State review finds problems in Folsom Cordova special ed program

Published: Monday, Sep. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

The Folsom Cordova Unified School District repeatedly violated rules for evaluating special needs students and documenting their status last school year, a California Department of Education analysis has found.

The state reviewed the district's special education program during the 2012-13 school year after parental complaints spiked two years earlier.

Parents had alleged more than 50 violations of special education rules.

The Sacramento Bee obtained the review, which concluded last month, under a Public Records Act request.

While the state redacted student names, the documents identified more than 190 violations of special education rules affecting 50 students whose records were analyzed.

The Education Department cited another 77 corrections needed in the special education program generally, including repeated failures to properly assess and document the individual needs of students as required by federal law.

"I came into the job knowing there were some challenges," said Betty Jo Wessinger, who was hired July 1 as director of Folsom Cordova's student support services. "I really feel like I came into the district with my eyes open. We knew there were compliance issues."

Wessinger said the state findings provide a framework for moving forward. She said she sees the review as providing "a built-in needs assessment, and I can say, 'These are the issues we need to target.' "

In some instances, the state noted that program operators failed to spell out goals or courses of action that could enable a student who turns 16 to prepare for transition out of school.

Those goals should be part of the student's individualized education program, a written plan that documents the student's level of performance and goals and provides a base line for change.

In another recurring example, the state found the district failed to report a student's current level of performance, a basis for setting goals.

Folsom Cordova has 19,000 students, and more than 2,000 are part of the special education program.

Wessinger said the district in the coming months will focus on correcting the specific deficiencies identified in the state's report and formulating a plan to ensure that records for all 2,000 students are up to date and in compliance.

"Our leadership team in student support services is getting together … to put together our plan of how we're going to tackle this immense project," Wessinger said.

The district has until Oct. 16 to correct deficiencies affecting the 50 students whose records the Education Department scrutinized, she said. It has until Nov. 16 to fix the 77 noncompliant items identified overall.

Then it will conduct an exhaustive review of the approximately 2,000 student files "looking for noncompliant" issues and correcting those as well.

The state Department of Education, she said, is expected to conduct a follow-up visit to the district early next year.

Call The Bee's Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Loretta Kalb



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