D65 report: Special ed fails many, especially minorities

The Evanston District 65 School Board discussed a report Monday evening that says the district's special education programs are failing many students.

The report, presented by the district's executive director of special services, Romy DeCristofaro, showed that on average students with Individual Education Plans achieve scores on the MAP test that are only 90% to 93% as high as those of general education students of the same racial or ethnic background.

Asian students showed the biggest percentage gap, falling 10% below their same-race general education student peers. Whites showed the smallest gap, of 7%.

The scores also reflected the continuing gap in test performance among racial groups, regardless of special education status, with black and Hispanic students on average achieving lower test scores than the other groups, regardless of special education status.

DeCristofaro said that only 48% of students with IEPs made expected gains from one year to the next on MAP assessments, while 57 percent of general education students made the expected gains.

And the likelihood of making expected gains declined for IEP students who spent less time in general education classrooms.

"One might expect students with IEPs, who have access to additional interventions and specialized instruction to be making greater gains," DeCristofaro said in her report, "but that is not the case."

The report also showed that black and Hispanic students are more likely to be assigned to special education programs and that black students are dramatically more likely than students of other backgrounds to be assigned to special ed for "emotional disabilities."

DeCristsofaro, who's completing her first year as head of the special ed programs in the district, said the numbers make it "reasonable to conclude that we have some students identified as having a disability who don't actually have one."

She said the district has been cited by the state for the last three years for its high number of black students labeled as having emotional disabilities -- and the disparity has continued to increase.

She said the district has partnered with the WestEd consulting group to evaluate its programs and "promote effective, equitable and efficient use of resources to better support our students and educators" and has hired Deborah McKnight, a consultant with the Pacific Educational Group, to conduct special education and racial equity leadership training.

In addition, the district plans to expand programming for special education students at Dewey, Oakton and Lincolnwood schools so that special ed students, who now have to switch to other schools in the middle of their elementary years, can continue to attend their home schools.

Topic: