Recommendations for the Alachua County Equity Plan

Sunshine Moss

September 19, 2018

I recommend the following items be included in the Alachua County Public Schools Equity Plan

Special Education

  • Students with disabilities–and their families–must be included in any plan on equity and must be included in the development of district level goals.
  • Provide training to all district personnel related to special education policy.  Our schools and district hold significant misunderstandings about special education policy and the rights of children with disabilities and their families.
  • An evaluation of the implementation of the Response to Intervention framework within the county to determine effectiveness and make recommendations. Evaluations must include feedback from families.
  • Clarification that parents can request an evaluation for special education at any time –they do not have to complete an RtI process.
  • Clarification of the role of the RTI process in evaluation for special education.
  • District and school training on dyslexia and reading disabilities, including cause, characteristics, assessment, intervention, and related special education policy. Parents of children with dyslexia are being told dyslexia is not recognized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004). This is an egregious misunderstanding of special education policy that has resulted in children not receiving appropriate intervention.
  • Transform the IEP process. Provide genuine invitations to parents, provide all data in advance, and include parents in the drafting of IEP goals. Parents are expressing concerns that IEP goals are often being presented to them to sign without having any data to evaluate in advance so they can meaningfully participate as full members of the IEP team.
  • Provide an external IEP advocate to provide support to parents before, during, and after IEP meetings or during the RtI process to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities on an IEP team.
  • Create the position of special education ombudsman to investigate special education complaints. This person would be external to the district and appointed by a committee including experts in special education policy and advocacy and parents of children with disabilities.
  • Provide training to all district personnel related to special education policy.
  • Conduct an external evaluation of the appropriateness of student placement and the provision of services for students with IEP. The external evaluator should be selected by a steering committee comprised of parents of children with disabilities and experts in special education policy and intervention.

Parent Partnerships–not just parent engagement

  • Many parents are engaged but feel unsupported and ignored.  Parent engagement is a valuable goal, but what seems to be lacking is the knowledge and skills to develop partnerships with families.
  • Training for teachers and administrators in how to develop partnerships with families.
  • Paid parent advocate in every Title I school.

Literacy Intervention

  • Evidence-based instruction and reading intervention based on the recommendations of the National Reading Panel (2000) must be included in any plan to improve student reading achievement. Assessment and intervention for struggling readers should include each of the basic components of literacy (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).
  • Conduct diagnostic assessment of ALL students below proficiency in reading and target underlying skills. For example, many students’ IEP goals will say comprehend on grade level at 80% accuracy, but they have significant gaps in their phonics knowledge. To my knowledge, middle and high school programs do not include remedial phonics instruction.
  • Provide meaningful professional development in how to conduct diagnostic assessment and utilize data to inform instruction. Provide teachers with the support they need to appropriately implement literacy interventions within the classroom.
  • Provide additional instructional units and in-class supports in high-poverty schools.