By TERRI MAGNOTTI
Lewisville ISD does not work against our students by denying them Special Education services. How do I know this? The data tells me so.
I researched this in reaction to The Houston Chronicle investigation published this week “Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education” written by Brian Rosenthal.
This investigation covers much ground and suggests that the Texas Education Agency has created a reporting system that implicitly encourages Texas public school districts to reduce the percent of students in Special Education. It is a serious claim that I will not try to support or refute. My only goal is to understand how this relates to Lewisville ISD.
In the article, Rosenthal explains that TEA created a monitoring protocol known as the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System, or PBMAS. The article goes on to say, “The instructions were clear: School districts could get a perfect score on that part of the scorecard by giving special education services to fewer than 8.5 percent of students.” The implication is that school districts would work to reduce their percentages of students in Special Education so as to meet this 8.5 percent goal even at the cost of denying services to students who qualify.
To understand this issue, I read about PBMAS on the TEA website.
I then called TEA and spoke to Rachel Harrington, TEA regional director of performance-based monitoring. Ms. Harrington explained that the PBMAS indicator at issue in the article is found on the PBMAS District Reports. You can search your district’s PBMAS District Report.
The specific indicator on the PBMAS District Report in question is on the Special Education page. Look for “SPED REPRESENTATION” – typically at indicator No. 13 (sometimes No. 14 and the earliest report of 2004 has no numbering system). Once you locate it, you will see the “8.5” under a column head “PL 0 CUT POINTS” (Place zero cut point). Then you will see the school district’s number under a column head “DISTRICT RATE”.
The zero cut point refers to the numbering system TEA uses to categorize these indicators. It ranges from zero to three. For example, LISD had 10 percent SPED REPRESENTATION in 2015, and that falls into an indicator of one.
From looking at Lewisville ISD’s PBMAS reports from 2004 to 2015, we can see that LISD’s percentage of Special Education students and their corresponding performance indicator level has not changed much from year to year. Here is LISD’s PBMAS SPED REPRESENTATION data.
2004 – 11.3% (ind. level 1)
2005 – 11.3% (ind. level 1)
2006 – 11.2% (ind. level 1)
2007 – 10.9% (ind. level 1)
2008 – 10.5% (ind. level 1)
2009 – 10.0% (ind. level 1)
2010 – 9.9% (ind. level 1)
2011 – 9.9% (ind. level 1)
2012 – 9.8% (ind. level 1)
2013 – 9.8% (ind. level 1)
2014 – 9.8% (ind. level 1)
2015 – 10.0% (ind. level 1)
Reports from 2016 come out soon if you need to confirm the pattern continues. What this tells us is that LISD has not been influenced by PBMAS to delay or deny Special Education services to its students.
Rachel Harrington, TEA Regional Director of Performance-Based Monitoring, explained that the PBMAS percentages and performance levels or PLs were for the school district officials to use to compare year-to-year performance and make their own analysis should they see any significant or sudden changes in the programs covered in the PBMAS report. The PBMAS data is a look at what is happening and not meant to be a final assessment or judgment.
However, we see on page 10 of the PBMAS 2015 Manual PLs range from zero to three and each range “has an established set of cut points.” The manual says, “the higher the PL is, the lower the district’s performance is.” She further explained that TEA may request explanations from districts that have many indicators at level three. On occasion in extreme situations, TEA may ask for phone conferences or site visits. As you can see above, LISD is at indicator level 1 from 2004 to 2015.
So, again, LISD has consistent percentages and is two levels away from even catching the eye of TEA. This tells me that LISD has not been influenced by PBMAS to delay or deny Special Education services to its students.
PBMAS was TEA’s answer to multiple federal and state requirements for reporting on school districts’ special performance-based programs that prior to 2004 had been reported separately. In 2004 TEA bundled them and called it PBMAS. The performance-based programs in the report include Bilingual/ESL, Career and Technology, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) data, and Special Education.
PBMAS is separate and not connected to the complex and punitive A through F school rating system.
At issue over whether PBMAS is or is not implicitly encouraging school districts to deny or delay Special Education services to students is the arbitrary 8.5 percent cut off for level zero indicator for Special Education. And this week the Houston Chronicle reports “After extensive report, officials vow to end limits put on special ed.”
I can see how PBMAS and it’s 8.5 percent cap on the lowest and presumably “best” indicator level of zero plus the other issues Rosenthal explores could have had negative influences, but it did not have that impact in Lewisville ISD.
We all should be suspicious of what comes from the Texas State Board of Education and TEA— that is our job as stakeholders in our public neighborhood schools. For this reason, I’m glad Brian Rosenthal wrote his investigative report. Yet, for now, in Lewisville ISD, I am most glad to know we have yearly PBMAS District Reports to show us all that LISD has not been influenced to delay or deny Special Education Services to its students.
In LISD, the needs of the students are being placed ahead of a PBMAS data point and we have data to prove it.