CCPS special education department audit presented
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.calvertnet.k12.md.us, under “Board Meeting Information” on the “Board of Education” tab.