Official: DeKalb Schools must review special education accommodations

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By Marlon A. Walker

The DeKalb County School District is not in compliance with how it implements specialized education plans for special-needs students, Georgia Department of Education officials said recently. 

The determination stemmed from a complaint filed by a parent when she learned her son and other students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were stripped of their accommodations during Measures of Academic Progress assessments in August. IEPs are designed to teach students at their respective paces.

In a letter dated Oct. 25, Zelphine Smith-Dixon, state director of the department of education’s division for special education services and supports, said the district must “review and revise, if appropriate, its policies, practices and procedures regarding the district-wide assessments of students with disabilities.” District officials must submit revisions by Dec. 9. Once the revisions are approved, the district must train staff on how to implement the procedures that should be in place before Feb. 7, 2020.

“The district will review and revise its policies, procedures and practices if appropriate,” officials said in a statement. “The district will also train school-level and district-level staff on how to implement any revisions or clarifications of policies, procedures, and practices as a result of a said finding.”

Lauren Taylor filed a complaint with the Georgia Department of Education after learning from her son that he did not receive extra time or other accommodations listed in his IEP during MAP testing. Several other parents she communicates with, whose children also are on IEPs, also relayed stories of their children not getting additional time or other accommodations during testing. Some parents did not speak on the record about their children’s issues, fearing retaliation against themselves or their children.

Taylor said her son was allowed to retake the assessment with his accommodations in September. 

All decisions are final, Smith-Dixon wrote. “There is no appeal or reconsideration process.”

School districts have been scrambling to find special education teachers amid a national shortage. DeKalb County School District officials said in July it had 170 vacancies, but just 40 people had applied for those jobs. In the months since, through various means, officials said that number is down to about 40.

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