The Impact of Disproportionate Suspension of Students with Disabilities

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by Pamela Talley, Sarah Wayland, and Troy Sampson

For the last nine years, Prince George’s County has been suspending students with disabilities at twice the rate they suspend students without disabilities. Because of a punitive regulation in Federal Law (IDEA), this means that 15% of the Special Education budget (roughly $3.8 million each year) cannot be used to fund special education in our county.

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from Maryland Public School Suspensions by School and Major Offense Category, 2017-208, Maryland State Department of Education

To help you interpret the table above, in 2017 the total number of students enrolled in Prince George’s County Public Schools was 130,814, the number of Black or African American students was 75,818, and the number of students with disabilities was 14,999. That means that the suspension rate for All Students was 1.25%, for Black and African American Students it was 1.56%, and for disabled students the rate was 2.49%.

This may not sound surprising, but it’s important for parents, especially those who have children with disabilities, to understand the real implications. For the last nine years, as a penalty for suspending children with disabilities at a higher rate than their non-disabled peers, PGCPS has been forced to spend 15% of its Special Education budget on supports for students in general education. The Federal Government forbids the spending of this money on special education services. For a school system the size of PGCPS, the amount of money being withheld from our students who need the most support is approximately $3.8 million dollars per year.

Instead, the money must be spent on Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS), which are :

” . . . services provided to students in kindergarten through grade 12 (with a particular emphasis on students in kindergarten through grade three) who are not currently identified as needing special education or related services, but who need additional academic and behavioral supports to succeed in a general education environment.

“The [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] IDEA (20 U.S.C. §1413(f)(2)) and its regulations (34 CFR §300.226(b)) identify the activities that may be included as CEIS:

(1) professional development for teachers and other school staff to enable such personnel to deliver scientifically based academic and behavioral interventions, including scientifically based literacy instruction, and, where appropriate, instruction on the use of adaptive and instructional software; and

(2) providing educational and behavioral evaluations, services, and supports, including scientifically based literacy instruction.”

(From: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/ceis-guidance.doc)

In a presentation to the PGCPS School Board on October 11th, 2018, Dr. Gwendolyn Mason reported the following:

Issue #3: Disproportionality

  • In summer 2016, a meeting was held with MSDE [Maryland State Department of Education] to discuss the overhaul of the CEIS program in PGCPS since the previous plan from 2009-2016 was misaligned to PGCPS areas of need.
  • Based on analysis of suspension and expulsion data, MSDE determined that PGCPS was significantly disproportionate in the disciplinary removal of students with disabilities compared to nondisabled students.
  • PGCPS must use 15% of IDEA Part B funds to develop and provide Coordinated Early Intervention Services (CEIS); over $26 million has been restricted to support the CEIS program.

(You can find a link to the Board of Education meeting on video, as well as supporting documents on the SECAC website here: http://secacpg.org/document-center/selected-presentation-handouts/)

This means that over the last nine years, $26+ million of IDEA funds were shifted from the PGCPS Department of Special Education Budget to the General Education Budget to support CEIS programming. This is because any program funded from this 15% penalty under CEIS (Coordinated Early Intervening Services) CANNOT be used to service a student with an Individualized Education Plan (or IEP – the legal document created for some students with disabilities that spells out the supports, accommodations, and services necessary for that student to be educated.)

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Demonstrating Purpose Through Programming

by Dave Owens

Cross-posted with permission from Visionary Media Productions.

We recently completed production on a promotional video project for Prince George’s County Public Schools and personally, I’m really proud of what it represents. The Youth Apprenticeship Program video is 4:23 long, but the potential impact of the program can’t be measured in minutes and seconds.

Schools Aren’t Just Warehouses 

It is no longer enough for school districts to simply open its doors, shepherd kids in, teach from textbooks and send kids on their way after the final school bell rings. More and more, parents have increased educational options, and an amplified willingness to transport children outside of neighborhood school zones. School Districts have to step up or get stepped over and left behind.

Prince George’s County Public Schools is stepping up. The Youth Apprenticeship Program focuses on vocational skills and is innovative, proactive and forward-thinking in its approach.

The prominence of STEM education is understandable and must be included in curricula for a school district to be considered relevant. Just as important, however, we must avoid being blinded by the four-letter acronym believing it is a cure-all or guarantor of our children’s future.

Research and statistics tells us many things factor into employment, not just a student’s major or emphasis of study. Personal connections, as well as implicit and explicit biases often weigh just as heavy in the hiring process, if not more. Thus, a plethora of course options, combined with encouraging words supporting student choices, is the optimum strategy in my opinion.

Why PGCPS’ Program is Special

Vocational training is nothing new, however, here’s why PGCPS’ program is exemplary. Prince George’s County Public Schools is putting resources behind it! Students in their fields of study will work with school district maintenance during the summer and earn a salary. Yes, earn a salary!!

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Notes from the March 7 Board of Education Work Session

by Lori Morrow

Newsbreak about the PGCPS Youth Apprenticeship Program: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=197

Public Comment: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=469

Two staff members spoke about compensation and work conditions. There were also multiple members of LiUNA Local 11 speaking in support of Community Workforce Agreements.

Legislative Update: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=1573

The local bill related to the Financial Literacy requirement for PGCPS high schools has moved forward favorably through the PGC Delegation and the House Ways & Means committee, with amendments to start a pilot program in at least one high school by 2021.

It was mentioned that PGCPS staff received amendments earlier in the afternoon related to local bill PG 508-19 / HB 194, which would have established the Office of Accountability and Compliance.  Ms. Tobias described the bill as “substantially changed” and said that it is “being used as vehicle to change the CEO appointment process” and role of the state and County Executive. Additional updates will be provided at the next meeting on March 21. https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=1719

Board of Education members approved motions to support PG 307-19, Juvenile Law – Diversion Program (https://www.princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/legislation/bill-history?local=PG%20307-19) and HB1412/SB1030, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan Commission Funding, http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&tab=subject3&id=hb1413&stab=01&ys=2019RS ).

Board Committee Structure and Ad Hoc Focus Groups: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=3079

After discussion, the vote on the updated Board Policy 8100 related to the structure of Board Committees and Focus Groups was tabled until the March 21 Board of Education Meeting. Board Committees have not been operating since prior to the November 2018 election.

2019-2020 School Calendar: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=4571

The Draft 2019-2020 School Calendar (https://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/pgcps/Board.nsf/files/BA29UJ707829/$file/DRAFT%202019-2020%20School%20Calendar%203-7-19.pdf)

was approved by the Board.  Inputs from the community and staff surveys are available on Boarddocs (https://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/pgcps/Board.nsf/Public)

The next PGCPS Board of Education is scheduled for Thursday, March 21 at 7 PM.  Anyone interested in registering to speak can do so using the online form or by phone starting four business days prior to the meeting. Information about agendas, live streaming links, and public comment registration is available at www.pgcps.org/board.

 

Notes from the February 21 Board of Education Meeting

by Lori Morrow

Board of Education meeting agendas and supporting documents are available at the PGCPS Boarddocs link: http://www.pgcps.org/board.

Newsbreak about Student Pages in the Maryland General Assembly: https://youtu.be/sNtzpTGSGq4?t=382

Public Comment, beginning with Senator Malcolm Augustine: https://youtu.be/sNtzpTGSGq4?t=1076

Registered speakers included comments about the Adelphi Area Schools Plan; the need for additional school psychologists/counselors/social workers; working conditions for PGCPS bus drivers and attendants; and members of LiUNA speaking about community benefits to hiring local.

Budget Consent Agenda: https://youtu.be/sNtzpTGSGq4?t=3943

BOE Member Ahmed asked for clarification on the change order for Francis T Evans ES.  CIP Director Shawn Matlock explained that many of the change orders have been due to changes in permitting requirements but they are working to better incorporate the new requirements into budgeting.

Annual Operating Budget: https://youtu.be/sNtzpTGSGq4?t=4201

Members voted to approve the proposed FY2020 Operating Budget with an increased $10.6M in expenditures above the CEO’s proposal, including increased psychologists and social workers. The vote to approve was unanimous.

This request will be forwarded to the county level. If less than the full amount is approved by the county, the Board of Ed will need to reconcile their final budget in June. The CEO & Board Members encouraged the community to continue to advocate for funding at the county* and state levels.

2019-2020 School Calendar: https://youtu.be/sNtzpTGSGq4?t=5300

The agenda item for the 2019-2020 School Calendar was tabled until the March 7 meeting to provide additional time to review a requested modification by PGCEA. Dr. Goldson also noted the legislation, SB0128, in the General Assembly that could reverse Gov Hogan’s 2016 Executive Order. The bill has not been voted on yet in the House. Despite the possible change to the law, the CEO requested that the BOE not change the post-Labor Day start for 2019 because of school construction projects already in planning stages for this summer.

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Conversation About Inequity in Education on Thursday, February 28

What: Community Forum on Inequities in Maryland and Prince George’s County Public Schools

When: Thursday, February 28, 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Where: Charles H. Flowers High School, 10001 Ardwick Ardmore Rd., Springdale, MD 20774

Who: Presenter is Robert Ruffins from Ed Trust. Hosted by Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools

Addressing equity in education is an issue that public school systems across the country continue to struggle with. Providing children with an adequate and equitable education was a key factor in establishing the “Thornton Funding Formula” as part of Maryland’s Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, and efforts continue this year as the Kirwan Commission seeks to update the funding formula and make recommendations to advance public education.

Elected officials at the state and local level have pledged to improve access to high quality education and better outcomes for Maryland students. However, a recent report from the Ed Trust states that data on achievement and outcomes reveal “deep inequities in opportunity for certain groups of students,” and “dramatic racial gaps in student outcomes regardless of family income.”

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Public Schools (PGCABS) invites parents, teachers, students, and members of the community to participate in an honest look at data describing educational inequities in our community, and a call-to-action.

Join us on Thursday, February 28, 7:00-8:00 PM at Charles H Flowers HS (10001 Ardwick Ardmore Rd, Springdale, MD 20774) to receive critical information from Robert Ruffins, a senior associate of national and state partnerships with the Ed Trust. School advocates will provide practical steps that everyday citizens can take to influence important policy decisions being made this spring; decisions that will impact issues such as class-size, college enrollment, and property values, for years to come.

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Your Child’s Best Teacher is Probably Quitting

The writer is an employee of Prince George’s County Public Schools who wishes to remain anonymous. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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I am a PGCPS middle school teacher. Most of my coworkers have an exit plan. These are the reasons why.

My average class size is 34, but only because I teach in a smaller classroom. I have coworkers with as many as 42 students in a class. When class sizes are that big teachers do not have enough time to give each child the attention they deserve. We do not have enough time to calm the anxious, charm the shy, engage the advanced, and keep up with parent contact logs. We do not have enough space to provide preferential seating to the easily distracted, to separate the bickering, or to allow the fidgety to dance in a corner. We do not have enough co-teachers, para-professionals, or one-to-one aides.

We do not have enough guidance counselors or psychologists to support the students who need it. We do not have enough time to plan engaging lessons that are differentiated to meet the needs of every student, to grade every student’s work thoughtfully, or to give parents the detailed replies they deserve when they have questions or concerns unless we come to work hours before our contract time begins and stay hours after it ends. We don’t have enough support staff to keep student bathrooms clean, shovel snowy sidewalks, or get students through the lunch line in a timely manner. We don’t have enough pencils, enough tissues, or enough paper.

With all the things we don’t have, the majority of good teachers I know do have an exit plan. They are leaving high-poverty schools to teach in affluent neighborhoods where active parents’ groups mean gaps in resources get filled. They are applying to neighboring districts, charter schools, and private schools. Or they are leaving teaching entirely. The more experienced teachers are weighing the cost of retiring before they have a full pension. The newer teachers know how many years of experience the neighboring districts will accept when calculating their salary.

Teachers across the country are walking out to get better conditions for their students: West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Denver, Oakland. Teachers in L.A. went on strike for smaller class sizes, more guidance counselors, and full time nurses and librarians in every school. I hear the same wish list from PGCPS teachers. Some teachers are pinning their hopes on the next round of contract negotiations as the union moves toward Bargaining for the Common Good, but others are simply choosing to exit the system.

These are not the bitter teachers you imagine cursing the day they became teachers as they sneak a smoke by the cafeteria dumpsters. These conversations happen as teachers set out supplies for the day, as they stand in line to make copies, as they share tips on classroom management and grading strategies, as they share the stories of their students who need help that they cannot give because there simply is no time. These are women and men who love their students and work hard at their jobs, but are frustrated because they don’t get the support they need.

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Why I am Working for the Teachers This Year

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The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Lori Morrow

Last summer, I accepted a part-time position as a Parent Organizer with the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA). I am not an educator. I am not a union member. But I am in my 11th year as a parent in PGCPS, and I value public education. Supporting PGCEA teachers, counselors, psychologists, and media specialists is a natural extension of the public school advocacy I’ve done for the past decade.

PGCEA is “Bargaining for the Common Good” this year. It is a movement that is growing across this country, recognizing that organized labor movements can serve a greater purpose in our communities. The strike in Los Angeles Unified School District is the latest example of educators negotiating for more than just their own pay. The movement for quality public education is also about facilities and testing and evaluation systems and workload. Classroom teachers are the most basic connection children have to education from ages 5-18 and TEACHER working conditions are STUDENT learning conditions.

These past six months, my role has been working on outreach to parents and community members, sharing information about Bargaining for the Common Good, and building a network within our community. In a county as large as Prince George’s, it is not an easy task. Everyone brings their own bias and a single encounter can shape the way parents feel about teachers, or teachers feel about parents, or community members feel about a union. This movement must be bigger than any of us as individuals. In this year of discussions about the Kirwan Commission and equitable education funding in Maryland, we need to use our experiences to collaborate and work together. Ultimately, we must all share the same goal: a high-quality education for the students of Prince George’s County. I am proud to work for teachers because I know that if they succeed, our children will be the true winners.

For more information, visit https://www.pgcea.org/bargaining-for-the-common-good-2/ and join educators, parents, students and community members in Annapolis on March 11 to March for Our Schools, https://marchforourschools.com.