AM News: Positions Cut, SPED Overhaul Promised

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Ex-Marquette star Ellis let go from CPS Sun Times:  Former Marquette University basketball star Maurice
"Bo" Ellis is among
six Chicago Public School sports administrators to be out of a job after
a wave of layoffs that ended Monday, officials said. CPS vows overhaul of special education program Tribune:  District sources said the head of CPS' special education office, Deborah
Duskey, will no longer fill that role, though officials would not
confirm that any change had been made. Bond did say the reorganization
would include changes that would make the $850-million-a-year special
education program more "parent-friendly." [Click below for Race To The Top coverage.]

Filed under: Daily News Roundup

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  • sun times story says 280 positions cut but only names a few folks. anyone seen the list or know more about specific cuts to offices, units, etc?

  • Really. Seriously.

  • The Tribune has done a great service to CPS students with disabilities with its series. I agree CPS needs to fully reform OSS, and it will not be an easy task. It is not easy because there is very little money to pay for services.

    There always will be due process cases, because there are legitimate areas where families and schools will disagree on, but CPS has far too many cases where established services are just not provided for students are not given evaluations.

    As for me becoming OSS chief, that is not in the cards in my opinion for numerous reasons. But whoever ultimately becomes Chief Officer, they need to be younger and good distance away from retirement. We probably need someone from outside of the system ultimately to become chief, who has worked in a system where services are more routinely delivered and who has higher expectations in relation to that issue.

    The one aspect of CPS special education problems that I find most disturbing is the incrediably poor academic outcomes for students with disabilities, by 11th grade less than 8% of students with IEPs can read at state standards. Easily 15% to 20% of CPS students with IEPs have formal IQ scores 90 and above. These students really are the system's greatest failure, they are victims of the system's low expectations for students with disabilities.

    For students with more significant disabilities transition services are a major failing of CPS. CPS provides very limited job coaching and then only for about 15 to 20 students in some but not all high schools. Again the major driver of this problem is funding.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    As many say, pay now or pay later. Welfare and prison systems await. Sad. (Criminal, even.)

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I think Rod Estvan would have the guts and the intelligence to overhaul special education in CPS and make a difference for the students.

    As far as the Tribune article, once again CPS central office takes no blame-they "do get the information from the schools" but choose to do nothing...we waited 6 months for aide for a child with autism..CPS had all of the information but CPS stalled until the parent threatened due process...they now have everything on computers which they can access from downtown yet they do not comprehend the data they receive such as....

    four year age range violations

    caseload/workload violations

    a huge a lack of referrals for initial evaluations this year
    partly due to the cumbersome computer program

    shared aides! what is that and how does an aide get to two children in two different buildings during a fire-our school has fire doors which lock automatically so...this is a disaster waiting to happen...

    the CPS e-IEP trainers take eight hours to complete an e-IEP, some teachers have reported spending 30+ hours on this lunacy...no laptops were issued to the teachers...we are overwhelmed with redundant paperwork...where is the consulatative/collaborative time so we can work with the gen ed teachers?

    What the Tribune needs to do is interview teachers of students in the self-contained programs especially autism and they will find out that these teachers are usually young, non-tenured and scared to advocate for the services listed on the IEP...how long do these teachers stay in CPS?

    This is how CPS gets away with non-delivery of services or overloading of classrooms-put the new teachers in the rooms withn the most difficult students.

    Please keep the Corey H. monitors because once they're gone CPS will regress in regards to inclusion and the LRE.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Well put, Rod. Re: OSS chief, I am sure some mayoral crony currently at CTA will be coming over soon (but I hope you accept if offered).

  • Re: fixing something in 700 different locations

    You're right, Central Office can't do that. But isn't that what a Central Office is for? To fix things in its satellite agencies? We agree on local accountability, but with that accountability must come local control. But Central Office wants to retain that control without accountability.

  • Yes, principals are responsible for hiring teachers and aides BUT central office is responsible for opening the positions. The pricipal has to wait months for SECA (special education classroom assistant) positions to open. While central office makes the child wait it is often the teacher who is perfoming diapering, toileting etc not to mention teaching the rest of the class. A lot of the posts regarding special education on this blog are the same BECAUSE the problems do not get solved. I suppose teachers feel that if it is posted here MAYBE someone in charge will care enough to change it.

    Sucking it up has been done for too long-that is why we have Corey H and a real hot mess now.

  • Responding to Annie. I agree that staff are now coming to IEP meetings with their various sections of the IEPs completed. The reality is that the last revision of the federal law IDEA allowed for drafts to be developed and discussed prior to formal IEP meetings. Legally the CPS is within its rights to direct special education staff to come to the meeting with draft sections.

    I have no problem with the drafts because if they are not in my client's interest have no doubt I will object and oppose them. The situation is somewhat different among team members who may have disagreements with each other because criticizing another staff persons draft might well appear to be in bad form, where as just disagreeing as part of a discussion with a document to reference is less let us say in your face.

    Rod Estvan

  • Is part of the problem with the management of sped students that in the past, it was not uncommon for students who weren't disabled to be categorized as such just because they were behind, unmotivated or belligerent?

    I think most people can identify with special education being needed by autistic students, by students with a cognitive disability (i.e. low IQ (<80)), by students who have physical handicaps (e.g. blind, deaf/hard of hearing, wheelchair bound, et al), and by other special circumstance cases. I would imagine most decent folk would quail at the idea that students such as these were ever denied a public education.

    But then you get to the squishier cases, students with learning disabilities some of which are well understood like dyslexia and others which are still not understood.

    It just seems that when you see schools with 20% of their students receiving sped services that something isn't right. Even accounting for all of the factors such as higher concentrations of lead and environmental pollutants, low birth weight, and all the other indicators of poverty that raise disabilities incidence, some schools still have astonishingly high levels of sped cases.

    In the bad old days before NCLB, I suspect that many students were diverted into sped because then they didn't count and wouldn't weigh down the school. Thanfully, that's not true now.

    I was astonished when my sister (who teaches sped downstate in another district) mentioned to me that students in their school who were just conduct disordered (e.g. ODD) were not entitled in that district to special ed services because it was considered a conduct disorder and not a disability. Is that the case in CPS too?

  • This is a huge issue that doesn't get nearly enough attention. When our public schools fail students - especially students with disabilities - it only furthers cycles of poverty, violence and incarceration in our city.

    While systemic reform isn't as eye-catching a story as say, school violence, it affects more people, and we all end up paying the long-term costs.

    Newspapers respond to reader feedback. If you'd like to see more coverage of this issue, you should e-mail the reporters and let them know it's important to you.

    Rex Huppke: rhuppke@tribune.com

    Azam Ahmed: asahmed@tribune.com

  • cermak_rd is correct in that there was in the past a very serious problem with using special education for many students who were falling behind. I still see this in numerous central Illinois and Southern Ill school districts that are identifying from 25 to 29% of all students as disabled. CPS if anything makes it very difficult to identify students as disabled.

    On the issue of DSM IV identification labels given by psychologists such as conduct disorder, the special education law called IDEA does not allow for a student to be identified as disabled simply because they have met a DSM IV diagnostic criteria. In order to be identified for educational purposes the student's suspected disability must have educational impact.

    How could that be in relation to a conduct disorder? There are three clinical severity levels of conduct disorders. One is called "mild" where if any conduct problems in excess of those required to make the diagnosis and conduct problems cause only minor harm to others. Very common in the mild catagory are things like a child who stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before age 13 years or who has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in parental or parental surrogate home.

    It is legally possible that a child with a mild conduct disorder may not have an educationally related disability , it is unlikely that a moderate or severe conduct disorder would not have an impact on education.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod, that's interesting regarding the DSM IV categories. My sister did mention to me that they tend to categorize the students anyway because they know these students need help. Also they do a lot of co-teaching there as a strategy so are able to work around some of the rules. They have a tiny special ed budget down there but it does look like everyone from the sped co teachers to the non-sped co-teachers to the guidance counselors and principal are working together. The district is still failing to make AYP however, as it fails in both its disabled student population and its low income population.

  • I love it-now there are two annies-the more information posted on this blog about special education the better.

    RE cermak-rd In CPS the neighborhood schools have a much higher percentage of special education students than the selective enrollment schools. Neighborhood schools take in everyone.
    I think CPS may have a lower percentage of students with disabilities than the state average.

    At my neighborhood school there is a high percentage of students who are achieving above level so our students with disabilities need a lot of service minutes just to keep up with the pace and rigor of instruction. Our veteran sped staff is dilligent about identifying students who may need special education services.

    I will say that overcrowding does have an impact on the ability of the sped staff to meet everyone's needs.

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