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SWOT Analysis for the Springfield School District 186

Education Department
June, 2011
Overview of the Process
An inquiry was made by the school district to determine if there was a qualified team
willing to submit a proposal to conduct a SWOT analysis of the districts special
education department. This inquiry came to the team in mid-March of 2011. The team
submitted a letter of interest to the district prior to the end of March.
The team leader was asked to participate in a conference call discussion on April 8,
2011. This discussion included representatives from a parent advisory group, the
superintendent, director of special education, other district representatives and a former
director of special education of the district. The team leader was asked about the general
scope and sequence of the proposed SWOT analysis.
Shortly after this discussion the team submitted its formal proposal to be considered by
district. After a delay
d from the originally projected board meeting of April 18 to its
the board authorized the team from W E Thoman Inc. to conduct its
The team had conducted some preliminary informal activities prior to the boards
authorization but did not feel it had full authority to proceed with its activities until
formally contracted to do so. Within three weeks of being contracted to conduct this
assessment, the team had developed and disseminated interview instruments for the
primary stakeholder groups in the district. The parent interviews were disseminated by
mail to a random 5% of the parents whose children received special education services.
The team also developed electronic survey forms for the special education service
personnel, regular education teachers, administrative personnel and special education
The team directed the district to disseminate each of the survey links to all of the
districts administrators, special education teachers, and special education attendants
after each instrument was developed. Anticipating quite a large group of general
educators, the team asked for a representative sample of general educators to be selected
for participation in the survey. A request was made to have ten general education
teachers from each building who had a student with an IEP in their classes participate in
the survey.
It appears the district disseminated links to all four of the electronic surveys via the
Reflector which is a recognized school district email communication medium. A slight
concern on the part of the team was that all staff subscribing to the Reflector received
all four survey links. While the links when submitted to the district were clearly
identified as to the subgroup for which it was intended, ii was essentially up to the staff
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to select the appropriate link for their job category. If at least 44 of the special education
attendants have
a Bachelors degree or higher then they could have completed the correct survey. If not,

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could have been responding to the incorrect question group. At least one special
education teacher commented that they had attempted the general education survey by
mistake. Most other response comments appear consistent with the target respondent
groups. The four electronic survey instruments were accessible for input beginning
around May 20 thru
midnight of June I' The parent surveys were distributed by the district also around May
20 and included self addressed stamped envelopes to be returned directly to the analysis
team. The parent surveys have been received and incorporated into the analysis as
as June 22d
In addition to the electronic and mailed surveys, the team members spent between three
four days directly on site making visits to deach school building.
The team was in the st
district conducting interviews on May 23 26 and 31'
d also on June l
d 2 special
vse e
conducted randomly selected interviews of over 125
and general education staff
in those visits to the school buildings. The team also interviewed over 25 representative
related services personnel, case managers, supervisors and 15 parents identified by the
district and parent advisory group. Each of the surveys disseminated included a
voluntary contact me section. If the survey respondent indicated they wished to be
contacted, a team member attempted to make those contacts as the surveys were being
analyzed. The team reviewed the districts special education profile data compiled by
the Illinois State Board of Education. The team also conducted cursory reviews of
representative student files and the districts proportionate share plan with its area
private and parochial schools.

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The Evaluators
William Thoman
Mr. Thoman has had over 35 years of direct experience in Illinois Special Education. He
has been a special education teacher, department chair, supervisor, assistant director and
state approved director. As state approved director he has served Aurora East District
131 and Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative in St. Charles, Illinois.

Mr. Thomans certifications include elementary education, special education LBS I

with endorsements in learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional
disturbance. He has secured an approval from ISBE as a prevocational coordinator
and has both a masters degree in Learning Disabilities as well as a Type 75
administrative certificate.
From 1986 to 1997 he was on the Illinois Registry of Level I Due Process Hearing
Officers. He has served as a peer monitor on an ISBE focused monitoring visit. Since
his retirement from full time employment in 2007 he has consulted with several
school districts in Illinois as well as providing service to two charter schools in
Chicago. In addition to attending Springfield Public Schools through his sophomore
year in high school he had a very productive consultation role with the district in the
spring of 2002 which resulted in an increase of State reimbursement to the District of
almost $1 million dollars a year. He currently resides with his family in Plainfield,



Mr. Hyde has had 31 years experience as a principal and administrator in Illinois
Schools. He was a principal and special education supervisor in the small rural district
of Carrier Mills-Sionefort for 11 years. He was also principal and special education
supervisor in Marion for 15 years and a principal of an elementary school in suburban
St. Charles for 5 years.
He is a certified mentor in the Illinois New Principal Mentoring Program
and has successfully mentored ten principals. In addition, He has been a
curriculum consultant for the St. George CCSD 258 and is responsible
for writing and implementing all grants and programs. Last year he was
responsible for providing the leadership in developing a strategic plan for
the district.

In 2007 and 2008 he completed the executive leadership program of the National
Institute of School Leadership and is certified as a trainer of trainers.

Patricia Cline Conway

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Ms. Conway began administrative responsibilities in 1980 after teaching in both

elementary classrooms and various special education programs. Her range of

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administrative duties includes supervisor, principal, and assistant director of special

education for a multi-county cooperative. Her experience with the education system in
Illinois currently spans 38 years.
Elementary education, special education LBS1 with endorsements in learning disabilities,
social/emotional disabilities and mental retardation are certifications for Ms. Conway.
In addition she earned approval as a teacher coordinator and pre-vocational
coordinator, as well as a masters degree in Learning Disabilities and a Type 75
Ms. Conway has served on numerous ISBE task forces and committees.
She has extensive experience in developing plans for professional growth
and the facilitation and implementation of the specific components. In
addition, for more than fifteen years she has been a highly regarded
professional development presenter and trainer throughout the state for
districts, cooperatives, educational organizations and major conferences.
Following retirement she has continued to provide training, coaching, and
consultation with districts. Her administrator academy trainings
incorporate enhancement of regular and special education collaboration
and cooperation. (Ex: This week Ms. Conway was co-presenter with
Esq. Jay marring of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn for the
Illinois Principal Association on the topic Making Special Education Law


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Special Education Personnel Stakeholder Analysis

Of the 375 prospective respondents there were 252 actual respondents. This represents a
67% participation rate. This is an indication of the degree of interest respondents have in
a topic. This participation rate is quite high for anonymous on line surveys.
The overall topical question asked attempted to gauge special education staff satisfaction
with the services being provided. Almost 64% were satisfied or very satisfied. Only 6%
indicated a level of dissatisfaction. This trend continues in the subsequent questions with
73% feeling they have adequate tools and technology to do their job, 92.3% understanding
the eligibility process, 93.5% feeling the IEP team discussions were relevant to the needs of
their students, 91.7% feel their voices are heard and valued in IEP meetings, 68.2% felt that
parents were active participants in the IEP process, 67.6 % felt adequate communication
with general education staff occurs for those children in regular education classes, and
84.4% feel they know who to ask if they have a question about special education. Almost
68% feel the professional development they have received has been effective and increased
their ability to work with students. Only 56.5% of the respondents feel the RtI process is
clearly understood and followed in their schools.

The survey instrument allowed for open ended responses to most of the survey items. In
total in just this one subgroup there were over 700 comments. While the survey results
for this subgroup are resoundingly positive the number of open com.ments is also
noteworthy. All except for perhaps a percent or two of the responses were clearly
intended to convey recommendations for improvement. About 10 percent of the
comments affirmed aspects of the overall ratings provided by the respondent i.e. Things
are good. Another 10 percent of the comments pertained directly to wishing to have an
electronic IEP system and in general other more up to date technology. There were over
40 comments that presented arguments about the discrepant services and practices
between buildings and the overall impact on special education service delivery as a
whole particularly as it relates to least restrictive environment concerns. Specific
comments asserted that at some buildings without a self contained option for children
within its attendance boundaries, there is a heightened awareness of what may be
required to cause a child with an IEP to have to be moved to another building in the
district that has the program service option. Conversely, in buildings with a self
contained programs, there are barriers to having children placed in more regular classes
if that becomes appropriate because, if they have become stable enough to function in a
general education class for a portion of their day due to the minutes on their IEPs they
may no longer be eligible to remain at the instructional program school and thus have
their entire placement and service delivery disrupted.
Of the 67 comments on the question about professional development 65 of the comments
(including 10 from the specific changes question) talk about wanting more special
education specific professional development activities.
Of the 70 comments regarding parent participation in the IEP process, 35 clearly state
that parents do not come. An additional 20 comments state that parent participation
depends on a variety of factors including parent and teacher communication beforehand.
Some comments
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alluded to a lack of parent understanding about the IEP process, that parents came when
students led or had a role in their IEP meetings, and that if the family received a copy of
the IEP document at the end of the meeting it would increase its perceived relevance to
the family.
Of the 60 comments about the districts RtI process and it being understood in the
schools, 20 respondents reported that it was understood but was inadequate and another
20 stated tha. it was not understood in the buildings. A number of the questions also
identified that the
bulk of the RtI responsibility fell upon special education staff to implement the targeted
interventions and that it took much too long to go through the process when it was
obvious the child needed an evaluation to determine if a disability requiring special
education services existed.
The final motif delineable within this sub group is one of communication and leadership.
Approximately 65 comments pertained to some aspect of difficulty in communication
between central office and building instructional staff. Comments on this topic range
from global comments asserting an improvement in leadership and communication is
needed to suggestions there is some active avoidance occurring when difficult issues
Changes in law and resultant expectations are asserted to be not communicated in a
thoughtful and planned manner. There were comments made in the process that a procedural
manual for basic departmental practices does not exist and is not communicated. With a
lack of communication on timely issues, one respondent maintains, special education
service delivery becomes reactive rather than proactive.

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Parents of Children With Disabilities Stakeholder Analysis

There were 157 survey forms and self addressed stamped envelopes mailed to parents of
children currently receiving special education services. This sample was obtained
randomly at the direction of the SWOT team by selecting every 20 name from the
districts overall list of active students from the database used to report to ISBE
(IEPoint). The survey forms, envelopes, and cover letter for each survey from the team
were shipped
to the district on
May 17 It is the teams understanding that these were mailed out to parents on the 20
with an added note encouraging parental participation from the superintendent. There was a
cutoff date of June I on the electronic surveys for the other stakeholder groups. There was
no such cutoff date for the
d parent survey. In fact, the final mailed survey form was received
by the team on June 22 As of this date, 30 surveys have been returned. This represents a
19% return rate, which is perhaps a bit low for this type of survey for the stakeholder group
having arguably the greatest interest in the process.
In addition to the randomly selected survey participants, there is an active parent group
the area that meets regularly and often seeks to provide input to the district on its current
and future potential practices. At least 13 parent representatives from this group were
interviewed with an additional number of other parents selected by the district to
in the interview process.
With some exception, there is a fairly complete dichotomy between the information received
from the randomly selected parental survey participants and that received through the
parental interviews. Considering the general level of satisfaction with the districts special
education services, 86.7% of the respondents (26) rated this as very satisfied or satisfied.
Contrast this with an approximate 90% indicating that they were either slightly satisfied or
not satisfied with the special education services in the district. One parental representative
was not able to comment when the interviewer asked What works well within the district
regarding special education services?

The only question that random survey respondents indicated less than a 90% agreement
level on was the question about their awareness of RtI process. That percentage was
64.3% for agreeing or somewhat agreeing. The parents interviewed who were asked
about that process in the schools indicated an almost opposite response with a 67% rating
of disagreeing that the process was understood and followed in the schools. The
remaining portion of parents interviewed were unsure.
The preponderant difference of written comments between those who
participated in the survey and those who were interviewed is severe. They
will be summarized separately for purposes of this report.

There were over 50 written comments provided by the parents of the randomly selected
survey. A summary is being provided here:








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Blessed with a great team of people, having a passionate k-2 teacher.

In the last five years the district has come a long way in helping children with
ADHD, behavior problems, and learning disabilities. I cant think of a word good
enough to describe the resource teachers I have worked with for the past 2-3
years. The more parents are willing to cooperate with the school, the more help
they will get. Parents have more power than they think. Schools and parents are
working together more and more all the time and this only befits the students.
Son has received services since age 4. Very appreciate of the services. This short
survey not able to capture all the good things the district has done for him.
Very satisfied with those working directly with our children. Unsatisfied with
those in higher positions ultimately making decisions based on purchases of
equipment. Staff is professional, caring, knowledgeable and compassionate each
Very good program. You are doing a GREAT job!
My daughter has made a huge improvement in her speech and is more confident
in herself.
Teachers are wonderful; however the duplication of paperwork (3 notices for
meetings) seem an unnecessary expense. Should be used for more classroom
We have been receiving SL services since my son was 2 'Zi. The specialist always
helped us as parents find ways to better help our son.
I feel the teams do the best they can with special education students with all the
programs they have.
I dont remember what RtI is and even though it takes less time to spell out the
initials of programs there are too many of them used. I have a grandson who was
evaluated and found not eligible for learning disabilities yet he is 2 years
below grade level in reading. He was found eligible for Other Health Services.
The eligibility process should be looked at. 25 years ago my daughter had
problems in reading. The district had her tested and she was sent to a special
reading class. They didnt wait for me to ask for help they just did it. Thats the
way it should be for all kids.
There is a limited amount of time at IEP meetings since case managers are so
busy but 30 minutes or even an hour may not be enough.
Staff at IEP meetings are knowledgeable, willing and supportive but they are not
always allowed to make final decisions and arent able to get and give
information from those who do make the decisions. The breakdown appears to be
between those running the meeting and their supervisors or superiors.
When a parent or guardian call to talk with a teacher why wouldnt they return
the call?
I feel certain schools in the district are real good at what they do and they make
their students progress.
Staff unable to give specific answers to important questions. When they ask from
higher up in the dept. they still do not get a definite answer.

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Dont make any changes! My little cousin went from making all Fs to the honor
roll. I am very proud of him!
I am pleased with my childs improvement thus far. I cant wait til next year.
Need more homework.
No changes, you are doing great.
Always room for improvement, but the program is an effective one for me and
my family as it is.
Would like to see an increase in the amount of time with the SLP.
Time allowed for IEP meetings is too short. Everyone feels rushed. Times are
assigned and often not convenient for parent.
Our experience has been wonderful. The teams over the years have been great.
Some hiccups of course. Some concerns regarding the OT my child is receiving.
District needs to invest more into OT team.
Parents should be educated about what is going on in the classrooms. Teachers
and parents should communicate more. Parents need to know they can ask for
help if they are not satisfied with their childs progress.
All personnel have been supportive throughout our sons education. Thanks!
Communication device agreed upon by entire team but no answer if district will
purchase equipment. Last year we as parents, purchased a device when given no
answer. This years meeting we were told the purchased device was not enough
for the regular classroom but two staff members had to excuse themselves to get
an answer in regards to the purchase. Experienced this multiple times with those
who are in authority to make these decisions.
Having the parent have no opportunity to see written reports before hand or
during the meeting is not family friendly. Too much time spent on deficit areas as
opposed to strengths. Discouraging to most parents with involved children.
Need more lifeskills classes.
Initial screening process a bit unprofessional. Staff arrived late and were
unapologetic about their tardiness. Improved once the actual teachers were there.
Pleased with the ELC!

The following is a summary of comments the team obtained from the 13 parent
representatives interviewed during the on site visit.


There is a culture of resistance in the district and much incompetency. They are
reverting back to a cookie cutter type plan rather than an individualistic plan.
There is a lack of understanding ofExecutive Functioning and Language
Processing issues.
I fought this district for years to get him services. The district
wouldnt acknowledge problems until the behaviors became
Pleasantly surprised at the inclusion services. My child is dyslexic and I
experienced difficult IEP meetings. They use SRA for all students. Not willing to
discuss other options even if parents are trained in Lindamood-Bell and OrtonGillingham.








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se a multisensory strategic approach for my childs reading disability. Both

and the resource teacher had agreed to this approach. It seems that a decision was
made beforehand different than our recommendation. There is possibly a
misunderstanding of laws, rules, and regulation of special education.
They have a pre-meeting before the parent is invited to the IEP meeting. The
parents feel left out because the parent can see the others meeting. The IEP
discussions are often on what works best for the school rather than what the
student needs.
Goals are not measurable. They are not SMART goals. Lack of knowledge about
Tier 3 students. The ESY eligibility criteria or procedure is unknown to parents.
Provide Orton-Gillingham services and programming for dyslexia. The district
should employ an appropriate assistive technology specialist. Use SMART goal
guidelines. Replace elementary and special Ed. supervisors and case managers.
When district recommended instructional strategies were questioned, sufficient
research was not provided to the parent.
District should emphasize early identification and intervention. Increase
professional development for regular and special teachers on how to support
children with disabilities.
Make sure all teachers are aware of children with 504 plans and IEPs. Give
stronger weight and/or consideration to outside evaluations.
Assign personnel based on numbers of minutes needed to support IEP students
rather than just numbers of students. Hire an assistive technology specialist.
Case managers need to be more connected to the needs of the students and staff
of each school. Emphasize early intervention and identification.
When discussing a report at a meeting, parents should be given a copy of the
report as it is being discussed. They have to ask for it without fail.
District let unresolved dispute over reading difficulties fester over a multi year
period. A child had severe dyslexia and the psychologist stated they did not know
the remediation for that.
Parents often have to purchase the assistive tech devices for use at school. The
device was programmed at school and kept at school on the weekends but was
purchased by the parent.
Supervisors appear to be there to intimidate the parents.
Were not allowed to consider putting transition transportation on the IEP. Case
manager said she had to ask the supervisor.
Parents wont get a copy of the IEP unless they ask for it at the beginning of the
ESY not given due consideration.
Services in the neighborhood schools not a priority. Project Choices not brought
Attendant should be part of the meeting if child gets that service to allow direct
communication with the IEP team on how to deliver services.
I feel valued at IEP meetings. Legitimate communication and discussion occurs

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No ESY on the IEP but I talked with the teacher, then he was allowed to go to
Child eligible last year but no openings at ELC. Now with an amazing teacher.
Springfield Parents for Students with Disabilities group provides three annual
seminars to help parents with autism IEP development. Parents not aware of
what their children need.
Superintendent has embraced parent group with parents advocating for their
children. When this happens, program development is easier. The goal is to
get everyone to work together.
An October IEP meeting fell apart because the team didnt know how to write
Unhappy with attitude about ESY. It was not discussed. We heard another parent
talking about it and inquired about the particulars.
The case manager disengaged psychologically from the report of the private
tutor. The meeting did end with child getting ESY and an increase in reading

The data suggests that there are issues in the district that parents are directly concerned
about. There appears to be a generally supportive mood with, as one parent put it, some
hiccups along the way. The randomly selected group of survey parents expressed a
vastly supportive feeling with some exceptions. Exceptions that they as parents, feel
deserve legitimate attention. The interview comments from the parents primarily from
the parent group in the district reflect a series of legitimate concerns also. Their
comments reflect concerns, this team surmises, that have been expressed to the district
and have not been
satisfactorily addressed or resolved. They then are a focused concern group. There is
nothing invalid about the concerns expressed, but in large part those concerns are why
they have banded together into a parent support group. It is a set of reasons not
in purpose to those of any politically motivated set of change agents.
This being said, one must make some general assumptions about the motivations of an
organization such as a school district. Its purpose is to serve children and their parents and
guardians. The community of a school district elects the school board members who hire
the superintendent who hires the other administrators and staff to perform those
functions in the manner articulated by the policy and preferences of the school board.

In almost any foreseeable scenario, a goal of the school district would be to attend to
legitimate issues and acknowledge and defend concerns not able to be addressed by the
district and proceed with the remaining work of the district. The commonality of issues
presented by this stakeholder group and thematic recurrence of those issues indicates
that there are matters in this regard that have not been sufficiently addressed within the
organization. There is work to be done.

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General Education Personnel Stakeholder Analysis

There are by report 912 general education teachers within the district. Responding to the
electronic survey were 304 or precisely one third of the personnel. There were almost 750
comments posted to the electronic survey for this stakeholder group. A higher portion of the
comments were those that were critical of current practices within the special education
department as over half of the respondents (56%) were either only slightly satisfied or not
satisfied with special education services within the district. A full third of all the comments
made by the respondents to this general educator survey instrument responded to the
questions of being satisfied with the special education services in the district and the prompt
to provide a delineation of the specific changes that the respondent would suggest to
improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the services.

Given the diversity of the responses an exact summary of those responses are being
provided under the General Education Personnel Data section with responses being
redacted when specific personnel references are being made or where responses may
reveal the identity of the respondent.
Whereas 82.5% of staff responded that they are aware of their role in supporting a child
with an IEP in their class, approximately half the comments related to this question
reveal some dissatisfaction with their role, either not getting a copy of the IEP, their
opinion not being valued, or a clarity of responsibilities being needed. Almost half the
respondents report not being given adequate information for the IEP students that they
Regarding having sufficient tools and technology to support students with an IEP, 53.7 %
of the respondents felt they had adequate support but 25 of the respondents felt either
there were insufficient personnel to help support these needs or no training for the
needed supports.
While most respondents (58.7%) understood the evaluation process a preponderance of the
comments on this topic indicated the process took too long and had too many barriers.

There were 59.2% of respondents stating that they felt parents were active in the IEP
process. Comments on this survey question included over 35 reflecting that they felt
parents were not taken seriously, were talked down to, or that parents just didnt
There was a predominant feeling among respondents about the RtI process. The RtI
process is a general education process yet almost 50% of the respondents either
disagreed or were unsure if it was clearly understood in their schools. This 50/50 split
may accurately reflect what exists in the buildings as it is apparent that some buildings
have done an admirable job of implementing RtI interventions and other buildings are
very lacking in that regard.

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Administrator Stakeholder Analysis

54 school administrators took this survey. 27 (51%) respondents identified
themselves as school principals. The respondents were a fairly experienced group with
41% having 11 or more years of experience, 33% with 5-10 years of experience, and
26% with 1-4 years. In addition, there was a balanced representation from the PreSchool through grade 12 grade levels. 81% indicated that they supervise special
education personnel and 87% participate in student IEP meetings

The following is a synopsis of the survey questions and accompanying comments.

QMeStiOt 1: How satisfied are you with Springfield 186 special education services? 63% Were

satisfied or satisfied. 16% were not satisfied.

13 comments: Most positive comments reflected on the wonderful teachers and
staff that support special education students. There were several comments that
indicated a lack of communication and support from the central office
administr4ators and the school buildings. A couple of comments mentioned the
perceived lack of accountability of sp. Ed. Travel staff. In addition, there was a
comment on how positive the development of Problem Solving Teams has been and
a general lack of understanding of special education by regular educators.
Question 2: I understand our process to identify students eligible for special education services.
strongly agree or agree to this statement.
3 comments: Comments were all positive.
Question 3: The IEP team discussions are relevant to the learning needs of the IEP students. 98%

strongly agree or agree to the statement.

3 comments: One comments expressed a desire to have more push-in services
rather than "pull-out services".
Question 4' My voice is heard and valued in IEP discussions. 96% strongly
agree or agree to this
2 Comments; All were positive in nature.
Question 5: Parents are active participants in the IEP process. 96% strongly agree or agree to

the statement.
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9 Comments: All comments indicated a concern about the parent population.

5 comments stated that parents did not attend meetings or were not
comments indicated that parents do not understand or have the background
to understand the special education process.
Question 6: The Rtl process is clearly understood and followed in mv school(s).
78% strongly agree

or agree to this statement. This indicated less confidence on this issue

than others.
13 comments: 4 comments reported a need for more professional development on
Rtl, two comments indicated a need for more staff to implement Rtl, and 2 comments
stated that their individual schools were doing a good job in their Rtl efforts.
QueStiOFt 7' Adequate communication occurs between regular education teachers
and special education teachers that is relevant to meeting the needs of IEP

students. 79% strongly agree or agree to this statement. Once again, less

confidence indicated for this statement.

10 Comments: 4 comments reported that there was not enough time allocated for
this communication to occur between regular education teachers and special
education teachers One other comment reflected upon the lack of communication with
sp. ed.; supervisors.
Question 8: lf I have a question about special education, I know who to ask to receive a sufficient

answer to my question. 96% strongly agree or agree.

3 comments: Two comments were positive and one comment reported a time lag in
receiving a response.
Question 9: Adequate data are presented and considered in IEP meetings to support individual

student decisions in these areas. Although all topics received a majority agreement, data to

support an extended school year" was the weakest with 42% indicated slight
disagreement, disagreement, or unsure.
3 comments: One comment stated that it was case manager dependent and another
comment was that data presented is not always adequate.
Question 10: Please rank the following special education topics in regard to their relevancy and
effectiveness in meeting the needs of students in Springfield Public Schoi . The strongest

agreement was with the identification (eligibility) process and annual review (IEP)
meetings. Conversely, on the ineffective and irrelevant side was Parental Involvement
at 23% Communication at 21% irrelevant and ineffective.
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6 Comments: Mixed responses with no clear message.

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Question 11: In order to improve student learner outcomes, please rank the following topics in
importance. You may choose only one response for each column. Of the topics offered, two

were significantly higher than the others. They were (1) Provide adequate resources for

IEP students in regular education environment and (2) provide adequate and appropriate
special education classrooms and facilities to meet the needs of these diverse learners.

8 Comments; All comments reported the difficulty in to rank such important topics.
Question 1 2: In your opinion, what specific change(s) would improve the
efficiency and effectiveness of special education services in our district? This is
an open ended question designed to elicit original responses.

27 comments: 6 comments indicated a need for more timely communication and

decision making from central office sp. ed. Staff. 4 comments suggested more
professional development for regular education staff in regard to special education
issues. 3 comments requested more time be provided for collaboration. 2 comments
specifically indicated a need for additional LBS 1 teachers so that students can
receive needed services within their own school. Other noteworthy comments were:
more adaptive technology; more data-driven decision making; more accountability for
itinerant staff; less sp. ed. Attendants; and more qualified teachers that are effective
and competent

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Special Education Attendant Stakeholder Analysis

87 special education attendants took this survey. However, it is not clear how many of
these 87 respondents were actually attendants. There is clear evidence that some of
the respondents were certified teachers that mistakenly took the attendant survey. It
appears that this is a small number. The teacher comments were not included in the

50% of the respondents work in a special education classroom, 21% are assigned to
support an individual student... The respondents have varied experience with 42%
having 1 to 4 years of experience, 26% with 5-10 years of experience, and 32% with
11 or more years. 56% of the survey respondents indicated that they have a
bachelors degree or higher. 23% have work keys or 60 or more hours of college.
While only 21% have less than 60 college hours of credit. It is interesting to note that
while all grade levels are represented by the respondents, almost half (49%) were in
grades 3-5.
The following is a synopsis of the survey questions and accompanying comments.
Question 1: How satisfied are you with Springfield 186 special education services? 80% WeFe Very

satisfied or satisfied. 10% were not satisfied.

12 comments: Most positive comments reflected on the wonderful teachers and staff
that support special education students and the opportunity to work with children.
There were a couple of comments that indicated attendants should be paid more.
Another stated that more communication is needed between special education staff
and regular education staff. Another respondent prefers more flexibility, not just oneon-one support but also to support other students as well.
Question 2: I receive adequate information, training and resources to support one or more students

with an IEP. 58% strongly agree or agree tO this statement. However, 39% slightly

disagree or disagree to this statement.

18 comments: Some comments were all positive. Five comments strongly stated that
no training has been provided. Two comments indicated that attendants are not
included in IEP meetings.
QMeStiOl 3' The professional development experiences that I have participated in have been

and have expanded my capacity to improve student learner outcomes. 63% strongly agree or agree

to the statement while 34% slightly disagree or disagree.

All Rights Reserved - W E Thoman

Inc. 2011

18 comments: Comments were varied with 2 comments stating the training was not
relevant to their position. Another two comments indicated that they had not received
or were offered any training.

All Rights Reserved - W E Thoman

Inc. 2011

Question 4: The last time I participated in a professional development activity

was... 80% responded

that they had received training during the past two semesters.

There was not a comment feature for this question.

Question 5: Regarding communication with parents about the progress of their
child(ren), please tell us about your role (if any) in that communication

39% report that they occasionally communicate with parents. 21% rarely communicate
with parents. 16% were told that it is not their responsibility to communicate with

10 Comments: 7 comments indicated that they communicate regularly with

parents (daily or weekly). One comments stated that she was told not to
communicate with parents.
QLIeStiOI3 6: Special Education personnel find themselves in contact with many children throughout the

day. Please respond about your understanding of your role in the classroom. 75% respond
willingly to questions from all students. 15% will help students/groups as directed by

the teacher.
16 comments: Comments were varied and situational to the specific assignment.
QMeStiOt 7: My voice is heard and valued in IEP planning/discussions. 46% strongly agree or

agree to this statement. 51% slightly disagreed, disagreed, or did not participate in
an IEP meeting.
There was not a comment feature for this question.
Question 8: I have adequate opportunities for communication with regular
education and/or special
education teachers and personnel that is relevant to my meeting the needs of IEP
students Isupport..

74% strongly agree or agree. 22% slightly disagreed or disagreed.

6 comments: All comments stated that they were not allowed to participate.
Question 9: lf I have a question about special education, Iknow who to ask to receive a sufficient

answer to my question. 80% agreed or slightly agreed.

10 comments: Four comments stated that they had received a timely response. Two
comments indicated that sp. ed. administrators were rarely available nor do they
QUeStlOR 10' In your opinion, what specific change(s) would improve the efficiency and effectiveness

of special education services in our district?

43 comments: 11 comments suggested that the district provide more and better
professional development training. 7 comments stated that attendants should be invited

to IEP meetings and provide information. 6 comments centered on the issue that
there should be greater/better collaboration between special education and regular
education. 3 comments suggested higher pay for attendants. A couple of notable
comments were: provide cross cat classes in all grades in all schools. Lack of
communication from sp. ed. Administrators (do not respond to emails).

All Rights Reserved W E Thoman

Inc. 2011

IEP Document Review

The team reviewed a range of IEP student files in order to form an opinion about the general
process in place for completing those documents that identify eligibility and needs for
special education services for its students. While it is nearly impossible for any student file
to be 100% compliant with the incorporation of needed components, a predominant
compliance with those statutory expectations is expected.

The teams review found a generally well organized and inclusive set of documents. A
review of the goals and objectives for the students showed a marked inconsistency in
relating the goals to state learning standards. Approximately 50% of the IEP files
reviewed contained goals not stating the relevant state learning standard. While this is
not necessarily a fatal flaw in the process, it does imply consistency with criticism made
by stakeholder groups of the districts process as not being in compliance with the
SMART goal standard.
In a minority of files the parent concerns section was also blank. Even if
the parent is not in attendance some participation or preference should be
solicited for input. Both of the above examples are extremely difficult to
monitor for compliance in a file system that must be checked manually for
each IEP to determine compliance with statutory compliance.
Commercial or locally developed web based products are readily available
that do provide that heightened monitoring capability for compliance with
critical statutory expectations for IEP documents.

Proportional Share Plan Review for Children With Disabilities in

Private/Parochial Settings
The district provided the team with information relative to its development of a service
plan for the many private and parochial schools within its boundaries. The district
employs specific staff to provide those services to the parochial schools. Those salaries
are delineated as expenses committed to the provision of those proportional share
Through the interview and review process the team learned that service staff employed for
the purpose of providing services to private/parochial students do not begin their services to
those sites until mid October and terminate the services by early May. It is the expectation
put on school districts by the Illinois State Board of Education that timely and meaningful
consultation about those services occur prior to November 1 of each year. The district
certainly complies with that expectation. What is not clear is if the district is prohibited from
providing services earlier than this time each fall if staff designated to provide the services
have already been employed and are being paid to provide this service.

There are a variety of legitimate costs that can go into supporting private and parochial
services including a portion of supervisory and administrative time. There are also a
variance of techniques to derive the expenditure of the required funds for this category
of services. The district uses a straight forward technique of direct employment of staff
to provide this service. Another method would be to derive an hourly or per minute rate
for services provided to students district-wide and then to track the time that service is
actually provided. Transportation costs incurred that are required for the provision of
these services are sometimes included in the service plan.
If the district relies upon expending the required funds for staff with 100% of their
salary allocated for providing private/parochial service and if that staff provide some
direct student services within district programs (before Oct 15 and after early May) it
may be problematic in documenting that the required commitment of resources to this
population have been made.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Delineation

for Springfield District 186 Special Education Department
All members of the District 186 staff, administration, and
parents were open, honest and engaged in the interviews,
observations, and meetings involved in the development of this
There are a wide range of services, supports and resources
being provided for special education students throughout the
Some of the schools have a depth of understanding and are properly
implementing the RtI model of interventions and supports.
A vast majority of the stakeholders surveyed and interviewed are
expressing a core satisfaction with the special education
services within the district.
Throughout the stakeholder groups is a preponderant feeling
that the special education teachers and staff are doing as good
ajob as possible despite the need, in many cases, for additional
resources, training and/or personnel.
Most stakeholders understand the process for evaluation and
identification of
children with disabilities in the district.
Across the board, problem solving teams in the elementary
buildings are functional and providing suggestions for
interventions for students.
At the middle school level, there are many occurrences of
collaborative or co- teaching occurring within the regular
Without fail throughout the district, clerical staff takes extensive
measures to
ensure that visitors to their buildings are given due attention and

Some of the schools have limited understanding and/or
implementation of the RtI
model of interventions and supports.

The continuum of services is not equally accessible across the district. There
appears to be an excessive occurrence of students being served away from
their home school where they would otherwise attend if they did not have a
There appears to be a reported disconnect between the buildings and the
central office about special education decisions and communication. There is

a reported lack of timely and relevant communications and responses from the
central office special education administrators.
Special education personnel are implementing the vast majority of RtI
interventions when RtI is supposed to occur prior to the need for special
education. This depletes the special education staffs ability to provide
higher quality services to their identified IEP caseload.
There is a frustration with the unmet needs of students in the district
relating to behaviors and divergence of learners within the general
education classrooms.
There is little consistent understanding or application of the criteria
resulting in the identification of the need for extended school year services.

Adequate and appropriate classroom facilities in each building related to a

continuum of services need to be provided in the students home schools.
There is a marked disparity between the perceptions of general education teachers
and special education teachers on the effectiveness of special education services
in the district.
The mobility rate for children within the district is twice the state wide average.
Communication issues within the district exacerbate the impact of the mobility
rate by affecting the continuity of services and transition of the populations
affected by the mobility rate.

The district should take the opportunity to analyze the current
structure of supervision and management of special education
service delivery to improve and increase communication to and
from building staff to be more responsive to the needs of
students. More authority needs to be allowed at the building
level to commit the needed services and supports identified by the
IEP teams for students.
The district should take the opportunity to conduct an analysis
of all of the students residing in the various home school areas
and the services and supports that might be necessary to
appropriately serve those students without requiring more than a
small percentage of the students to have to be transported to
another school building.
The district should develop professional development opportunities
relating to special education matters and include general education
staff in those professional development activities.
The district should review the potential impact of transitioning
the focus of supports from what is now being provided by special
education attendants to how needs could be met by a
corresponding increase in the provision of resource teachers in
the lower grades. Would the increased interventions at a younger
age prevent a greater need from occurring or needing to provide
more focused support when the students get older?
Use technology to enhance opportunities and capabilities for
case load management for staff through a web based information
and report system (on line IEPs).
Increase opportunities for utilization of assistive technology for
students through systematic procedures and evaluative services as
needs are suspected to occur.
An expressed need for professional development by special
education staff can also benefit regular education by fostering a
consistent enhanced understanding of the RtI process and special
education service delivery.
Professional development for principals and their assistants in
behavioral management strategies and techniques will increase the

functional performance of all students in the building and will

likely allow many learning needs to be met before a special
education evaluation is required.
A vast majority of attendants are reported to be highly qualified
(based upon survey responses) under NCLB, yet their duties
under the job category do not reflect an emphasis on the direct
support of student learning. These support

personnel could perhaps receive specialized training or be redirected

to a role that
results in a more direct support of student learning.
As the district incorporates the common core standards into the
curriculum, the opportunity exists to enhance access to that same
standard curriculum for all students with IEPs.

Needs and issues that remain unacknowledged within the
stakeholder groups develop into increasingly diverse and
significant disconnects within the organization (i.e.
delineated in the parent group concerns).
To the degree that reports of IEP minutes not being provided
accurately reflect the current situation, there is a significant risk of
complaints and due process proceedings resulting in sanctions of
the district and a diversion of much needed resources.
The Illinois State Board of Education has stipulated that RtI
interventions may not be used to delay a needed special education
evaluation. It is consistently apparent that RtI interventions have
significantly delayed special education evaluations from taking
place in the district.
If quality RtI interventions are not in place for at risk populations,
the likelihood of not meeting AYP status relative to ISAT and
PSAE testing is increased.
If the perceived needs of groups of students are not being met or
responded to there is a greater probability of parents or other
groups seeking to create additional charter schools.
There is an inadvisable diligence on the part of some special
education administrators focused upon the curricular materials
used at the districts charter school. A charter school by definition
is exempt from some of the conventions imposed and expected
in a traditional school environment. It is potentially problematic
to view the charter schools ability to meet the learning needs of IEP
students any differently than any other continuum of service site
within the
district. That is to say that some of its students may require low
incidence services
beyond the scope of the school site.
When determining its proportional share responsibility for private
and parochial services the district uses an entire staff members
salary as being committed to private and parochial services. If the
financial commitment for this proportional share is narrowly
determined there is a risk of criticism if services by those
personnel are only provided for only a portion of the school