The Illinois State Board of Education introduced a first-time inquiry digging into special education practices inside Chicago Public Schools, including those that have been met with criticism since an overhaul in 2016.

Investigation

The inquiry is due to “address the central question of whether there is a policy environment in CPS preventing students from being served,” Tony Smith, the superintendent of state schools said in his statement on Friday.

“The goal is not to reach a resolution, but to come to a true and trustworthy understanding of how special education services are being delivered in the district,” said Smith.

The examination regarding how CPS’s policy affected many of the most vulnerable of its students and challenges CEO Janice Jackson after she took over as the interim CEO on January 1 after Forrest Claypool resigned.

Claypool resigned a week prior to the last week after the inspector general for the district alleged he orchestrated a “full-blown cover-up” in order to ward off unrelated ethics investigations.

Response

Advocates and local groups — such as the Chicago Teachers Union, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Access Living and Shriver Center on Poverty Law— presented concerns in front of ISBE a month prior.

The district-implemented changes, they reported, have denied and delayed the needed services for students of special education.

“We believe the situation may be so egregious that ISBE may be required following an investigation to appoint an outside expert to facilitate corrective action in relation to the CPS special education program,” said groups in November. “It should be expected that these recommendations may and most likely will include significant changes in CPS special education practices.”

CPS, relying on their own letter to the ISBE in November, said it is due to “welcome this conversation.”

“We are hopeful that this (ISBE) working group will focus on what we have fixed so far, what remains to be addressed, and how our approach can be adjusted to best serve our most vulnerable students,” the letter read.

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