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Springfield, VT: 27% of students "qualify for special ed services"; oversight concerns

Feb 17, 2023, Seven Days VT: State Increases Oversight of Springfield Schools Due to Special-Ed Violations
The Vermont Agency of Education will increase its scrutiny of the Springfield School District’s special-education program after the district failed to comply with state-mandated monitoring requirements.
Approximately 340 students in the Springfield School District — around 27 percent of all students — qualify for special-education services. In a memo posted on the Agency of Education’s website last month, state officials notified Springfield administrators that the district was being moved from “selective” monitoring to the most intensive “targeted” status. The agency also plans to randomly select and review the files of 30 Springfield students who are receiving special-education services.

And in May, Agency of Education staff will make on-site visits to the district's four schools and its preschool program. “Our ultimate goal here is to figure out what the [district] is experiencing so that we can support them and support the students,” said Chris Kane, the Agency of Education’s interim director of special education.

The memo states that Springfield has shown noncompliance in two specific areas: evaluating students to determine special-education eligibility and completing postsecondary transition plans — federally required documents that include information about what students 16 and older will do after graduation. The memo lays out other evidence of Springfield's noncompliance. Fifteen days before the school district was required to submit monitoring data to the state, its special education director emailed the agency asking how to access a mandatory training that had occurred months earlier, according to the memo.

When the school district did send its monitoring submissions to the state, they were “void of any and all content required (i.e. blank templates)." The school district also failed to submit students' postsecondary transition plans, did not provide special-education services for extended periods of time and placed students in independent schools that were not approved for the students’ specific disabilities. And during an unannounced site visit last year, the district was out of compliance with special-education regulations for prekindergarten students.

The Agency of Education is required to ensure that all school districts in the state are providing a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, in accordance with the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. This requires monitoring and enforcing regulations that govern special education programs in Vermont public schools. There are three levels of state monitoring: cyclic, selective and targeted. Under cyclic monitoring, the state requires school districts to submit data every three years that shows they are meeting special-education requirements. If the Agency of Education determines that a district is out of compliance and the district does not fix the problems by a specified date, it is put under selective monitoring. The district must then undergo training and resubmit data. A school district is typically put under targeted monitoring — the most stringent category — if it doesn't get back in compliance by a certain date.

Springfield is not the only school district in the state that’s currently under targeted monitoring, according to Kane, the state’s interim special-ed director, but it is the only one that is scheduled for a site visit due to the number and nature of compliance issues….


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