RIDE visits classes for special ed review
After the research portion began in January, the State Department of Education continued its review of Warwick’s Special Education program with school visits this week.
Superintendent Philip Thornton and Mayor Scott Avedisian requested the review in the winter. A letter from the mayor and the superintendent to RIDE requested a targeted review of “Previous Special Education Programs (including co-op formula, weighting and stanines) vs. New Special Education Program design, Disproportionality-inappropriate identification of students with IEPs, and accusations of administrative directives that IEPs not be followed.”
Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh said RIDE began shadowing special education students and teachers this month and hopes concerns expressed by teachers will be taken seriously.
“I hope that they will be taking teachers concerns seriously because the teachers are the ones in the classroom who see the negative effect that the School Committee’s decision to violate the terms and conditions of our contracts regarding weighting and co-op formula has had,” she said.
Zach Colon, a Toll Gate senior who organized a student walkout after the School Committee did not second a motion to conduct an independent investigation of special education, was hopeful but maintained his stance that investigation is needed.
“I hope that the findings reveal the truth, no matter what that may be,” he said. “I hope that there are no problems, but I still firmly believe that a third party investigation is necessary.”
City Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who spearheaded unanimously passed resolutions for an investigation, seconded Colon’s notions.
“Their idea of a review and my idea of an investigation are two different things, but we’ll see,” he said. “There is a big difference between a review and an independent investigation.”
Anthony Sinapi, a lawyer and special education advocate (he is not yet licensed to practice in the state), said RIDE should talk to the teachers of each school and ask if they believe there are issues with any of the students that have IEPs.
“If the answer is ever ‘yes,’ then they can request the school provide them with the IEPs in question. They can review those IEPs, determine if the teacher is correct, and verify with the parent(s) that such is indeed the case.
He also noted that RIDE should be asking about 504 compliance and about whether proper screening is being done to ensure students who need a 504 or IEP plan obtain one, but that “the IEP route is the best way of figuring out as quickly as possible whether there is an issue that needs further investigation.”
“I personally have been handed documents [not related to potential clients] where teachers have documented IEPs being violated and noted exactly how they were being violated, not to mention the forums where teachers and administrators have done the same,” he said.
Christine Lopes Metcalfe in Commissioner Support at RIDE said the department should have a draft report in mid-March and a final report sometime later in spring 2017, which will include actions to be taken by the district, if necessary, and a timeline for the actions. All reports, she said, once signed by RIDE and provided to the district are posted on the RIDE web site at www.ride.ri.gov/InformationAccountability/Accountability/SchoolSupportSystem.aspx.