As I noted in my previous post, Monday’s meeting will include a special education update. The district has put together an improvement plan that is available in the community packet and I assume will be presented Monday night. Also in the community packet is a survey of 136 special education parents conducted by Hanover Research (attached). This study was conducted in August and represents a snapshot of the special ed program at that time. The good news is now we have a baseline that can be compared to future surveys in order to measure the performance improvement of the program. The bad news is the actual results of the survey.
In Section III of the survey, the satisfaction of 9 aspects of the program is measured. I will focus on the two that I think are most important: 1) The quality of special education and related services provided to your child (let’s call it service quality for short), and 2) The progress your child is making academically (academic progress). The study measures how many parents are completely satisfied and how many are somewhat satisfied. Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel “completely satisfied” is the benchmark a world class school district should strive for. Based on that, the satisfaction scores are 36% for service quality and 30% for academic progress. That is clearly a letter grade of F in both cases. The next page breaks it down by school, with Shepard clearly the lowest performer. Walden is the highest performer with 54% (still an F) for both service quality and academic performance.
If you lower the bar to just “somewhat satisfied” the grades improve, but are still not very good. For the district overall, service quality is 68% (D) and academic performance is 72% (C). The trend that is interesting here is that the middle schools are clearly poorer than the elementary schools. The middle schools still achieve failing grades even at the level of “somewhat satisfied”. Again, that jibes with the anecdotal evidence and comments that were heard in many board and committee meetings.
So what does all this mean? First of all, it means that there IS a problem with special education and it is now documented. The board and administration no longer have to take the word of the “vocal few”. They hired a legitimate company to produce a statistically significant survey with credible results. Secondly, it means that we have much room for improvement. The improvement plan must be specific and targeted with timelines and process ownership. The problem here is that we will have a change in district leadership between now and next August, when you would expect a follow up survey to be conducted. You will probably also have a change in board leadership. Regardless, we must not let that stop us from improving the processes and measuring the results.