Special Education Progress and Commitment to Continue
The DCPS Office of Special Education (OSE) has made strong progress over the past year in six key areas:
- provision of related services
- IEP timeliness
- dispute resolution
- early identification of delays or disabilities for children ages 3-5
- Medicaid recoupment
- non-public monitoring and support
The Related Services team has dramatically improved their ability to manage and deliver related services necessary to help students succeed in school.
- They implemented the Non-Public and Charter Assessment Project, completing 98% of the backlog and 87% of all ordered assessments for DCPS students in non-public placements and public charters schools where DCPS is the LEA.
- Supported by the Office of Data and Accountability and the OSE Non-Public Team, Related Services is on track to begin the new school year with proper tracking in SEDS pursuant to OSSE guidelines and without untimely assessments.
- The team launched the Provider Management Application, an internal database used to monitor and ensure compliance to local, state, and federal benchmarks. The application tracks approximately 6,000 individual services per month and 2,912 assessments completed during the last school year. It also syncs SEDS to real-time management of related services.
- The Related Services Team also increased evaluation timeliness from 34% to 78% over the past year. The team has emphasized ordering timeliness for special education coordinators, timely monitoring and completion by related services providers, and centralized operating procedures for low incidence needs.
- This year, 100% of all Related Service Providers were evaluated through the DCPS IMPACT system.
IEP Instructional Support
The IEP Instructional Support team focused on improving the educational outcomes for students and fostering their independence.
- The team’s efforts resulted in a 93% IEP timeliness average in the district.
- They created and implemented an LRE Review Support Team that helps ensure that all DCPS students receive educational services in the least restrictive environment.
- The IEP Instructional Support team developed and launched the online OSE Reference Guide with procedures and guidelines relevant to the IEP process and made it easily accessible to all DCPS staff.
- The team created the infrastructure for exceptional services and supports for DCPS students with autism spectrum disorders, including the build-out of a best-in-class life-skills apartment at Cardozo High School, where students can learn the life skills necessary to live more independently after high school.
- The number of dedicated aides was also reduced in favor of appropriate services and supports that will help foster students’ long-term independence and success.
OSE opened a new, modern Early Stages Center – a free, comprehensive diagnostic testing facility that evaluates children ages 3-to-5 for developmental delays and identifies the services that will help them succeed as they enter school. Their efforts will dramatically increase the likelihood that these children start kindergarten with skills and abilities on par with their nondisabled peers.
- Early Stages has already increased the identification of children 3-5 years old as being eligible for special education from 440 (2%) as of July 2009 to 819 (3.8%) as of May 2010.
- Early Stages is on target to evaluate over 1200 children in FY10 (3-fold increase from FY09) and received over 1100 referrals to Early Stages in FY10.
The Resolution Team increased timeliness of HOD/SA response from 60% to over 90% over the past year. The team has also renewed focus on resolution sessions as a method of engaging parents and resolving disputes earlier. The investment in resolving Blackman/Jones has thus far yielded the following results:
- More than 300 cases were resolved prior to a due-process hearing this school year, creating more expedient solutions for children and families;
- DCPS currently has fewer due-process complaints than at any time during the last three years. In February 2008, 236 complaints were filed. In February 2009, 160 complaints were filed, while in February 2010 only 108 complaints were filed;
- Only 6 untimely backlog cases as of Feb. 28, 2010, compared with over 600 untimely backlog cases in June 2007;
- 90% of cases have been implemented timely this school year, compared with a 19.5% timeliness rate in June 2007;
- DCPS now proactively engages in providing relief to students before a court official has to do so. A reduction in the overall number of due process complaints filed –only five of those 108 cases above—resulted in a hearing officer decision. DCPS used settlement agreements to negotiate directly with parents in at least 54 of the other cases and parents and DCPS came to mutually agreeable decisions outside of the court system in 50% of the cases.
Recent improvements in the DCPS Medicaid unit resulted in more Medicaid dollars being allocated to provide services to students with disabilities and reductions to unreimbursed Medicaid claims.
- For the fiscal year 2007 audit of Medicaid claims, DCPS was able to reduce the number of services that cannot be reimbursed due to poor tracking or paperwork (“disallowances”) by more than 80 percent (from $13M to approximately $2.2M), bringing overall disallowances to their lowest level in at least five years. Fewer dollars in disallowances results in more dollars for special education programs which directly benefit students.
OSE has invested significant resources in monitoring and supporting DCPS students in non-public schools over the past year.
- The development of a new web-based application allows the non-public team to monitor key profile data for students in non-public schools. Improved data on non-public students enables OSE to be better prepared to serve them in the least restrictive environment.
- The non-public unit now has formalized processes for all key functions, including identification of process controls and specific responsibility for data and process integrity.
- As a result of interagency cooperation, non-public enrollment and related spending are better understood than ever before, which allows OSE to set and meet ambitious targets, resulting in improved services and reinvested savings.
- OSE has expanded the opportunities for older students to progress towards competitive employment through Project SEARCH. After the success of the inaugural year of the program, OSE will be expanding Project SEARCH in the coming year in order to provide this opportunity for more students.
Commitment to Continue
As we prepare for the upcoming school year, OSE is committed to building upon this progress and continuing to move with urgency to ensure that students with special needs are receiving the programming and services that they deserve.