Thursday, February 08, 2001

Improve special ed, auditors urge CPS

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Public Schools can reduce the number of students in special-education classes if it more closely aligns special education to its overall education system, consultants say.

        Two Indiana University professors who audited the district's special-education programs made that the theme of their recommendations to bolster services and student achievement.

        Specifically, they said, the district should hire a special-education director and include special-education students in state testing. They presented those ideas to school board members and the public Wednesday.

    Special-education recommendations:
    • Include all special-education students in statewide and district testing.
    • Tie achievement of students with disabilities to pay-for-performance plan for principals.
    • Include special education in the district's general education plans.
    • Hire a special-education director and develop a vision and direction for special education.
    • Create more financial equity for special-education services.
    • Use collaborative training among special-education and general education teachers to promote inclusive practices.
    • Offer more opportunities to help students make a transition from school to work.
    • Provide more information to families about special-education services.
        “We have to remember that special education is about instruction and not a place,” professor Teresa Grossi said. “Quite often what we were seeing is that special education was a place and not that instruction.”

        The district asked for the audit in October after Superintendent Steven Adamowski expressed concerns about the program to the Board of Education. Ms. Grossi and Cassandra Cole visited several schools; looked at records; and interviewed teachers, parents and the community in their review.

        Mr. Adamowski said the audit confirms a number of the district's concerns. “This provides an excellent blueprint for us as we develop the program.”

        Ms. Cole said the district is capable of making the changes.

        “It really is a question of principal leadership,” she said, “because the principal sets the tone and models behavior for his or her staff.”

        The professors found examples of good practices, such as students with disabilities attending school in their neighborhood and average class sizes of 17 students. But such examples vary by school, and the district does not use comprehensive plans to evaluate how well special-education students learn.

        “There is very little in place to measure students with disabilities, and these students are not included when schools and principals are ranked,” Ms. Cole said.


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