FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — Fairfax County Public Schools has officially started a comprehensive review of its special education services after requesting a proposal from its Office of the Auditor General (OAG) last May.
In October, the OAG evaluation committee awarded a contract to American Institutes for Research (AIR) to conduct the review over a two-year term but gives FCPS the option of renewal for up to three years.
The cost of the review is set at $375,398 and will evaluate several aspects involving the implementation of special education services, monitoring the effectiveness of programs and more.
According to FCPS, the main goals of the comprehensive review are to:
- Evaluate the design, structure and established processes of educational services offered by FCPS in meeting the needs of students with disabilities, and the degree of fidelity of implementation of special education services at schools, as well as the continuous monitoring of the effectiveness of the processes.
- Evaluate the adequacy of human capital resources assigned to special education students, the qualification of the staff, and the level of professional development received by them.
- Analyze to what degree implementation of special education services at schools aligns with evidence-based practices.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of communication strategies to keep stakeholders informed about services for students with disabilities.
WDVM spoke to local special education advocate, Elizabeth Zielinski, to learn more about why reviews like this one are vital for making improvements. She explained by only speaking to the staff and administration, it’s impossible to get a full understanding.
“Getting in there and listening to families is the only way to get a true understanding, and you know, I’ll also say just in terms of responsible information gathering, you only get half the picture if you only talk to the teachers…so it’s really a critical leg in the whole stool that supports the process, the three-legged stool, any one leg missing, it tips over. Families are the critical part of that,” said Zielinksi.
FCPS said parents and staff will be invited to take a survey regarding the services provided to special education students starting March 1. The survey will close on March 15.