Image by thoth188 via FlickrPerry Township schools are home to RISE Special Services, soon to change their name; and one hopes, their practices. This township is the gold standard, for how to get special education wrong. If you want to know what not to do, look no further. RISE is a shining example of how to move the ball without scoring actual points.
A shortage of funds has led to a shortage of professionals in an era of massive student demand. This was the argument administrators used to justify the change to testing policy for disabled students. Unfortunately, this is also an excellent way to cut costs. Testing equals data on the student. Data equals information. Information equals power for teachers and parents to make recommendations regarding program, services and staffing. This testing no longer has a mandatory deadline of every three years, again due to a lack of psych staff in schools, according to administrators.
There is no doubt that school psychologists are overloaded. However, the removal of mandatory testing guidelines has the unique ability to drastically reduce the amount of services considered appropriate for a student, and that inevitably lightens the school's load. Parents can trigger re-evaluation, but many don't know that or take the school's recommendations that testing is not necessary.
Call me suspicious, but this sounds like a sweetheart deal for directors feeling the pressure from school boards across the state to cut back. And it comes with a consequence proof excuse to give the state DOE. It wasn't required.
Testing is only one benchmark to evaluate a student's progress, but it's the one most considered when discussing a change of program or placement, both can be expensive. This means a child could languish in a program that is no longer appropriate or miss out on a chance to include with normal peers for lack of data.
By and large, parents of mildly disabled students notice nothing lacking in their child's education. Those who are easily included in general education usually have no trouble getting minor accommodations for their student. It's the other end of the spectrum that has a wrench in the works.
Besides oodles of administrative redundancy, Perry has an overall unfriendly way of dealing with parents. Lawsuits are way up, according to Bill Dreibelbis, but he's quick to point out that we live in a sue happy society, and it's the nature of the beast. That's one interpretation, or we could be doing something wrong. The fact is that complaints with the state are up, too, and testing isn't automatic. Couple this with parent dissatisfaction with staffing discipline and training, and you have a perfect storm of malpractice. Of course, the motto seems to be that it's all good, as long as we keep the ball moving. Hitting the hoop is secondary.