A Texas Education Agency investigation has found "significant, systemic and widespread" shortcomings in Houston ISD's handling of special education, according to a report issued Sept. 29.

The agency recommended that TEA Commissioner Mike Morath appoint a conservator to oversee improvements with authority to "effectuate necessary change" across barriers.

"Decentralization of power to individual campuses is listed in each report as a major issue in the District preventing central administrative staff from making corrective actions," the report states. "Area superintendents do not hold principals accountable for special education services, and non-special education administrators often view providing special education services as a burden."

In a statement, HISD refuted the findings and also noted that the TEA itself created problems with special education requirements.

"We are disappointed with the outcome of the investigation and believe it is factually and legally incorrect. Much of the report is devoted to years-old information from old reports and does not address more current information provided in the district’s response. Further, several of the years in question were years in which TEA itself illegally imposed an 8½ percent limit on the identification of special education students," the statement reads.

The TEA report found 10 issues that the district will need to address.

  1. There is confusion about, and inconsistent implementation of, processes related to intervention and special education identification.

  2. IEPs lack sufficient individualization in accordance with the intention of IDEA.

  3. Equitable access is lacking for students with disabilities to the full continuum of special education service options.

  4. The focus on ensuring that students with disabilities have access to high-quality instruction is insufficient.

  5. HISD staff express a need for professional development that is sustained and focused on in-person coaching and mentoring rather than one-time or online trainings.

  6. The current staffing allocation in HISD is insufficient to meet the needs of its population of students with disabilities.

  7. Tension and division persist between general education and special education that impedes effective implementation of practices and procedures that target the needs of students with disabilities.

  8. The process for communicating about and rolling out new policies and procedures appears to be uncoordinated, inefficient and rushed.

  9. There is a systematic underutilization of data to drive programmatic decision-making and monitoring.

  10. HISD lacks a systematic process for ensuring that families are appropriately involved in decision-making regarding intervention and special education for their children.

Find a complete copy of the TEA report below.