Austin ISD officials have made strides to improve the special education department, but a third-party audit conducted by Houston-based consulting firm Stetson and Associates found there is still work to be done.

In a nutshell

The audit, released in April, highlights seven overall issues impacting the special education department:
  • A national shortage of teachers and personnel
  • An unreliable data system used by AISD officials to monitor a student’s special education plan
  • A "lack of shared responsibility" across campuses "to meet the requirements for serving students with disabilities"
  • A lack of a direct line of communication between the AISD special education department and campuses
  • Services not catering to individual needs of students
  • A lack of a quality system providing professional development and training to staff
  • A need for more consistent involvement of parents in their child’s education
For more information on the findings, click here.

The audit was a requirement for the district as part of an agreement with the Texas Education Agency that district officials approved in September.

How we got here

The agreement includes a state-appointed monitor over the special education department, a decision that followed TEA officials finding the district had a backlog of special education evaluations, meaning students were awaiting potential access to accommodations needed at school. Additionally, the agency reported 40 instances of “systemic noncompliance” in which AISD did not meet special education needs in a timely manner.

AISD parent Janell Moyes said that since district officials entered into the TEA agreement, she has seen efficiencies improve.

“Ground level, what I'm seeing is that they are much faster to get evaluations started,” Moyes said. “When I had my first child evaluated, it was a nine-month process. It's not supposed to take nine months.”

District officials report the following strides made since the TEA agreement:
  • Over 7,000 staff members have completed professional development for student services, special education requirements and family engagement since September.
  • Pay has increased for evaluators, which has helped make progress to fill over 50 vacancies.
  • The creation of a Parent Advisory Committee, which consists of parents of special education students
  • Out of 99 tasks in outlined in the agreement, 40 have been completed on time.
What’s next

If AISD is unable to fulfill any of the terms in the agreement, the TEA may appoint a conservator instead, as previously reported by Community Impact.

District officials are working on a “Special Education Strategic Plan” by April 30 to include ways of improving district systems to better provide services.

“The audit findings align with critical work and priorities for our district,” said Dru McGovern-Robinett, AISD assistant superintendent of special education programs, in a news release. “The results reinforce the steps we’re taking to address systemic challenges as we work to improve special education services for over 12,000 students in Austin ISD.”

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