Special education survey shows communication is key area of improvement


At its latest meeting on Jan. 17, San Dieguito Union High School District’s special education task force reviewed the results of a student, staff and parent survey on the special education program.

The Hanover Research survey’s greatest discrepancies came between special education parents and staff’s perceptions of the district’s performance and in engaging parents. For example, 93 percent of individualized education program (IEP) staff respondents reported that the school does a good or very good job on seeking parent input on their child’s placement while only 45 percent of IEP parents rated the school similarly.

Per the results, IEP parents were consistently less positive than non-IEP parents about the district’s academic provisions for special education students while the IEP school staff had largely positive views.

IEP parents were least positive about the school staff helping special education students become college and career ready (37 percent) and most positive about the staff building social skills (46 percent).

Of the IEP parents surveyed, 22 percent are not at all satisfied with the district’s special education program while 17 percent were slightly satisfied, 53 percent moderately to very satisfied and 7 percent extremely satisfied.

The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board established the task force last year in response to parent concerns about the program, from curriculum to facilities. The group made up of parents, teachers and administrators is working to analyze the current status of the program and develop a strategic plan to provide a roadmap for the district moving forward.

The task force is slated to give its next update to the SDUHSD school board on March 6 and it hopes to present its strategic plan recommendation on May 6.

The group’s facilitator, Maureen O’Leary Burness, said the survey is just one piece of information that will help the task force in its work, along with the perspectives and themes the task force has shared over its first four meetings.

The survey was conducted Dec. 8-21 last year with responses from staff, parents, students, parents with a student in an IEP and parents without a student in an IEP.

Of the 1,381 respondents, 48 percent (668) were non-IEP parents, 21 percent (296) were IEP parents, 17 percent (231) were students, 12 percent (167) were school staff and 1 percent (19) were district staff.

Of the total 1,849 responses recorded, Hanover conducted some data cleaning: 30 test responses removed, 338 responses were dropped due to missing data, 75 were disqualified and 25 were removed due to poor quality data such as if the respondent was a “speeder” (took less than half the median time) or “flatlined.”

Mark Miller, the associate superintendent of administrative service, said of the 1,300 parents with students in an IEP in the district only 296 responded, which is relatively low. In last year’s district Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) survey of 2,600 parents only 169 parents with students in an IEP took the survey.

“My overarching concerns are the inclusion of the non-IEP parents when 76 percent of them said they had no familiarity with special education programs,” said parent task force member Sophy Chaffee.

Miller said the survey was also about getting all parents’ perceptions, they were attempting to be inclusive and look collectively at how all parent groups in the district perceive special education.

He noted that the results are disaggregated between IEP and non-IEP parents and only parents who said they were familiar with specific programs got to answer those questions. For example, for a question on the district’s performance helping students become college and career ready, non-IEP parents were asked about performance in helping students in general while IEP students were asked about special education students.

Meredith Wadley, director of school and student services, said she looks at that non-IEP parent result as very helpful. The fact that 76 percent of district parents are not familiar with programs concerns her too — it shows that parents are not aware of all the resources available and there is communications outreach work to do.

Chaffee said she was also disappointed in the really low number of students represented “because they’re the ones not in this room.” She said three schools had zero respondents and one school, Carmel Valley Middle, only had one.

The most student and IEP parent participants came from La Costa Canyon with the most non-IEP parent participants coming from Canyon Crest Academy.

Miller said he couldn’t speculate as to why students or parents chose not to participate.