Clear Creek Independent School District officials should consider improving communications, creating a parent resource center and instituting more training, according to an Austin-based consultant’s report on the state of the district’s special education programs.
Gibson Consulting Group’s findings, released through a report March 4, are at least partially in response to a group that formed last year to protest the state of special education in the district.
Members of the group on March 5 said they hadn’t had time to read the more than 100-page document and didn’t have an opinion about the recommendations.
After more than six months spent reviewing the district’s special education programs, the report includes a review of the department’s strengths, results of a survey, as well as more than 25 recommendations on how to improve.
District administrators plan to implement all the recommendations over a two- or three-year period, said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for the district.
“We are currently reviewing and prioritizing the recommendations,” Polsen said.
Administrators will present an implementation plan with the board of trustees sometime in April or May after a budget meeting, Polsen said.
“Over the course of this special education review, Gibson identified many program strengths as well as opportunities for improvement,” the report begins.
Some of the recommendations include ensuring salaries are competitive for licensed specialists, ensuring classroom walk-throughs are focused on a specific district or campus improvement effort, tracking data to ensure efforts are working and several recommendations about improving communications with parents and families.
Student special education achievement, on the whole, seems to be improving, and the majority of parents are satisfied with the services, but the district is behind state targets in some areas and pockets of parental dissatisfaction need to be addressed, the report asserts.
“The district has some potential compliance risks related to the disproportionate representation of some subgroups in special education and in discretionary placements,” the report asserts.
The district’s special education program has about 4,500 students, or 10.7 percent of the total population of 42,000 at the time of the report, officials said.
The consultant sent out more than 4,600 parent-student surveys and received more than 1,200 responses, or a 27 percent response rate, and also conducted two group input sessions with a parent-teacher association and the Parents for CCISD Special Education Reform group, officials said.
Of those responses, more than 80 percent agreed their students received the special education services they need, officials said.
“While these results overall are positive, it is important to note that nearly 20 percent of parents disagreed, strongly disagreed or very strongly disagreed with these broad statements,” according to the report.
Parents provided a wide range of feedback about special education, but one of the consensus themes was that poor communication between parents and district leadership has led to feelings of mistrust, officials said.
Parents for CCISD Special Education Reform began in May and used social media campaigning and billboards along Interstate 45 to draw attention and accused the district of illegally placing special needs students in isolation, emotional abuse, physical abuse and retaliation against parents, among other concerns.
But, in the months since the group first went public with criticisms, the tone between the district and the parents has changed. One of the biggest reasons for the change, which also appears to respond to the report’s concern about communication, is the formation in November of a special education advisory committee.
That committee, which is comprised of more than 40 parents drawn by lottery from each of the district’s schools, meets quarterly with Superintendent Greg Smith and other district staff to discuss various topics related to special education services, officials said.