The U.S. Department of Education (DoED) will visit Leander ISD to gather data on special education processes and procedures. The department is conducting a review of the Texas Education Agency’s Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS). This system mandates that school districts report data to TEA for the purpose of monitoring district performance in a number of areas, including special education.
The PBMAS includes an indicator (Indicator 10) to measure the percentage of enrolled students who are obtaining special education services. The standard performance level is 8.5 percent. The DoED has expressed concern that utilizing this indicator might have limited the number of students identified, evaluated and served in special education. TEA answered these concerns and reported that this was used as a relative indicator, not a cap or limit, on the number or percent of students that school districts can provide with special education services.
According to Leander ISD, the district is currently at 10.5 percent special education enrollment and has been above 8.5 percent since the PBMAS was implemented. Officials said the district has never received any guidance or corrective action from TEA to decrease this number.
The DoED notified TEA in late January that it would conduct site visits of selected school districts across Texas in order to collect data on special education identification and evaluation processes and procedures.
“The purpose of these visits is to collect district-level and school-level data on referral, child find and evaluation,” the Education Department said in a Jan. 19 letter.
The visits are scheduled to happen the week of Feb. 27. The department plans to report its findings to the Texas Education Agency. Federal officials will request and collect data from the school districts, including on specific children, and conduct interviews with staff to analyze their evaluation processes. They will also interview TEA officials.
Leander ISD was one of 12 districts chosen and one of three in Central Texas.
A Leander ISD parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she had three children who struggled learning how to read in school.
“They are failing to identify children who need extra help,” the parent said. “They would rather take shortcuts to make sure the kids pass the tests and the classes than put in the work.”
The DoED selected school districts based on the trends in the percentage of students identified as students with disabilities, comments received during listening sessions around the state held in December, comments submitted to an Education Department blog between Dec. 6. and Jan. 6. and by location. Districts were selected from six of the 20 regions in Texas.
During last week’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dan Troxell said that Leander ISD was looking forward to the visit.
“We are very proud of our special education program and the students that we serve,” Troxell said. “We welcome this visit and the opportunity to provide information regarding our procedures and practices.”