The most recent data show 26% of special education students in kindergarten through eighth grade met or exceeded grade level expectations in the 2021-22 school year. While this is slightly higher than the state average of 24%, district officials said it is not good enough.
"This is nowhere near the level of excellence that we need for our students," said Dru McGovern-Robinett, assistant superintendent of special education programs.
Robinett said district officials must provide the right structure and support to teachers and students to boost the number to the district's goal of 60% by 2026 for special education students in grades K-8.
Frances Stetson of Stetson & Associates Inc., the educational consulting firm tracking and helping the district with special education scores, also spoke about the issue during the Feb. 9 meeting. She said there are "districtwide issues and department issues."
"We've begun robust efforts to train leaders, including principals, and we're asking them what needs to be done to address this," she said.
Stetson said 125 leaders in the district were brought together to seek out solutions and find strategies that enrich instruction while not putting a burden on teachers.
"Starting today, we are launching foundational training that we found, across the country, results in systems changes that improve instructional outcomes for all learners," Stetson said. "We will train every school in the district by the end of the spring semester."
Stetson said this will result in a common vision and common vocabulary to meet the goals set out by the district.
"There is still some deep work do be done in the district to address these issues," Stetson said. "But, it's exciting to see the way the district has grabbed this and is moving forward with it. I think Austin ISD has an opportunity to model for others around the country and state—coming from these challenges to setting up these systems."