North St. Paul – Maplewood – Oakdale
School District #622
Special Education Program Evaluation
North St. Paul-Maplewood- Oakdale Independent School District #622
2520 East 12th
Avenue North St. Paul, Minnesota 55109
Conducted by Nancy Johnson and Associates: Nancy Johnson
Table of Contents
Introduction ... 2
Summary of Special Education Program Recommendations ... 5
Special Education Enrollment ... 7
December 1 Special Education Child Count by Disability ... 8
Special Education Funding... 12
Standard 1 Special Education Staff and Facility Resources... 15
Current Best Practices ... 15
District 622 Findings... 17
Standard 2 Special Education Personnel Training Needs ... 20
Current Best Practices ... 20
District 622 Findings... 22
Standard 3 Materials, Supplies and Equipment ... 23
Current Best Practices ... 23
District 622 Findings... 24
Standard 4 Compliance Procedures for Identification and Service Provision ... 25
Current Best Practices ... 25
District 622 Findings... 27
Standard 5 Maximizing the Least Restrictive Environment Opportunity... 28
Current Best Practices ... 29
District 622 Findings... 30
Standard 6 Coordinating, Evaluating and Monitoring Special Education Programs... 32
Current Best Practices ... 32
Standard 7 Measuring Student Progress... 42
Current Best Practices ... 42
District 622 Findings... 43
Standard 8 Emphasizing Research Based Practices... 43
Current Best Practices ... 44
District 622 Findings... 45
Standard 9 Building Climate: Supportive Environment for Special Education ... 46
Current Best Practices ... 46
District 622 Findings... 47
Special Education Perspective Data... 49
Parents of Children with Disabilities Findings... 49
Administrators, Teachers and Paraprofessionals ... 51
This special education program evaluation was requested by Patricia Phillips, Superintendent of School District 622, as a means to examine current district special education programs and practices. This special education program review comes from a need to examine current district special education programs and practices as a result of student enrollment changes in the district and turnover at the district administration levels in the past few years. In addition to student enrollment and administrative changes, there have been many changes at the state and federal level for special education practices after the federal reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004 and the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Nancy Johnson and Associates conducted on-site reviews in District 622 buildings and sites on September 24-26, 2007, October 15-17, 2007 and November 9, 2007. In addition to on-site individual interviews with administrators, regular and special education teachers, special education paraprofessionals, parents, and school board members, perception data was collected from surveys from regular education teachers, special education teachers, special education paraprofessionals, administrators, and parents of students with disabilities.
Appreciation is extended to Superintendent Patty Phillips, the District 622 School Board, Special Services Director, Karon Joyer, district and building administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents who participated in the interviews and provided the requested information to assist with this evaluation. All participants are commended and thanked for their assistance, cooperation, openness, and for giving their time.
These findings show a high regard for special education teachers in the district and their strong commitment to their students. It was evident that special education staff are considered a great asset for the educational program in every building. General education teachers, special education teachers and paraprofessionals, and building principals
expressed the need for greater collaboration between regular and special education staff for improved outcomes for students with disabilities. The District and School Board are to be commended for their efforts to focus on improvements for the special education services for students with disabilities in the district.
The purpose of this special education program evaluation is to gather pertinent information and provide recommendations to the District 622 School Board and administration to improve the special education program of the district.
An analysis of specific special education data for District 622 has been studied in accordance with state and federal mandates, best practices in special education, student needs, and the School District 622 mission of: “A community collaborative dedicated to educating and empowering all learners to excel in our changing world.” In addition to the district’s mission statement, consideration was given to the six strategic directions for the district. They are:
1. Focus on Individual Student Growth and High Achievement 2. Focus on Attitudes and Actions that Assure Success for All 3. Align Schedule and Structure to Meet Student Needs
4. Modernize Technology to Increase Productivity, Learning and Better Prepare Students for the “Real World”
5. Engage in Professional Development to Improve Leadership and Quality of Instruction
6. Secure and Manage Money Resources Well Enough to Focus on Mission
The vision statement for the Special Services department for School District 622, which includes special education, is: Learners with disabilities will lead independent and productive lives and have respect for themselves and others.
This evaluation was conducted during the 2007-2008 school year. Data collected was from a diverse bank of resources including:
1. December 1 special education child count reports for the past six years.
2. Surveys with questions about special education best practices were disseminated and findings analyzed. Surveys were sent to stakeholder groups representing parents, district and building administrators, regular education teachers, special education teachers, and special education paraprofessionals. District return rates were:
District 622 Parents of students with disabilities 250 surveys returned
Regular Education Teachers 23% surveys returned
Special Education Teachers 52% surveys returned
Special Education paraprofessionals 45% surveys returned
3. 104 personal interviews were conducted including the following people:
Special Education Teachers Occupational Therapists Special Education Supervisors School Nurses
Special Education Auditor Special Education Paraprofessionals Special Education Coordinators School Psychologists
School Board Members School Social Workers
Directors of Special Services Director of Business Services
(current and former) Director of Teaching and Learning
Regular Education Teachers Building Administrators
Educational Speech/Language Pathologists
4. Special Education student caseloads by building and teacher 5. Current best practices research for special education
6. Minnesota Total Special Education System (TSES) information 7. Review of curriculum processes related to special education
8. Reports from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Funding Reports System
The program evaluation team consists of two special education administrators with multiple and varied experiences in teaching special education, special education and regular education administration, and leadership experience in continuous improvement projects.
Nancy Johnson has more than 30 years of experience working in public schools and private education. Nancy has worked as a special education teacher with certifications in moderate to severe disabilities, mild to moderate disabilities, learning disabilities, and emotional and behavior disorders. In addition, she is licensed and has experience as a Director of Special Education, Superintendent, Elementary Principal and Middle School Principal. Nancy is currently the Special Education Director for the Fergus Falls Area Special Education Cooperative, which serves 9 school districts in west central Minnesota.
Stacy Haugen-McAllister has more than 20 years of experience working in public and non public school educational settings. Stacy has worked as an Educational
Speech/Language Pathologist for the Fergus Falls Area Special Education Cooperative,
which serves 9 school districts in west central Minnesota. During those years, she also coached girls' basketball, volleyball and track and taught Driver's Education. She has a Director of Special Education license and K-12 Principal License. She is currently working as a Special Education Administrator for the Fergus Falls Area Special Education Cooperative. Stacy is also a peer compliance monitor for the Minnesota Department of Education.
The members of the program evaluation team found the School District 622 staff to be cordial, generally optimistic about potential changes, and they viewed this evaluation process as an opportunity for the district to implement systematic changes. Staff presented themselves as committed to the district, and the students they serve. During the interviews people appeared somewhat conflicted knowing that changes are needed and concerned about how the district will proceed with implementing changes.
When reviewing this report, it is important to recognize that the findings are based on trends that surface when all (and usually random) data collection sources are collectively analyzed. This report does not intend to discredit issues or concerns that were not identified as a trend across the district. It is recommended that specific or particular issues shared by District 622 stakeholders should be addressed with appropriate district personnel.
Improvement in the special education program for School District 622 can begin with the school board adopting the recommendations, suggestions, and plans presented from this report.
Summary of Special Education Program Recommendations
1. In every school district, communication is an essential component to program success. School District 622 staff need to follow and communicate clear and concise procedures and practices that are aligned to the district’s mission statement and philosophies. In District 622, staff are not aware of the district procedures and practices that guide decision making for special education. Areas unclear to staff are budget allocations for special education, planning and staffing for new programs, decision making at the district level for special education, and how staff development trainings are determined. Special education leadership must establish and follow systematic district guiding practices and
procedures that are clearly communicated to staff. Areas of communication must include the guidelines for special education budget allocations,
including planning and staffing for new programs, the district’s special education program philosophy and decision making, and staff training requirements.
2. Training for special education staff is vital for effective special education programs. Many staff requested training to become more effective in working with students with disabilities. Training is needed for District 622 special education staff and regular education teachers in the areas of modifications and accommodations for students with disabilities and effective collaboration. Training is needed for special education paraprofessionals for increased knowledge about disabilities and special education best practices, primarily
inclusion practices. Training is needed for administrators to support decisions and practices to include more students with disabilities in general education
classrooms within the district. Additional areas of training will be identified from a staff training needs assessment. The district needs to conduct a district-wide needs assessment to identify necessary staff development training and needs to provide training for all staff about how to work effectively with students with disabilities.
3. Parent responses strongly indicate positive connections with knowledgeable and dedicated special education personnel. Parent survey results show a general satisfaction with special education services from School District 622. Parents at all levels report good working relationships with staff and the special education team for their child. It is essential to continue these positive partnerships between parents and school personnel. Key practices to continue include: teachers communicating regularly with parents about their child, district level Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings, communication tools such as newsletters and electronic messages, parent representation on district committees, administrators participating in IEP meetings, and teachers seen by parents as advocates for students with disabilities.
obligated to serve students with disabilities from birth through age 21. Findings show that a full range of programs is not available in each disability category and school building of School District 622. There is inequity in the availability of special education services in buildings in the district. Students of transition-age (14+ years old) must be able to access transition opportunities in their own school district to prepare them for adult life after they leave school. The special
education program needs to provide a continuum of disability services for students of District 622. It is essential that students with special needs attend the school at the appropriate grade level with their community age mates. Also, the special education department needs to identify, support, and access existing community services and supports for transition-aged students in the District 622 communities.
5. Effective special education programs operate from a set of common goals and best practices. The regular and special education staff and administrators must adopt a common vision and attitude about how to best serve students based on established and communicated district mission statements and philosophies. The common vision must include providing services to students with disabilities in the same building that they would attend if they were not disabled and in the regular classroom with appropriate supports to the greatest extent possible. The current data shows that students with disabilities in District 622 are not being served in the least restrictive environment (LRE) when compared with other districts and with the state goals and averages. Data shows that in District 622 too many students are served in special education settings for too many minutes of each day and not enough students with disabilities are served in regular education settings. In addition, students from District 622 are served in separate schools, residential placements, and homebound or hospital placements at a rate more than twice the state average. District leadership must develop goals for LRE for students in the district to at least meet the state goals for percentage of students in each federal special education setting. Building administrators must put into practice the established least restrictive environment (LRE) goals for the district.
6. District 622 current organizational structure includes positions for special education supervisors and special education coordinators, in addition to the Special Services Director. Teachers and administrators need to understand the roles of these support positions. District leadership has recognized that they must clarify these roles, job duties, and responsibilities, and must
communicate the job expectations to regular and special education staff in the buildings. This is currently being addressed from the special education district leaders through consistent communication with teachers and
administrators across the district. The roles and job duties for supervisors and coordinators can be redefined for greater flexibility to meet the needs of the district and students with disabilities.
Special Education Enrollment
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) “captures” the special education child count for each school district on December 1 of each year. Special education child count is defined as a reporting to the Minnesota Department of Education the number of
children with disabilities receiving special education and related services on December 1 of each year. While it is understood that during the school year this number predictably fluctuates in each district, it is the measure by which year to year comparisons and
funding calculations are determined. Included in the special education enrollment are the students with disabilities who attend the nonpublic schools within the School District 622 boundaries and are served by public school special education staff.
An examination of District 622’s special education child count reveals an increase for the last four years with the number of students identified as meeting special education
disability criteria and receiving special education services. The increase in special education child count for District 622 does not follow an increase in the total district enrollment. Instead, there are more students with disabilities in the district as the total enrollment is decreasing. A three years’ comparison of District 622 K-12 total enrollment shows District 622 has 308 fewer students in the past 3 years (a 2% decrease) while the K-12 special education enrollment has gained 33 students (a 2% increase).
Total K-12 Enrollment
04-05 05-06 06-07 #change %change 15,125 14,707 14,817 -308 2% decrease Special Education K-12 Enrollment
04-05 05-06 06-07 #change %change
1,699 1,698 1,732 +33 2% increase Data from MDE website:
Further analysis using the December 1 child count shows an increase of 49 students receiving special education services in the last four years:
December 1, 2001 – 1,577 students in special education December 1, 2002 – 1,712 students in special education December 1, 2003 – 1,683 students in special education December 1, 2004 – 1,699 students in special education December 1, 2005 – 1,698 students in special education December 1, 2006 – 1,732 students in special education
students in the area of disability of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In 2004, there were 137 students in District 622 with ASD, in 2005 there were 167 students with ASD, and in 2006 there were 186 students with ASD.
This increase mirrors the national and Minnesota numbers for increased students with ASD. Several factors contribute to the increase in the number of students identified with ASD. They include better training and improved identification of autism spectrum disorder, a broader definition is now used, and possible undetermined environmental and genetic factors. The Minnesota rates for ASD are expected to continue to increase at a rate of 10-17% a year. The national rates for ASD show that during the 1990s, the U.S. population grew by 13%, the disabilities population increased by 16%, and autism numbers increased by 172% in the U.S.
December 1 Special Education Child Count by Disability
The special education disability areas that District 622 serves are listed on the grid on page 10. Information is provided according to the number of children in each disability area (horizontal heading) and by age (vertical heading).
Starting with the heading in the left hand corner of the grid “00”, read across as to the number of students that are not yet one year old and in each area of disability meeting special education criteria.
A further explanation of this grid would be: At the far left identified age of 7, the grid shows that 25 students are 7 years old and their primary disability area is
Speech/Language. Reading across shows that 3 students with a primary disability of developmentally cognitive disabled (DCD) - severe to profound. Continuing to read across will show that 2 students who are age 7 have the primary disability of a hearing impairment, 14 students with autism spectrum disorder, and so on. After reading horizontally through the grid of 7 year olds, the last column is the sum of all students of each disability category and indicates that there are 75 students who are age 7 and meet at least one area of special education disability.
It should be noted that some students meet one or more areas of special education. However, this unduplicated child count report indicates the child’s primary disability. Each student is reported only once and by their primary disability. This is also referred to as an unduplicated child count.
The upper right hand portion of the grid gives total enrollment and special education enrollment. District 622’s public and nonpublic school enrollment as of December 1, 2006 was 14,817, and the number of students receiving special education on this date was 1,732. The special education percentage of total enrollment in Minnesota public schools for 2006 is 13.7. District 622 special education percentage is 12% for 2006, which is less than the state average.
The grid’s bottom portion summarizes students by age groups, 0-2 years old, 3-5 years old, 6-11 years old, 12-17 years old, 18-21 years old, and finally the total 0-21 special education child count.
Students with disabilities in nonpublic schools located within the district’s boundaries are served by District 622 to a certain extent. The district is required to identify and serve students in nonpublic schools with a portion of the federal special education funds they receive. The report from MDE on page 11 shows the number of students with
disabilities served in nonpublic and charter schools for 2006-07. The amount of federal funds allocated from District 622 to be used for special education services for these students is $443.53 per student ages 3-21 and $419.42 for students ages 3-5.
Overview of Special Education Funding
In 1976, federal lawmakers passed the landmark special education legislation, PL 94-142, Education of Handicapped Children Act. This law promised to pay up to 40 percent of the excess cost for special education. However, the federal government has never paid more than 17.5 percent of special education excess cost, which results in the state and local districts paying for a greater share of the costs of special education.
State special education aid reimbursement
The State has agreed to pay 68 percent of the salary (excluding benefits) of special education staff, 52 percent of contracted services and 47 percent of related supplies, materials, and equipment. Starting in 2007, special education state aid reimbursement calculations are based on current year data instead of 2nd year prior base year data. The
State has not paid 100% of the aid that is expected. The estimate for 2008 is that the state special education aid will be 88.3% of the aid promised, which is less than the state special education aid reimbursement expected.
State Excess Cost formula
Excess cost state aid is generated when special educationcosts rise significantly above the base year. For example, a medically fragile child may enter the school district, and costs rise dramatically to care for that child. This sudden, unexpected budget pressure is relieved because this excess-cost formula kicks in. However, the State is only paying a portion of these costs. In other words, for 2008 it is estimated that districts will receive $81.40 for every $100 promised on this formula.
In most districts in Minnesota, the number of special education students is growing while the general student population is flat or declining. This is the case for District 622. The special education enrollment growth is compounded by the increased severity of the disabilities and the rising costs of their services. Meanwhile, state special education funding is flat. In 2003, a cap was placed on the State’s contribution to special education. The result of the cap was that the State limited the amount of money that it would
reimburse school district for special education costs. The net result was that districts thought they were due $10 to cover the cost of a special education student, but only received $6. Since 2003, this practice has continued, and the result has been that districts have taken money from their general fund to pay for special education costs. Without the special education program growth factors in place for the last four years, the inflationary costs of these programs went unchecked. The Minnesota Department of Education estimates that special education costs are rising at a 4% increase per year.
Special education is under funded. The shortfall means districts subsidize special education costs on an average of $467/pupil out of the district’s general fund. This cross-subsidy puts much pressure on the school district general education budget. In past years the legislature funded the basic formula allowance, but froze the special education
funding in the process. This leads the public to believe schools have received new revenue when, in fact, the shortfall in special education amounts to no real new dollars for school districts.
The federal special education funds have additional strings attached for their use. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that federal funds “…may not be used to reduce the level of expenditures for the education of children with
disabilities made by the local education agency (LEA) from (state and) local funds below the level of those expenditures for the preceding fiscal year…” (34 C.F.R. SS 300.203). This requirement is referred to as maintenance of effort (MOE). For those Local
Education Agencies (LEAs) that have not maintained effort, the Minnesota Department of Education will compare total local expenditures or on a per-capita amount and will review the LEAs local expenditures minus the state revenue to determine if the district’s local expenditures increased or decreased from the previous year. If the LEA local expenditures did not decrease, then the LEA has maintained effort. LEAs that failed to maintain effort from FY 2005 to FY 2006 will forfeit General Education Revenue in 2007 equal to the amount that they fell short in FY 2006 (Minnesota Statute 126C.21, Subdivision 5).
The report from MDE on page 14 shows the Maintenance of Effort calculation for District 622 from 2004-05 to 2005-06. The bottom number shows the district local average did not decrease from 2005-06 ($4,309.73) compared to 2004-05 ($4,089.17). This means the district met the maintenance of effort requirement for 2005-06.
In summary, special education costs continue to rise as state and federal funding for special education does not. Because of the pressure on the school district budget from rising special education costs, shortfall in state and federal aid, declining total enrollment, and increasing special education child count, it is critically important for the district to evaluate, monitor, and assess special education programs and practices on a routine basis.
Special Education Program Standards
The following pages compare District 622 information with standards for effective special education programs. There are nine standards listed for quality special education programs. Each standard is followed by current best practices in the field of special education and in Minnesota. Then, District 622 findings are summarized in the categories of strengths and weaknesses found during this program evaluation. Standards/Best Practices:
1. Quality special education programs provide the staff and the facility resources necessary for program success.
1.1 There are sufficient numbers of special and general education teachers and related service personnel employed to maintain effective teacher-student ratios.
Current Best Practice:
Each district must have in effect and on file policies, procedures, and programs that are consistent with the state policies and procedures that provide for measurable steps to recruit, hire, train, and retain highly qualified personnel to provide special education and related services to children with disabilities. These policies and procedures must be included in the district’s comprehensive Total Special Education System (TSES) plan. A highly qualified teacher is one holding a valid Minnesota license to perform the particular service for which the teacher is employed in a public school. All Minnesota teachers teaching in a core academic subject area in which they are not fully licensed may complete the HOUSSE process in the core subject area to meet the highly qualified status. The federal No Child Left Behind Act defines this process.
For students who receive direct special education less than 50 percent of the instructional day, teacher case loads (number of students that teachers case manage), are to be
determined by the local district’s policy based on the amount of time and services required by the pupils’ IEP plans. The state has indicated caseload limits for teachers who serve students who receive special education services more than 50% and up to 100% of the instructional day.
Minnesota rule currently states:
(1) For students who receive direct special education more than 50% or more of the instructional day, but less than a full day, special education case loads for teachers must follow these rules:
(a) Deaf-blind, autism spectrum disorders, developmental cognitive disability: severe-profound range, or severely multiply impaired, three pupils;
(b) Deaf-blind, autism spectrum disorders, developmental cognitive disability: severe-profound range, or severely multiply impaired with one program support assistant, six pupils;
(d) Developmental cognitive disability: mild-moderate range or specific learning disabled with one program support assistant, 15 pupils;
(e) All other disabilities with one program support assistant, ten pupils; and (f) All other disabilities with two program support assistants, 12 pupils;
For students who receive direct special education for a full day, teachers’ caseloads must follow Minnesota Rule:
(2) For pupils who receive direct special education for a full day:
(a) Deaf-blind, autism spectrum disorders, developmental cognitive disability: severe-profound range, or severely multiply impaired with one program support assistant, four pupils;
(b) Deaf-blind, autism spectrum disorders, developmental cognitive disability: severe-profound range, or severely multiply impaired with two program support assistants, six pupils; and
(c) All other disabilities with one program support assistant, eight pupils.
Minnesota’s Workload Consideration for Effective Special Education Manual outlines six elements that comprise most of the workloads of special education teachers. These six elements include specially designed instruction, evaluations and reevaluations, due process procedures and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) manager responsibilities, preparation time, directing the work of paraprofessionals, and other assignments for supervision of students. These duties for special education teachers are in addition to direct instruction with students with disabilities.
1.2There are sufficient numbers of instructional supports and materials available to assist students with disabilities in both general and special education locations.
Current Best Practice:
Instructional materials and any special equipment necessary to meet the needs of students with disabilities must be supplied to provide appropriate instruction, related services, and supplementary aids and services.
Instructional supports include educational paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals are district employees who are primarily engaged in direct interaction with one or more students for instructional activities, physical or behavior management, or other purposes under the direction of a regular education or special education teacher or related services provider.
For paraprofessionals employed to work in programs for students with disabilities, the school board in each district shall ensure that before or immediately upon employment, each paraprofessional develops sufficient knowledge and skills in emergency procedures, building orientation, roles and responsibilities, confidentiality, vulnerability, and
reportability, among other things, to begin meeting the needs of the students with whom the paraprofessional works.
Annual training opportunities must be available to enable the paraprofessional to
continue to further develop the knowledge and skills that are specific to the students with whom the paraprofessional works, including understanding disabilities, following lesson plans, and implementing follow-up instructional procedures and activities.
There must be a district wide process for each paraprofessional to work under the ongoing direction of a licensed teacher and, where appropriate and possible, the supervision of a school nurse.
1.3 Special education classrooms and service areas are located centrally within the school building and the general education environment.
Current Best Practice:
Classrooms and other facilities in which students receive instruction, related services, and supplementary aids and services must be essentially equivalent to the regular education program. Classroom and facilities for students with disabilities must provide an
atmosphere that is conducive to learning, and must meet the students’ special physical, sensory, and emotional needs.
District 622 Findings:
• Staff are observed and reported to be skilled, devoted, hardworking, professional, responsive, caring, and knowledgeable.
• There are sufficient numbers of special education teachers and related service personnel employed to maintain effective teacher-student ratios. See page 20 for building specific information.
• Most District 622 school buildings have appropriate space for special education which is centrally located, quiet, and conducive to teaching and learning. Exceptions are noted below and include North High School, Beaver Lake and Weaver Elementary.
• The basis of inclusion is programming for students with disabilities in regular education classrooms. In District 622 there is a commonly held belief from both regular and special education teachers and some administrators that students with disabilities cannot be included in general education classrooms without
paraprofessional support. This limiting belief hinders collaboration between regular and special education teachers and is an artificial barrier to inclusion for students with disabilities. When staff do not consider inclusion, and pre-referral classroom interventions are not developed and carried out, this results in more students being referred for special education services.
ratio to implement a successful and collaborative special education program. There are sufficient numbers of special education teachers in District 622; however, the class sizes for general education are high because of current education funding and district budget reductions. The large number of students in regular education classrooms makes successful inclusion practices challenging. Given this increasing class size trend, it is common for classroom teachers to not implement essential student adaptations as indicated in the students’ IEPs due to the time it takes to implement them.
• It is an important goal for the district to serve resident students in the district programs and buildings as much as possible. This is an area of concern for District 622. District 622 has too many students served in Federal Setting 4. Federal Setting 4 is when students with disabilities are served in separate schools, residential placements, or homebound or hospital placements. These students are not attending school in the District 622 regular school buildings and programs. The Minnesota average for 2005-2006 is 4.74% of students with disabilities were served in Federal Setting 4. The District 622 average for 2005-06 is 10.3% of the students were served in Federal Setting 4. This is more than double the state average. The State goal for 2007-08 is 5% of students with disabilities served in public or private separate schools, residential placements, or homebound or hospital placements, which is Federal Setting 4. There has been an effort over the past few years to bring students who have been served in other placements and separate schools back into District 622 buildings and programs. That effort needs to continue and receive increased emphasis in order to meet the state average and expected levels.
• A frequently cited staff concern is the lack of understanding regarding the appropriation process for the special education budget in order for staff to access classroom materials, curriculum, and equipment. Some teachers report that they are not able to purchase curriculum and materials this school year for their special education classrooms, and teachers are not sure why and how changes have been made in the purchasing materials process.
• Some buildings have inadequate instructional spaces as perceived by staff in specific buildings: North High School has one hallway that is mainly special education classrooms and is separated from general education classrooms. The special education classrooms are not centrally located and are not regarded as adequate space for special education programs. Beaver Lake building is reported by staff to have serious indoor environmental concerns. Weaver Elementary is reported by staff to have too small special education classrooms with poor air quality and located near noisy areas of the building.
Unduplicated Special Education Teacher Average Caseload
In order to determine the number of students for whom each special education teacher is a case manager, information was collected for each special education teacher in each building. The following chart shows the average students to special education teacher ratio by building. Related service providers, such as educational speech language pathologists and social workers, are not included in this information as it focuses on special education teachers. It is noted that speech language pathologists are case managers at some elementary buildings, and those students are not included in this summary chart. The number of students with disabilities for whom a teacher is case manager range from 5 to 22 students per special education teacher of Learning Disabilities (LD), Emotional Behavior Disorders (EBD), Other Health Disabilities
(OHD), and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) -- LD/EBD/OHD/ASD. The ratios range from 6 to 12 students per Development Cognitive Disabilities (DCD) teacher and
teachers designated as case manger for students in a Functional Academic Needs (FAN) program. The FAN program is newly implemented in District 622 for the 2007-08 school year.
For the high schools, the average case manager ratio for LD/EBD/OHD/ASD is 16.2 students per special education case manager; for the middle schools, the average ratio is 13.8 students; and for the elementary schools, the average is 14.6 students per case manager. These ratios indicate that there are sufficient numbers of special education teachers employed to maintain effective teacher-student ratios for special education services. It is preferable in a district to distribute student caseloads evenly for special education teachers as much as possible within each building and across the district. This may require reassignment or adjustments of special education staff from year to year as student enrollment changes
It is common that special education teachers for students with developmental cognitive disabilities (DCD) have fewer students per teacher than teachers of LD/EBD/OHD/ASD. This is because students with DCD often receive more special education minutes per day due to their greater needs than students with milder disabilities.
The chart below indicates each building, the number of full time equivalent (FTE) special education teachers per building, the number of students with disabilities served by LD, EBD, and DCD teachers, and the number of special education paraprofessionals. This is a snapshot of the information from October 2007, and is frequently changing throughout the school year. It does not include the students who are case managed by educational speech language pathologists, except for Beaver Lake, and other service providers such as occupational therapists, school nurses and social workers.
The purpose to include this information is to determine if there are sufficient numbers of special education staff employed for effective teacher-student ratios, and if the student teacher ratios are comparable from building to building.
School Building Disability Special Education Students/Special Education Teachers Average Student to Teacher Ratio Special Education Paraprofessionals
North High School LD/OHD/EBD/ASD DCD 160 / 10 FTE 25/2 FTE 16 12.5 9
Tartan High School LD/OHD/EBD/ASD
DCD 164 / 10 FTE12/1
John Glenn Middle
School LD/OHD/EBD/ASDDCD 79 / 6 FTE7/1
School LD/OHD/EBD/ASDDCD 72/ 5 FTE16/2
School LD/OHD/EBD/ASD 83/ 6 FTE 13.8 7 Carver Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD
DCD 48 / 3FTE8/1
Castle Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD 37/ 3 FTE 12.3 3 Cowern Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD
DCD 21 / 1 FTE6/1 21 6 8 Eagle Point Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD 43 / 4 FTE 11 6
Oakdale Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD
DCD 33 / 2 FTE12/2 16.5 6 7 Richardson Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD DCD 36 / 2 FTE10/1 18 10 6
Skyview Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD
DCD 24/ 3 FTE10/1
Weaver Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD 30 / 3 FTE 10 7 Webster Elementary LD/OHD/EBD/ASD
DCD 40/ 2 FTE7/1 FTE
Beaver Lake ECSE and speech
EBD and Transition 96 / 12 FTE66/ 6 FTE
Gladstone ECSE/ASD 28 / 5 FTE 5.6 7
2. Quality special education programs involve all personnel who work with students with disabilities in appropriate training to strengthen their ability to provide effective services.
2.1 All personnel who work with students with disabilities attend relevant training sessions during the school year.
Current Best Practice:
Personnel development is a structure for personnel planning and focuses on pre-service and in-service needs in order to plan a program to meet the needs of pupils with disabilities. Districts must develop staff development activities that include all personnel who work with students with disabilities.
Staff development activities may include curriculum development and curriculum training programs, and activities that provide teachers, paraprofessionals, and other members of teams training to enhance team performance. The school district may implement other staff development activities required by law and activities associated with professional teacher compensation models.
2.2 The topics offered for training sessions are identified on the basis of the building or district’s needs.
Current Best Practice:
The district must conduct an assessment of local needs when determining staff development needs. Regular and special education staff need to have regular
opportunities to assess their individual, building, and district training needs. A needs assessment must be conducted with the involvement of teachers, including teachers participating in special education programs. The needs assessment must take into account the activities that need to be conducted in order to give teachers the means, including subject matter knowledge and teaching skills, to provide students with the opportunity to meet challenging state and local student academic achievement standards. The assessment must also include components to give principals the instructional
leadership skills to help teachers.
To be eligible to receive Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) money under the federal law, school districts need to conduct an assessment of local needs for professional development. The purpose of a Comprehensive System of Personnel Development is to provide staff development at both the pre-service and in-service level that is focused on maximizing the benefit to students with disabilities in need of specialized instruction.
2.3 Teachers are prepared to address the learning needs of students and to
select strategies to improve academic achievement.
Current Best Practice: Staff development activities:
(1) Focus on the school classroom and research-based strategies that improve student learning;
(2) Provide opportunities for teachers to practice and improve their instructional skills over time;
(3) Provide opportunities for teachers to use student data as part of their daily work to increase student achievement;
(4) Enhance teacher content knowledge and instructional skills; (5) Align with state and local academic standards;
2.4 Special education staff are included with regular education staff for training with new and existing curriculum writing, planning, and delivery.
Current Best Practice:
Special education staff are included with regular education staff for activities involving curriculum review, writing, and planning. The current plan for curriculum review and planning must be on file in the administrative offices of the district and with the State Commissioner of Education. The district must submit status reports on implementing the plan as requested by the Commissioner of Education. The current plan must be reviewed at least every six years and be revised as necessary.
Minnesota Rule includes the provision for each school board in each district to adopt a written plan to assure that the curriculum developed for use in district schools establishes and maintains an inclusive educational program. An inclusive educational program is one that employs a curriculum that is developed and delivered so that students and staff gain an understanding and appreciation of:
1. The cultural diversity of the United States. Special emphasis must be placed on American Indians/Alaskan natives, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, Black Americans, and Hispanic Americans. The program must reflect the wide range of contributions by and roles open to Americans of all races and cultures. 2. The historical and contemporary contributions of women and men to society.
Special emphasis must be placed on the contributions of women. The program must reflect the wide range of contributions by and roles open to American women and men.
3. The historical and contemporary contributions to society by persons with disabilities. The program must reflect the wide range of contributions by and roles open to Americans with disabilities.
The school district may implement other staff development activities required by law and activities associated with professional teacher compensation models.
District 622 Findings: Strength(s):
• Special education teachers are included on district and building staff development teams. It is important for general education and special education staff to plan for common training to enhance the opportunities for collaboration for better outcomes for students with disabilities.
• Special education staff including special education paraprofessionals report a need to provide disability-specific trainings for special education
special education staff survey results. Special education teachers also voiced concern with the lack of disability specific trainings on scheduled staff
development days. Teachers, both regular and special education, indicated the need for both groups to be included in common staff development training in the district which has not been the common practice.
• There is a need for training opportunities for administrators, special and general education teachers about inclusion (special education students receiving their individualized education program services in the regular education classroom) and providing accommodations for students with disabilities. Surveys indicate that staff do not believe that there are adequate instructional supports and materials for students in the regular classroom.
• There is a wide range of willingness, confidence, and ability levels of regular education teachers for the implementation of modifications for students with disabilities in their classrooms. Not all teachers indicate a willingness to make adjustments for students with disabilities. Building administrators need lead staff concerning the importance of required special education adaptations and how essential it is to collaborate with special education staff for increased inclusion for students with disabilities in District 622.
• Staff are not able to identify a needs assessment tool used to determine training needs for district staff development. A needs assessment can assist with planning and prioritizing staff development needs for regular and special education teachers, related service staff, and special education
3. The range and variety of instructional materials, supplies, and equipment for the special education programs are sufficient to meet the needs of students. 3.1 Materials, equipment, and supplies appropriate to a variety of learning
styles and learner characteristics are available in special and general education classrooms.
Current Best Practice:
Teachers and staff are aware of specific budgets for special education instructional materials and supplies. The district has developed procedures and a process for purchasing materials and supplies. Student learning styles and characteristics are considered when materials are purchased. The district’s curriculum review process ensures that the needs of students with disabilities are considered in decisions regarding adoption or purchase of curricular materials. District adopted curricular materials are accessible to all students (universally designed). Building principals work with the special education leaders to advocate for sufficient resources that support high-quality
3.2 The materials, supplies, and equipment in the special education program are adequate, current, and in good condition.
Current Best Practice:
The district has procedures in place to provide curriculum for all students, including students with disabilities. Technology is updated and available to special education students and teachers. Educational software is utilized in the special education programs. District 622 Findings:
• CAMPUS software is provided for special education paperwork. The CAMPUS program is a student data system that tracks student information. Address, phone number, guardian contact information, student schedule, grades, and special education status are the basics of this system. Special education staff use CAMPUS for paperwork requirements necessary to be in compliance with state and federal guidelines when serving a student with a disability. Forms are available on CAMPUS that align with special education due process requirements. Even though there could be improvements with CAMPUS, special education teachers need and have a special education due process and IEP software program provided with CAMPUS.
• As federal and state regulations change and/or are updated, required special education forms also need to be updated. These updates are not always timely which results in frustration for staff. In addition, when changes to CAMPUS do occur, staff report that regular updates are not communicated to them.
• There is a lack of information provided and a process defined regarding purchasing for special education. The process for requesting materials and curriculum is not consistent from year to year or from building to building and has not been communicated to special education teachers and building
administrators. Many teachers and administrators indicated frustration with the ordering and approval process.
• The process for technology requests is not clearly understood by teachers who report waiting a week or longer for help when there are problems with
classroom computers and printers. Waits and delays are variable from building to building which may indicate problems with the process or allocation of technology support in the district.
• Many teachers and administrators reported that as new special education programs are implemented, such as Functional Academic Needs (FAN), they are not aware of any provision for necessary supplies, materials, and
program was not adequate. They did not understand the reason for the
change, the process, and the implementation, which is still causing confusion, frustration, and questions.
4. Quality special education programs meet state and federal compliance standards to identify students with disabilities and to provide special education services.
4.1All state and federal regulations and guidelines pertaining to special education pre-referral, referral, evaluation, and placement are carried out effectively, efficiently, and in a timely manner.
Current Best Practice:
The Minnesota Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process (MNCIMP) provides a vehicle for Minnesota Department of Education oversight of due process and procedural safeguards, conferred educational benefit for special education students, as well as the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education. Minnesota Department of Education has the authority to ensure that each district demonstrates general compliance and
continuous improvement in the implementation of the full provisions of the federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Each district is monitored for compliance under one of two options: Traditional Review (TR) or Self-Review (SR). Traditional Review identifies a district’s compliance status during a state monitoring visit and follow-up visit. Self-Review brings compliance and special education program evaluation into a single strategic plan to improve due process compliance and program results for students with disabilities. In order to participate in Self-Review, a district must maintain general due process compliance. Once considered to be in general compliance, a district may self-select to join SR.
Both Traditional Review and Self-Review include a site visit from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) staff when records are reviewed, staff interviewed, facilities visited and stakeholder information collected. After the monitoring visit, the district is provided data regarding students not eligible for special education. The district is given the opportunity to provide information that existed at the time of the monitoring visit but was not available. The district is given an opportunity to refute any of the preliminary findings of non-compliance. All findings of noncompliance by the
Minnesota Department of Education must be corrected by the district within one year of notification.
4.2Adequate consultative services are available for general education teachers during pre-referral interventions.
alternatives, or interventions while the student is in the regular classroom. The student’s teacher must provide the documentation of the effectiveness of the interventions.
General education teachers need to have access to consultation services for designing interventions.
Consultation services for designing interventions are provided by a team. The team includes special education teachers, school psychologists, school social workers, and general education teachers. A systematic problem-solving model is used, along with documentation of student response to targeted interventions. Pre-referral teams are available to consult with regular classroom teachers on a scheduled basis. Flexibility and common planning times are included in staff schedules to insure access to pre-referral consultation services.
4.3School personnel actively encourage parent participation and effectively communicate program goals and options to parents.
Current Best Practice:
School districts develop a district philosophy for special education programs and practices within the district. A plan for continuous program improvement is developed and reviewed on a regular basis. Parent participation and involvement are actively encouraged. School staff are aware of special education programs within the district.
School districts must have procedures in place to ensure that the parents of each disabled student are members of any group that makes decisions for the educational placement of the student. Parents of students with disabilities have a right to be involved in the educational decision-making process by participating or being afforded the opportunity to participate at each IEP meeting to develop, review, or revise the IEP. At the time of contact, the district must inform the parents of their right to bring anyone of their
choosing to accompany them to the meeting. School districts must identify and develop procedures for conflict resolution when disagreements occur between the district and parents.
4.4Identification, placement, and grouping practices are determined by the needs of the students with disabilities.
Current Best Practice:
All students with disabilities are provided with evaluation and special instruction services that are appropriate to their individual needs. The student's needs and the special
education instruction and services to be provided must be agreed upon through the development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP team determines
appropriate goals and objectives based on the student's needs. The IEP team determines the extent to which the student can be included in the regular education classroom. Effective instruction, related services, or assistive technology devices are available to meet the student's needs.
The plan must address the student's need to develop skills to live and work as
independently as possible within the community. The Individual Education Plan (IEP) team must consider positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports that address each student’s needs. By grade 9 or age 14, the plan must address the student's needs for transition from secondary services to postsecondary education and training, employment, community participation, recreation and leisure, and home living. In developing the plan, districts must inform parents of the full range of transitional goals and related services that should be considered. The plan must include a statement of the needed transition services, including a statement of the interagency responsibilities or linkages or both before secondary services are concluded.
District 622 Findings:
• District 622 participates in an annual Self-Review of specific special education data through the Minnesota Continuous Improvement Process (MNCIMP). This process identifies areas of high, medium, and low priority for special education needs in the district. MNCIMP plans are posted on the District 622 website and available for review.
• TAT (Teacher Assistant Team) and Pupil Needs Committee (PNC) teams are organized in some buildings. These teams are responsible to develop classroom interventions for student behavior and/or learning before a special education referral is initiated. Some building teams have additional duties to monitor special education due process for students receiving special education services.
• District 622 has had few formal disputes with parents over the past years. Since 1998, there have been only four formal complaints made from parents to the Minnesota Department of Education in regard to Special Education service provision by the district. This indicates that the district staff work hard to resolve disputes with parents at the local level.
• District 622 has a wide range of related services personnel employed including school social workers, school psychologists, and school nurses. These highly trained staff can be an integral part of planning and evaluating interventions for students who are not making adequate progress.
• There is no district philosophy known or identified by staff for special education programs and practices within the district. There are significant differences from building to building in the provision of special education services. There is a sense in the district that special education teachers have their own individual programs without guidance, oversight, support and accountability from administration.
education services, from the least restrictive to the most restrictive placement, to meet the needs of their students with special needs. The district plan should include serving students in the school that they would attend if they were not disabled.
• Students with disabilities in District 622 are not participating in the general education curriculum with nondisabled peers to the maximum extent possible. Students with disabilities ages 3-5 are not served in the least restrictive
environments (LRE) with their typically developing peers at the rate expected by the state. The state average for children with disabilities ages 3-5 served in environments with same aged peers without disabilities is 50.5%. The District 622 rate is 37.7%. This means too many students ages 3-5 are served in settings that do not include children without disabilities. The state goal for 2007-08 is that 60% of preschool children with disabilities are served in settings that include children without disabilities.
• Students of school age are not served in special and regular education classrooms an appropriate amount of time each day when compared to state averages.
Special education in Federal Setting 1 is when a student is served in a special education setting up to 21% of the school day, and the rest of the time is in the general education classroom. The 2005-2006 average in Minnesota for Federal Setting 1 is 60.4% of special education students. The 2005-06 average in District 622 is 49.5%% of students served in Federal setting 1. This means too many students in District 622 are not in the regular classroom enough time during the school day and are served in a special education location over 21% of the time. The goal is to have students in Federal Setting 1 for special education to the greatest degree to participate with students without disabilities the majority of time. The state goal for 2007-08 is 61.5% of students with disabilities in Setting 1.
• Staff survey results (Question 8 on page 54) and staff interview comments show that collaboration between regular and special education is a weak area. Both special education and regular education teachers report that they do not know enough about the student’s regular education program and IEP contents. The goal is that regular and special education teachers know and understand both regular and special education programming for the student.
5. Quality programs for students with disabilities maximize students’ participation in the general curriculum with non-disabled peers.
5.1Special education programming includes a full array of service delivery options with the goal of inclusion in the general education curriculum and setting.
Current Best Practice:
School districts must ensure that a continuum of placements is available to meet the needs of pupils for special education and related services. A full array of service delivery options includes instruction in regular classes, in special classes, in special schools, home instruction, and instruction in schools and hospitals.
School districts must make provisions for supplementary services, including resource room or itinerant instruction, to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement. The primary focus of programming is the general education curriculum and setting when appropriate.
5.2School personnel make every effort to serve students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.
Current Best Practice:
School districts determine a philosophy for the provision of special education services. The general education setting is presumed to be the least restrictive setting for students with disabilities. Individual Education Plan (IEP) teams determine the extent, if any, to which the student will not participate with students in the regular education setting. To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities must be educated with students who do not have disabilities and must attend regular classes. A student with a disability shall be removed from a regular educational program only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in a regular educational program with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be accomplished satisfactorily. Furthermore, there must be an indication that the student will be better served outside of the regular classroom.
5.3General and special education staff collaborate to enhance student learning.
Current Best Practice:
General and special education staff are trained in effective collaboration techniques. Students’ learning styles and needs are identified. Teachers’ schedules include common planning time for collaborative efforts with other staff to meet the unique learning needs of all students.
Inclusion of students with disabilities into the regular classrooms has brought about teams of general and special education teachers working collaboratively to combine their
professional knowledge, perspectives, and skills. Regular and special education teachers share goals, decisions, classroom instruction, and responsibility for students. Planning for effective collaboration takes place at the district, building, and classroom levels. In addition, education and training for collaborative skills, teaching techniques, content subject areas, knowledge of disabilities, individualization, and accommodation should be incorporated into all teacher preparation and professional development activities.
5.4General and special education staff share responsibility for the educational achievement of students with disabilities.
Current Best Practice:
IEP teams determine how the student will participate in general and special education settings. The IEP includes information about the team’s decisions for how the
educational achievement for each student will be determined. General and special
education staff roles and responsibilities are outlined in the IEP. Both general and special education staff have shared responsibilities for student achievement. The primary
responsibility for general education teachers is to instruct students in curricula determined by the school system. The primary responsibility for special education teachers is to provide instruction by adapting and developing materials to match the learning styles, strengths, and special needs of each of their students.
5.5Students with disabilities have opportunities to participate in all school programs.
Current Best Practice:
School districts have policies that include all students’ participation and involvement in all school programs. IEP teams determine appropriate accommodations or modifications that support students with disabilities in their participation in school programs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that supplemental services and assistive technology be provided when necessary to students who receive special education services. While the benefits of such supports can be used to meet the academic needs of students with disabilities, supplemental services can also contribute to the social needs of students in activities outside the regular school day.
5.6Students with disabilities have access to nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, including special transportation if required.
Current Best Practice:
School districts must establish procedures for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities for all students in the district, including students with disabilities. Nonacademic activities including lunch, recess, and other school programs must be accessible to all students. Students with disabilities may require special transportation as a related service to participate in their educational program.
District 622 Findings: Strength(s):
• Over the past three years, District 622 is decreasing the number of students who are served in “out of district” placements and separate schools. There has been an effort to return resident students to the school building that they would attend if they were not disabled. This is very important to continue bringing resident
• Inclusion opportunities vary from building to building within the school district. It is important to note that students with disabilities are general education students first. They are to receive special education support services in conjunction with the general education curriculum. The district must focus on inclusion for students with disabilities at every building in the district.
• Data shows that students with disabilities in District 622 are not being served in the least restrictive environment (LRE) when compared with other districts and with the state goals and averages. The state average is 50.5% of students with disabilities ages 3-5 are served in environments with same aged peers without disabilities. The District 622 rate is 37.7%. This means too many students ages 3-5 are served in settings that do not include children without disabilities. For school aged students, the average in Minnesota in 2005-06 for students with disabilities served in Federal setting 1 (up to 21% of the time in special education) is 60.4%. District 622 in 2005-2006 had 49.5%% of students served in Federal setting 1. This means too many students in District 622 are not in the regular classroom enough time during the school day. In addition, students from District 622 are served in separate schools, residential placements, and homebound or hospital placements at a rate more than twice the state average. District leadership must develop goals for LRE for students in the district to be
comparable to the state goals for percentage of students in each federal special education setting. Implementation at the building level with administrative leadership is essential to reach these district goals. To summarize, District 622 has too many students with disabilities served in special education settings for too many minutes of each day and not enough students with disabilities served in regular education settings.
• Overall, staff do not report a sense of shared responsibility between general education and special education for students with disabilities. Many teachers and administrators in the district do not believe that educating special education students is a shared responsibility. Comments such as, “I feel as though special education functions totally independent from the regular classroom,” were
commonly said by both regular and special education teachers and administrators.
• There is conflict for special education teachers between providing support to students with disabilities in the mainstream curriculum and providing these students specially designed instruction based on the student’s IEP. Tutoring students through mainstream classes appears to be a widely used special education resource room practice in District 622. However, special education services are to include teaching skills and strategies for students to be successful in the general education classes. If special education teachers use their time as