by James C. Sherlock – Updated 23 Dec. with division-by-subject table of bad SOL results for students with disabilities.
I just finished reading the December 14 JLARC Report. “K–12 Special Education in Virginia 2020.”
The report is highly critical of public school special education in Virginia, but it misses the mark on its findings as well as its recommendations.
The major problem with the findings is that the report does not specify which school districts do a good job in special education and which districts do a poor job.
The major problem with the recommendations is that the bulk of them recommend new regulations by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) and additional oversight by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The current regulations, especially federal regulations that come with the federal money for special education, are quite specific. And not uniformly followed.
As big a critic as I have been of VBOE and VDOE — they need to do better — but the biggest culprits are the superintendents of Virginia’s school districts. Those men and women are highly educated and experienced in the requirements of their jobs and highly paid to execute them.
If they are not complying with special education requirements, it is not because they do not understand them. Any superintendent that thinks special education doesn’t need their special attention is unsuited for the position.
Any superintendent that doesn’t have the resources to comply or for any other reason has failed to comply with special ed requirements and has failed to report that fact to both her school board and VDOE should be fired.
The JLARC report had the opportunity to provide the data on the both the excelling and failing districts, but did not. So citizens do not know from the report where their own districts stand.
Some things never change, however. Under the headline, “Devastating’ new report finds major problems with special education in Virginia,” Kate Masters reported in The Virginia Mercury:
Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who serves as the legislative vice chair of the commission, described the report as “devastating.”
“We have had for the last four years an administration in Washington that has been very laissez-faire when it comes to enforcing various education laws,” she said. “And I think that’s going to change rather quickly and dramatically in the coming months.
“So, I sense a real urgency for us,” she continued. “The last thing we need is a federal lawsuit.”
To Howell, then, Donald Trump’s Department of Education stands accused of providing federal funding for special education but failing to independently assess proper use of it by each Virginia school.
And failing to sue to get its money back when it determined Virginia wasn’t using it properly.
If Howell is capable of embarrassment, now would be the time.
But I digress.
JLARC and VDOE between them have the data that show in which districts the failures have occurred and are occurring today. They must publish that data.
For many school boards, it will be the first time they have seen it.
For school districts with less than a third of students with disabilities passing SOLs in 2018-2019, see the table below. Again, that is just SOLs, but it is a place to start. The JLARC report gathered information that would add color to the SOL data. We need that information.