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DENVER: Push for MORE inclusion of SPED students/lots more screening for learning issues

Mar 19, 2019, Chalkbeat Colorado: Improving special education: Denver task force suggests more screening, less segregation https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/03/18/improving-special-education-denver-task-force-suggests-more-screening-less-segregation/ Only about 6,700 of the nearly 10,300 Denver students who received special education services last year were included in their regular classrooms at least 80 percent of the time. That’s despite research that shows inclusion benefits both students with and without disabilities. … Special education in Denver started coming under intense public scrutiny last winter, when officials cut the number of staff members who help principals serve students with disabilities. The $4 million savings was used in part to bolster mental health services for all students. District officials said the change wouldn’t hurt special education. They explained the cuts were part of a reorganization to hone in on improving academic instruction for students with disabilities. Achievement was lowest for students of color; fewer than 3 percent of black and Latino students with disabilities met expectations on state tests in 2017, compared with nearly 17 percent of white students with disabilities. (Those percentages rose slightly in 2018.) …. ll Denver schools should commit to first teaching students with special needs in the general education classroom, with the appropriate aids and services. This would apply to both district-run and charter schools. The task force also recommends that all schools agree to “an ongoing campaign highlighting the benefits of including students with disabilities in all school activities.” … Research studies from multiple countries have found that students with disabilities who are included in the regular classroom score higher on tests, develop better social skills, and are more likely to graduate high school. Denver’s own data backs that up. Last year, 8 percent of students who were in the regular classroom at least 80 percent of the time met expectations on the state literacy test, compared with only 1 to 2 percent of students who spent more time in segregated programs. … By 2022, Frantum-Allen said his goal would be to move all students with moderate disabilities, such as developmental delays, out of segregated “center” programs and into the general population. The estimated cost to do that alone would be $3.5 million spread over three years. The estimated cost to do everything associated with this recommendation is even higher…. The district should provide funding for appropriate staffing “based on educator workload,” as well as funding for curriculum, materials, and in-school health services. … The district should recruit, develop, and retain high-quality diverse special educators. There is a shortage of special educators, and Denver Public Schools already offers extra pay to middle and high school special education teachers in an effort to recruit and retain them. But Frantum-Allen envisions another strategy, as well: providing special educators the training they need to do their difficult jobs in an effort to reduce burnout and turnover. The estimated cost of providing training to educators this summer would be about $212,000. The district should screen all entering students for predictors of future reading problems, such as dyslexia, which affects 10 to 20 percent of people.... A bill being considered by Colorado lawmakers would also expand screening for children with dyslexia, but the timeline for doing so would be long. Task force members expressed hope that Denver Public Schools could put these practices into place more quickly. Frantum-Allen’s proposed timeline would have the district develop a process to screen for dyslexia by spring 2020, and have at least one staff member trained in an approach like Orton-Gillingham working in every elementary school by fall 2022. The estimated cost of this recommendation next year would be just over $300,000. …