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Fort Worth, TX: Public schools "struggle to serve SPED students"; $20K for private school

June 29, 2023, Fort Worth Report: Texas public schools struggle to serve special education students. Could Jane Justin School model help?

The small private school in Fort Worth is serving students with disabilities with individualized curriculum and small class sizes.

Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lesley and Nick Markesbery were preparing to move to Texas from Florida. As their move inched closer, the private school their son attended in Florida told the couple they were making cuts.

Their son was one of the students asked to leave the school.

He’s bi-racial and a special education student.

“Our son was the longest-tenured student in the class. He was also the only Black student in the class,” Lesley said, her voice cracking with emotion. “They said, ‘We’re reducing headcount. We don’t have a spot for your child.’ Bull—-. You’re choosing to replace him. … It was just a bit more difficult. They were struggling for him to fit into their system.”

After moving to Fort Worth, the family stumbled upon the Jane Justin School.

Located inside the Child Study Center at Cook Children’s, the Jane Justin School serves special education students who struggle in a general education classroom. Data from the school shows the children are performing at or above grade level in standardized testing. If the resources of the school could be combined with the government money public schools receive, it’s possible more special education students could thrive for free….

The school tries to gain even more development than expected in a year to close the achievement gap even more, Mann said. The goal is for at least 85% of students to exceed their expected IQ gain….

At the same time, special education students in Texas public schools are struggling to succeed. Under federal law, public schools have to accept special education students and accommodate their needs. The government partly funds those needs, but not entirely, school districts have to make up the costs.

The Jane Justin School has small class sizes, teachers specifically trained in special education, tuition and parental involvement. Additionally, it chooses who to accept. Tuition ranges from $17,500 to $19,500 depending on the student. At least half of the families receive financial aid, Mann said….

The couple was able to get a diagnosis — which they prefer to keep private — from a medical professional. Once the Patersons reached out to their local public school for accommodations, Glynnis said, they knew they wouldn’t be satisfied with the service. There was too much red tape in the process. They had to find other options….

The school serves students with autism, ADHD, intellectual disability, language disorders, anxiety and other learning disorders. Most of the students have a dual diagnosis — meaning more than one disability — and Mann said they all have an individualized education plan…. Families go through an evaluation with the school to discuss the challenges the child is having.

Currently, the school has 85 students and is accepting applications for the 2024-25 school year. Each year, about 10 to 12 spots open up at the campus, Mann said. The goal is for the students to eventually return to a general education setting. The campus accepts students from pre-K until they’re 22.

Headmaster Tracie Mann gives a tour of the classrooms at the Jane Justin School. The campus of 85 students serves children with special education needs. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)


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