Academic Progress

Academic Progress

Strengthening Special Education

While CPS student achievement has improved in recent years on state and national exams, the academic progress of students receiving special education services has largely stagnated, despite an increase in funding for special education. The underachievement of students with disabilities is a persistent national problem, but one that can be solved if schools are provided with support to adopt researchbased practices.

To identify the underlying reasons for this achievement gap in CPS, we recently completed an extensive analysis of our special education programs and practices and devised strategies to address the challenges we uncovered Here are just a few of the steps we will take to help schools more accurately identify disabilities and strengthen special education case management, services, progress monitoring and instruction.


Improve Methods for Determining Special Education Eligibility

Our analysis revealed that the gender and racial distribution of our students with disabilities is not aligned with our total student population. “Over identification” can mean that students are inadvertently assigned to special education when their needs might be different, and is especially troublesome when it happens to African American boys and English Language Learners. While CPS is not the only school district to struggle with “over identification,” we aim to be at the front of national efforts to improve this problem.

We believe that an immediate first step must be to strengthen the standards, oversight and professional training related to special education referral, evaluation and eligibility. By creating more clear and comprehensive guidelines for school teams that review initial student referrals or who conduct special education evaluations and participate in eligibility decisions, we are able to better identify a student’s needs and provide the right kinds of support, either through MTSS interventions (see Multi-Tiered System of Supports section) or special education services. Schools that continue to refer a disproportionate number of students or subgroups to special education will receive more intensive support.

I love helping my students become proud of who they are. I love showing them that for every challenge they may struggle with, there lies a strength waiting to be cultivated. It’s rewarding to see them find those strengths and remove the taboo around learning differences.

Intensify Training and Guidance for Special Education Teams and Staff

The quality of eligibility decisions, case management and special education services varies widely in CPS. Schools must receive the intensive training and guidance they need to improve in those areas. Investing in additional staff at the network offices to provide that training will spread researchbased practices that lead to greater student achievement, social-emotional growth and postsecondary success.

Improve Professional Development to Special Education Teachers

In order to improve the quality and consistency of special education services, case management and eligibility decision making; we must provide intensive training and guidance to schools. In the past, CPS has not provided sufficient support for schools to improve special education instructional practices. Going forward, each network will provide ongoing professional development for special education teachers to improve the quality of IEPs, progress monitoring and instruction districtwide.

Page Last Modified on Thursday, January 04, 2018