Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PSSA/ special education/ inclusion

This PG article explains how the special education subgroup is measured for AYP purposes, and suggests that the need to meet PSSA standards may be prompting some districts toward greater inclusivity of special ed students:

It also notes an upcoming change in state standards that will make it easier for districts to make AYP in the special ed subgroup.


Stephanie said...

I have been involved as a parent advocate for my daughter and other children with disabilities for the past 20 years. I wanted to share my perspective of the impact of excluding students with disabilities has on our districts AYP scores. Please bear with me on this lengthy posting. I will post this in 3 sections.

PPS used to have a REAL Inclusive philosophy where many students with special needs participated in regular education classes with non-disabled peers.

Many years ago advocates fought to have students with special needs included into the PSSA numbers because it forced the teachers and administration to teach the kids what everyone else was learning. Not a dummied down curriculum or a different curriculum. We welcomed NCLB and the high expectations that every child should and could learn, including students with disabilities, and it held school districts accountable.

Also during this time there was a decision on a 10 year lawsuit called GASKIN. The lawsuit states students with disabilities have been denied their federal statutory right to a free appropriate public education in regular classrooms with necessary supplemental aids and services. In particular, the plaintiffs allege that PDE has systematically failed to enforce the provisions in federal law requiring local schools and school districts to offer a full continuum of support services allowing disabled children to be educated in regular classrooms. Out of this Gaskin case, came a type of monitoring tool that forced districts to collect data and show where each student with disabilities were being educated.

Stephanie said...

This tool is called Penn Data (LRE Monitoring). This database told PDE if school districts were choosing to include students with all other non-disabled peers in the general education classes or if they were choosing to exclude students by sending them to full day programs in special education classes or to center schools. With this data, the Gaskin panel then labeled each district as being on a Tier.

Not being on a tier was the best, Tier 3 was being watched. Districts in Tier One or Tier Two would be subjected to new requirements as part of PDE’s regular cyclical monitoring of all 501 Pennsylvania districts. As part of the cyclical monitoring process, districts in Tier One or Two Tier would be obligated to provide data on inclusion practices and undergo specific staff training designed to target the particular LRE deficiencies identified in compliance monitoring. We can tract this via /Penn DATA and Gaskin Tier process that PPS went from not being on the watch list to tier 3 in 2005-2006, tier 3 in 2006-2007, tier 2 in 2007-2008, tier 2 in 2008-2009.

Stephanie said...

Prior to 2005, the Pittsburgh Pubic School District was not on the list because PPS was the MODEL district for including students with disabilities, the best and correct way (with supports!). The students with special needs were doing a good job and making progress toward meeting AYP, and the students were being taught the regular education curriculum to the best of the teacher’s abilities with appropriate supports and the kids were being successful. At this time, the Students with Exceptionalities department was run by a special education director who cared about parents, teachers and students.

When MR was hired the Director of Students with Exceptionalities position was changed, a different director was put into place and all of a sudden many students stopped being included and were being put into more restrictive placements, like special education classes all day or placing them outside the district in segregated places and programs.

Including students with special needs with appropriate supports was the key to success and AYP success! PPS used to have 3 full time inclusion specialists that moved around the district providing technical support to teachers and staff. Now, they don’t have any. This past year (2009) the school board voted to eliminate the Inclusion Specialists positions. The kids are not being exposed to the regular education curriculum, therefore not making progress in the general education curriculum or making AYP.

amymoore said...

Thanks, Stephanie, for the additional information. I don't think many people really understand the issues as they relate to special education. Just this afternoon, I had a discussion with an AA friend who thought that the subgroup reporting causes more harm than good. By continually reporting that the school failed to make progress due to its subgroups, the subgroups are being blamed. Your comments show the other side of the argument: if the subgroups are not recorded separately, it is easy to ignore them.