16,069 Source: VISD Business Office, March 2003.
The Johnson County Cooperative provides a wide range of services to VISD that include initial student assessment, psychological evaluations, equipment, orientation and mobility specialists, personnel units, staff training, software and legal updates. In addition, the cooperative contracts with three diagnosticians, one assessment clerk, two special education counselors, three speech aides, one speech therapist, one occupational therapist, one therapist for visually impaired students, one psychiatrist, psychologists as needed, one coordinator for Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) and Vocational Adjustment Class (VAC) and one teacher for homebound students. The administrative staff at the cooperative consists of one director, one supervisor and four office auxiliary positions. These individuals take care of all special education administrative and fiscal duties for VISD. All personnel and services are provided to VISD for the cost of the annual contract.
Exhibit 2-21 presents the number of VISD students enrolled in special education by disability. The largest student enrollment in special education involves the speech impairment category with a total of 196 students. The learning disabled category has the second largest enrollment with 183 students.
VISD Students Enrolled in Special Education
Student Enrollment by Disability
Disability Primary School Elementary School Middle School High School Total Students Other Health Impairment * * 7 * 16 Auditory Impairment * 0 * * * Mental Retardation * * * 8 15 Emotional Disturbance * * * 7 15 Learning Disability * 63 59 59 183 Speech Impairment 150 39 6 * 196 Non-categorical Early Childhood * 0 0 0 * Total Enrollment in Special Education 161 111 81 80 433 Source: TEA, PEIMS, 2001-02.
*Indicates 5 or fewer students. Their numbers have been included in the total enrollment columns.
VISD serves special education students in a variety of instructional arrangements:
Mainstream. To determine the least restrictive environment for each student, district personnel first must consider providing services in regular education with supplementary aids. Students with disabilities who spend all of their classroom hours in a regular classroom are “mainstreamed.” VISD provides two types of mainstreaming: mainstreaming with content support and mainstreaming with a co-teacher or an aide. Content mastery services are available at all schools to all students with disabilities. Special education teachers go into regular education classes and join the regular education teacher in teaching, working particularly with the special education students.
Resource. The ARD committee recommends assigning students to a separate, special education classroom. These resource classes are offered in the two core subjects of language arts and mathematics. Social Studies and science are mainstreamed with the appropriate modifications. Students may be placed in one or more of these classes based on their abilities. Resource classes are correlated with the TEKS and follow the students’ IEPs as well as the sequence of study in the regular classes. Students in this category take a combination of regular classes and resource classes. The district places a majority of VISD’s special education students in this instructional setting for language arts and math instruction and it mainstreams them for the rest of their school day.
Vocational Adjustment Class. This class provides educational and vocational services, including training in job readiness skills, to eligible secondary students.
Self-Contained Classes. VISD students with severe disabilities who cannot get a satisfactory education in a regular classroom are served in a separate, “self-contained” classroom.
Life Skills Classes. Life skills classes provide training in skills needed for everyday functioning.
Adaptive Physical Education. These classes provide specialized physical education instruction for students who are unable to participate in regular physical education. Following an initial evaluation by the physical therapist, physical education teachers provide these classes in VISD.
Homebound. This program provides at-home services for students in all grades (not necessarily special education) who cannot attend school because of illness, injury or expulsion.
Pre-school. VISD provides a preschool program in which children with disabilities are included in classes with regular students. Students with disabilities who participate in the preschool program move to pre-kindergarten classes where special education and regular education teachers work in a co-teaching arrangement.
In each of these settings, VISD provides appropriate curriculum modifications and services. ARD committees composed of parents and professional staff members determine program eligibility and participation, draft individual educational plans and place or dismiss students from special education.
Exhibit 2-22 shows VISD has 21.8 percent of students placed in special education programs. VISD has the lowest percentage of special education teachers among its peer districts at 12.1 percent.
VISD, Peer Districts and State
Special Education Students and Teachers
District Percent of Students Percent of Teachers Dublin 13.0% 16.2% Godley 28.4% 12.9% Grandview 18.0% 43.6% Rio Vista 17.8% 16.0% Venus 21.8% 12.1% State 11.6% 10.3% Source: TEA, PEIMS, 2002-03.
The district offers a range of instructional intervention options before teachers refer students to the special education program. Students who experience difficulties in the classroom are provided with content mastery or other assistance, Creative Education Institute labs, summer school classes, tutoring and reading recovery. VISD trains its regular education teachers to identify students who need special education services. VISD also offers training in topics such as blending cultures together and non-biased assessment strategies to ensure that minority and economically disadvantaged students who experience learning difficulty are referred appropriately. Before a teacher refers a student to special education, the child’s teachers, counselor and principal share information to ensure the appropriate decision is made.
While the district provides special education students with a variety of programs through the Johnson County Special Education Cooperative, the district does not monitor the program for effectiveness. District parents expressed concerns regarding the implementation of special education programs. These concerns were also shared with the DEC peer review team in spring 2002. Interviews with district staff and feedback received from community and parent forum meetings during the TSPR visit to the district also indicate concerns over the special education program.
The TEA’s DEC special education report states that there is a “significant communication barrier between parents and district representatives in coordinating the delivery of special education services.” Interviews with the superintendent and district staff reflect concerns about the delivery of special education services by the Johnson County Special Education Cooperative staff. The review team learned that no communication methods exist between VISD and the cooperative staff to address issues as they arise. The implementation and monitoring of special education programs is the school district’s responsibility.
Eagle Pass ISD has established a Student Review Committee (SRC) at each school as a problem-solving entity to address special education student needs and concerns. SRC team members include the principal, counselor, special education teachers, classroom teachers and parents. Other members are added as deemed necessary, such as nurses, diagnosticians, therapists and others. The SRC team strives to ensure success for all special education students through reviews of special education services, interventions and parent involvement.
Develop a plan to make special education personnel from VISD and Johnson County Special Education Cooperative accountable for the delivery of special education services as specified in the student IEP plan.
VISD must hold all special education personnel accountable for the delivery of services to special education students as specified in their student IEP plan. This includes special education teachers and aides hired by the district as well as Johnson County Special Education Cooperative staff. To address these concerns, VISD must create a plan with effective monitoring strategies to ensure that all special education services and staff meet standards set by the special education IEP plan.
This plan must address important issues such as the responsibility of district and Johnson County Special Education Cooperative special education staff to meet all program requirements the district must also maintain ongoing and open communication between VISD and the cooperative and conduct ongoing evaluation of special education services as well as establish effective communication with parents of students in special education.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs forms a committee of district staff to include principals, counselors, special education teachers and parents and Johnson County Special Education Cooperative staff to review the delivery of services to VISD students. September 2003 2. The committee identifies areas of concern, gathers data and develops a plan to address the concerns. October 2003 3. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs presents the plan to the superintendent for approval, and the superintendent presents the plan to the board. November 2003 4. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs and the committee inform district staff and community about the plan through meetings. December 2003 Ongoing 5. The district implements the plan with principals monitoring implementation. January 2004 Ongoing
This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.