Clear Creek ISD leaders give update on special education reform amid COVID-19

For some students with special needs, the revised safety policies and changes to the school day amid the COVID-19 pandemic make in-person learning this fall not feasible, according to public comments from parents at past board meetings. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
For some students with special needs, the revised safety policies and changes to the school day amid the COVID-19 pandemic make in-person learning this fall not feasible, according to public comments from parents at past board meetings. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)

For some students with special needs, the revised safety policies and changes to the school day amid the COVID-19 pandemic make in-person learning this fall not feasible, according to public comments from parents at past board meetings. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)

Leaders in Clear Creek ISD’s special services and curriculum departments gave an update to the board of trustees during their Aug. 24 meeting about the state of special services reform amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibson Consulting Group was hired in August 2018 after several parents raised concerns and protested against CCISD, claiming its special education students are abused by district staff and that staffers are not properly trained to best educate their children. In March 2019, Gibson released its report, which showed the district has many strengths but also several areas in need of improvement.

The report contained 27 recommendations related to professional development, data usage and parent-administrator relationships, among others. Before the pandemic, 15 of those 25 recommendations were in progress or complete.

Steven Ebell, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and Michele Staley, director of special services, said Aug. 24 that five recommendations are left to complete, as 11 were completed in 2019, and 11 were completed in 2020.

CCISD fell off track in 2019 with its completion timelines, Staley said, but is now trying to compensate for delays.


“We want to complete them with fidelity; we want to implement them well, so we caught up in 2020,” she added.

According to the Gibson report, the five recommendations still left to complete are as follows.

  • "Set expectations for both general education and special education staff to participate in joint learning walks to improve instructional practices across all classrooms within schools."

  • "Routinely track and monitor [Response to Intervention] data to identify campuses that require additional support."

  • "Ensure that all students whose behavior interferes with their learning have a Behavior Intervention Plan."

  • "Accelerate the use of digital teaching and learning to differentiate instruction and personalize learning for students with disabilities."

  • "Implement effective strategies to address the disproportionate number of special education students in discretionary placements."


At the end of the 2019-20 school year, there were nearly 5,600 special education students in CCISD, officials said. An additional 21 full-time positions were added this year for special education, according to information presented about the fiscal year 2020-21 budget during the Aug. 24 meeting.

For some students with special needs, the revised safety policies and changes to the school day amid the COVID-19 pandemic make in-person learning this fall not feasible, according to public comment from parents at past board meetings. Still, 65% of the district’s 42,500 students will return to brick-and-mortar classrooms by Sept. 14.

While officials said they initially thought a new admission, review and dismissal committee meeting would be necessary for each special education student choosing to learn remotely, Texas Education Agency guidelines have since clarified that a move to virtual instruction is not considered a change in placement, district officials said Aug. 24. This will result in far fewer ARDs needing to be revised, officials said.

Special education students who are learning in person but are unable to follow directions for emergency drills or situations have individual safety plans, Staley said, which are done separately from an ARD and were used before the pandemic. These plans can be amended to incorporate any concerns related to the pandemic.

Ebell also presented the district’s asynchronous learning plan for 2020-21 on Aug. 24, which was approved by the board at the meeting and will be sent to TEA. The plan, Ebell said, includes formative assessments to figure out how much knowledge students may have lost since last spring.

These assessments, along with the personal goal meeting time built into each day to accommodate asynchronous students who might be falling behind, will help educators devise individualized support networks for all students, including those with special needs, Ebell said.

Asynchronous learning got off to a rocky start in CCISD: The Aug. 24 meeting took place hours after the end of the district’s first virtual day, during which several software platforms necessary for instruction encountered major issues. Board President Laura DuPont encouraged students and parents, special education or otherwise, to be patient and keep trying.

“No one has missed the boat, and there’s always time to correct the course,” she said. “Please keep on showing up. Everybody’s looking forward to what's going to come of this year.”
By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.

<

MOST RECENT

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

Spearheaded by state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, the new court, if established, would expand the capacity of the county's criminal court system in hopes of reducing its backlog, which stood at 70,951 total cases pending before criminal district courts in Harris County as of April 8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County supports creation of new criminal district court to tackle case backlog

If the efforts are successful, this would be Harris County's first new criminal district court since 1984 when the 351st District Court was created.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

(Courtesy Montaya Magee)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: H-E-B coming to Clear Lake and more

Here is a roundup of recent business news in Clear Lake and League City.

"Breaking Strongholds" is a faith-based, eight-episode series that explores topics such as suicide and depression. (Courtesy Terry Weaver)
Series shot in Montgomery County aiming for Hulu, Netflix deal and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

With little discussion April 5, Friendswood City Council voted in favor of a resolution to show support for House Bill 3029, the passage of which would result in the creation of a taxing entity to help fund the operation of the proposed coastal barrier. (Community Impact staff)
Friendswood joins League City in supporting creation of Gulf Coast Protection District

With little discussion April 5, Friendswood City Council voted in favor of a resolution to show support for House Bill 3029, the passage of which would result in the creation of a taxing entity to help fund the operation of the proposed coastal barrier.

The temporary waiver covering initial vehicle registration, vehicle registration renewal, vehicle titling, renewal of permanent disabled parking placards and 30-day temporary permits will end April 14. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
DMV officials say no grace period following waiver of car title, registration; new housing set for Magnolia, Cypress

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

After serving up chicken in College Station for nearly three decades, Layne’s Chicken Fingers is opening its first location in the Houston area in Katy. (Courtesy Layne's Chicken Fingers)
Layne's Chicken Fingers coming to Katy; Gyro King opens in Sugar Land and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Less than 25% of American office workers have returned to in-person office settings since the start of the pandemic. (Courtesy Pixabay)
DATA: Texas metros lead the nation in return to in-person work since start of pandemic

About 37% of Houston office employees had returned to in-person work as of the end of March, as compared to an average of less than 25% in other major U.S. metros.

In order to move to Level 2 on the threat level system, Hidalgo said the county would need to get down to an average of 400 new COVID-19 cases reported daily, a positivity rate of 5% and an ICU population of 15%. (Screenshot via Facebook Live)
'We're close' Hidalgo says of possibility for Harris County to lower COVID-19 threat level

In order to move to Level 2 on the threat level system, Hidalgo said the county would need to get down to an average of 400 new COVID-19 cases reported daily, a positivity rate of 5% and an ICU population of 15%.

Clear Creek ISD candidates spoke during a forum April 6 before the May election. (Courtesy i45now)
Clear Creek ISD candidates weigh in on issues before election

Clear Creek ISD candidates spoke during a forum April 6 before the May election.