Contrary to reports, DOE falls short serving special needs kids
THE Department of Education is allowing misinformation about itself to circulate. On June 21, the two local dailies ran articles stating that the federal Education Department had declared Hawaii to be in full compliance with IDEA, the federal special education law. However, that turns out to be untrue. The feds never made any such declaration. Indeed, the DOE's most recent self-report to the feds, covering the 2005-06 school year, indicates that Hawaii is still far short of compliance with the IDEA.
But the really disturbing thing is that the DOE has not corrected this misinformation. Moreover, when I called the DOE and the Board of Education to check the facts, they both replied ambiguously but appeared to confirm the erroneous claim of full compliance.
So don't waste time asking the DOE or BOE about it. Instead, find out for yourself what the federal letter said. You can read it online at www.ed.gov/ fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/index.html#hi. You will find that the feds merely determined that Hawaii's self-report "meets requirements."
Then go to the DOE's Web site to find what its self-report said in the first place: doe.k12.hi.us/reports/specialeducation/AnnualPerformanceRpt.htm. You will find that the DOE's report was entirely about its acknowledged violations of the IDEA and its efforts to redress them. You will also find that the DOE's own data in its own report make it clear that the DOE is continuing on a wide scale to fail to comply with the IDEA.
Ironically, the federal letter indicated that not even the DOE's self-report met requirements in full. That is because on six of the 20 indicators in Hawaii's self-report, the feds found that the data Hawaii provided was not valid.
And what did the Hawaii DOE's self-report reveal about its compliance with IDEA? Its own report on itself, as well as the full federal response including its "table," give the following information:
Hawaii fully complied with only two of the 20 indicators. On three of the other indicators, Hawaii regressed; and on three others, Hawaii improved, but still missed its targets. Moreover, these targets were self-selected by the Hawaii DOE, and the targets that Hawaii selected for itself, including those it missed, were still way below full compliance in most cases.
For example, the Hawaii DOE's own self-report indicates that it is still illegally segregating students with disabilities far more than the national average, that it is still failing to provide programs that help disabled students succeed and that it is still failing to satisfy two-thirds of the parents that their schools are involving them in decisions.
The self-report reveals that less than one-fifth of special education students achieve as well as average students in Hawaii; this indicator was included in the report because it indicates the poor quality of the programs that are provided to special education students.
Hawaii's self-reported results for preschoolers were equally dismal.
On the bright side, the two indicators on which Hawaii reached full compliance were (a) resolving complaints in less than 60 days, and (b) adjudicating due process hearings in less than 45 days. The feds also commended Hawaii for making a big improvement in having individualized education programs ready on time for 3-year-olds.
Hawaii did well in a few areas of compliance with IDEA, but is still doing poorly with regard to placement, IEP quality, parental involvement and a few other areas. The mere fact that the feds accepted Hawaii's self-report cannot legitimately be construed as full compliance. It is unfortunate that Hawaii's DOE has not corrected such grossly inaccurate public information about itself.
John Mussack is a former Department of Education special eduction teacher now working at Holy Family Catholic Academy.