CCPS special ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment au­dit pre­sented

The Calvert Recorder - - News -

Last spring, Calvert County Public Schools con­tracted with WestEd — a re­search, de­vel­op­ment and ser­vice agency — to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive eval­u­a­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, practices and ser­vices of its cur­rent special ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram. The project man­agers re­cently pre­sented the find­ings to the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. WestEd ob­served many ar­eas de­serv­ing com­men­da­tion and made a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions for fu­ture im­prove­ment.

Daniel Curry, su­per­in­ten­dent, said in a press re­lease, “We felt we would ben­e­fit from an in­de­pen­dent re­view to make us more ef­fec­tive and more ef­fi­cient. WestEd has given us a num­ber of good ideas.”

WestEd gath­ered in­for­ma­tion through a va­ri­ety of meth­ods, in­clud­ing in­ter­views, sur­veys, doc­u­ment re­views, class­room ob­ser­va­tion and com­par­isons with other school dis­tricts. Seven ar­eas of in­quiry that re­flect four of the CCPS Master Plan goals guided the project. The ar­eas of in­quiry con­sisted of: or­ga­ni­za­tion and con­tin­uum of ser­vices; poli­cies, practices and pro­ce­dures; staffing; stu­dent out­comes; fi­nance; data use; and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Over­all, the find­ings in­di­cate the special ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram is staffed with “ded­i­cated, hard­work­ing teach­ers and as­sis­tants who be­lieve that stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties can achieve at a high level,” the re­lease states. The district of­fers a wide range of pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to special ed­u­ca­tion staff through­out the year and greatly uses staff in­put in plan­ning the ses­sions.

In ad­di­tion, CCPS has es­tab­lished Stu­dent Ser­vices Teams (SSTs) in its schools to help iden­tify and sup­port stu­dents who are strug­gling or atrisk learn­ers, the re­lease states. A large ma­jor­ity of stu­dents with in­di­vid­ual ed­u­ca­tion plans are served within district pro­grams, in­clud­ing spe­cial­ized re­gional pro­grams. As such, the district has a wide con­tin­uum of ser­vices and pro­grams avail­able to meet the needs of its stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties.

The school sys­tem’s grad­u­a­tion rate (four year ad­justed co­hort) is higher than the com­par­i­son dis­tricts and the state for stu­dents with and with­out dis­abil­i­ties, and the gap be­tween the two groups of stu­dents is smaller than any of the com­par­i­son dis­tricts, the re­lease con­tin­ues. In ad­di­tion, the gap in at­ten­dance rates of stu­dents with and with­out dis­abil­i­ties is the small­est of all com­par­i­son dis­tricts.

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions, WestEd found CCPS can im­prove ef­fi­ciency by de­ploy­ing staff dif­fer­ently and clearly defin­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in ad­di­tion to strengthen- ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, staff re­cruit­ment and tran­si­tion ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the re­lease. For ex­am­ple, es­tab­lish­ing a strate­gic staff re­cruit­ment and hir­ing plan that ex­pands re­cruit­ment ef­forts and be­gins heavy re­cruit­ment in Jan­uary when the pool of teach­ers and re­lated ser­vice providers is at its peak will fa­cil­i­tate hir­ing highly skilled staff.

Pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment can be more strate­gic by bas­ing it on district and stu­dent needs and by pro­vid­ing it in a job-em­bed­ded, on­go­ing man­ner when­ever pos­si­ble, while fo­cus­ing on Uni­ver­sal De­sign for Learn­ing (UDL); tar­geted, small­group in­struc­tion; stu­dent engagement; and IEP com­pli­ance, the re­lease states. WestEd’s au­dit also sug­gested CCPS ex­am­ine how it can ap­pro­pri­ately ed­u­cate more stu­dents with IEPs in gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion class­rooms by us­ing co-taught classes, pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment to gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers and ex­am­in­ing sched­ul­ing practices. To help stu­dents tran­si­tion across grade lev­els, school build­ings and into post-sec­ondary op­por­tu­ni­ties, WestEd rec­om­mends the district ex­am­ine the ar­tic­u­la­tion process, par­tic­u­larly re­gard­ing sec­ondary tran­si­tion ser­vices.

District and school staff will use the find­ings of the au­dit to guide fu­ture pro­gram­ming and staffing de­ci­sions. The full re­port is avail­able on Board-Docs on the CCPS web­site, www.calvert­, un­der “Board Meet­ing In­for­ma­tion” on the “Board of Ed­u­ca­tion” tab.

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