DC Special Education Archives

More than 50 D.C. youths in the custody of the city’s juvenile justice agency either have been killed or found guilty of killing someone else over the past five years — and the majority of them had been categorized in advance as posing a “high,” “high-medium” or “medium” risk of reoffending.

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D.C. school officials incorrectly reported their progress in adequately meeting the needs of special education students, saying they quickly handled cases that actually dragged on for years and in some cases may have never provided students services, according to a court-appointed monitor’s report.

In one case, a deaf student with college dreams dropped out of high school after D.C. Public Schools failed to provide an adequate sign language interpreter and some equipment. It took DCPS months to get her the promised equipment — some of which arrived broken.

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D.C. to train more special-ed students to use Metro

D.C. school officials are increasing their efforts to teach special-education students to take Metro to school, as the city tries to cut the $26,000-per-student annual cost of transporting them by bus.

D.C. Public Schools and other city education leaders are identifying students whom they believe can be “trained” to navigate public transportation, and who attend schools that are accessible by bus or train from their homes.

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For D.C. students, a tale of two call centers

When something goes wrong, parents of D.C. special-education students dial the call center.

The call center is housed in the Office of the State Superintendent for Education’s Department of Transportation, and handles 330 calls a day — about one call for every 11 students who the city buses to school, because their neighborhood school can’t provide the special-education services the student requires.

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The D.C. Council wants to find a cheaper way to transport special-education students, whose busing system costs the city $92 million — or $26,285 per student.

When the public schools lack the services for a student’s special needs, the federal government requires the District to foot the bill of sending the child to another school. That’s currently the case for 3,500 students, served by the Department of Student Transportation’s $92 million budget and 840 buses that run 645 routes.

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The D.C. special education system’s odyssey through the federal courts continues. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that while there has been some improvement, the District needs to dramatically ramp up its efforts to identify, assess and serve preschool-age children with special needs.

And after multiple attempts to end court supervision and return sole responsibility for special education transportation service to the District, Judge Paul L. Friedman has extended the “transition period” to Oct. 31, 2012.

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Study backs vouchers for special education

Offering vouchers for students diagnosed with special needs to attend private schools leads to fewer diagnoses and could save state and federal dollars, according to a new study by the pro-school-choice Manhattan Institute.

More than 20 percent of D.C. public school students are diagnosed with learning disabilities, compared with about 12 percent in Montgomery County and about 14 percent in Fairfax. Educators have long worried that failing districts label students as disabled when, in reality, they are behind academically for other reasons.

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