Parents send their children to school with expectations that the schools will know how to provide a great education and that their children will learn to the best of their abilities. For many families, students learn quickly by following the teachers' instructions and lessons in all areas being taught.
During the school year, some students start to fall behind for a variety of reasons including failing to pay attention or missed class time because of illness. For some students, issues with learning are due to behavioral issues or neurological problems that impair information processing.
Parents may notice that their students are confused or are having trouble with their lessons and want to find out how to get help and advice. Parents who contact their child's teacher or principal, or access the district's website are met with terms and acronyms that are confusing. IEP, 504, IDEA, BCBA, ABA, LEA, LRE, SNAPS and other combinations of letters are routinely used. Finding an answer to the question, "How can we help my student learn?" is baffling for most parents.
The Lake Washington School District needs to create documentation that clearly explains what services students are entitled to, laws surrounding the District's obligation to each student, how each student's needs are being evaluated and addressed, and most importantly, how parents can contact the school to advocate for or inquire about the issues that their students may have and whether the student has been referred to a specific program. Documentation must be available in both paper format at the school and also easily accessible on the district's website.
Additionally, teachers and principals must be involved in the process. They must feel empowered to refer their students for additional services and receive appropriate help from therapists, para-educators and counselors.
Students in Special Education programs must be educated in the regular classroom, also known as Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The District's practice of using the Learning Centers as group containment rooms for SPED students for long periods of time must end.
In the District's F-195 Draft Budget for 2019-2020, the General Fund Summary shows that the Special Education Instruction expenditure will be $62,033,890 for 2019-2020. Board and superintendent oversight needs to be implemented to figure out how so much money is spent with so few students being served.
The Superintendent is responsible for creating a plan for implementing the Multi-Tier System of Support and also providing Special Education Services to all eligible students starting at the elementary school level. The school board must hold her accountable for the progress of the plan and ask for updates every month. If progress is not being made, the school board members must make it clear that providing educational programs that address the needs of all students is the top priority.