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E.A.I. Faulted on Special-Ed. Compliance in Baltimore Schools

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Education Alternatives Inc. failed to fully comply with federal special-education guidelines in its contract management of Baltimore schools, Maryland officials have concluded.

The Maryland education department announced last month that its probe of teachers' union complaints against the for-profit company found that E.A.I. had not followed some federally mandated procedures for serving students with disabilities.

Department officials faulted E.A.I. for mainstreaming some students without sufficient parental notice or consent and without enough evidence of teacher participation.

State investigators also said E.A.I. had not always re-evaluated the students in a timely manner and had failed to provide some in mainstream classrooms with adequate individualized education programs, as required by law.

The state gave the Baltimore city schools, which brought in the Minneapolis-based concern, until this week to submit a plan to bring the schools into compliance. District and E.A.I. officials jointly issued a statement last month saying corrective steps already had been taken.

In a separate development, Dade County, Fla., school officials said last month that their evaluation of a Miami Beach school provided instructional services by E.A.I. had found no significant gains in student achievement.

Both Dade County and Baltimore officials expressed satisfaction with other aspects of E.A.I.'s performance, however, and said they plan to continue using the company.

Union Seeks Moratorium

The results of the Maryland probe were hailed by the American Federation of Teachers, which spurred the investigation by filing a complaint with the U.S. Education Department last spring.

Delegates at the union's convention last month in Anaheim, Calif., cited the developments in both Baltimore and Dade County in passing a resolution calling for a moratorium on any additional contracts with the company.

"It's clear that E.A.I.'s actions extracted profits from special education,'' Gregory A. Humphrey, the union's secretary treasurer, said in a press release. "They mishandled their own policy of full inclusion for special-education students, denying them required services.''

Baltimore and E.A.I. officials noted, however, that eight of the 10 allegations leveled in the A.F.T.'s letter to the federal agency were determined to be unfounded. They contended that the problems the investigators did find were centered in one middle school and preceded E.A.I.'s involvement.

"It's unfortunate, but each week we deal with numerous allegations by the A.F.T. that eventually prove to be substantially unfounded,'' said the statement jointly issued by the district and the company.

Checking out each charge "requires months of work on the part of many people,'' the statement added.

Walter G. Amprey, the Baltimore superintendent, praised E.A.I. for setting "a positive example'' by trying to educate all students in "the least restrictive environment.''

Dade Evaluation

Dade County's evaluation of South Pointe Elementary School in Miami Beach, meanwhile, found that students who had attended the school for two years did not achieve significantly more or less than their their peers at a comparable school with no E.A.I. involvement, according to district officials.

Education Alternatives asserts, however, that its analysis of the South Pointe data shows that students there scored higher than their peers at the other school in nine of 10 measures.

Henry C. Fraind, the school system's chief spokesman, said the differing interpretations stem from the fact that the two analyses focus on different subsets of South Pointe's student population.

A final version of the evaluation is expected to be presented to the school board this month.

In a memo to the board, Superintendent Octavio J. Visiedo noted that the evaluation also found that South Pointe has higher student-attendance rates, as well as high rates of parent and community involvement. Moreover, its students also appear to have better attitudes toward school and learning, he said.

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