By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/Y1qcby
10/24/2012 08:41:52 PM PDT :: Los Angeles Unified schools failed to meet targets for providing speech therapy and other instructional services to special-education students as required by the settlement of a 1993 lawsuit, according to a report released Wednesday. [report follows]
The annual update from the Office of the Independent Monitor determined the district fell short of the 85 percent goal for its delivery of specialized services. A sampling of 400 students found that 83.5 percent received their therapy as often as recommended but that sessions lasted as long as scheduled just 70 percent of the time.
The report notes that the independent monitor conducted an online survey of special-education providers and found that nearly one-third of 2,650 respondents felt overwhelmed by their caseloads while more than 40 percent said they had to spend too much time writing reports and documenting their work.
The monitor gave Los Angeles Unified a Feb. 1 deadline for crafting a plan to improve the delivery of services to students with individualized education programs, which create instructional road maps for helping affected students overcome disabilities.
"In developing the targeted strategy plan, the district should examine the impact of existing policies and practices and determination of caseload assignments," the monitor advised. "This should also include an analysis of whether the current staffing level is adequate for meeting the demands at schools."
The delivery of services is just one element of the 1996 consent decree, which settled a class-action lawsuit filed three years earlier by the ACLU, claiming the district was depriving special-education students of their right to an education.
The settlement includes 19 performance-based outcomes, including a requirement to increase the number of special-ed students who complete high school. In September, the two sides signed off on the completion rate, although the district was about 12 points shy of its 76 percent target.
The district has now complied with 15 of its targets. It now must work on improving its delivery of services, and transitioning more disabled students to less-restrictive or general education programs.
Officials with the district's Special Education Division and Office of the Independent Monitor, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, did not return phone calls.
The report also detailed a review of charter and magnet schools amid concerns that the campuses may be screening out special-ed students during the application process.
It noted that the district had clamped down on magnets to ensure that students were being treated equitably. However, the monitor gave the district until Dec. 15 to review records from its nearly 200 independent charters to ensure that enrollment applications do not require information on a student's special-education eligibility.
from the report:
…this finding is evidence of the District’s inability to provide rigorous oversight of its independent charter schools. As of July 2, 2012, the District had remediated all of the applications to ensure that information regarding special education status had been removed. By December 15, 2012, the District is required to collect and review all applications and provide a report on its findings to ensure that no schools require parents to include information regarding their children’s special education eligibility or services during the lottery process.