Brian Rosenthal reports at The Houston Chronicle that Texas has set an arbitrary cap of 8.5 percent on the share of students who get special education. The Texas Education Agency audits districts that serve "too many."
More than a dozen teachers and administrators from across the state told the Chronicle they have delayed or denied special education to disabled students in order to stay below the 8.5 percent benchmark. They revealed a variety of methods, from putting kids into a cheaper alternative program known as "Section 504" to persuading parents to pull their children out of public school altogether.
[In 2004] the agency set the target as one part of a new monitoring protocol known as the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System, or PBMAS. The instructions were clear: School districts could get a perfect score on that part of the scorecard by giving special education services to fewer than 8.5 percent of students. If they served more, they would lose points.
Districts that scored poorly on the PBMAS could be fined, visited by regulators, compelled to complete "Corrective Action Plans" or taken over entirely, the system manual said.
"We live and die by compliance," said Halcy Martin-Dean, the special education director inSeguin ISD, near San Antonio. "You can ask any special ed director; they'll say the same thing: We do what the TEA tells us."
They have used a broad array of tactics, according to interviews and a review of hundreds of Corrective Action Plans and other district records.
Many districts have discouraged parents from formally requesting special ed eligibility evaluations, in part because federal law states that schools must respond to written requests.