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As discussed in chapter 1, the California Department of Education conducts a Self Review at prescribed school districts every year. The local Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) manager and his/her staff distribute the required survey document, in English and Spanish, and/or other appropriate languages, with little or no background information, just a request to send it home and get it returned, complete within two weeks. This process is time consuming for SELPA/district office administrative staff issuing the request, and is not understood by local school site administrators, principals, Special Education teachers, classroom instructional aides, students, parents or others receiving the request. This project's researcher will explain the process, the mandate to review, the purpose of compliance, history, international practices and then the California Department of Education Self-Review process.
The initial review of current research and literature relating to Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) 2004 compliance monitoring, and in particular self reviews, is limited. Material precisely referring to a direct need for monitoring special education, due to disproportionality, and self review requirements for compliance in school districts and non-public schools is nonexistent to date. Thus far the principal investigator researcher has not found any researcher identifying the need for professional staff in the field to understand the purpose of compliance reviews. The plan is to interview a Monitor Analyst from the California Department of Education (CDE) Compliance Review Division, in mid to late July 2010. The researcher anticipates hearing what the CDE Monitor Analyst expects of school site staff understanding versus school district administrators understanding of the compliance review process. (CDE website http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/qa/dispsurv.asp, retrieved April 20, 2010).
According to Racial and Ethnic Disparity and Disproportionality in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: A Compendium, published by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, in January 2009, a variety of words may be used to describe race related differences in the experiences of children (and families) that have contact with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The most commonly used words are overrepresentation, disproportionality, and disparity. Disproportionality refers to the state of being disproportional. Because they are relative terms implying a comparison, disproportionality and over- and underrepresentation are used with regard to a reference population. The racial and ethnic make-up of the children in a school district or at a non-public school is compared with the racial and ethnic make-up of the general population. When a population is divided into two or more groups of unequal size, over- and underrepresentation co-occur by necessity. If one group represents more than its share of the total, another group will necessarily account for less than its share, this is disproportionality (Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, 2009, pp. 13-15).
Mandate for Self Review
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) there is a federal requirement for accountability and reviews at the state level (Handler, 2006). In California the California Department of Education (CDE) is responsible for conducting additional monitoring activities based on the data submitted by school districts through the California Special Education Management Information system. Specifically, IDEA 04 requires CDE to make calculations and conduct monitoring related to disproportionality. CDE must identify districts that have disproportionate representation in special education based on race and ethnicity, and by disability. If a district is found to have a disproportionate representation the state is required to monitor the district to ensure that their policies, procedures and practices are compliant and do not lead to inappropriate identification. (www.cde.ca.go/sp/se/qa/dispsurv.asp, 2009).
Although peer reviewed, scholarly research was limited on this topic, this researcher focused on three areas of research, described below in three relevant categories: Historical, International Comparisons and State of California Department of Education/Special Education Division: Self Review Compliance.
Historical: The researcher reviewed a University of California, Berkeley, Doctorate of Philosophy Dissertation by W.S. Brynelson, The Effectiveness of California's Compliance Monitoring of State and Federal Categorical Programs. It was written in 1985, so it is reviewed for its twenty-five year historically relevance. Per Bryleson, in 1983 CDE responded to de-regulation pressures and developed a Coordinated Compliance Review (CCR) process for all mandated state funded programs: Child Development, Gifted and Talented Education, Migrant Education, Special Education, Vocational Education and Adult Education. In the findings of study by the author, after socio- economic status was considered, compliance was a slightly more powerful tool for student achievement variance than time spent on homework, paper/reports written and final grades (Bryleson, pp. 1-2). The key area of review was the chapter on the relationship of self-review and student achievement. It was found that if the self-review identified issues that could be resolved prior to the external reviewer's visit it could positively impact student achievement. Also, if an area of the self-review could not be resolved before the review it would be a finding to be resolved after the external review, and if an area was not identified in the self-review, but was identified by the external review, it could impact student achievement and would need more input to resolve (pp.74-81).
This dissertation did note the efforts of Special Education Resource Specialists to always include regular classroom teachers as key planners in a student's educational plan, as directed by the Master Plan of California, and could relate to the individual student diagnosis and program tailoring for additional services. This was seen as a positive event and the greatest predictor of student achievement. The Special Education program support did meet the original intent of the legislation and the federal government should, at that time, revise the law so that funding to schools would be based on poverty rather than educational need and test scores (pp. 100-102).
The primary investigator was surprised to see how little had changed in the discussion of federal funding for categorical programs and state mandates to provide services. Furthermore, it was significant to review the history of administrative and regulatory reforms.
International Compliance Comparisons: Two research articles were reviewed are from the international community, Britain and New Zealand. The Great Britain journal article, "Accountability and Social Inspection: In Defense of Audited Self Review", published by the Journal of Philosophy of Education, in 2001, emphasizes the fact that schools are accountable to the citizens in a democracy (Davis and White, p.680). With that premise accepted it is also their position that the inspectors are not "superior" to those they inspect and contemporary accountability practices, by the Conservative government in Great Britain, have reduced the power of teachers and schools (pp. 675-677). Davis and White recommend reforms to the accountability system such that an inspection process of subjects, similar to what is conducted in higher education, be followed with a subject strength analysis required (p. 680).
The New Zealand article, "School monitoring and quality assurance in the New Zealand school system" published in Educational Research Policy and Practices, in 2007, stresses the importance of self-reviews and external review of schools by the New Zealand government to evaluate curriculum and designs to support learning. The principal investigator was especially interested in the major reforms at the end of the 20th century when New Zealand transformed from the British model to a reformed system relating to administration and quality assurance (Sakura, pp.229-230). All schools, public and private, have a School Charter and a Board of Trustees, which includes parents, community representatives, staff members and the local principal. They all are part of a voluntary structure and all contribute to the monitoring of the performance of the education system. The overall program design is under the School Board and the school principal is in control of the operations, management of staff and the teaching program (p. 230).
There is school accountability based on a national curriculum framework that all schools are expected to use. The framework directs teaching and learning to provide a good quality in educational practice and includes ten (10) national curriculum areas:
Provide a broad and balanced education;
Provide the opportunity for students to develop essential skills, attitudes and values;
Provide opportunities for students to achieve to the best of their ability;
Provided flexibility to meet individual needs, changing social and economic conditions and community needs;
Provide satisfying, worthwhile learning experiences;
Empower students to take responsibility for their own learning;
Be gender inclusive, non-racist and non-discriminatory;
Recognize and value the position of Maori in New Zealand society;
Ensure all New Zealanders' language, history and culture are recognized and valued;
Provide learning, which is relevant, meaningful and useful (p. 231).
Since 1997 the New Zealand Ministry of Education has used a self-review as its initial phase of review. The legislature has directed the School Board of Trustees to monitor the schools in the self-review process. These include five steps: preparations for the review, gathering information, analyzing the results, documentation and communication. The findings of the self review provide information to measure and judge the current quality of the education in particular schools and can assist in further action needed to assure the community that a quality education is available. An external review of the self reviews is conducted by the Education Review Office (ERO), and the ERO examines the results against the national framework "Evaluation Criteria" and then provides the results to school directly (p. 232). The principal examiner found the New Zealand structure to value the teachers and the school administrator as well as the parents and the community.
Sakura concludes by reiterating that significant monitoring is essential and it is most effective when the standards, expectations, objectives and indicators are clear. It is necessary to determine that objectives were met and that resources are being used effectively. There is a need for checks and balances from the external review. And, lastly it was found that it was somewhat unrealistic to expect part-time volunteer Board of Trustees to be responsible for management and curricula reviews when the time and information provided to them was limited (pp. 233-234).
Both of the international articles provided a perspective of knowledge and relevance of interdependence and connectedness in other countries, an Epistemological review.
State of California Self Review Compliance: The California Department of Education (CDE) - Special Education website provides a thorough overview of the Self Review process, policy mandating the reviews, review tools, and frequently asked questions (FAQs). There are practices of the review to assist local Special Education Local Plan Areas and/or Nonpublic Schools (NPS) in preparing and understanding purpose and practice of the protocols.
Disproportionate Representation Survey Policy and Procedure Review Report Overall Disproportionality and Disproportionality by Federal Ethnic Category by Disability. (Attachment 3)
Individual Student Disproportionate Representation Survey -Practice/Record Review - Disproportionality Overall and Disproportionality by Federal Ethnic Category by Disability. (Attachment 4)
Two monitor analysts that the researcher communicated with in the past were contacted to participate in a telephone interview. The preliminary questions to be reviewed are included in Attachment 1. Unfortunately they were unable to participate, but did direct the researcher to another CDE unit that may be available in late August 2010.
In the Fall 2010 academic school year special education, resource and special day class teachers, administrators and staff at two - three different school districts in Solano County will be asked to respond to a simple survey. Attachment 2 is the survey, titled: "The Purpose of a Special Education Self-Review: Questionnaire for Staff and Administration"
Results of Questionnaire will directly correlate to the importance and specifics of the Self Review Compliance Training.
Summary of Findings: The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 code of Federal Regulations (34 CFR 300) mandates the states to administer compliance monitoring, and in particular self reviews. The states in turn have monitoring/external review units to perform the monitoring evaluations and produce written reports. In California, the California Department of Education performs the function, and has a comprehensive website. Unfortunately, the direct staff/teachers and specialists in Special Education are not currently trained to review and prepare for the reviews. The principal investigator will assist in this process by producing an easy to follow, self paced or teacher/leader lead training component by December 2010.
Questions for CDE Monitor/Analysts (created by principal investigator)
The Purpose of a Special Education Self-Review: Questionnaire for Staff and Administration (created by principal investigator)
Disproportionate Representation Survey Policy and Procedure Review Report (http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/qa/dispsurv.asp, retrieved 7/23/2010)
Individual Student Disproportionate Representation Survey -Practice/Record Review (http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/qa/dispsurv.asp, retrieved 7/23/2010)