CPS's Very Low Placement Rate

It can be easy to tune out the complaints of special education teachers in Chicago because their concerns are so difficult and seemingly unresolvable, and also because of the assumption that things must be just as difficult in other cities.  But perhaps that's not the case, really.  This Catalyst graphic (from the PDF version of their spring issue on SPED in CPS), highlights the wide range of placement rates among big urban districts.  It also profiles some schools where they're trying to make things work better, and even a charter school (Namaste) that seems to be taking on the challenge better than other charters.



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  • The SSA must approve a therapeutic day placement BEFORE the IEP meeting. This is illegal, yet is condoned by the CPS law department. When SPED teachers complain about illegal practices they are ignored. There is a high turnover rate of teachers of self-contained students in CPS. New teachers are told to ignore serious violations involving SPED. Students are not given what they need in order to be successful. CPS pushes the child out when he or she turns 17 so they do not have to pay for schooling until age 23. If is fine with CPS if the child hurts or threatens staff or peers-just do not pay for therapeutic day but hire more staff for central office some at $12,000 a month. Mr Brizard said he would help the SPED children but it is worse now than a year ago. We lost a teaching position and have double the caseloads/workloads we had five years ago.

  • Only one child in my 22 years at my school had been sent to a therapeutic day school. This 200 pound 12 year old threatened to kill his first year teacher on a daily basis. Once a week he would throw his desk against a wall. These threats were not taken seriously by the administrator or case manager who should have advised the teacher to file a police report. " We don't wan the school to look bad." The support person, a "behavior expert" sent from central office was useless. Her advice was to recommend a book on behavior disorders. This same book was sitting on the teacher's desk as she had it from college. The teacher used appropriate behavior modification strategies to no avail. The parents were more interested in their Harleys than the child. It took a year to get the child placed in a school
    in LaGrange where he went on a rampage and broke the school's windows. CPS does not support the child nor the staff when a child needs a therapeutic day school. Many teachers and aides leave CPS because of safety concerns involving students with disabilities who are deliberately misplaced in order to save monies.

  • The answer to students with disabilities at CPS seems to be to dump them into the general education classrooms and forget about them. But not before you write a ridiculously long and redundant IEP to protect yourself from future lawsuits. Place a learning disabled student with significant processing disorders into a general education Physics classroom and see how successful they can be. Even with a SPED team teacher in the room, the student misses 90% of what is being taught. If you think the student's deficit areas are being addressed in the general education classroom, you are mistaken. If the student is lucky enough to be placed in a self-contained classroom, it won't be in a science lab and the classroom will be overloaded with mixed disabilities (4 students with significant cognitive disabilities, 6 with significant learning disabilities, and 5 with significant behavioral difficulties). Try structuring a classroom where one student is jumping off the desks swearing and the next student is cowering in the corner in fear. We are doing our students with disabilities a disservice in CPS and nobody seems to care. Even this blog has shoved us out into a different space. We are invisible.

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    In reply to district299reader:

    Well said! I agree. But let me bring up a potentially other taboo angle. What does the inclusion of these students do to the education of thsoe WITHOUT these diabilities? That same student jumping off a desk isn't the only one who isn't getting anything out of the lesson - neither are the other students in the classroom.

    Inclusion isn't fair to either kind of student. I also realize this is a complex edcucational and societal issue.

  • Well said. Unfortunately, this is the reality of SPED in CPS. No one cares....the Corey H. monitors turn a blind eye to these blatant abuses and continue to cash the checks.

  • As this former Corey H monitor has stated many times on this blog there is no research evidence that students with even significant learning disabilities or moderate cognitive disabilities placed in self contained settings show greater academic achievement than similar students provided services within a general education classroom. On a national scale unfortunately the data does show that a majority of students once identified with any disability, other than a simple speech disorder, they experience an academic decline. The higher the income of the student's family the better the results and higher the average income of families in a school district the higher percentage of students with disabilities who perform at or near standards.

    Students with serious emotional disturbance I believe are under identified in CPS. But the Corey H case and its monitors had and still have no clear legal role in relationship to the identification process. The legal authority of the Court Monitor was defined by a settlement agreement and if you exceeded that authority you were subject to filings made by CPS to limit the scope of your inquiry. The monitors were legally not allowed to examine if individual students were receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE), they could only look at institutional level practices such as a school for example denying all cognitively disabled students lab classes at the high school level. Or military schools denying admission to certain groups of disabled students or even a few charters doing the same. The Corey H case will be completed shortly and dismissed by the district court.

    As always I invite teachers who believe they have a student with an IEP who is being denied FAPE to have their parents contact me at Access Living at Restvan@accessliving.org. Since I have long since left the Corey H monitor's office I am free to work on individual cases or attempt to get lawyers for families if I can. Right now I have 22 active CPS cases and do the best I can for these families with limited resources.

    Teachers have almost no legal standing in relation to the special education litigation process other than being called as witnesses. I hope teachers who make claims on blogs like this without identifying themselves, which is understandable, would testify honestly if put on the witness stand and not follow directives of CPS lawyers to defend their employer. I have seen teachers do this and unfortunately more often than not I have seen teachers answer questions evasively when put on the stand.

    I try not to accuse CPS special education teachers in mass of being complicit in the problems teachers are discussing, but to some degree some teachers are forced to be complicit in violations. I work with many parents of students with disabilities who are very bitter about CPS special education teachers and case managers based on their individual experiences. I have also had teachers call me about problems at schools and I have never exposed them, I have even had principals give me cases where they believed they could do little or nothing to help students. I would recommend that before teachers start throwing stones they make sure they themselves are without sin.

    Rod Estvan ( a former corey H monitor for 6 years)

  • anniesullivan
    You were a court monitor at the beginning of the court monitoring process when CPS SPED teachers still had hope that the Corey H. case would make a difference for the children and CPS was reeling from the ruling. They are no longer reeling and the SPED teachers no longer have hope. Corey H. has been used to dump all children irregardless of need into general education rooms and the few self-contained rooms remaining are full of children who should be in therapeutic day programs. We have now been told that pulling out children for their special education services stigmatizes them and that all services should be delivered in the general education classroom. This is bull----and does not work past grade four. This is another way for CPS to load up the sped teachers with unmanageable caseloads/workloads and to buttress the general education programs in out of control gen ed rooms. If the current Corey H .monitors cared about the students and actually analyzed the data i.e. test scores on SPED students they would see that the full inclusion/no pull-out is a travesty. I do not believe this was the intent of Corey H.-dumping sixth graders with second grade reading levels into a gen ed room and removing the pull-out/resource services does not work......the full inclusion Kool-aid is tainted.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    annie, annie, annie --- You know that CPS is working hard to help sped, right? (Note sarcasm, bitter, bitter sarcasm.) From Catalyst: "Advocates and lawyers for the disabled say that children who should be in day schools can only get placements from CPS if parents have the money to hire a lawyer to fight the battle. As the data show, white children have the best odds, Latino children the worst.

    "There’s another issue with placements: whether and how CPS pays for them. Part of the district’s special education block grant is meant to pay for day schools, but advocates say CPS banks part of that money. It’s easy to see why advocates are suspicious. This year, the district got $86 million for therapeutic schools, but even at the high end of the scale, $32,000 per student, that adds up to just $27 million for 850 children. CPS says part of the money is being spent on better classrooms and services inside the district for children with severe disabilities, but advocates don’t buy that either."

    "You've seen that part of the money is being spent on better classrooms and services inside the district for children with severe disabilities," haven't you?!? (sarcasm)

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Make that: You've seen that "part of the money is being spent on better classrooms and services inside the district for children with severe disabilities," haven't you?!? (sarcasm)

  • To believe that content focused, general education high school teachers have modified how they teach in an attempt to differentiate instruction or follow IEP's for the SPED students on their rosters is indeed tainted. The pace, the difficulty of the content, the distractions and the focus on standardized test scores leaves students with disabilities in the dust. Yet, we continue to do it and when we question why, we get no answers. The job of a SPED teacher today is to write inane IEP's, be a disciplinarian in the team taught classroom (or at best a para-pro), and at times, a substitute for absent teachers. I've heard that some elementary schools will be using SPED teachers to do playground duty during the longer school day. I'm sure this was not the intent of Corey H. Does anyone ever check to see if SPED students are getting the minutes on their IEP's? And, if they do monitor, do they check the quality of those minutes?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "Does anyone ever check to see if SPED students are getting the minutes on their IEP's? And, if they do monitor, do they check the quality of those minutes?" Why, when PARENTS ask to check on this and ask for proof, they're told there is no documentation and are told to just believe the minutes are being delivered in these co-taught classrooms. Our articulate disabled child reports exactly what you do: "The pace, the difficulty of the content, the distractions and the focus on standardized test scores leaves students with disabilities in the dust. Yet, we continue to do it and when we question why, we get no answers. The job of a SPED teacher today is to write inane IEP's, be a disciplinarian in the team taught classroom (or at best a para-pro), and at times, a substitute for absent teachers." Exactly.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Yes! Lots of people check to see if SPED services are implemented properly. Here is a short list of ‘reporters’ regularly featured in this blog who don’t check: Linda Lutton(wbez), Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah (Tribune), Sarah Karp (Catalyst Chicago), Rosalind Rossi (Sun-Times), Greg Hinz (Crain’s Chicago Business) Eric Zorn (Tribune), Becky Vevea (wbez), Elliott Ramos (wbez), Mike Flannery (fox).

  • In reply to district299reader:

    And don't forget that the Better Government Association also "doesn't" check.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Doing REAL reporting would be too much like hard work. Lutton should resign for not being an objective reporter! NPR has gone down hill since they had her!

  • Well said. The Corey H. monitors do not check the minutes and do not care when teachers tell them that the minutes can not be met. They only want every child moved to LRE 1 whether it is appropriate or not. Moving children to LRE 1 does cut positions and save CPS salaries. The monitors are paid for by CPS, are former CPS administrators, taught years ago and do not accurately "monitor" how services are delivered or do they look at test scores to determine overall success or failure of a program.

    I have been on lunch duty all year which further decreases my ability to meet the minutes. My principal and case manager are aware that the minutes can not be met but there is no one and I truly mean no one to do lunch duty. We have no school or teacher aides. All of our aides are SECAs for diapering, toileting and safety. CPS can spout off about a longer day but where will the lunch/recess supervision come from-the backs of the special education students?

  • "CPS can spout off about a longer day but where will the lunch/recess supervision come from-the backs of the special education students?"

    Yes. Naturally.

  • So after reading this who exactly does monitor SPED?

  • All I can say in relation to Corey H monitors is which ones are you talking about, ISBE, federal, or CPS? If you are discussing federal consultants or Court monitors under the control of the current or former head Monitor or special master, all I can say is that when I worked in that office I found several schools out of compliance for actual provision of service minutes in written reports. One teacher above wrote "the monitors are paid for by CPS, are former CPS administrators." I never was a former CPS administrator nor were the two other field staff who worked with me in the Corey H monitor's office when I was there. We were not employees of CPS and CPS could not control our pay which was based on billable hours approved ultimately by a US District Judge.

    Among the schools I found out of compliance for service minute provision were Wells H.S., Schurz H.S., Carver Military Academy, W. Young H.S., Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center's Nancy Jefferson School, and at least three elementary schools that I recall. Because these are Court records I do not have copies of the files in any of these cases because the reports contained legally protected student information.

    Information from Court Monitors was used in the Report of the Chicago Bar Association Blue Ribbon Committee on the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center as I recall. In other cases compensatory services were ordered and provided to students as part of corrective actions at various schools.

    However, the primary purpose of the Corey H case was not service minute provision montoring. Service minutes were only addressed when they became an issue in relation to LRE issues that monitors were examining.

    Again I would ask any special education teacher who wants students placed in pull out classes because it is supposedly better for them, to provide a research basis for that position. There is no comparative research that I know of that shows children with mild to moderate disabling conditions, other than for emotional distrubance (EBD), have improved acdemic outcomes when placed in pull out classes. I have seen research on mild to moderately disabled EBD students who have been placed in pull outs or full self contained classes that had higher graduation rates than those educated completely in general education classrooms. This appears to be driven by lower suspension rates for these students when educated largely in seperate classes.

    Rod Estvan

  • Rod

    There are studies that prove and disprove everything. I do know that at my school we pull-out and push in and it works as evidenced by the children's growth on individually administered diagnostic tests and the fact that we have make AYP most years including last year.
    We feel we teach best and the children learn the most in a small group setting away from the distractions of the gen ed room. Our students are happy, parents are pleased with the children's' progress and the teachers feel they are making a difference. Isn't that the point?


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