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Regarding the recommendations in the FY 2017 Special Education Staffing Plan, what would be the cost of implementing the four recommendations found on page D-26 of the Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2017 Operating Budget?

Question#: 35

ANSWER:

The Special Education Staffing Committee identified the following four priorities:

  1. Change Learning and Academic Disabilities (LAD) staffing ratio from current formula to an hours-based staffing ratio.
  2. Provide resources for LAD students to address access to Career and Technology Education.
  3. Provide professional learning for Home School Model (HSM) teachers, paraeducators, administrators, and counselors by providing a definition of HSM, best instructional practices, and strategies to support students with autism spectrum disorder.
  4. Enhance mental health supports to provide wrap-around services to students and families.

Priority 1—Change LAD staffing ratio from current formula to an hours-based staffing ratio.

This priority was recommended for elementary school LAD services. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, there are 18 elementary schools with LAD services that are staffed using an enrollment-driven model versus an hours-based model. To convert this staffing model would require adding 6.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) special education teacher positions and $437,169 and 12.875 FTE paraeducator positions and $552,587. This addition would result in a total increase of $989,756 for salary and benefits, in addition to the proposed FY 2017 allocation for LAD services. Improved outcomes with regard to increased flexibility with scheduling and collaborative planning also are key to successful expansion of hours-based staffing at the elementary school level.

Priority 2—Provide resources for LAD students to address access to Career and Technology Education.

This priority was discussed in the context of providing additional access to Career and Technology Education courses at the high school level. Special education students currently have access to courses for Career and Technology Education; however, high school principals have identified challenges with developing a master schedule that provides coteacher and paraeducator support for these classes. In order to provide more flexibility within the master schedule and to better meet the needs of students, an additional 0.4 FTE special education teacher and 0.875 FTE paraeducator would be recommended for each comprehensive high school. This would result in an addition of 10.0 FTE special education teachers and $728,615 and 21.875 FTE paraeducators and $938,861 resulting in a total increase of $1,667,476 for salary and benefits.

Priority 3—Provide professional learning for Home School Model (HSM) teachers, paraeducators, administrators, and counselors by providing a definition of HSM, best instructional practices and strategies to support students with autism disorder.

Due to anticipated budget constraints for FY 2017, funding for professional learning was incorporated into the Office of Special Education and Student Services’ current fiscal year budget and will continue through FY 2017 using Maryland State Department of Education Grant funds. In addition, we are collaborating with the offices of Curriculum and Instructional Programs and School Support and Improvement to coordinate professional learning opportunities and ensure that all teachers are included as we work to blend and braid funds.

HSM Professional Learning Opportunities

The priorities of the planned learning opportunities are to support high standards in the delivery of instruction by school staff members to students receiving special education services in our 66 HSM elementary schools.

Professional learning opportunities include:

  • Understanding the instructional and behavioral characteristics, profiles, and needs of students with disabilities;
  • Implementing effective coteaching strategies and practices;
  • Understanding the principles of Universal Design for Learning; and
  • Building capacity to implement evidenced-based practices and strategies to enable students with disabilities to make progress toward the attainment of the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards.

School staff members are provided with follow-up support in implementing their learning in the classroom by a central services support team for HSM best practices. In addition to supporting a number of other central services functions, this team conducts focused classroom visits to monitor teacher use of evidence-based coteaching practices and instructional strategies. This model helps to ensure that the same high standards and expectations are implemented across all HSM schools. An itinerant resource teacher position was eliminated as a part of the proposed FY 2017 central services reductions in the Department of Special Education Services. Restoration of this position would be needed to implement this recommendation and achieve successful outcomes for teachers and students. The cost to restore this position is $81,604 in salary and benefits costs.

The next steps in professional development are focused on access to rigorous academic standards through the implementation of academic interventions in the area of reading, mathematics, and writing. It is through the reliable delivery of research-based interventions that our students have an opportunity to remediate and acquire the skills necessary to be college, career, and community ready.

Autism Professional Learning

The priorities of the planned professional learning opportunities are to increase the capacity of staff members to support students with autism spectrum disorders in the classroom.

Professional learning opportunities include:

  • Diagnosis, symptoms, research, educational strategies, and choosing effective treatments for autism spectrum disorder;
  • Evidence-based practices—resources and application;
  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA)—principals of learning and uses of ABA (prompting and discrete trial); and
  • Challenging behavior—function and assessing, linking intervention to assessment, reinforcement based-intervention, and classroom management.

The breadth of the autism spectrum professional learning opportunities provides staff members with an enhanced understanding of the disorder including how to match instruction to the student’s learning style with a focus on supporting behavioral needs.

Priority 4—Enhance mental health supports to provide wrap-around services to students and families.

In order to provide enhanced mental health supports and wrap-around services to students and families, the recommendation proposed the reinstatement of the original multiyear enhancement plan that was approved by the Board of Education and implemented in FY 2014 and 2015. The plan was proposed as a way to enhance staffing for Coordinated Student Service Teams (CSSTs) and would add 4.0 FTE school psychologists, 5.5 FTE elementary school counselors, and 3.0 FTE pupil personnel workers (PPWs).

The role of the CSST is to align services and programs to enable students to acquire social and emotional competence, help educators promote social and emotional learning, and to identify mental health needs and provide mental health support. The team—counselors, PPWs, and psychologists—provide a multi-tiered system of support. Additional professional staff will assist schools in fully implementing CSSTs.

It is important to note that the plan to enhance CSSTs was developed prior to the proposed reorganization which creates the Office of Student Services and Engagement (OSSE). The FY 2017 budget brings together family-facing Department of Student Services (DSS) staff members, as well as parent community coordinators (PCCs), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) PCCs, ESOL counselors, and ESOL transition counselors who will be strategically allocated to schools. As a part of the transition, the roles and responsibilities of DSS and the additional staff members will be analyzed with a focus on supporting CSSTs and connecting families to those wrap-around services that help to ensure student success. The FY 2017 budget recommends an additional 5.0 FTE PCCs for OSSE.

In FY 2014, 45.0 FTE PPWs provided service to 151,515 students at a ratio of 3,367 students per 1.0 FTE PPW. The Board approved 5.0 FTE additional PPWs for FY 2015, giving an estimated ratio of 3,072 students per 1.0 PPW. The average ratio for the next five largest districts in Maryland is 2,125 students per 1.0 PPW. In FY 2014, 73.5 FTE psychologists assigned to the Division of Psychological Services were responsible for providing services to approximately 151,515 students at a ratio of 2,062 students per 1.0 FTE psychologist. In FY 2015, the Board approved the addition of 6.0 FTE psychologists giving an estimated ratio of 1,932 students per psychologist. The National Association of School Psychologists recommended ratio is 700 to 1,000 students per full-time psychologist.

Due to budget constraints, the multiyear enhancement plan was unable to be implemented in FY 2016 and there were no enhancements recommended in FY 2017. Implementation of this identified priority to enhance CSSTs would result in an addition of 5.0 FTE psychologists and $502,630, 3.5 FTE elementary school counselors and $254,961, and 4.0 FTE PPWs and $369,080. The total requirement for these additional positions is $1,126,671.

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