Laura Manges, Director of Student Services at Milford School District, provided information the Milford School District Board of Education regarding special education services in the district at their regular meeting in Dec. 2020. According to Manges, the district is serving the highest number of special needs students in the 14 years she has been working in the district.
“In our December 1 count, we reported 801 students identified as receiving special education,” Manges said. “This is the largest number since I began working here 14 years ago. Interestingly enough, in the ten year period I am reviewing, we were reporting 620 to 700 students on average, so to be at 801, that is a very significant increase in special education students. A few years ago, we reported zero students on the autism spectrum and this year, we reported over 100 on the spectrum.”
Manges explained that one of the reasons for the increase in special education students is an expansion of services that allowed Milford to serve those who had special education requirements within the district in order to reduce the cost of sending students outside the district for services. Manges stated that, at one point, Milford was sending as many as 145 students to other districts and that, as of Dec.1, 2020, they were only serving 56 students outside of Milford.
Manges also provided information on a Disproportionality Finding issued by the Department of Education.
“Each year, the state has targets set regarding the appropriate representation of different ethnic groups in special education,” Manges said. “This year, we did trigger for a disproportionate number of African American children in special education. When we trigger something like this, we must provide a multi-tiered review of our policies and procedures. I am required to look at any child that has caused that trigger and have each psychologist review their education plan.”
According to Manges, the district’s trigger was a very low percentage, indicating there did not seem to be a significant problem, but that the special education department was required to review evaluation summary report documentation which have assessments that are scientifically research-based. The district conducted the review in Dec. and there did not appear to be any further indicators that that Milford was not meeting federal government guidelines.
Rony Baltazar-Lopez, Vice-President of the Milford School Board, asked what the district could do to prevent these triggers in the future as well as questioning if remote learning had anything to do with the disparity.
“This data is from 2019 so remote learning had no impact on it,” Manges said. “Basically, this is a target the state government sets. We are I a good place being so close to the state target. A lot of districts trigger with many different ethnicities and backgrounds. We just have to show a constant state of checks and balances.”