Stories and Grievances: Special Education
Two Texas Schools in the San Felipe Del Rio SD Face Re-organization After Not Making Adequate Yearly Progress
The No Child Left Behind law sanctions schools that do not meet AYP. If the district and those schools are unable to meet AYP standards within the next two years they face a number of corrective action measures including lengthening the school day or year for students, replacing school staff relevant to the failure and significant decreases in management authority.
Schools face sanctions for AYP failures
By Jennifer Killin
Del Rio News-Herald, November 6, 2006
With the possibility of state funding cuts and the firing of campus and district staff, local school authorities are looking at ways to make the federally-mandated Adequate Yearly Progress grade.
For this go around, the district and all three secondary campuses received a “missed AYP” mark on the federal evaluation required under the No Child Left Behind law.
Del Rio High School and the district’s sixth grade campus (then Marion Russell Middle School, now San Felipe Memorial Middle School) are now in Stage 1 of AYP, meaning they both missed the grade for two consecutive years.
If the district and those schools are unable to meet AYP standards within the next two years they face a number of corrective action measures including lengthening the school day or year for students, replacing school staff relevant to the failure and significant decreases in management authority.
If the district or its schools fail to meet AYP requirements within three years, schools can be reopened as public charter schools or taken over by a private management company or the Texas Education Agency, according to TEA and NCLB guidelines.
In an unprecedented two-and-a-half hour round table style meeting, the SFDRCISD Board of Trustees sat down recently with leadership from the district’s secondary schools and opened direct lines of communication.
Board members were given the chance to educate themselves on the slew of tests required under laws and under what circumstances those tests can be administered and to which students and campus leadership was able to present their plans for improvement.
Principals at all three secondary campuses listed “mainstreaming” the student groups where rating problems have arisen as their first priority.
One of the areas where improvement is needed throughout the district under the No Child Left Behind law is the number of students enrolled in special education programs, Mary Ramirez, the district’s special education director, told the board.
Ramirez said congress says too many students are being identified as learning disabled.
“So they think we’re inflating our special ed numbers,” said board member Fernando Quiz.
Ramirez said that in 2004 the district had 1,258 students enrolled in special education programs. That number steadily grew and by 2006 it had reached 1,336 students, or 12.8 percent of the entire student population.
The state standard is 8.5 percent, which would require around 450 special education students in the district to be “mainstreamed,” meaning placed in general education classes.
While some parents and educators are grumbling about that strategy, for the TEA, the idea of mainstreaming seems to be the only way to go.
“Maybe it’s just time to move some of those students…which was the main goal of the program from the beginning anyway,” said TEA representative DeEtta Culbertson.
Many within the district also realize that some students use the special education program as a crutch and could become integrated into a general education environment easily.
“Special education is a vehicle to get student to mainstream education and should not be used as a label,” said San Felipe Memorial Middle School principal Jesse Guzman.
The three principals reassured the board that students who are introduced into a regular education environment would still receive some special education instruction during an adjustment period.
Special Education teachers are also being instructed to venture into general education classes to see what can be taken back to their own.
And, what if the district legitimately has a disproportionate number of special education students? Culbertson said the TEA is more than flexible when it comes to those situations, but was unable to fully elaborate on what flexible meant.
If all of this seems confusing, you are not alone.
In an age when standardized testing is the norm, educators are quick to admit they still do not fully understand the system or the compatibility between the state’s assessments and the federal government’s.
For example, at the state level, East Side Elementary was rated unacceptable, but passed AYP.
And the freshman campus, which as received more than $130,000 in grant money from the state for significant improvement failed to meet federal requirements.
At East Side the reason for the disparity is that on the state accountability test, science is one of the subjects factored, which is the only subject East Side failed to pass, but at the federal level, only reading and math are considered, giving them a thumbs up by NCLB.
And, the three schools marked “missed AYP” this year, including the freshman campus, were all marked “acceptable” by state standards.
What’s the difference at those schools?
According to the district’s superintendent of instruction Julio Ramos, it’s the number of subgroups evaluated when determining a school’s rating.
At the state level, the schools are judged on their entire student body, and are then evaluated on individual subgroups including African American, white, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged.
At the federal level, two additional subgroups are rated – Special Education and Limited English Proficient students.
Those two federal subgroup areas labeled all three schools as “missed AYP”.
“They just don’t jive,” said Del Rio High School Principal Jorge Garza of the two standards.
Copyright © 2006 Del Rio News-Herald