A consultant’s report says Evanston/Skokie District 65 “has made progress” on 18 of 19 goals for improving special education services.

A consultant’s report says Evanston/Skokie District 65 “has made progress” on 18 of 19 goals for improving special education services.

“There’s been a great deal of thought and effort to improve special education services,” Cassandra Cole, director of Indiana University’s Center on Education and Lifelong Learning, said Monday night at a District 65 board meeting.

“There’s clearly a vision now for what needs to happen,” Cole added.

Cole established the 19 recommendations in 2002, when the district commissioned her to evaluate its special ed programs.

Still, Cole identified several areas in need of improvement: creating a more inclusive district; supporting students with mental health or dual diagnoses; strengthening family partnerships.

Cole wrote in her report the District 65 has “pockets of inclusions,” but that “there are still too many students receiving their instruction in separate, pull-out settings often in schools that are not their home schools.”

Parents and special education advocates, at times brimming with frustration, gave voice to the linger needs at the board meeting.

Nancy Traver told the board that her son, who is emotionally disturbed, failed all his classes and was suspended on a weekly basis while enrolled in the district.

The district then placed him at a private therapeutic day school, Traver said, where he thrives. But Traver said that yearly tuition and transportation costs are $55,000 or more.

“No similar therapeutic environment exists now in District 65,” Traver said. “So my son must attend a private school.”

Rachel Gross, a director for Evanston Citizens for Appropriate Special Education, relayed the stories of three students at Haven Middle School. All three students are low-income, African-American males, Gross said, and all had been denied services guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

“What is striking is what these students and their families have in common,” Gross said.

Ellen Lancaster praised district teachers that have attempted to support her son, who has a range of diagnoses, including autism and Asperger’s.

But Lancaster said her son had suffered because of the district’s lack of resources, which included no available personnel at Willard School to implement her son’s individual plan. Gradually, Lancaster said, her son was excluded from almost all meaningful social activity.

“One gifted teacher after another tried at Willard to help Mack but did not have the system resources,” Lancaster said.

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1 Comment

  1. special programs for special ed
    I read Ms.Cole’s report with some frustration. The main thrust of her critique had to do with including more kids in more mainstream classes. This is a fine goal, however she failed to address how to deliver specialized programs for children with learning disabilities.

    For example, there is a whole family of reading programs based on the work of Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. These provide very structured phonics instruction combined with multi-sensory cues. These programs have been shown to work for children with certain reading disabilities, where reading programs from major textbook publishers fail.

    It would be great if the needs of a learning disabled child could be met in the regular classroom with the regular teacher using differentiated instruction. But I see no mention of how to integrate the specialized programs that may be required in some instances.

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