Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fenty Administration Announces Special Education Agreement in Court Case

WASHINGTON, DC—During a court hearing yesterday, the District of Columbia announced that it entered into an agreement with the plaintiffs in the Blackman/Jones litigation to commit to a wide-ranging reform of special education that would bring substantial benefits to children in the District and permit the city to meet outstanding consent orders.

The Agreement is a result of a lengthy Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process directed by the court, which involved the court monitors, plaintiff’s counsel and counsel for the District. Both the District and the plaintiffs have agreed to work together to build and successfully implement a comprehensive plan to effectively serve special needs students and provide them with the quality care and education they deserve.

Agreement highlights include:

Case Management Project
The school system will work collaboratively with plaintiffs on the development of a case management program to serve special education students. The goal of the case management project is to mitigate the difficulties experienced by individual students while the District is reforming the current service delivery system. In consultation with plaintiffs, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has engaged consultants with expertise in designing case management systems to draft a scope of work for the development and implementation of a case management system. Case managers will seek to build a trusting relationship with each student on the case manager's case load and the student's family, including making home visits. Case managers will facilitate implementation of the student's Individual Education Plans (IEP) and OSSE will develop a process by which case managers can access resources on behalf of specific children.

Parent Resource Center
A Parent Resource Center will be put in place to serve all DC Public School students and their families regardless of whether the student is enrolled in DCPS, a charter school, or a nonpublic placement. OSSE has secured the services of the Minneapolis Parent Advocacy Center, which will design a detailed scope of work and performance standards for a contract that will be lead by a local nonprofit organization to develop and manage the District’s Parent Resource Center. OSSE views the creation of the PRC as a key project that will enhance its ability to convey information about reform efforts to parents of students with disabilities and provide services and support to families.

Intensive Mental Health Services Pilot
A mental health pilot program will be put in place to provide mental health services to some of the most challenging students with mental health needs. The goal of this pilot project is to provide wraparound services in schools for the top 20 percent of students with mental health needs. Successful implementation will require interagency coordination with the Department of Mental Health and other child serving agencies. Because approximately 40 percent of the District’s special education students in nonpublic placements have intensive mental health service needs, the Administration views the development of this project as essential to stem the flow of students to restrictive and expensive nonpublic placements.

Pilot Schools
In January, DCPS will develop a plan to create two school clusters that offer exemplary special education programs and related services. The new facilities will offer the School–Wide Applications Model, which has a track-record of improving the academic performance of special education students, as well as their education peers, in urban school districts with a high percentage of low-income students.

This Agreement reflects the vision and commitment of the Administration to improve special education for the District’s special needs students. Through implementation of the Agreement, the city is now poised to meet the requirements of the Blackman/Jones Consent Decree. However the real measure of success will be seen through the improved academic and socio-emotional outcome of the District’s special needs students. DC Mayor's Office Press Release

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