Special Education Report Highlights Successes and Areas for Improvement
By Rebecca Smondrowski
Chair, Special Populations Committee
The Montgomery County Board of Education has received the results of an independent review we commissioned on special education programs in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The Board heard a presentation on the results of the review Tuesday (October 13, 2015) and began a discussion about how we can use this information to better serve our special education students and engage their families.
The Board of Education asked for this review because we felt it was important to get an external analysis of how MCPS is developing and implementing Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and how well the district is engaging and informing parents and resolving disputes. The Board’s Special Populations Committee, of which I am chair, provided the context and research questions for the review, which was conducted by WestEd, a well-regarded independent educational research company.
The report confirms that MCPS, overall, is doing a good job providing special education services to students but there are several areas where the district can make improvements. Some of the areas for growth mentioned in the report are:
- Providing clearer information and resources to parents about the IEP process;
- Better monitoring the implementation of IEPs to ensure that students are getting the services they need to be successful;
- Improving professional development and training for staff so they can better serve students and engage families; and
- Increasing transparency in the dispute resolution process to ensure that parents understand their rights and that the district is accountable for the outcomes.
The next step is that the Special Populations Committee will work with WestEd and MCPS staff to develop an action plan. This action plan will identify ways in which MCPS can go beyond meeting the letter of the law and ensure that the district is, as the report states, “meeting the culturally diverse needs of parents in understanding the complexities of the special education process.”
As chair of this committee, I can assure the public that this study will not simply sit on a shelf—we will use it to make our district better and to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for our special education students.