In December, the U.S. Department of Education Department conducted a five-stop listening tour throughout Texas and solicited comments from parents and educators about the state’s special education identification policies.
The Department also said it was accepting comments online. Today, Jan. 6, is the last day to submit them. And judging by the 300+ messages already received, Texas residents have had a lot to say.
The listening tour was prompted by an extensive series of reports from the Houston Chronicle that explored how Texas has drastically reduced the percentage of students that receive special education. The state has denied that it had any cap on special education identification, but teachers, parents, and administrators have told a different story to educational officials.
For those who didn’t attend one of the five public hearings in December, reading through the comments offers a glimpse of the struggle parents say they have had in getting appropriate services for their children. In some cases, parents have replied to each other, creating an informal support group on the Education Department website. Examples of some comments include:
- “I worked as a school psychologist for 13 years in New Jersey before moving to Austin in 2012. I worked as a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) for Austin ISD for about 8 months before resigning. At AISD, I encountered too many instances of blatant disregard for IDEA mandates. When I questioned the “procedures” and how they were in opposition to IDEA, I was told “that’s how we do it here.” When I commented that it’s wrong, I was frequently told to stop complaining or I would never last in the district."—Eric S.
- “Texas is not complying with federal IDEA as it pertains to dyslexia. IDEA identifies dyslexia as a Specific Learning Disability which is handled under [special education.] At Austin ISD, they have adopted the notion that a child needs to be behind grade level, to have “severe enough” dyslexia to merit special education intervention."—DyslexicBoysMomma
- “I was pleased that the Houston Chronicle brought the Texas special education indicator suggesting an 8.5 percent representation in special education to light. The [Texas Education Agency] might not call it a quota system but districts were required to report on their progress toward the criterion and received an accountability score based on how close they came to the benchmark. Sadly, the 8.5 percent target was based on no scientific information whatsoever and was not in line with other states or the national average. It is disappointing that it took so long for [the federal office of special education and rehabilitative services, or OSERS] to pay attention to the problem. Hopefully, OSERS will do something proactive, not just reiterate that this situation was allowed to be created and then persist for so long."—Kate
- “Special Education in Texas needs a severe overhaul. Even in “good” schools it is very hard to get any services. We have a kid with severe [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and could not operate in a normal classroom. He would be OK for the first part of the year, but by the end of the school year he would spend more time in in-school detention than in a classroom where he need[ed] help. And this is for an elementary school. We have had to go to [an] outside specialist for diagnosis to bring to [individualized education program] meeting just to get the little bit of help we did get."—Bill W.
To follow the full set of stories, visit the Denied page on the Houston Chronicle website.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.