Musings on the special ed report
In the wake of the Michael Steele flap, the special master's encouraging report on special ed progress in the city was more good timing for Dr. Alonso. He vowed to be out from under the quarter-century-old lawsuit by 2011.
Yesterday's press conference at Maryland Public Television -- Alonso and Dr. Grasmick were there anyway for a state superintendents meeting -- was a lovefest between city and state officials who, as Steele reminded us this week, couldn't stand each other just a few years back.
For anyone with a lot of extra time this weekend, I'm posting the special master's report. For everyone else, here are some things that stuck out to me that didn't get into my story today -- including more details of the problems with special ed in the city's secondary schools, which are not recommended for court relief:
-- The report says there is “serious engagement in work focused on meeting the objectives of the (court case) and marked progress in a range of areas.”
-- As the system continues decentralizing, “the big question is whether local schools will be able to step up to the challenge” of meeting the court’s requirements on a sustained basis.
-- It's clear that the central office is now “capable of driving improved compliance in any specific area for particular audits or time frames through focused, intense work. Yet as Dr. Alonso has recognized, at bottom line, local schools must be capable of implementing appropriate delivery of special education and managing legal compliance.”
-- The system's improvement in MSA scores last year was better than the state average, but it's easier to improve from a lower starting point.
-- Some charter and contract schools “effectively refuse to modify their programs to accommodate special education students in anything but a straght general education program.”
-- To get into compliance with the measures monitoring graduation and school completion, the system must increase the graduation rate for students with disabilities from 32 percent to 42 percent. It must increase the school completion rate from 50 percent to 57 percent. Attendance, choices, access to curriculum, outcomes are “clearly improved... Yet, the annual exit data also depicts the grim reality that significantly more BCPSS students with disabilities dropped out last year, as in preceding year, than the number and percentage who graduated with a diploma.”
-- Forty-two percent of high school students were absent more than 20 days last school year.
-- Concerns remain in secondary schools about unofficial short-term removals that aren’t recorded as suspensions.