Research conducted during the 2015-16 academic year, show Faribault special education students in third grade who received early childhood special education before kindergarten are at the same proficiency level as students across the state who fall under the same category.
At the Faribault School Board’s Monday meeting, Rob Dehnert, the district’s director of special services, touched on subjects related to the special education departments at local schools. Dehnert presented information on early childhood data provided by the Minnesota Longitudinal Data System, which pools pre-existing and incoming data from the Departments of Education, Human Services and Health to measure the effectiveness of learning programs. Conducted during the 2015-16 academic year, the study measured proficiency levels of third-grade students with special education status, both statewide and within the Faribault Public School District, who either did or did not attend early childhood education classes/preschool.
While 38.7 percent of Faribault School District third graders with special education status, who had previous early childhood special education experience, were proficient in reading, 61.3 percent of these same students were not proficient. This statistic is similar to statewide data. As for the math statistics, half of Faribault third-grade students with both early childhood special education and elementary school special education experiences were proficient. This statistic is slightly above the statewide average.
In addition, the board discussed parameters for special education teachers who help children with disabilities for 60 percent or less of the instructional day. Dehnert clarified that the appropriate special education administrator is to consult with the building principal and superintendent to decide on workload restrictions for special education teachers. Points such as student contact minutes, evaluation and re-evaluation time, indirect services, management of IEPs (parent-staff meetings held to make changes to students’ individual education plans) and travel time are all taken into account when assigning workload limits to special education teachers.
Dehnert presented statistics on the teacher to student ratio in the special education departments of Faribault schools.
• Faribault High School has 10 full-time and four part-time special education teachers, 13 full-time and five part-time paraprofessionals for 137 students with disabilities.
• Faribault Middle School has eight full-time and two part-time special education teachers and 16 full-time and two part-time paraprofessionals for 126 students with disabilities.
• Jefferson Elementary has five full-time teachers and 10 full-time paraprofessionals for 16 students with disabilities.
• Lincoln Elementary has eight full-time special education teachers and 17 full-time paraprofessionals for 101 students with disabilities.
• Roosevelt Elementary has five full-time and one part-time teacher plus 12 full-time paraprofessionals for 66 students with disabilities.
School Board members present at the meeting expressed the most curiosity when discussing the process of classifying a student as someone with a disability. Treasurer Yvette Marthaler inquired whether the criteria for the interventions, which establish a student’s disability status, varies across the state. Dehnert described the criteria as state specific and said parents are involved in the process “every step of the way.”
“Having someone identify with a disability is life-changing,” said Dehnert. “The process is long and purposefully long. We want to be absolutely sure [when identifying a student as one having a disability].”