It may take years for the Killeen Independent School District to be able to provide an inclusive setting for all special education students, the school board learned this week.
Under federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to special education students in the least restrictive setting — sometimes referred to as inclusion.
According to the latest special education audit, conducted by Gibson Consulting Group, the district is in need of less restrictive classroom environments for KISD special needs students.
“KISD has excessive placements in restrictive settings, resulting in limited exposure of special education students to the general education curriculum,” the audit said. “The district lacks an effective (and less restrictive) district-wide inclusion model. Currently there are too many special education students in many inclusion classrooms and not enough special education teachers to support them.”
Janice Peronto, the new executive director of special education, presented a PowerPoint special education update to the Killeen ISD board Tuesday night. In it, the director provided updates on the department’s staffing, a new inclusive teaching model and further professional development.
Co-teaching, or collaborative teaching, is one way to provide an inclusive educational setting for all children.
As Peronto said Tuesday, co-teaching is “an approach that allows our general education and special education teachers to work together so that we can differentiate and deliver instruction with the assurance that all students are going to be accessing the general curriculum and working together.”
Tracy Knickerbocker, one of the district’s special education consultants, was hired to provide the professional development that will possibly move Killeen ISD to an inclusive model of teaching, starting with Fort Hood schools.
This year, teachers and administrators at all nine Fort Hood elementary and middle schools received professional development in co-teaching. These same schools will continue to receive professional development, along with eight additional Killeen schools next year.
Board members Marvin Rainwater, Shelley Wells, Susan Jones and Vice President Corbett Lawler had questions as to the speed in which the district is correcting one of the problems outlined in the audit.
Thanks to a Defense Department education grant, the co-teaching instruction at Fort Hood schools focuses on language arts and math in an effort to increase STAAR standardized test scores of special needs children.
“We are specifically looking at special education students and improving their scores in reading and writing,” said Diana Miller, assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum.
Therefore, the co-teaching would only occur for special education students in their general classroom during those subject times.
“It’s all based on the needs of the students,” Miller said. “… It’s not necessarily going to look the same every day or be delivered the same every day.”
Board member Shelley Wells presented a problem with the feeder system of students from Fort Hood schools who will move on to schools in the district that do not have an inclusive teaching model.
“That’s a year from now, these Audie Murphy and Smith Middle School kids are going to Killeen High School in the next three years and you won’t have that program setup over there yet,” Wells said.
Money, time and staff management are part of the problem, Miller said.
“It’s a matter of managing our funds, as well as managing the staff and the situation. I’m not sure that we could do it … just the training in and of itself.”
Jones requested Peronto and Miller to take a look at speeding the process up.
“I would like to see this move faster,” Jones said. “We will be 10 years doing this. I really would not like to see us doing this for 10 years. I would have liked to see it done yesterday, so.”
Miller said she would look at ways to “accelerate the process.”
Peronto said down the road she hopes to see a different teaching model across the district.
“The vision is that 100 percent of the schools in KISD will be in the collaborative teaching model,” Peronto said.