Birmingham Public Schools Systems Review of District Special Education Programs and Services Final Report

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1 Birmingham Public Schools Systems Review of District Special Education Programs and Services Final Report Conducted by Oakland Schools at the Request Of Birmingham Public Schools September,

2 A systems review was conducted by the Oakland Schools Department of Special Education upon request from the district. Specifically, the Birmingham Executive Director of Special Education requested that staff, families, and administrators be involved to identify the strengths and areas for improvement of the current special education system. The results of this review are intended to assist the Executive Director in development of improvement plans that will build on the existing quality of the programs and services offered. Opportunity was provided to all staff and an invitation to all families to give input. Response to the open invitation was small, 5 staff and 12 parents. Random selection of staff was made for an interview and record review of one student on their caseload. Questions addressed in this review are intended to assist in answering include: Are the programs and services aligned to meet current and projected demographic needs? Are procedures and practices articulated and familiar to district staff? Are current programs and services producing desired student outcomes? Do the program practices provide for a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) by providing access to appropriate curriculum? Do the program practices provide for FAPE by providing access to effective instruction? Do the program practices provide for FAPE by providing access to individually determined supports and services? Are district resources aligned for maximum effectiveness? Demographics: Birmingham Schools is a district of 8312 students (MSDS, November 2010.) Of this population the majority of students are identified by families as being of White Race/Ethnicity. The next most prevalent Race is Black with very few Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or Multi-Ethnic students. The minority of students qualifies for Free or reduced meals. A county center program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder has been operated by the district for more than years. Classrooms are located within the general education buildings of the district. Identification of Students with Disabilities Birmingham Public Schools provides SE programs and services to 985 students. 856 of these students are residents of BPS. The remaining 129 are either non-resident students attending the ASD Center Based program or students attending and served in Private or Parochial schools within the district boundaries. The district sends 49 students with disabilities to out-of-district placements. To better understand the district s identification pattern, the identification data was adjusted to include students placed outside of the district and remove from the data the out-of- 2

3 district students who attend BPS. The chart below shows this calculated identification pattern for BPS compared to the ISD and State Educational System. SEA % SEA: Anticipated # ISD % ISD: BPS Actual Anticipated Count # Difference from SEA Anticipated Difference from ISD Anticipated Identification Rate (10.73%) (-393) (-213) Male CI (-37) (-22) EI (-23) (-25) S and L SLD (-150) (-148) ASD OHI Birmingham identifies many less students as being disabled then typically seen in both the State of Michigan and Oakland County. They are to be commended. The number of students classified as Otherwise Health Impaired raises the question of process of identification and rigor of need for special education to progress. Of concern nationally and in Birmingham, is the large proportion of males being identified as eligible for SE. Use of Other Health Impaired disability category The district has a very high identification rate for OHI, particularly in the area of ADHD. Staff reports that parents who obtain a physician statement diagnosing ADD-ADHD generally initiate these referrals for identification. When asked regarding the reason for the high identification rate, staff reported that parents of ADD-ADHD might want identification to get testing accommodations. Some staff believe that OHI is a preferred eligibility category and that some students may be SLD. Other staff believe that, due to the rigors of RTI, parents speed up the process by getting a physician s statement. Concerns were raised that students are referred in High School rather than Elementary or Middle School. Staff interviewed expressed their opinion that the disability of ADD-ADHD does have an impact on educational performance leading to identification of the individual as one needing special education specialized services. A review of student records and staff interviews indicates that the identification of the educational impact of the ADD-ADHD is lacking the in-depth evaluation of the child s attentional performance as compared to the peers in h/her classroom. This also leads to a lack of identifying effective strategies/interventions to assist the student in developing attentional/effective learning and monitoring strategies. Goals and programs focus on the curricular impact of ADD-ADHD rather than teaching the student strategies to overcome the presenting behaviors of the ADD-ADHD. 3

4 For example, students are given extra time to complete work rather than strategies to complete work on time. Student Assistance Teams (SAT) and Response to Intervention (RtI) Each school has a SAT/RTI team in place. The RTI process is developing independently in each building which results in a lack of consistency in who participates and in the sophistication of development. Referrals to the teams come from teachers rather than through an identification process involving data on district or state assessments. Students are referred by the teacher to which they are assigned. All staff reported that the RTI process is not fully developed and that teams need ongoing training and support through implementation. Teams continue to struggle with making data based decisions and identifying research based interventions rather than tweaking current programming. General Education Supports The district has GE supports for struggling students including Reading Specialists, Intervention Specialists and Crisis Counselors. At the Secondary level there are also opportunities to receive additional support through X-Block and lunch period tutoring. The district has strategies for credit recovery such as PLATO, MI Virtual Academy and Summer School. All groups interviewed or offering input identified a concern that the GE teachers may not have adequate knowledge of how to differentiate instruction. The district has initiated efforts to increase staff abilities in this area. IEP Development Of the IEPs reviewed, all were in compliance with the 365 day timeline. Many did not clearly identify and analyze the student s areas of deficit, the impact on the student s ability to progress in the general education curriculum and the related necessary programs, services and supplemental aids necessary for success. This includes the mandatory and important components of the Present Level of Achievement and Functional Performance statement, goals, and accommodations and modifications. There is variation in the levels of staff ability to develop appropriate IEPs [see chart]. Development of a strategic, targeted IEP is the cornerstone of a student with disability s education. It is critical as a roadmap for instruction. 4

5 Level IEP Timely MET PLAAFP: Timely Data PLAAFP: Explanation PLAAFP: Needs Identified PLAAFP: Impact on progress Goals Match Needs Goals Accommodations Measurable and Modifications match needs Elem 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 50% 50% 50% MS 100% 90% 30% 50% 20% 20% 40% 70% 40% HS 100% 100% 7% 0% 0% 0% 54% 69% 62% The PLAAFP statements do not consistently contain all of the following: assessment data, an explanation of the data, the identification of the student s needs, and the impact of the student s disability on their performance in GE. Additionally, the PLAAFP often does not reflect the information from the MET resulting in not having all student needs addressed in the IEP. Assessments are referenced in PLAAFP statements but there is generally not assessment information for all areas of need. With the exception of Elementary level IEPs, an explanation of the data is rarely contained in the body of the IEP. The disconnect between the MET and IEP and the poorly explained assessment data leads to a lack of clarity and completeness in the identification of the student s needs. When addressing how the student s disability impacts the student s progress in the GE curriculum the statement Same age peers. was generally used. This statement does not explain how the individual s progress is impacted. The goals written for students do not match student areas of deficit in 50% of the IEPs reviewed. This determination was based upon a review of MET documentation and PLAAFP assessment data. In some IEPs there were goals without documentation of a deficit and in other there were no goals related to areas of deficit. Most goals were measurable, however, in instances when the goal was for the student to initiate a behavior (e.g. Ask for assistance ) the criteria was written as 4/5 times which is not measurable. Measurement of goal attainment is often written and monitored using documented observation rather than student performance data. Monitoring needs to be more detailed and frequent to be useful in evaluating the effectiveness of methodology. Accommodations/Modifications Most students have accommodations listed on their IEPs. These frequently do not have a foundation in the PLAAFP and are written in such a way as to make them appear optional. At times there are such a large number of accommodations listed that it would be unrealistic for them to be implemented in a GE class. There is no clear system of accountability for the provision of SE Accommodations and Modifications. Staff reports that students or parents may inform the SE teacher if they are not occurring in the secondary grades. Staff reports that some GE teachers, they believe, are utilizing 5

6 the recommended accommodations and modifications. Others report that some teachers don t feel that they need to do them. Several parents reported that they do not believe that the accommodations and modifications are occurring in GE. GE teachers are provided with information regarding the needed accommodations from the SE teacher in a variety of ways including copies of IEP pages and teacher made student profiles. The district has developed a process for developing Personal Curriculums for SWD through the modification of GE courses. The student receives credit for the course although on the student s transcript, there is an asterisk next to the grade. The secondary supervisor has directed that when providing a modified grade there must be documentation showing how the GE curriculum was modified including the identification of any GLCEs that were omitted. For this system review a request was made to review 3 personal curriculum requests based upon IEP indication of modified curriculum. Only one was provided. When asked about modifications to GE classes, SE teachers generally reported changing the way the student is tested, changing the grading rubric, limiting the outcome or expectations, or other output strategies. Many of these accommodations/modifications are done by the SE teacher rather than by the GE teacher. All students had accommodations or modifications written into their IEPs. These seemed to be a collection of possibilities rather than targeted interventions. There was frequently no identification of the need associated with the accommodation or modification. Many accommodations or modifications were written as suggestions or options and generally dealt with student output (additional time, testing, and grades) rather than how instruction would be differentiated. 6

7 Elementary (2 records reviewed) Middle School (10 records reviewed) High School (13 records reviewed) Repeat Directions Extended time for Tests Alternate Test Setting Extended Time for Assignments Books on Audio Modified Course Objectives Supplemental Notes Calculator Preferential Seating Books at Home Spelling errors not counted towards grade LRE/Continuum of Programs & Services The MI-CIS data portrait (November, 2010) for the district indicates that 60.34% of their students with disabilities are in GE classes 80% of the time or more. This is less than the SEA average of 61.6% and ISD of 63.9%. This data does however; include data for students in the ASD center program, which has a much higher FTE in SE than resident only programs. Resource Programs/Learning Resource Centers (LRC) are provided at all schools. Categorical Cognitively Impaired (CI) classrooms operate at the Elementary and High School level, Autism Spectrum Disorder classrooms (Center Program) are at all levels, and a categorical Emotionally Impaired classroom is at the High School level only. At the elementary level teachers either pull students out for services or work within the GE classroom. Middle and High Schools students are serviced within Special Education classes for Math and/or ELA, scheduled for a LRC or receive Teacher Consultant Services. The data indicates that there is an increase in the amount of services students are provided from Elementary to Middle School and from Middle School to High School. This may be due to the MS and HS scheduling structure which would schedule a student into an LRC for a minimum of one class hour per day. 7

8 FTE Grades (32%) 29 (33%) 10 (11%) 2 (2%) 2 (2%) 2 (2%) 4 (4.5%) 2 (2%) 4 (4.5%) 5 (5.7%) 88 Grades (27%) 51 (37%) 21 (15%) 6 (4%) 3 (2%) 1 (.7%) 7 (5%) 3 (2%) 2 (1.4%) 7 (5%) 139 Grades (21%) 57 (37%) 25 (16%) 2 (1%) 16 (8%) 7 (4.5%) 5 (3.2%) 2 (1%) 5 (3.2%) 3 (1.9%) 154 Grades (10%) 145 (57%) 0 (0%) 42 (17%) 0 (0%) 22 (8.7%) 1 (.4%) 1 (.4%) 4 (1.6%) 13 (5%) 253 Staff reported concerns that there was not a self-contained CI classroom at the Middle School. They also expressed concerns that there was a lack of appropriate options for students with EI. The LRC is designed to support students with disabilities with classwork but does not habilitate or remediate for areas of deficit. Students with emotional impairment are often in need of staff interceding/teaching/practicing with them to improve their ability to interact with the environment and peers rather than doing academic work. At the secondary level, the LRC is a credit class that meets for one hour five days per week. Classes generally have 5-10 students. Students can take the class as an elective during each semester. Although there is not a commonality as to how LRCs are run, they generally provide several of the following: academic support; work on study skills and organization, check planner, help to prepare for tests, provide help with assignments, provide a place to provide accommodations such as a place to take a test, modify curriculum; work on homework, check progress on goals, provide time to prepare for tests, provide instruction in reading and writing, behavior interventions, review grades, allow time to work on assignments, work on goals, learn self-advocacy and study skills. In general it appears that the LRC is a place where students have the opportunity to complete tests and work with support, receive assistance with staying organized, and assistance in preparing for tests. Teachers report that at one time there was a curriculum but there is not one used at this time. Between schools there is a difference in how the class is graded. Some schools provide a letter grade and other use a pass-fail system. Administration indicated that this is being rectified by moving to an ungraded structure. Staff stated that there are more students who could be serviced through a TC model or an option that was less than the LRC and that there were many students who do not need 5 hours per week of service but other options are not available Several staff made comment that the LRC was a safe environment for students and that students would stay all day if they could. Others stated that the LRC is not an aggressive program and that there is no real plan. 8

9 Of concern is that students spend approximately 5 hours per week in the LRC. For most students the needs, accommodations/modifications and goals specified in the IEP do not justify five hours of SE programs per week. All students have access to GE classes. Students from ASD classrooms attend with a paraprofessional. It is unclear if this is district policy, routine procedure or a result of use of criteria and evaluation of need. Paraprofessionals assigned to students individually without data is an unjustified decision. When paraprofessional help is considered data should justify the need, a plan made with targeted outcomes, and continuous monitoring of the plan to phase out support. Overall the consensus of those interviewed was that there is a need for a clearer model of a full continuum of services. Staff expressed that it was important that all teachers know the model at all levels to ensure that communications with parents are consistent and accurate. Curriculum Building level decisions are made regarding what classes will be scheduled each year, for what amount of semesters, and whether there is an academic lab associated with it. The department of special education in isolation then determines what classes will be offered to ensure that all students with disabilities will have an option for the academic classes they need. There is a lack of coordination, dialogue and data based decision making within this structure. The district has purchased the Universal Learning System (ULS) to be used within their CI and ASD programs. Teachers reported that the ASD and CI programs had not yet fully implemented the ULS curriculum. They were enthusiastic about this program and felt that it filled a need. They expressed a need to have time to prepare materials, become familiar with the program and felt that they would benefit from ongoing support during implementation. Strategic implementation follow up is critical for implementation of a program with fidelity. There appeared to be some confusion as to how the ULS math and reading programs interface with additional research based reading and math programs. Some appeared to feel that ULS was a comprehensive program and others viewing it as incomplete and requiring the additional use of math and reading research based programs. Reading Language! appears to be the backbone reading program for the SE program. It is a researchbased program that addresses all areas of reading as well as having a writing component. The program has a placement and progress assessment. The results of the assessment can be shared with subsequent teachers through the program s database. It is appropriate for students third grade and above. There are several district trainers who have some time designated to assist other SE teachers. Trainers also meet regularly with the Elementary Supervisor to discuss implementation challenges. Several teachers expressed concern that they could not spend the full 90 minutes per day of instruction the fidelity of the program is built on. They recognize that they can implement 9

10 through splitting the instruction between two days. Staff report looking for strategies, such as conducting two period classes, to increase the length of the Language! instructional period and are seeking administrative support in identifying options. Many staff have not implemented the writing portion of Language! though some have stated they will be implementing this component during the next school year. Teachers providing ELA instruction to students with more significant reading deficits use PCI. This is a research-based program designed for learners with significant reading deficits. Staff reports the availability of additional programs for the teaching of reading. These include Read Naturally, Rewards, Read Well and others. Progress monitoring is a critical component regardless of program being implemented. It provides data to inform further instruction as well as serving to keep parents informed of their child s progress. The district has a SE Reading Curriculum Committee whose goal is to develop a well-defined comprehensive set of curricular program, K-12 that addresses the instructional literacy needs of a wide range of learners with disabilities. Math Staff reports that there is not a cohesive special education math curriculum K-12 however a math committee has been formed and is charged with identifying appropriate curriculums. At the current time staff is using Essential Math, Connecting Math Concepts, and Equal and other research and non-research based programs. The Middle School and High School offer SE Math classes. A standard method for determining who will participate in these courses could not be articulated. At this time recommendations from Elementary and Middle School staff are used to make placement decisions. Staff felt there was a need for a common assessment, aligned with the GE curriculum, and independent of the math program that would assist in making these critical decisions. The HS SE Algebra class uses the same book as GE. Teachers stated that the advantage of the SE math class is that they can stop and review, have a smaller class size, and can individualize instruction. The disadvantage is that they often do not cover the entire curriculum. Consumer Math is designed for students with lower basic skills. The teachers report that there is no curriculum or text and are unsure if there is commonality between the two High Schools regarding content of this class. Post Secondary/Transition There are 20 students enrolled in the post-secondary program. The program has 3 classrooms that are designated ASD and 1 designated as CI. The three ASD are broken down by skills mostly related to ability to participate in community activities. Staff reports that there are adequate paraprofessionals to implement the community-based program. Components of the program are job skills, communication, and leisure and work skills. Some students are in the community all day and some only for short periods during which they work on developing functional community skills. Teachers in these classrooms report that they 10

11 are implementing the ULS curriculum that will address ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies as well as adaptive living skills. Some students within the classes do less community based learning with more time spent on reading and math general education standards. Staff and parents felt that there is a need to more clearly define the objectives of the program. Some felt that the inclusion of an academic component decreases the opportunities for other students to participate in community based programs. Others felt that some community experience, such as afternoons at the YMCA, were not productive and would be better used for instruction in academic skills. Students attend the program from the age of 18 to age 26. The program is not designed as a progression of skills and thus the same program is offered, with variations in job sites, for the 8 years of enrollment. The transition coordinator supports the program through arranging community job sites, attending IEPs, visiting job sites, arranging community meetings, and providing materials for parents and staff. Parents expressed the need to be better informed about the role and responsibilities of the transition coordinator and also expressed the need to have greater assistance in preparing for their child s exit from education and to adult programs. Post-secondary programs need to be designed to meet the coordinated needs of the student s EDP, transition plan and all other existing assessment data. Technology The SE department has purchased assistive technology tools and provided training to staff. Questions were raised during interviews on how this technology will be integrated into GE classes so that students will have ongoing access and how the district will evaluate the effectiveness of the technology implementation. At the current time assistive technology is rarely indicated as a supplementary aid on IEPs. Extended School Year Staff and parents felt that there is inconsistency in policy and procedure with regards to the consideration of ESY. Both groups felt that the district creates barriers to discourage true consideration and there is a need to have a more streamlined process for ESY. 11

12 Educational Development Plans Educational Development Plans are developed during 7 th grade. Students are responsible for developed the college/career center to complete the EDP. Teacher and counselor responses were inconsistent as who is responsible for developing EDPs for students with disabilities. Teachers report that there is no connection between the EDP and student schedules. It was unclear if the counselor or SE case manager assists SWD. The Counselors work with the SE Case Manager on the development of schedules. All agree that the Counselors are ultimately responsible for determining if the student is on track for graduation. Teachers report they have inadequate information to determine if students are on track for graduation. Counselors attend IEP Team meeting to review the student s progress toward graduation. Concerns were raised that there may be gaps in the completion of EDPs, especially for students with ASD and CI. Discipline/Behavior Intervention Plans for students with Emotional Impairment BPS manages behavioral disruptions by students with disabilities in a timely and appropriate manner. Staff interviews indicated that the behavior of students with disabilities is dealt with individually. The assistant principals, at the secondary level, respond to discipline referrals and maintain appropriate records. Staff reports that they are trained in Crisis Prevention Intervention and that, at the High School there is a Crisis Counselor who provides assistance. Staff did not believe that the foundations of CPI are systemic and thus its tenets are not used to prevent crisis situation and, during a crisis, that the first staff to intervene may not always respond appropriately. It appears that the district does develop Behavior Intervention Plans for recurring behavior problems. There appeared to be concerns that behavior plans are based more on anecdotal information than data and that Functional Behavior Analysis is not always a part of the plan development. Staff and parents report that there is little identification of antecedents. Some felt that the plans were more disciplinary in nature rather than vehicles to teaching replacement behavior or modify precipitating events. Staff and administrators may need training and a consistent protocol. The one plan reviewed had no functional behavior analysis, no data, and no specific strategies to teach skills, no program data collection and no review process. 12

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