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Per the May 16, 2018, Corrective Action, ISBE and the ISBE Appointed Monitor are obligated to publish annual reports regarding the status of the Corrective Action. However, ISBE and the Monitor have chosen to provide interim reports on a monthly basis in order to provide ongoing updates to outline the activities undertaken each month, report progress on the Corrective Action components, and provide general updates and projected activities. The first report covers the time period from June 2018 through the end of September 2018.​

ISBE Monitor Annual ReportPDF Document

Sept - Oct 2019

​KEY CORRECTIVE ACTION ACTIVITIES​​ & Related Matters

 New Laws Affecting Special Education In Illinois and Chicago Public Schools

On August 23, 2019 amendments to the Illinois School Code were signed into law via Public Act 101-0515 and Public Act 101-0507.  Some amendments affect CPS specifically, and others impact all Illinois school districts.  ISBE is currently working on a side-by-side comparison document that describes the amendments for CPS versus all of Illinois.  The amendments are summarized below:

  • Public Comment Periods for Proposed Changes to Special Education (CPS only)

    CPS must publish any proposed changes to its special education policies, guidelines, or procedures for a public comment period prior to adoption of the proposed changes.

    • For changes that are authorized by the Chicago School Board, the public comment period must be active via CPS’ website for no less than 30 days.
    • For changes authorized by ODLSS or any other CPS administrative office, the public comment period must be active for no less than 45 days.

    After the public comment period is closed, CPS must maintain all public comments for at least two years from the date the change is adopted or finalized.

  • ODLSS Procedural Manual & Guidance Documents Accessibility (CPS only)

    The ODLSS Procedural Manual and any other publicly available special education documents, in print or on the CPS website, must be available in both English and Spanish.  The documents must also be available in other languages and accessible for individuals with disabilities upon request.

    The 2018-19 ODLSS Procedural Manual is available in English, Spanish, Urdu, Polish, Arabic, and Chinese, and the 2019-20 version is currently posted in draft form on the ODLSS website and open to public comment until November 23, 2019, per the amendment described above.

  • IEP Draft Materials to Parents/Guardians Prior to Eligibility & IEP Meetings (all IL school districts)

    Beginning in the 2018-19 school year and per Public Act 100-0993, CPS was required to provide parents/guardians with draft copies of the student’s IEP and related documents at least 5 school days prior to a scheduled IEP meeting.  The draft materials had to include, but were not limited to, the proposed program goals, accommodations and modifications, draft evaluations, and any collected data.

    The new amendments now require all Illinois school districts to provide parents/guardians with all written material that will be considered by the IEP team at the eligibility and/or IEP meeting at least 3 school days prior to the meeting.  Written material must include, at minimum, all evaluations and collected data that will be considered at the meeting and a copy of all IEP components that will be discussed by the IEP team, other than the components related to the educational and related service minutes proposed for the child’s least restrictive environment (LRE) / educational placement.

  • Related Service Logs (all IL school districts)

    Illinois schools must make related service logs available to parents/guardians at the student’s annual review IEP meeting or at any time upon request by the parent/guardian.  The logs must indicate the type of related services administered per the IEP and the minutes of each type of related service.

    If a student’s IEP team determines that certain services are required in order for the student to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), and those services are not administered within 10 school days of the date or frequency noted in the IEP, the school must provide the parent/guardian with written notification that those services have not yet been provided to the student. The notification must be provided to the parent/guardian within 3 days of non-compliance and must include information on the parent/guardian’s ability to request compensatory education services.

    “School days” does not include days where a child is absent from school for reasons that are unrelated to a lack of IEP services. 

  • Response to Scientific, Research-based Intervention (all IL school districts)

    A new section was added to the Illinois School Code to address RtI/MTSS practices, which refers to a tiered process of school supports that utilize differentiated instructional strategies for students, which must be utilized prior to and during an evaluation procedure to determine whether a student is eligible for special education services due to a specific learning disability. A school district may also utilize RtI/MTSS data when determining whether a student is eligible for any other disability category.  The requirements of this section identify mandatory components of the RtI/MTSS process including a collaborative team approach with parent/guardian involvement in the data-sharing and decision-making processes.

  • State Complaints and Written Notification Regarding the 2017-18 ISBE Public Inquiry (CPS only)

    An addition to the section of the School Code that addresses State complaint procedures now mandates that complaints alleging a delay or denial of special education services during the 2016-17 and/or 2017-18 school years, as per the ISBE Public Inquiry and Corrective Action Plan, must be filed on or before September 30, 2021.

    A new section of the School Code mandates that CPS provide written notice to parents/guardians regarding their rights to request relief (i.e. student specific corrective action) via a State complaint, State-sponsored mediation, or a request for an impartial due process hearing.  The written notice had to be posted on the CPS website’s home page and sent home with students at least once within 30 days of the first day of school.  CPS complied with this requirement by posting the notice on its website and sending a hard copy home with students via “backpack notice.”  The written notification can be found here, under “Important Notice on Special Education Services.”

 Student Specific Corrective Action (SSCA)

Overview

As described in prior Monitor reports throughout the 2018-19 school year, the purpose of student specific corrective action (SSCA) is to identify and provide a remedy for students with disabilities who were impacted during the 2016-17 and/or 2017-18 school years by special education procedural changes and “locks and blocks" in CPS' electronic IEP system in one or more of the five areas identified by the ISBE Public Inquiry:

  1. Paraprofessional support (aide)
  2. Transportation services (bus)
  3. Extended school year (ESY) (IEP summer services)
  4. Placement in a therapeutic day school (placement in special education school)
  5. Identification of a student with a specific learning disability (LD)
  6. Identification of Students Potentially Impacted

    With ISBE review and approval, CPS utilized SSM data to identify a class of students who were potentially impacted in one or more of the five areas listed above. Approximately 9,500 students were identified as potentially impacted. CPS was overly inclusive in their data pulls and analysis to ensure that potentially impacted students are not overlooked.

    Notification

    To Parents

    In September, and as required by P.A. 101-0515 described above, CPS notified parents/guardians of the proposed SSCA process. Three different types of notices were disseminated:

    • A letter to specific parents/guardians of students identified by the ODLSS data run (~9,500) as being potentially impacted and thus requiring an SSCA meeting,
    • An additional letter to all other parents of active/current students with disabilities with information regarding the SSCA process, and
    • A notice to all CPS parents/guardians regarding the SSCA process, via website notification and “backpack notice."

    All forms of notification state that a parent/guardian may request that their child be considered for student specific corrective action if the parent/guardian believes their child was impacted by a denial and/or delay of one or more of the 5 areas of services during the 2016-17 and/or the 2017-18 school year(s).

    To Schools

    ODLSS provided a list of the approximately 9,500 students that were identified as potentially impacted and required an SSCA meeting to each school in September 2019.  In response, many schools contacted ODLSS with corrections to the list.  This was especially the case for schools with programs for students who require a significantly modified curriculum (“low incidence" or “cluster" classrooms). The schools pointed out that specific students received programmatic paraprofessional support from special education classroom aides (SECAs) who are automatically assigned to all cluster classrooms. The SSM data pull was unable to distinguish these students from those who had paraprofessional support removed from their IEP's during the 2016-17 and/or 17-18 school years.  As such, schools (mostly those with cluster classrooms) provided a collective list of approximately 1,000 students for whom appropriate services in one or more of the 5 identified areas were claimed to be provided during the relevant school year(s).

    Currently, an ODLSS attorney, an ODLSS District Representative, and the ISBE Monitor are reviewing each student on the lists submitted to ODLSS by schools to determine whether an SSCA meeting is mandated.  Of course, even if it is determined that a student does not require an SSCA meeting, a parent/guardian may request an SSCA meeting if they believe one is necessary.

    Timeline

    ISBE and CPS anticipated that the SSCA process would be “live" on October 1, 2019.  However, details of the SSCA process were still being discussed and finalized during September, and ISBE engaged in further consultation with OSEP regarding appropriate remedies.  Given that Public Act 101-0515 was passed on August 23, and the SSCA procedures had not yet been finalized and released at that time, CPS is required by the new law to publish the SSCA guidelines for a 45-day public comment period before SSCA meetings could proceed.  The public comment period will end on November 23, and ISBE expects that SSCA meetings will commence shortly thereafter.

    Methodology

    IEP Meetings

    Per explicit guidance from the United States Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (DOE OSEP), IEP teams will be responsible for conducting the SSCA meetings, and parents/guardians may request an SSCA meeting at any time. An SSCA meeting may be held in conjunction with a student's annual IEP meeting, or it may be held as a free-standing meeting on another date. Mandatory IEP team members include the parent/guardian, local school district representative, special education teacher, general education teacher, and any other member determined to have essential knowledge regarding the student to make a fully informed decision regarding SSCA.  An SSCA meeting cannot proceed without parent/guardian participation, which may occur via phone.

    A Notice of Conference (NOC) for any IEP meeting that also includes an SSCA meeting must explicitly state the purpose of the meeting including the consideration of SSCA. A companion document to the NOC is the SSCA Document/Data Collection Checklist, which indicates the documents and/or data that will be considered and discussed at the SSCA meeting.  Parents/guardians are also encouraged and allowed to bring whatever data and documentation they believe is relevant to the discussion.

    At the SSCA meeting, the IEP team will determine if a denial/delay occurred in one or more of the 5 relevant areas during the relevant schools years (2016-17; 2017-18) and whether the student made expected progress in light of his/her unique circumstances.  If a delay or denial occurred and the student did not make expected progress, s/he will be eligible for remedies as determined by the IEP team.

    Remedies

    In consultation with the DOE OSEP, a menu of potential SSCA remedies will be included on the SSCA NOC Checklist.  The remedies are detailed in the draft SSCA guidance document found on the ODLSS website under the CPS Policies and Procedures page.

    A simplified list of the potential SSCA remedies as of October 23, 2019 follows:

    • Tutoring services – after school or via Summer Academy
    • Extended School Year (ESY) – if the student does not already qualify for ESY, or additional weeks if the student is already eligible for ESY.
    • Access to a Chromebook with a read/write/math extension program
    • Reimbursement – if the parent/guardian transported his/her child to/from school via car or the CTA
    • Related services – if the student missed 10 or more consecutive school days due to a delay/denial of transportation and did not receive related services during that time.
    • Placement in a therapeutic day school

    The IEP team, including the parent/guardian, will determine which remedy or combination of remedies is appropriate to adequately address the impact of a delay/denial of services based on the child's unique circumstances.

    If a parent/guardian or staff member does not believe that any of the potential remedies or combination thereof will be adequate, they must inform the school's case manager so that an ODLSS District Representative may attend the SSCA meeting to discuss other remedy options.  An ODLSS D.R. is an LEA (Local Educational Agency) representative who is knowledgeable about the availability of the District's resources, as required by the IDEA,  at an IEP meeting.  A request for an ODLSS D.R.'s attendance may occur prior to the SSCA meeting or during an SSCA meeting, whereupon the meeting will be reconvened with a D.R. in attendance.  The ODLSS draft Procedural Manual indicates that this meeting must be reconvened within 15 school days. (See p. 88)

    Training

    Principals, Assistant Principals, Network Chiefs, and ODLSS District Representatives

    CPS/ODLSS provided mandatory training on the SSCA process during the 2019 CPS Law Conference (July 17-18, 23-26).  The ISBE Monitor attended these sessions to provide clarification and/or additional directives when necessary. 

    Case Managers

    ODLSS provided mandatory SSCA training sessions to CPS case managers during the 2019 Case Manager Kick-Off (August 26, 27, 28, and 30).  The Monitor also attended these sessions to provide additional guidance. A make-up session was held on September 17.

    Related Service Providers and ODLSS Central Office Staff

    ODLSS provided a detailed overview of the SSCA process to ODLSS clinicians and central office staff prior to the first week of the 2019-20 school year.

    Parents/Guardians

    ODLSS and ISBE offered SSCA training sessions to parents/guardians at schools in six geographical areas across Chicago at the September Parent University workshops. Daytime workshops were held on September 11, 13, 24, 26, and 27, 2019, and an evening session occurred on September 19, 2019. School locations included Richards High School, Cleveland Elementary School, Washington High School, Juarez High School, Bouchet Elementary School, and Bogan High School.  Additional sessions will be scheduled throughout the school year, as well as conducted upon request via schools and/or parents.

    Training materials for the Parent University SSCA workshops can be found on the ISBE Monitor website under “Trainings & Webinars."

    General

    ODLSS will record an SSCA training webinar that will be accessible to all CPS staff throughout the school year in order to assist them with the SSCA process, given that students' annual review meetings occur during every month of the school year.

    SSCA Compliance Monitoring

    During the 2019-20 school year, ISBE will review student specific corrective action IEP documents from each CPS Network to review IEP teams' SSCA determinations and analysis. The Monitor will focus on schools that have high numbers of students who were identified by ODLSS as potentially impacted via SSM data pulled during the summer, as described above under “Identification of Students Potentially Impacted."

    The Monitor will also coordinate IEP reviews with the centralized ODLSS SSCA team, which is projected to consist of an ODLSS DR, an ODLSS attorney, an administrative assistant, and the ODLSS Parent Involvement Specialists. This team will be reviewing SSCA meeting compliance and decisions, as well as providing technical assistance to IEP teams and support to parents/guardians during the SSCA process. The Monitor will also focus on schools, if any, that parents, advocates, and/or CPS staff identify as problematic in their SSCA decision-making process or IEP team processes in general.

    The Monitor retains the authority to overturn IEP team decisions granting or denying remedial opportunities, or she may direct the IEP team to conduct further analysis. The Monitor will also follow CPS' tracking of SSCA meetings and team decisions. It is anticipated that this tracking process will be accomplished by reviewing SSM reports that indicate which SSCA meetings have occurred at each school and across the District.

    SSCA Questions, Reports, Issues

    All stakeholders are encouraged to contact the ISBE Monitor and/or ODLSS regarding any questions, concerns, and issues with SSCA via isbemonitor@isbe.net and SSCA@cps.edu.​​​

 2019-20 Monitor Goals & Objectives

Based upon the outcomes of the 2018-19 corrective action (Year 1), along with thoughtful consideration of the continued need to take action that will create sustained and positive change in CPS’ system of special education, ISBE aims to expand Monitoring during the 2019-20 school year through additional hiring, monitoring CPS’ SSCA process, and meeting the following goals and objectives. The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list of ISBE’s goals and objectives during the second year of Corrective Action:

  • Track Data

    An utmost priority during the second year of the Corrective Action is ensuring that IEP teams are making data-driven decisions to meet students’ needs, including their SSCA needs. The Monitor’s initial data tracking will focus on, but not be limited to, the four main focus areas of the Corrective Action Report:

    • Whether CPS's electronic IEP system, either alone or in conjunction with CPS's Policies and Procedures, resulted in an unlawful denial or delay of required services or limitations on the required continuum of services to students;
    • Whether CPS's documentation and data collection requirements resulted in unlawful denial or delay in the identification of eligibility or provision of special education and related services to students;
    • Whether CPS's budgeting system resulted in unlawful denial or delay in the provision of special education and related services to students; and
    • Whether CPS's policies regarding transportation resulted in an unlawful denial or delay in the provision of needed transportation services to students

  • Provide and Monitor Additional Training

    The Monitor will continue to review and approve all special education related training materials. In addition, the Monitor will attend training sessions across CPS’ Networks at the Monitor’s discretion. The Monitor will continue to track the need for additional training based on observations at schools and IEP meetings, as well as the continued feedback and reports from parents/guardians, CPS staff, ODLSS staff, and ISBE colleagues.

  • Deliver Guidance

    The Monitor will continue to oversee and provide guidance to CPS to effectively implement SSCA with fidelity, fairness, and consistency across the District. As described above, the purpose of SSCA is to provide students whose services were delayed or denied, as defined in the Public Inquiry, with access to a remedy that addresses the specific delay or denial per the directives and guidance of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.

  • Deliver Professional Development

    Another Monitor goal is to further develop the Additional Training Plan (Corrective Action Strand H) by assisting CPS with professional development for the 2019-20 school year that addresses key special education issues within CPS. The PD will focus on components of special education issues identified through mediations, State Complaints, and emails/reports to the Monitor.

    The Monitor met with the ODLSS professional development teams on three occasions over the summer to discuss these components, which led to planning for more robust training in progress monitoring methods, how to effectively utilize data to drive instruction and IEP development, and individualized development and implementation of accommodations and modifications. Other topics include: a focus on general education teacher input and implementation, data-based decision making with a focus on data-justified service minutes, student-based need for a significantly modified curriculum and communication of the school assignment process to parents/guardians, and successfully navigating difficult IEP discussions to reach team consensus with full and meaningful parent participation.

  • Partner with Stakeholders

    The Corrective Action activities stem from allegations raised by concerned advocates, and ISBE recognizes the value in communicating with advocates and stakeholders to ensure that CPS’ continued policies, procedures and practices are consistent with the requirements of the IDEA, Illinois’ Article 14 of the School Code, and their respective implementing regulations.

  • Coordinate with CPS

    An essential component of the Corrective Action Plan is ISBE’s work with CPS & ODLSS to correct practices, improve data-based IEP team decisions, and focus on improving and strengthening all CPS schools’ capacities and abilities to provide rigorous academic and behavioral supports and services to students with disabilities.

    The Monitor aims to meet with the 17 CPS Network Chiefs and school administrators to direct effective school-level corrective action and oversight regarding special education practices.

    In addition, the Monitor will continue meetings with CPS’ new Office of Network Supports’ (ONS) Chief Schools Officer to ensure continued, appropriate response to the Corrective Action Plan Strands. Finally, the Monitor will work closely with CPS’ new ODLSS Chief and Deputy Chief, who were both appointed in mid-August 2019.

​Historical Reports​​

 SPRING 2019

Special Education Budgeting and Staffing

As described in prior reports, Special Education teacher and Special Education Classroom Assistant (SECA) position allocations are determined by an ongoing individualized analysis of each school. Position allocations are not only based on special education student enrollment, but also on each diverse learner's specific LRE setting (i.e. LRE 1, 2, or 3), specific student needs, and grade level.

ODLSS' budget details can be found herePDF Document (pp. 23-27), within the CPS' Fiscal Year 2019 Budget website. These details were released in early August 2018.  ODLSS also compiled a comprehensive budget overview and vision for the 2019-20 school year and presented it to the ISBE Monitor over a number of sessions in the Fall, as well as in January and February.  The Monitor recently suggested that ODLSS transform that information into a webinar that would be accessible to all stakeholders in order to more fully explain the budget and allocation process.  Once the webinar is recorded and finalized, it will be posted on both the ODLSS and ISBE Monitor websites. ODLSS will also be presenting an overview of the budget process to the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) in May; PAC meeting details can be found here.

On March 25, CPS rolled out school budgets for FY20 to all school administrators. Four separate large group sessions were held for groups of CPS Networks (5-6 network groups per session) during the course of the day, and small breakout sessions were conducted for each Network after the large group session, with representatives from CPS departments, including ODLSS, available to clarify information and field questions.

Recognizing that student enrollment and needs are fluid components that constantly affect budgetary needs, ODLSS created a Post-Budget Release Appeal Request Google Form to give Principals the immediate and ongoing ability to request position adjustments and submit appeals due to projected changes for the 2019-20 school year.  Principals also retain the ability to request position adjustments for the remainder of this school year.  The ISBE Monitor reviews this “real time" position request forms and all supporting documentation.  As with all position requests throughout the school year, if a position request is denied, ODLSS notifies the ISBE Monitor and calls the school to discuss the details and rationale for the denial.  Based on these conversations, ODLSS sometimes reconsiders and changes the denial, and the ISBE Monitor may also override any position denials and request additional information and documentation.  Once a decision is reached, ODLSS sends a follow-up email to the Principal, and if a position is approved, the Principal receives a position number within 24-48 hours in collaboration with the CPS Talent Office. A position number immediately allows a school to obtain substitute coverage for Special Education Teachers and SECA's.

It should be noted that the budget process for the ODLSS Related Service Providers (e.g. Social Workers, Psychologists, etc.) is separate and distinct from that of Special Education teachers and SECAs.​​​

Stakeholder Involvement 

Parent University Workshops

In March, the ODLSS Parent Involvement Specialists and District RepresentativesPDF Document presented “Advocacy: Tools of Empowerment" for the Parent University Workshop sessions.  Content included a review of the special education process, preparing for meetings, advocacy during and after an IEP meeting, and how to review progress monitoring data.  Resources provided were a new ODLSS Special Education Toolkit for Parents/Guardians with sample forms and worksheets, as well as the ISBE Illinois Student Records Keeper for Parents of Students who Receive Special Education Services.  ISBE is currently updating this Records Keeper, booklet, which is a companion to Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois (or “ISBE Parent GuidePDF Document"), which ISBE is also updating.  Approximately 40-45 Parents/Guardians attended the March sessions. 

The ISBE Monitor, Parent Involvement Specialists, and District Representatives also held an evening session to present the “Understanding Your Rights as a Parent/Guardian of a CPS Diverse Learner" workshop to ten parents on March 26 at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. 


The Spring 2019 ODLSS Parent Empowerment Expo

ODLSS Spring Parent Empowerment Expo Saturday, May 11, 2019 for  9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Hosted by: The Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, 2102 W. Ogden Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612 

On May 11 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., ODLSS will host its Spring Parent Empowerment Expo at the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities.  The Expo will feature educational workshops, community organizations, service providers, free immunizations, entertainment, and children's activities. The Expo aims to connect families of students with disabilities to programs, services, and resources to assist in their journeys. Registration information can be found on the Parent University website.


Joint Stakeholder Meetings

ISBE-CPS

The ISBE Monitor meets with ODLSS at least once, usually twice, per week to discuss the ongoing Corrective Action, as well as related strategies, planning, and professional development.  Regular meeting participants include the ODLSS Chief, ODLSS Executive Director of Procedures and Standards, CPS Senior Assistant General Counsel, and ODLSS District Representatives. Other meeting participants have often been the ODLSS Budget team, ODLSS Data Manager, ODLSS Director of Related Services Providers, ODLSS Director of Due Process and Mediation, and ODLSS Director of Procedures and Standards. The ISBE Monitor also meets with CEO Jackson and CEdO McDade to discuss specific issues, schools, and Networks as necessary.

ISBE-Advocate Representatives-CTU-(CPS)

At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, ISBE and representatives from the advocate groups (“Advocates") agreed to meet monthly as schedules permit to discuss relevant updates and issues regarding CPS' special education practices. A Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Field Representative also attends these meetings to share the critical CTU perspective to both parties.  The parties agreed to invite/involve CPS staff on an as-needed basis, and CPS agreed with that arrangement. We are currently re-evaluating that arrangement and will likely be integrating CPS staff into a standing monthly meeting.

CTU-CPS-ISBE Joint Committee Meeting

ISBE also attends a standing Joint Committee Meeting with CTU Representatives and CPS at CTU headquarters every month to discuss special education practices, concerns, and recommendations in the field. The participants regularly discuss CPS' electronic IEP system, suggested edits and additions to the ODLSS Procedural Manual, additional tools for teachers and case managers, recurring issues for both Special Education and General Education teachers, appropriate use of special education staff, and consistency in best practices for students with disabilities across all CPS schools.

ISBE-SEIU

In April, the ISBE Monitor, ISBE General Counsel, and ISBE Executive Director of Special Education Services will be meeting with leaders and members of the Service Employees International Union Local 73 (SEIU). CPS employs nearly 4,000 Special Education Classroom Assistants (SECAs), who are represented by the SEIU. SECAs are critical members of ODLSS' special education staff, as they are responsible for the physical, personal, and behavioral support and care of students with disabilities.  They also provide significant curriculum and instructional support and assist with progress monitoring in collaboration with Special Education and General Education teachers. 

SECAs across the city will be sharing their experiences in CPS classrooms and providing their ideas on a productive work environment for SECAs and students with the ISBE team.  ISBE would like to continue collaborating with the SEIU as valuable thought partners, and we aim to include SEIU leaders and representatives in our standing meetings with CPS and the Advocates so they will have the ongoing opportunity to offer their ideas for improved care and learning for Chicago's students with disabilities.​​

Additional Training

​The ISBE Monitor and CPS have been utilizing this first school year of monitoring to evaluate the topics needed for additional training and have provided training for specific topics based on urgency and upon request.  For example, in January, ODLSS developed an update 3-hour training on progress monitoring, which is a key area of needed professional development and growth among CPS teachers.  The ISBE Monitor reviewed the content and sat in on one of the training sessions in February, which was well-attended by teachers, case managers, and related service providers.  
 
On March 7 and 9, the ISBE Monitor co-facilitated two sessions provided to General Education teachers at the 2-day CTU Delegate Training.  A lead CTU Field Representative with special education expertise and the Monitor provided detailed guidance and feedback for teachers regarding their unique role in the special education referral process and as legal members of the IEP Team.  Detailed discussions addressed the importance of implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) for students in both academic and behavioral areas, robust data collection, and an ongoing commitment to collaborating with Special Education teachers and Parents/Guardians to provide services to all students with integrity, empathy, and commitment. 

The Monitor, CPS, and the CTU will continue to gather data and feedback from the field (i.e. case managers, teachers, administrators, clinicians, counselors, and SECAs) regarding what is most needed to assist staff with thoughtful analysis as to services and supports individualized to each student based on his/her unique needs, strengths, and circumstances. 

Adopting or Changing Special Education Policies/Procedures​

CPS has fully complied with the Corrective Action in that it shall seek approval from the ISBE Monitor prior to changing or adopting policies and procedures regarding special education, including any changes to its Procedural Manual.  As described in past Monitor Reports, ISBE was involved with all changes to the ODLSS Procedural Manual that occurred prior to the 2018-19 school year and has been in communication with CPS regarding any policy changes throughout the school year.  

One example of a policy change ISBE accepted relates to school choice for parents whose children require placement in a CPS “cluster” program.  This program includes specialized classrooms in certain CPS schools for students who require a significantly modified curriculum. Students within this population tend to be students with moderate and intensive cognitive and/or behavioral needs per their disabilities (e.g., intellectual disabilities, autism). Historically, students were assigned to a school without parent input, but in full accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). ODLSS now provides an opportunity for parents to identify up to three preferred school locations that house cluster programs and are able to implement the child’s IEP.  The process will consider parent preferences, as well as available seats in schools with a cluster program, in accordance with the IDEA and with ISBE’s special education class size guidelines.  The Monitor will oversee this process and CPS’ communication with Parents on this matter throughout April.​

 FEBRUARY 2019

IEP Meetings

As described in the last monthly report, the ISBE Monitor attends IEP meetings for various reasons including requests from Parents, school-based staff, ODLSS, or the CPS CEO’s, as well as attending randomly selected meetings based on reported issues regarding the school site. The Monitor also suggests, or sometimes requires, that schools utilize ISBE IEP Meeting Facilitators for specific IEP meetings.

The first column of the table below illustrates highlights that have been observed directly by the Monitor or by ISBE Facilitators (as reported to the Monitor).  However, we recognize that ISBE’s presence at an IEP meeting may inspire the IEP Team to put forth their very best efforts, which may or may not be the norm for that particular team.  As such, Parents are always encouraged to provide feedback or debrief with the Monitor to determine whether the tone, pace, language, and overall effectiveness of the meeting was significantly different from that of past meetings.  The Monitor also considers input from school-based staff, school administration, and ODLSS participants.

The second column of the table reflects issues and concerns related to the corresponding highlight.  These concerns stem from the Monitor’s direct observations, Parent feedback, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) input, and information obtained from ODLSS meeting participants. All issues and concerns will be utilized in the development of additional (or continued) District-wide Professional Development, school or Network level training sessions, and more robust IEP tools for both Parents and school-based staff.

The need for additional training regarding IEP development and implementation is not novel or surprising for CPS or any of our Illinois school districts.  Both veteran and new teachers consistently request additional training in the general IEP process and specific sections of the IEP.  While ISBE’s mandated trainingPDF Document sessions for all CPS teachers during the first semester included guidance on drafting meaningful and legally compliant IEPs, more training is planned via webinars, District-wide trainings, and school-based sessions.  ODLSS also provides ongoingProfessional Development regarding IEP writing and implementation throughout the school year.  CPS teachers should consult the CPS Learning Hub, their ODLSS District Representative (DR), or their ODLSS Special Education Representative (SEA) for more information. ​​

IEP Meetings & Development


Highlights at Individual Schools
District-Wide Concerns/Needs Training
  • General Education teachers participate meaningfully in the entire IEP meeting, providing input on grade-based curriculum and inclusion opportunities.
  • GenEd and Special Education teachers collaborate on student accommodations and modifications, goals, and progress monitoring. If they do not have common planning time, they find other ways and times to consult with each other (e.g. before or after school meetings, phone conferences, google documents).
  • General Education teachers are not consistently invited to IEP meetings across the District.
  • GenEd teachers leave meetings early without the Parents’ understanding that only a Parent can excuse an IEP Team member (in writing).
  • GenEd teachers attend meetings for students in other grades or on behalf of students they do not know or teach.
  • Principals do not obtain substitute coverage for teachers on IEP Team days, or they inappropriately limit the time of IEP meetings or the times a teacher is allowed to attend.
  • Qualitative and quantitative data is diligently collected and documented to support IEP Team decisions, especially regarding paraprofessional support and ESY eligibility.
  • Data and related items of criteria are shown to and described to Parents prior to and during the IEP meeting.
  • Data is described in a way that makes sense in the context of the Student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFPs) and the Student’s goals.
  • Schools are not collecting comprehensive, robust data to support IEP decisions.
  • Progress Monitoring data, required by law, is not properly or consistently collected per the evaluation criteria reflected in the IEP goals.
  • Teachers (GenEd and SpEd) are not collecting Progress Monitoring data, and meaningful feedback is not provided regarding students’ accommodations and modifications.
  • Data and team decisions are not explained or explained thoroughly enough to Parents at the IEP meeting.
  • MTSS data is lacking or incomplete at the Initial Eligibility Determination meeting.
  • Minutes for specialized instruction in academic and related service areas are contemplated and discussed in detail with the Parents at the IEP meeting.
  • Minutes are selected based on individualized needs per the appropriate subject area and based on evaluation results and classroom assessments.
  • Academic and/or behavioral data is not collected or does not support recommendations for the student to participate in a more restrictive setting.
  • IEP teams have full access to the electronic IEP system and can make determinations regarding paraprofessional support, ESY, and transportation* at IEP meetings.

    *with the exception of charters schools for transportation.
  • As noted herein, while teams have the flexibility to make IEP determinations, qualitative and quantitative data must justify these decisions; data needs to be comprehensive, clear, and consistent to support a change in services and placement.
  • IEP Teams are well-versed in the ODLSS Procedural Manual or access it regularly when they are unclear on a matter or wish to describe a section more thoroughly to a Parent.
  • Much of the language from the Manual has been incorporated into the eIEP to assist teams (e.g. definitions of Q&Q data for different areas/sections of the IEP).
  • Teams have heard of or are aware of the Procedural Manual, but they do not consult it regularly or when they do not understand a component of the IEP or special education process.

District-Wide Teacher Trainings

While the Monitor’s monthly reports have consistently provided updated information (i.e. number of teachers trained) regarding the ISBE-provided mandatory CPS teacher training sessions, a recent  letter  to the ISBE Board stated that “no information had been provided” as to how many staff members have been trained.  To the contrary, precise numbers were provided via the Monitor’s June-September, October, and November reports.  As of late February, 25,473 teachers have participated in the mandated training in-person or via webinar.​

Special Education Budgeting and Staffing

During the month of February, ODLSS reviewed the allocated special education positions, long-term vacancies, and staffing requests for every CPS school.  The ISBE Monitor has been meeting regularly with the budgeting team, and has been reviewing ODLSS’ staff review details and rationale.   As described in last month’s Monitor Report, CPS has returned to its prior practice of allocating centrally-funded special education teacher and paraprofessional positions to schools. Position allocation is determined by an ongoing individualized analysis of each school and is based on student enrollment and each diverse learner’s specific LRE setting (i.e. LRE 1, 2, or 3) and grade level.

ODLSS compiled a comprehensive budget overview and vision for the 2019-20 school year and presented it to the ISBE Monitor over a number of sessions in the Fall, January, and February.  The Monitor recently suggested that ODLSS transform that information into a webinar that would be accessible to all stakeholders in order to more fully explain the budget and allocation process.  The webinar is scheduled to be recorded in mid-March and will be posted in late March or early April on both the ODLSS and ISBE Monitor websites.​

Stakeholder Involvement

Parent University Workshops

The ISBE Monitor collaborated with the ODLSS Parent Involvement Specialists and District Representatives to present “Notices for Parents/Guardians” for the February Parent University Workshop sessions.  Content included descriptions and samples of the notices and consent forms that must be provided to Parents and Guardians as mandated by law. Discussions focused on the processes and parental rights that accompany each notice and consent form, and lengthy Q&A sessions were held at the end of every session.

While ISBE, ODLSS, the ODLSS Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and CPS’ Office of Family and Community Engagement in Education (FACE) are consistently discussing and brainstorming strategies to increase attendance and spread the word about the workshops, attendance has nevertheless been growing, albeit minimally.  Through January, the 2018-19 SY attendance for all combined in-person Parent University Workshop sessions is approximately 191 Parents and Guardians. Of course, a good number of these parents and guardians are frequent attendees, but each month’s session features different content and tools, thus repeated attendance is encouraged.  These “frequent fliers” have also been integral in informing other Parents and Guardians within their children’s schools and communities to increase attendance at the workshops.

Based on discussions with advocates and other organizations that host parent-based events and information sessions, it is common that while many Parents and Guardians express interest in or register for events, the actual turnout is far less than anticipated.  For example, in anticipation of ISBE’s live Parent webinar on the evening of December 19, 2018, over 70 individuals registered for the webinar, but only 25 signed in to participate in the session.

However, over the course of the Parent University Workshop sessions, the bright side is that the sessions that have smaller attendance numbers allow Parents the opportunity to ask questions, seek advice, and discuss individual circumstances regarding their children.  The Parent Involvement Specialists, District Representatives, ISBE Monitor, and translators have consistently stayed on-site after the end of the sessions for 1-2.5 hours to talk to Parents and have extensive conversations regarding individual cases.​

 DECEMBER 2018 - JANUARY 2019

SPE​CIAL EDUCATION STAFFING

Similar to all public school districts in Illinois and the United States, Chicago Public Schools is faced with serious special education teacher shortages. Nearly 50% of CPS teacher vacancies throughout the school year are special education roles.  Nevertheless, despite the shortage of Special Education teachers, CPS has staffed more Special Education teachers in its classrooms in the 2018-19 school year than at any point in the previous 5+ years.

In June 2018, ODLSS (CPS' Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services) had 3,783 budgeted Special Education teacher positions; 4.8% of which were vacant.  Since that time, ODLSS increased staffing (i.e. filled some of the vacancies) by a net of 169 teachers.  However, during the same time period, ODLSS' budgeted special education positions increased by 297, via requests by schools for additional staff.   As a result, although CPS has increased its numbers of Special Education teachers within its schools by nearly 5%, its vacancy rate increased from 4.8% to 7.6%, and the actual number of vacancies has grown from 182 in June to 310 in January.  

CPS Special Education Teachers

Positions Category Positions Budgeted as of 1/4/2019 Vacancies as of 1/4/2019
Special Education Teachers 4,080 310 (7.6%)

CPS Teacher Recruiting Strategies

In addition to CPS' traditional recruitment activities and continuing to host approximately 175 student teachers within its schools each year, the CPS Talent Office leads the following actions: 

  • Early Offers
  • Through the Talent Office's Early Offer Program, CPS guarantees jobs to qualified candidates prior to the eventual completion of their licensing programs.  These offers are based upon performance indicators at the school level during their training, as well as interviews with the Talent Office.  CPS hired more than 50 special education candidates through early offers last year. 

  • International Recruitment
  • The Talent Office has historically used their International Teacher Program as an avenue to hire high-need content area positions. Through these partnerships, CPS hopes to bring a pool of 20-25 special education teachers to the District for the 2019-2020 school year.​

  • Special Education Teacher Residencies
  • Beyond recruitment activity, CPS has developed a Special Education Teacher Residency in partnership with Relay Graduate School of Education. There are currently 12 teacher residents enrolled. This helps college graduates make a smoother and more realistic transition into teaching in one year while being paid. This program is expected to scale to approximately 50 special education teacher residents per year by 2021.

    The Talent Office is also developing a second special education teacher residency program, one that is tailored to those candidates who have not yet attained a bachelor's degree. This residency will focus on special education and early childhood education, focusing on building a pathway for support staff and paraprofessionals to earn initial licensure in special education.​

  • Endorsements for Current CPS Teachers
  • Lastly, the Talent Office has created a Continuing Education Program to encourage current teachers to earn an LBS1 special education endorsement.  Through negotiated partnerships with more than a dozen universities for discounted tuition (between 20% and 60% reduction), CPS has helped enroll 115 currently licensed teachers in coursework toward their LBS1 endorsement.  CPS is currently working to track the teachers' progress and estimate the completion dates. ​​​​

ODLSS PROCEDURAL MANUAL AVAILABLE IN ADDITIONAL LANGUAGES

The recently updated 94-page ODLSS Procedural Manual is now available in six languages: English, Spanish, Urdu, Polish, Arabic, and simplified Chinese. Links to all versions can be found on the ODLSS website in the “Understanding Special Education​​” section.

ISBE MONITOR SCHOOL VISITS

Per the components of Corrective Action ReportPDF Document and related ISBE recommendations, the ISBE Appointed Monitor has been visiting CPS schools for various purposes.  All visits are conducted with professional courtesy and with respect for each school's daily operations and schedule.  The ISBE Monitor and her team aims to provide corrective guidance and constructive feedback to CPS school administrators and staff.  School visits are intended to be productive learning experiences for all involved, including the Monitor. Only with this positive approach can we build, or rebuild, the rapport between ISBE and CPS in order to best serve all students within our great Chicago community, as well as implement long-term effective corrective action and better practices for our students with disabilities.

School Visits

The types and purposes of school visits are outlined below:

CATEGORY: ORIGIN/PURPOSE:
Announced / Planned
  • Upon request by Principal or Assistant Principal
  • Upon request by the Network Chief
  • School selected by the ISBE Monitor based on matters reported by one or more of the following: parents, school staff, Network/ODLSS staff, CTU, and/or Advocate groups
  • ISBE Data (e.g. ISBE Summative Designations, School Report Cards)
  • CPS Data (e.g. LRE reports, Network-identified priority schools, ODLSS-identified priority schools)
  • Schools selected by the Network where the ISBE Monitor accompanies the team on walkthroughs to observe not only the school, but also to observe the process and criteria utilized by the Network

Unannounced

School solely selected by the ISBE Monitor via:

  • 100% Random Selection
  • Issues or matters reported by parents, school staff, Network/ODLSS staff, CTU, and/or Advocate Groups
  • "Neighborhood Drop-In" - a visit before or after a visit to another nearby CPS school​

IEP Meetings
  • ISBE Monitor will attend some IEP meetings as an independent, impartial observer
  • 100% Random Selection
  • Upon request by any stakeholder with the understanding that the Monitor is not participating or appearing on behalf of any stakeholder
  • The Monitor will also ID IEP meetings that will be facilitated by an ISBE Appointed Facilitator


It should be noted that the motivation for a school visit or IEP meeting attendance noted in the table above may also be based on positive reports and information provided to the ISBE Monitor.  In other words, it should not be automatically assumed the Monitor visits all schools for a negative reason.  It is important to observe the best practices and operations of model schools in order to gather information and provide specific examples of innovate work and solutions by such schools.  

CURRENT ISSUES AND TRENDS

As reported during the 2018 ISBE November Board Meeting, we provided an update regarding the Corrective Action Plan, which was summarized in the meeting's minutes PDF Document (pp. 5-6).

In presenting their update, the ISBE Monitor and General Counsel, Stephanie Jones, highlighted the fact that much had been accomplished over the summer and during the first 3 months of CPS' school year, which has also been detailed in the Monitor's Monthly Reports.  

Four major issues and challenges were identified and are the current focus of the Corrective Action:

  • Student Specific Corrective Action
  • There are more than 50,000 special education students in CPS, any of whom could potentially meet the criteria for SSCA per the findings of the Public Inquiry.  From the inception of the Corrective Action, ISBE has consistently stated that the IEP Team is the primary decision-maker regarding SSCA, which aligns with the guidance ISBE has received via numerous conversations with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of  Special Education Programs (OSEP).   Unfortunately, representatives of the Advocates' groups did not necessarily agree and requested written guidance and clarification from OSEP.  OSEP recently responded on January 31st, stating that the IEP Team is “well-positioned" to make a determination of compensatory education because it includes the student's parent(s) and other team members who know the child. OSEP added that in the matter of the Corrective Action, it would be “appropriate for CPS' IEP Teams to make individualized determinations about whether a child requires additional or compensatory services."

    OSEP also added that it would be appropriate for ISBE to provide guidance to the IEP Teams to determine what types or amounts of services may be appropriate to address violations of the IDEA as identified by the Public Inquiry, which has already been stated ISBE's intention.  As such, ISBE is working closely with CPS to draft and communicate such guidance to CPS' many IEP teams.  As stated at the November Board Meeting, we also reiterated that the one-year statute of limitations on State Complaints would be extended since establishing the process for SSCA has been more complicated and has taken longer than originally predicted.​

  • Teacher Shortage & Staffing Issues
  • As stated in above, CPS is certainly not immune to the teacher shortage crisis. They are struggling to recruit staff, yet have more staff at this time versus last year, which is promising. There is a struggle to obtain substitutes and we do not have complete control over this, partially due to the collective bargaining agreement between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union.  Currently, differential pay for substitutes has been established as motivation for hard-to-fill positions. This is an ongoing challenge, and ISBE has voiced its concerns to CPS and the CTU as they are currently involved in negotiations for a new agreement.

  • "Rogue" schools:
  • There is a glaring disparity in the way schools within CPS implement special education laws. There are schools who patently disregard both CPS' and ISBE's directives and guidance. The difficulty is determining when and where that is happening across 650+ schools that cover a very broad geographical area. Fortunately, we receive parent and staff reports to inform us of possible issues to lead our investigations and specific school visits. All sides of the story must always be explored and taken into account, with collaboration taking place for a solution.   

  • Moving a Mountain
  • ISBE are moving slowly and deliberately to ensure that the mountain we are moving is sustainable and does not move back. The urgency expressed by Advocate groups and critics is understood, however, moving a mountain too quickly and with improper force significantly increases the risk of a “boomerang" effect.  Relationships must be built or re-built and collaboration must occur to provide a solid foundation of movement and meaningful change.

    At the end of the November ISBE Board Meeting presentation, a Board Member agreed that ISBE is taking the right approach to be slow and deliberate.​​

 NOVEMBER 2018

KEY CORRECTIVE ACTION ACTIVITIES​

  • LIVE Parent Webinar!

    ISBE broadcasted a live webinar for CPS Parents/Guardians on December 19, 2018 from 5:oo p.m. to 7:00 p.m.:

    Knowing and​​​ Navigating Your Rights as the CPS Parent or Guardian of a Student with a Disability

    • ISBE’s 2017-18 Public Inquiry into special education practices and procedures within the Chicago Public Schools and the resulting Corrective Action Plan
    • Your rights as safeguarded by federal and state laws that cover special education practices and students with disabilities
    • Navigating the IEP process and ensuring that you are a meaningful participant before, during, and after IEP meetings​
  • ISBE Letter to CPS Parents/Guardians and Staff

    ​Last month, ISBE issued a letter to all CPS Parents/Guardians regarding the Public Inquiry, the ISBE Monitor, Student Specific Action per the Corrective Action Report, and low-cost resources advocacy resources in the Chicago area.  ISBE posted the letter on the ISBE Monitor website and via social media and submitted it to CPS prior to its report card pick-up dates (11/14 & 11/15) so it could be provided to Parents/Guardians at that time.  CPS assisted with the dissemination of the letter to all CPS families.  Despite reports of inconsistent dissemination across the District's 650+ schools, CPS ensured dissemination via efforts reflected by this timeline:

    • November 9
      • CPS notified all principals, assistant principals, network chiefs, and deputy chiefs regarding the letter and instructing them to provide hard copies to all families during the report card pick-up periods. 
      • ODLSS District Representatives communicated with all Case Managers, directing them to remind principals and teacher to share the ISBE letter. 
      • ODLSS Chief, Elizabeth Keenan, sent a message to all network chiefs, directing them to ensure that all schools distribute the ISBE letter during report card pick-up times.
      • ODLSS posted the ISBE letter on its newly launched website
         
    • November 13
      • CPS sent messages to all emails associated with families connected to Blackboard Connect.
      • ODLSS Parent Involvement Specialists sent emails to 250 parents on the ODLSS email list.
         
    • November 15
      • ODLSS sent a reminder through CPS's electronic IEP system (SSM) to principals, case managers, and teachers to provide the letter to families if they did not do so during the report card pick-up dates.
      • ODLSS District Representatives sent the same reminders to all case managers.
         
    • November 16
      • ODLSS sent a follow-up survey to all principals to verify that they provided the ISBE letter to all families and their methodology to do so.
         
    • November 19
      • As of December 3, 2018, 602 schools confirmed that they provided their families with the ISBE letter via email, printed letters, their school newsletter, and/or school website.  Only three schools responded that they did not provide the letter to families until the week of November 26.
         
    • Additional Steps
      • The District provided an additional reminder to principals on November 20.

    ODLSS District Representatives are following up with their schools who did not respond to the survey.

  • District-Wide Teacher Trainings

    Continuing our report on the ISBE-provided essential mandatory CPS teacher training sessions, in collaboration with ODLSS, as of December 3 we have trained approximately 2o,241 teachers as follows:

    • 12,227 Webinar Completion Certificates provided to teachers with pending completion numbers in the CPS system
    • 6,697 in-person training completions as confirmed by the Learning Hub (CPS professional development registration and tracking system)
    • Average of 1,500 other in-person attendance documented via sign-in sheets vs. the Learning Hub

    TOTAL: 20,241.

    Again, ISBE and ODLSS continues to receive positive feedback regarding the training material. As reported last month, both general education and special education teachers have demonstrated keen attention to the information presented by following up with the presenters and the Monitor with savvy clarifying questions, and they have shared positive reports of diving deeper into the content of the training sessions/webinars via group discussions at their schools.​

  • Stakeholder Involvement

    Parent University Workshops

    ISBE presented information and materials during the November Parent University workshop sessions to provide guidance on IEP participation: “Exercising Your Rights: Understanding the Components of an IEP."  We are happy to report that Parent attendance has been steadily increasing since August for the workshops, and each session includes interactive discussions and in-depth Q&A.  

    Through the efforts and outreach of Assistant Principal Burnett at George Washington High School, ISBE and the ODLSS Parent Involvement Specialists collaborated to provide an evening workshop session to Parents/Guardians and neighbors in Washington's far South neighborhood.  The participants were energetic and positive, and the session was very well received.  ISBE and ODLSS are working on additional evening sessions and encourages schools and parents to reach out with their desire to host sessions at their schools and/or neighborhoods.

    Both English and Spanish versions of ISBE's November Parent University Workshop PowerPoint is available via the ISBE Monitor website by clicking on the “Trainings and Webinars" button.​​

  • Electronic IEP System (SSM)

    As described in the June-September ISBE Monitor Report, CPS implemented ISBE's recommendations from the Corrective Action Report to revise the electronic IEP system (SSM) to provide more autonomy to IEP teams while making data-driven decisions regarding supports and services for students with disabilities. 

    In August, October, and November, ODLSS held eleven meetings with ISBE, the Chicago Teachers Union, Parents/Guardians of students with disabilities, and representatives from the Advocates' groups to review recent changes to SSM, and receive input regarding a “wish list" for further revisions to the system for the remainder of the school year and primarily for the 2019-20 SY.  While CPS has the ability to integrate some improvements and changes to SSM, the vendor for the overall electronic program itself must be involved for most complex revisions and programmatic adjustments, which takes time.

    In general, the meetings and brainstorming sessions went very well, with many productive sessions regarding how to improve the system for teachers in parents in the best interests of students who have IEPs and 504 Plans within CPS.​

    Parent and School Staff Concerns/Questions

    Parent and school-based staff continued to reach out to the ISBE Monitor throughout October.  While a large number of concerns and questions were not related to the Public Inquiry and the Corrective Action Report that the Monitor is responsible for overseeing, ISBE and/or ODLSS have nevertheless addressed concerns and questions as follows:

    Source of Question/Complaint Number Received Status
    Parent/Guardian 18
    7 resolutions, 6 investigations and/or school visits scheduled, 
    2 awaiting details of concern and/or student or school information, 
    3 currently in litigation and thus out of the jurisdiction of the Monitor.
    School Staff 12
    7 resolutions or answers provided, 4 investigations initiated and/or school visits scheduled, 1 awaiting details of concern or name of school.
    Unknown Role 1
    1 investigation initiated albeit on minimal information provided and a non-working email from the sender upon the Monitor’s request for additional details.

    Again, most school-based staff questions and concerns raised various special education issues such as proper assignment of paraprofessionals and special education teachers to appropriate tasks and student-based activities, decisions regarding LRE, evaluation criteria for initial referrals for initial evaluations, effectively scheduling special education staff to cover all students’ services, and ensuring that draft IEPs, assessment reports, and data collection forms are provided to Parents at least five school days prior to the IEP (or eligibility) meeting in accordance with the new law (PA 100-0993).

    Parent concerns varied widely in content and many included general special education issues or questions that did not relate to the Corrective Action Plan. 

    As previously reported, the Monitor is gathering additional data and has begun conducting school visits, observations, and corrective action at the school level.  These visits will certainly continue and increase throughout the school year.​

 OCTOBER 2018

KEY CORRECTIVE ACTION ACTIVITIES​

  • ODLSS Procedural Manual Rollout and Spanish Version​​

    ISBE and ODLSS continue to raise awareness among CPS' many staff members regarding the newly updatedProcedural ManualPDF Document. The ISBE mandated CPS teacher training sessions also highlight the Manual as a comprehensive and incredibly useful resource for not only special education staff and IEP Teams, but also for all staff members to fully understand the special education process. This includes guidance on response to intervention practices, as well as referrals and evaluations for those at-risk students who have not yet been identified as those who need specialized supports and services.

    ODLSS has just completed translation of the Procedural Manual into Spanish and will be disseminating the update and current links to both versions of the Manual, along with a reminder of the importance of the guidance and resources therein.​​

  • District-Wide Teacher Trainings

    As reported last month and per the Corrective Action Plan, ISBE provided essential mandatory teacher training sessions to approximately 7,500 CPS staff members during the week of August 27, 2018.  Another round of in-person training sessions was provided to an additional 675 staff members on November 2, 2018.  Additionally, ISBE recorded a 3-part webinar series of the training, which is accessible to CPS schools and individuals to complete the training if they could not do so in person.  To date, approximately 6,800 staff members have completed the training via the webinars, with the current trend of 100+ completions per day. The deadline to complete the trainings is December 21, 2018, which has been communicated to all CPS teachers.

    ISBE and ODLSS have been receiving a wealth of positive feedback regarding both the in-person sessions and webinars. Staff members have shown keen attention by following up with the presenters and the Monitor with savvy clarifying questions, and they have shared positive reports of diving deeper into the content of the training sessions/webinars via group discussions at their schools, and some schools have requested follow-up discussions with the Monitor in the upcoming weeks and months.

  • Special Education Budgeting and Staffing

    As indicated in last month's report, CPS has now returned to its prior practice of allocating centrally-funded special education teachers and special education classroom assistants (SECAs or sometimes generally referred to as “paraprofessionals") to schools. Position allocation is determined​ on an individualized analysis for each school and is based on student enrollment and each diverse learner's specific LRE setting (i.e. LRE 1, 2, or 3) and grade level.

    SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFFING (AS OF SEPTEMBER 4, 2018)

    Position November 2018 November 2017
    Special Education Teachers (total positions allocated to schools) 4,054 3,766
    Special Education Teachers (staffed)* 3,733 3,569
    SECAs (total positions allocated to schools) 3,943 3,528
    SECAs (staffed)* 3,758 3,370
    Clinicians (total positions allocated to schools) 1,546 1,367
    Clinicians (staffed)* 1,345 1,213

    * Staffed positions indicate how ​​many of the allocated positions are currently staffed and have been filled by an individual

    SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFFING (CORRECTED SEPTEMBER TABLE)

    The updated September table below corrects the previous table that was embedded in the Monitor's June-September Report as follows:

    • SECA numbers have been added to the table.
    • The total number of allocated and staffed clinician positions (1,359 and 1,151 respectively) in the last report excluded non-certified, licensed clinicians (i.e. Health Service Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses), thus not accurately reflecting the total clinician numbers.
    • The September table has been updated and now reflects all categories of clinicians including HSNs and LPNs.
    • As a note, the above November table includes all clinician categories.

    Updated September table with new or corrected information indicated by (updated):

    Position September 2018 September 2017
    Special Education Teachers (total positions allocated to schools) 4,014 3,772
    Special Education Teachers (staffed)* 3,675 3,514
    SECAs (total positions allocated to schools) (updated)
    3,823 (updated)
    3,514 (updated)
    SECAs (staffed)* (updated)
    3,576 (updated) 3,268 (updated)
    Clinicians (total positions allocated to schools) 1,542 (updated) 1,362 (updated)
    Clinicians (staffed)*
    1,319 (updated) 1,208 (updated)

    * Staffed positions indicate how many of the allocated positions are currently staffed and have been filled by an individual​​​​

  • ODLSS District Representative (D.R.) Trainings & Roundtables

    October included three significant activities for the ODLSS District Representatives:

    Parent-Based Training Session

    The D.R.'s were provided with a special training session that focused on Parent involvement and perspectives in the special education process.  Topics included the evolution of Parent roles in the IEP process based on law and nationwide trends, the importance of how Parents feel during the process and the significance of recognizing their perspective, the significance of building quality communication and establishing trust, how to repair team relationships when trust has been broken, and research regarding Parent participation in IEP meetings.

    Roundtable Discussion on the ISBE Public Inquiry

    The ISBE Monitor and ODLSS leadership participated in a lengthy guided discussion regarding the origin of the 2017-18 ISBE Public Inquiry and Corrective Action Plan. The findings of the Inquiry were explored at length, as well as the shifting roles and expectations as applied to the D.R.'s.  The team brainstormed about creative ways to build capacity among all CPS schools, as well as the strengths and obstacles that tend to recur in specific schools and Networks.  The Monitor is working directly with the D.R.'s to gather additional data regarding individual schools in order to develop action plans that are individualized to school administration, teachers, SECAs, and/or Network Chiefs.

    IEP Facilitation Training

    The Monitor engaged a third party resource, Key2Ed, to provide training to the D.R.'s on effective IEP facilitation skills: “Building Positive and Effective Relationships Among IEP Team Members."  The session focused on four primary skills sets:

    • Improved collaboration among IEP participants
    • Reduced conflict among IEP participants
    • Improved communication, with reflective listening
    • Shared understanding of problem-solving tools
    • Shared understanding of student data

    Both ISBE and ODLSS will be exploring more extensive follow-up sessions for the D.R.'s and CPS Case Managers to ensure that IEP meetings are being conducted with fidelity and in dynamic collaboration with Parents/Guardians and their advocates.  The Monitor will also be requesting that ISBE-based IEP Facilitators attend specific IEP meetings that will be selected based on Parent and/or school-based staff concerns regarding the IEP process and best practices.​

  • Stakeholder Involvement Parent University Workshops

    As described in last months' report and per the Corrective Action Plan, ISBE continues to collaborate with ODLSS and Parent University to deliver monthly Parent Training Workshops on parent/guardian rights and involvement through all steps of the special education process.  We are happy to report that attendance has steadily increased at the Parent workshops.  However, we still aim to reach a wider audience and effectively spread the word to Parents about these workshops and an upcoming live webinar.

    We are also happy to report that a number of schools have reached out to schedule additional sessions with ODLSS and ISBE for their school-based Parents, and a number of afternoon and evening sessions have been scheduled with these schools.  We will continue to offer additional evening sessions throughout the school year as well.

    A Spanish version of ISBE's September Parent University Workshop PowerPoint is now available via the ISBE Monitor website by clicking on the “Trainings and Webinars" button.

    Parent and School Staff Concerns/Questions

    School-based staff has continued to reach out to ISBE with questions and concerns regarding special education procedures and best practices. There was an overall decline in Parent concerns submitted to the monitor in late September and throughout October, and roughly the same amount of staff outreach.

    During the month of October, ISBE and/or ODLSS have addressed concerns and questions as follows:

    Source of Question/Complaint Number Received Status
    Parent/Guardian 6

    3 resolutions, 2 investigations/IEP meetings initiated,

    1 awaiting details of concern and/or student or school information.

    School Staff 15 6 resolutions or answers provided, 6 investigations initiated, 3 have ongoing or pending school visits and corrective action.
    Unknown Role None N/A

    Most school-based staff questions and concerns raised issues regarding properly assigning paraprofessionals and special education teachers to appropriate tasks and student-based activities, effectively scheduling special education staff to cover all students' services, conducting eligibility and IEP meetings with fidelity and in compliance with the IDEA and Illinois School Code, and ensuring that draft IEPs, assessment reports, and data collection forms are provided to Parents at least five school days prior to the IEP (or eligibility) meeting in accordance with the new law (PA 100-0993).

    Parent concerns varied in content but primarily included issues with transportation, enrollment practices, and school assignments.

    The Monitor is gathering additional data and has begun conducting school visits, observations, and corrective action at the school level.  These visits will certainly continue and increase throughout the school year.​​

 ​JUNE​ - SEPTEMBER 2018

​KEY CORRECTIVE ACTION ACTIVITIES​

  • Electronic IEP System Use and Data Collection Forms​​

    ​This summer, CPS implemented ISBE's recommendations from the Corrective Action Plan, including the following components:

    • Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams once again have full access to the SSM electronic IEP system during IEP meetings and throughout the school year.
    • IEP teams are allowed to make decisions regarding a student's need for paraprofessional support, Extended School Year (ESY), and transportation at the IEP meeting without the presence or authorization of an Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS) district representative.
      • Note: An ODLSS district representative will still be present for IEP meetings regarding transportation decisions at Charter, Contract, and Options schools.
    • The IEP Notes page now automatically appears as a section in every IEP and is provided to parents/guardians as part of the IEP following the IEP meeting.
    • ISBE and OLDSS have provided, and will continue to provide, training to CPS staff on the changes to the SSM system.
    • ODLSS has simplified its data collection forms, providing broad flexibility to IEP teams regarding the type and amount of data collected for the justification of paraprofessional support, transportation, ESY, and learning environment interventions.
    • ISBE and OLDSS have provided, and will continue to provide, training to CPS staff on qualitative and quantitative data definitions and related best practices regarding the importance of data-driven decisions.​
  • ODLSS Procedural Manual and Guidance Documents

    Prior to the start of the 2018-19 school year, ODLSS updated its “Procedural Manual: Guidance on Providing Special Education and Related Services to Students with Disabilities Pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)" with specific stakeholder input and meetings during the revision process. The Procedural Manual is available in the Resources section on the ISBE Monitor website, as well as on the ODLSS website within the “Understanding Special Education" page.  The Procedural Manual is currently being translated into Spanish with a projected completion date in late October 2018.  ODLSS is planning on translating the Manual into several other languages during this school year.

    ODLSS has also updated its Guidelines regarding assistive technology, paraprofessional support, ESY procedures, specific learning disability, and transportation.  The new guidance documents can also be found on the ODLSS site within “Understanding Special Education" page under the Procedural Manual link.​

  • Updated Notices and Requirements per Public Act 100-0993 (effective 8/20/18)

    On August 20, 2018, Senate Bill 0454 became law and amended the Children with Disabilities Article of the Illinois School Code.  The law outlines specific requirements for all Illinois school districts, as well as specific requirements exclusively for CPS.  Below are the new requirements of PA 100-0993 and the corresponding changes implemented by ODLSS:

    • ​​Notice of Conference (NOC)

      At least 10 calendar days prior to an IEP meeting, all IL school districts must inform parents/guardians that the IEP team is required to consider whether the student requires assistive technology to receive a free appropriate public education.  The NOC must also include ISBE's assistive technology telephone number and website address.

      All CPS' NOCs must also indicate, with a checkbox, whether specific data has been collected for the student in the areas of paraprofessional support, ESY, transportation, therapeutic day school, and specific learning disabilities.

      COMPLIANCE: Prior to the start of the 2018-19 school year, ODLSS updated its NOC form to comply with the requirements of PA 100-0993.​ 

    • IEP Draft Documents

      At least 5 school day prior to the IEP meeting (or as soon as possible if a meeting is scheduled within 5 school days with written parental consent), CPS schools must provide the student's parent/guardian with a draft copy of the IEP.  The draft must contain all relevant information collected about the student including proposed goals, accommodations and modifications, draft copies of all evaluations, and any relevant data collection forms.

      COMPLIANCE: ODLSS has communicated this directive to all school staff and, in partnership with ISBE, has trained and provided guidance to teachers and school administration regarding best practices for drafting the IEP and related materials, as well as providing the content to the parent/guardian at least 5 school days prior to the meeting.  ISBE and ODLSS are tracking compliance at the school level via formal and informal reporting measure regarding this mandate throughout the school year.  Additional training will be provided if necessary.

    • Notice of Non-Implementation

      All CPS schools must provide a parent/guardian with notification if any portion of a student's IEP is not implemented within 10 school days of the IEP meeting or agreed upon IEP revision.

      COMPLIANCE: ODLSS has created a Notice of Non-Implementation form and, in partnership with ISBE, has provided training to teachers and school administration regarding best practices for drafting the form and providing it to parents/guardians. ISBE and ODLSS are tracking these notices throughout the school year and will be providing additional training and guidance to schools to ensure that services are promptly and consistently provided to students with disabilities.​

  • District-wide Teacher Trainings

    Per the Corrective Action Plan, and in partnership with ODLSS and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), ISBE provided essential mandatory teacher training sessions to approximately 7,500 CPS staff members during the week of August 27, and these trainings will continue into the school year.  The training sessions covered topics such as the Public Inquiry process and recommendations, IEP best practices, data-driven IEP decisions with a more simplified data collection process per the Corrective Action, more Parent involvement in the special education process, new changes in Illinois law regarding special education, and other changes per the Corrective Action recommendations. 

    ISBE also presented a portion of these training materials to representatives of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), along with a roundtable discussion regarding specific needs and challenges of the Charter, Contracts, and Options Schools within CPS.​

  • Special Education Budgeting and Staffing

    During Fiscal Year 18, funding for CPS' special education teachers and paraprofessional support was provided via student-based budgeting (SBB), which led to systemic issues for schools in attempting to provide the requisite support to students with disabilities.  CPS has now returned to its prior practice of allocating centrally-funded special education teachers and paraprofessionals to schools. Position allocation is determined on an individualized analysis for each school and is based on student enrollment and each diverse learner's specific LRE setting (i.e. LRE 1, 2, or 3) and grade level. 

    SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFFING (AS OF SEPTEMBER 4, 2018)

    Position
    September 2018 September 2017
    Special Education Teachers (total positions allocated t​o schools) 4,014 3,772
    Special Education Teachers (staffed)* 3,675 3,514
    Clinicians (total positions allocated to schools) 1,359 1,209
    Clinicians (staffed)* 1,151 1,074

    * Staffed positions indicate how many of the allocated positions are currently staffed and have been filled by an individual

    FULL-TIME CASE MANAGER POSITIONS

    On July 16, 2018, CPS announced that full-time Case Manager positions would be assigned to 78 schools for the 2018-19 school year.  Schools that serve over 200 students with IEP's received an allocation of two FT Case Managers, and schools that serve 116-200 students with IEP's received one FT Case Managers.  Schools with less than 116 students with IEP's maintain their stipend-based Case Manager position.

    SPECIAL EDUCATION POSITION REQUESTS

    ODLSS has complied with ISBE's directive regarding the ISBE Monitor's review of all staffing requests and subsequent decisions.  The ISBE Monitor overrides ODLSS request determinations if evidence demonstrates that the decisions will result in the unwarranted denial of services to students.  To date, no decisions have presented a basis or need for an override.​

  • Stakeholder Involvement

    ​​General

    • ODLSS continues to host monthly Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meetings with ISBE and ODLSS representatives in attendance. Information on the PAC meetings and how to join can be found on the ODLSS home page under the “Parent Supports" heading.
    • ODLSS has hired four ODLSS Parent Involvement Specialists, who collaborate with families and community members to build appropriate supports for parents/guardians of students with disabilities.  Their biographies and contact info can be found on the ODLSS home page under the “Parent Supports" heading.
    • The ISBE Monitor meets with ODLSS on a weekly basis, at minimum; this will continue throughout the school year in order to effectively implement all components of the Corrective Action Plan
    • The ISBE Monitor Team meets with representatives from Advocate groups on a monthly basis, at minimum, to provide updates regarding the Correction Action Plan, as well as to hear concerns and reports regarding CPS' special education system.

    Parent University Workshops

    Per the Corrective Action Plan, ISBE is partnering with ODLSS and Parent University to deliver monthly Parent Training Sessions on parent/guardian rights and involvement through all steps of the special education process.  ISBE will be in attendance for the monthly trainings, and will present the following topics:

    • “A Parent's Bill of Rights: Understanding Your Rights as a Parent/Guardian" – September 2018
    • “Exercising my Rights as a Diverse Learner Parent/Guardian" – November/December 2018
    • “Notices I Must Receive During the Special Education Process" – February 2019

    Additional information can be found regarding these workshops on the ISBE Monitor homepage and calendar.  ISBE will be hosting a live Parent Training Webinar, and the date will be announced soon.  A recording of the webinar will subsequently be available via the ISBE Monitor Training and Workshops page.

    Parent and School Staff Concerns/Questions

    Parents/guardians and school-based staff have been consistently contacting the ISBE Monitor with questions, reported concerns, and/or requests for investigations regarding the practices of special education within CPS schools. ISBE and ODLSS have established a protocol regarding communication and investigation in order to resolve these matters and quickly and efficiently as possible.  Some matters are straightforward and relatively easy to resolve, whereas others require extended investigation time and analysis in order to effectively address the alleged issues and concerns.

    To date, ISBE and ODLSS have addressed reports and questions as summarized below:

    Source of Question/Complaint Number Received Status
    Parent/Guardian 15 9 resolutions, 5 investigations initiated, 1 awaiting details of concern
    School Staff 28 11 resolutions, 8 investigations initiated, 9 awaiting details of concern
    Unknown Role 10 No specific details were provided regarding schools, specific complaint/concern, or expectations; general template letter utilized.

PROJECTED ACTIVITIES​

ISBE and ODLSS are working together on the following deliverables and activities:​​

  • Student Specific Corrective Action

    The Public Inquiry looked carefully at the system of special education at CPS and found various widespread problems.  The Public Inquiry did not ​​​look at how that system may have harmed individual students.  Accordingly, the Corrective Action Plan requires ISBE and CPS to determine which students were harmed by CPS' system and determine if corrective action is warranted to make students whole.  ISBE is currently in discussions with the Federal Department of Education to develop a system that allows us to identify students who may be eligible for Student Specific Corrective Action.  We will distribute more information to the CPS community when that system is developed. ​​

  • Parent Resources
    • A parent-friendly version or FAQ document of the 2018-19 ODLSS Procedural Manual with input from representatives of Advocate groups.
    • Additional training sessions and webinar opportunities will be explored based on input and feedback from CPS parents/guardians and Advocate groups.
    • ISBE will soon be releasing a Spanish version of its September 2018 Parents' Bill of Rights presentation.
  • Additional Teacher Training
    • ISBE and ODLSS are currently coordinating additional teacher training sessions for November 2, a CPS Professional Development Day.
    • The ISBE Monitor and ODLSS are developing additional training sessions on a need-based analysis at the school, network, and District levels.​
  • ​​​​​Data Collection

    ISBE and OLDSS will continue to work together in developing more support and guidance regarding a specific data-driven approach that drives IEP team decisions for all components of a student's IEP.​​

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