DougCo schools gets passing grade for special education

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) Based on an evaluation of seven compliance indicators, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) determined that DougCo schools met the requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for the 2020-2021 school year.

DougCo students on individualized education plans (IEPs) mostly outperformed the state on all compliance and results measures, including achieving a 92% graduation rate vs. 79%.

However, the district saw a more significant gap in proficiency rates in math and reading for its eighth-grade and high school students than the state. This gap means there’s a larger difference between students on IEPs and students who aren’t in the number of kids meeting grade-level standards.

Areas below state average

DougCo also scored close to 15% lower than the state average on the percentage of parents who reported that schools facilitated parent involvement to improve services and results for children with disabilities. This metric is often a point of contention between parents advocating for their children and district leaders who don’t seem cooperative.

The district also fell short of the state's 100% target for students to receive a special education evaluation within 60 days of receiving parental consent, with a score of 97.7%.

Depending on a district’s performance, it can receive one of the following determinations: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, or needs substantial intervention.

How CDE grades schools

Before the pandemic, CDE graded its administrative units (which include school districts, boards of cooperative services, multi-district administrative units, or schools under the state charter school institute that provide educational services to exceptional children) on 14 indicators of compliance and performance.

However, since the pandemic caused disruptions to standardized test-taking, the state didn’t include participation rates for students with IEPs and achievement and proficiency rates for reading and math in their review.

Instead, the state focused solely on the following metrics:

  • Significant discrepancy of suspension/expulsion compared to state
  • Significant discrepancy of suspension/expulsion compared to state by race/ethnicity
  • Disproportionate representation in special education by race/ethnicity
  • Disproportionate representation in specific disability categories by race/ethnicity
  • Timely IEP evaluation (within 60 days of parental consent)
  • Timely Part-C-to-B transition (preschool to elementary)
  • Secondary transition IEPs with required components (ages 15+)

The CDE is required to release the performance report of each of its administrative units yearly.

Colorado gets failing grade

Colorado’s school districts aren’t the only ones getting graded on their IDEA compliance. The US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSEP) gave Colorado a “Needs Assistance” designation for the third consecutive year.

As a result of the repeated poor designation, OSEP can impose specific conditions on how the state spends its IDEA Part B grant and direct money toward areas that need the most assistance.

Colorado submitted a State Performance Improvement Plan (SSIP), including baseline data and “measurable and rigorous” targets for 2020 through 2025 for each indicator in the improvement plan.

No state received a needs intervention determination solely due to the impact of Covid-19 on data collection. OSEP says it's considering whether it will include testing data affected by the pandemic in next year’s determination.

According to the letter sent to CDE commissioner Kathy Antes, “In April 2022, the Department released an equity action plan as part of its efforts to advance racial equity and support underserved communities.”

OSEP could weigh existing indicators differently, like those directed at preschool children and over or under-represented racial/ethnic groups in special education.

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I'm a reporter covering the Douglas County School District in Colorado.

Denver, CO

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