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Austin, TX: 9 mo. wait for SPED assessment; backlog of 1,800+ students

Apr 3, 2023, KXAN Austin: TEA report: AISD waited up to 9 months to evaluate some kids suspected of needing special needs services

Texas Education Agency investigators allege Austin Independent School District has repeatedly missed strict state and federal deadlines on evaluating kids suspected of needing special education services, according to its final investigative report published Friday.

The district is now facing state intervention in the form of a management team taking over district operations that pertain to special education.

The report alleges that TEA investigators substantiated allegations submitted over the last three years showing the district has sometimes waited as long as nine months to evaluate students who needed special education evaluations.

State law requires school districts to evaluate students within 45 days of parental consent. “I would tell you that as an organization we have made tremendous progress over the last several months, but it has been an ongoing challenge for this organization for years,” AISD Interim Superintendent Matias Segura said.

The report also alleges, in some cases, the district failed to implement the individualized education plans created by school staff after determining a student needed additional services.

The most recent numbers of district officials provided from late March 2023 show AISD having a backlog of more than 1,800 overdue evaluations. The district said since Jan. 2023 it has received 1,200 new requests.

The district also said they are understaffed when it comes to those who are licensed to complete these evaluations, specifically educational diagnosticians, and licensed specialists in school psychology.

Only 21 of the 72 positions are filled.

“It’s a challenge for an organization of our size to get the number that we need to be able to perform the work. So, we’ve been looking at identifying different types of incentives to get them into AISD,” Segura said.

‘This is not a takeover.’

Austin ISD officials reassured parents Saturday the anticipated state intervention is not the same as the recently announced state takeover of the Houston Independent School District.

The Texas Education Agency sent an enforcement letter to the Houston Independent School District in early March informing school leaders the state plans to take over the school district, after years of low student performance at several campuses.

Education Commissioner Mike Morath will replace the current school board with a state-appointed board of managers from the local community, and a new superintendent.

It’s a more extreme level of state intervention than what is currently anticipated to happen in Austin. …

Several AISD special education parents said something needs to change, but they have questions and concerns about how a TEA conservatorship would truly help.

“Are we going to be diverse? Are we going to be transparent? Are we going to try to reach out to the parents?” said parent Helen Miller. “Are you gonna try to reach out to the community? Are you gonna try to reach out to the people that have had these experiences with AISD?”

The board will ultimately have to decide to appeal the conservatorship or not by April 17.


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