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College and careers

An overhaul of the district’s career education programs seeks to make classes more challenging and put career-track students on the path to higher ed, but many schools have lost programs, and fewer students are participating overall.

Class sizes could increase for special education students

Special education advocates are up in arms about a state proposal to eliminate class size caps for special education rooms and let districts decide what percentage of a “general education” class can be students with disabilities.The rule changes would leave the state without maximum class sizes based on a child’s disability for the first time since 1975. CPS district spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler says that “we recently learned of this proposal and are currently reviewing it so that we understand its potential implications.”

The question of class sizes and special education classrooms is intertwined with the school closings issue in CPS.

The proposal was given preliminary approval at last week’s Illinois State Board of Education meeting, will go out for a 45-day public comment period in the coming weeks, then would be voted on by a legislative committee before becoming law.

The state is proposing rule changes partly because of unintended negative consequences of the mandates, as well as “the difficulty school districts have reported complying with the standard, as the state’s – and, by extension, many school districts’ – fiscal condition has worsened in the past several years,” according to the Illinois State Board of Education agenda packet.

Currently, class sizes are limited based on the percentage of time a student spends receiving special education services.

Students with mild disabilities who spend less than 20 percent of their time in special ed must be in pull-out classes with 15 or fewer students (or 17 with a paraprofessional), while those with more severe disabilities who receive special education classes at least 60 percent of the time must be in classes with no more than eight students (13 with a paraprofessional). In preschool, special education classes are limited to five students, or 10 with a paraprofessional.

ISBE says it is finding that class size limits “can diminish the ability of the school districts to make decisions based on the needs of each student with a disability” and make it harder to implement co-teaching (where general education and special education teachers work side by side.) Lifting the caps, Wednesday’s agenda packet notes, could allow special needs students to enroll in a greater variety of course offerings.

The Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities opposes the rule changes, the packet notes, but the Illinois Principals Association, Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials support them.

Kristine Mayle, financial secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union and a former special education teacher, testified against the proposed changes. She says she is concerned because even now, class size limits “are never really upheld in CPS.” Recently, she says, the union filed a grievance on behalf of a teacher who has 24 students in her self-contained classroom, when by law she should have eight.

Mayle worries that if the rules change, CPS could “stack all of our rooms with 25 kids, and save a ton of money that way.”

What is more, the union’s recent contract includes for the first time the right to file a grievance when special education class sizes are bigger than state law allows. If the law is changed, that right could become meaningless.

Letting districts define “general education”

The state also wants to eliminate the requirement for a general education classroom to be at least 70 percent students without disabilities – known as the “70/30 rule” – due to concerns that some school districts were increasing their general education class sizes to meet it. An earlier attempt to change this rule, in 2006, was stopped by a public outcry.

At the moment, CPS would not be affected by the change in the definition of because it still remains under the decree, which allows general education classes in Chicago to include up 40 percent special ed students. However, CPS would like to get released from the decree and could be within the year.

Gineen O’Neil, president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, says her organization supports eliminating the definition of a general education classroom. “Is a general education class defined by who is sitting in it? Or is it defined by what curriculum is taught, the rigor in it?” she asks.

But Margie Wakelin, a staff attorney for the disability rights organization Equip for Equality, is concerned that general education teachers won’t be able to faithfully implement students’ Individualized Education Programs if they have too many students with disabilities in a class.

“There is a significant body of research about the benefits of inclusive education in a general education setting,” Wakelin says. “If there no longer is a rule such as 70-30 there is a fear that those experiences won’t be available for a lot of students.”

21 comments

helenkeller wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

My friend subs in the south

My friend subs in the south and southwest suburbs. She has yet to encounter a self-contained special education program as overcrowded as the average self-contained program in CPS. Yesterday she subbed in a classroom of twelve students with four aides. To remove class size guidelines will wreak disaster in CPS.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

This has GOT to be a joke!

Some of our esteemed legislators need to take time out of their busy days to VISIT several classrooms serving Special Education students. Do they have ANY idea what goes on from day to day? Do they KNOW how much time and effort goes into planning and executing appropriate programming for these kids? I have been a Special Educator for 41 YEARS and have seen everything from Public Law 142 to the present. I feel that I have something to say about the proposed class size increase.

Just some possible ramifications of unlimited class sizes for Special Ed:
*student lack of attention to task due to excessive distractions
*less small group or one on one instruction
*impaired ability for teachers to directly impact a student's particular academic needs
*less time for teachers to prepare pertinent lessons
*more paperwork for Special Ed teachers who are already inundated with
state and federally mandated forms, plans, and data
*DOWNFALL of student progress
Wasn't student success the PURPOSE for Special Education to begin with? THINK about it, legislators! Wouldn't you want your child with a disability to have the best educational options possible? So do the parents (voters) with disabled children. What an embarassment to think that Illinois legislators devalue students with special needs over the all mighty dollar.

I VOTE TOO, BY THE WAY.

Disgusted in Plainfield

Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

What is driving this proposed change

As the article indicates the primary motivation for eliminating the special Ed class size rules is money. Access Living like all advocacy organizations opposed the rule changes. The IL Alliance of Sped Administrators is composed of directors who are appointed by superintdents and who are subject to immediate removal because they are not unionized. I give little weight to their comments.

The federal budget deal that created the mandatory budget cuts includes $1 billion in IDEA funds to the states. This cut will lift what the MOE requirements for state and local funding for special Ed. In order to cut special Ed staff the rules need to be lifted. Parents and teachers need to put pressure on the members of the General Assembly to oppose the elimination of the rules or we will be faced with an avalanche of cut.

Rod Estvan

Linda wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

I'm jealous

I don't think you know how good you have it! In California the RSP class size limit is 28, and no limit on SDC or pre-school. You must have lots of money.

Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Re: Linda

Well at least in Ca there is still a limit. What IL is proposing is no legal limit.

Rod Estvan

Mike Carlson wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

class sizes/special ed

I also testified at the hearing. Here is the gist of my comments:

..So it should concern everyone that right now .. all across America .. tens of thousands
of teachers are getting laid off....Think about what that means for our country. When
there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start
falling behind. And our economy takes a hit....
-President Barack Obama, June 9, 2012

-I was only notified of this meeting at midnight last night which may explain why there aren’t more people here.

-Money spent on education for any child, but especially a special need child, is money saved in the future as it will increase their chance of self-sufficiency and paying taxes.

-We can spend money on expanding school building sizes in certain geographic mostly white areas, but can’t find the money for teachers and real education.

-I have personally seen the difference in special ed class growing from 8 students to 11 with a drastic reduction in education goals being met. The best of teachers can only do so much for each child and increasing class sizes in most cases compounds problems. How many special ed teachers have you talked to about their experiences with class sizes? Research shows smaller class sizes benefit students, special ed or not. “When
there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start
falling behind.” Or was the president wrong?

-Your research as to class size increase is skewed at best. Yes, it may be correct that there is little change when a class goes from 30 to 40 because the damage is already done as changing from 20 to 30 is devastating.

-There are many kids who can and should be mainstreamed but there are many who can’t be. Autistic kids, depending on their position on the spectrum, are often very bright and can be taught but need smaller class sizes for the attention they need due to socialization and other issues that interfere with their learning. They are mainstreamed as much as possible but it takes time and effort to do this effectively. A large class size hampers this. Additionally, even with main streaming a child may require having an aid with him or her personally and you don’t seem to be taking that into consideration.
with the growing number of autism diagnoses, you must give serious thought to what you are doing here.

-You will be forcing many parents to insist in the IEPs that their child be in a small size classroom and this will put more expense onto the local schools. Those who oppose smaller class sizes are those who feel a school is failing because it can’t pass AYP. No school can pass AYP if they have special education programs because special ed student scores are included in the AYP. My son is lucky to have a principal and teachers who worry about their students and won’t turn their backs on their special ed kids.

Northside wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

obama?

Obama started this madness!!!!

Northside wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

30 to 40

going from 30 to 40?? its like being run over by a tank instead of a truck!! doesnt matter...both are devastating....try trying to differentiate for 35 kids...impossible...if you wanted to talk to each kid 10 min alone a day you would need 5 hours straight!!! tell me that's possible????

Linda wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Rod, didn't realize they are

Rod, didn't realize they are going to no limit. Isn't it tragic that when lack of government responsibility causes a shortage, it is never foreign aid, or government perks that get cut, but only the most vulnerable in our society. They mandate an IEP, but how individual can that be with 30 - 40 kids with varying needs? Very sad times we're in.

Barb wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

I didn't get a vote years ago...

I don't teach. But, my children are teacher's and I ask them why? I feel like I went through this in the 80's when they were in school. I couldn't understand it then and it's just worse now. I want to know why they didn't fix the CPS in 1965 instead of creating the charter schools to begin with. Now they are closing some of those. Just what is their plan - does anyone know? Where will the kids from the 129 schools go? Oh, and now they are closing the catholic schools in that area as well. Now those kids have to find a home. Rahm needs a class in managing 101. Seems to me that there should be an outlet for both teacher's and the principal to place the kids that cause problems elsewhere, after all that is the glory of a private school. They don't have to keep the troublemaker's. Perhaps Rahm creates a centralized school for misfits and he runs it? Maybe then he will get a clue.

Hrisi wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

Trying to get a petition going

I am very passionate about this issue and I am trying to get a petition to grow so I can send this to ISBE.
http://www.change.org/petitions/illinois-state-board-of-education-not-to...

anonymous wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

It almost doesn't matter

I worked for CPS as a SPED teacher. Honestly, this really concerns me. More students means being less effective. However, seeing how IEP's are a lot of time-consuming paperwork with minimal impact on the child's education, where I worked. It would be hard for that school to be any less effective than it is already.
Students graduate from that school who couldn't even spell or read the school's name.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

Anyone know how to inform the

Anyone know how to inform the ISBE about the rule change?

Anonymous wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

send your comments to ISBE!!

Public comment should be addresed to isbe@rules.net as that is where it could possibly make a difference

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Kellie wrote 32 weeks 5 hours ago

General Education Class, numbers

I teach a high school Business/computer class in California, and I would like to know the legal number of SE students can be placed in my general education class? I am not a SE teacher, I teach Business/Computers. My class is a high school graduation requirement and I was wondering how many SE students can be placed in each period with and with out an associate aid? Thank you.

Anonymous wrote 26 weeks 4 days ago

High school math teacher

I have a student load of 90 students with over 40 students on iep's.
I have so many sped students because according to a sped teacher 'I get along' with them. How fair is that? seriously thinking of an early retirement. No co-teacher either.

northside wrote 26 weeks 3 days ago

In the old days

In the old days I would take 40 IEP kids, but now with all of this REACH and Performance Tasks..it is a huge RISk! Sad what is happening to SCHOOL

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 3 days ago

Special Education

My grandson is in a multi Handed cap program. they say he is to exstreamly delayed for Galloway M.D. program.but they are still fighting my daughter on a one on one. He is currently in Atlantic County Special Services. We feel that another aide is needed. Think there is 8 children in the class what are the odds.

ThinkClearly wrote 15 weeks 1 day ago

children who aren't autistic being labeled autistic

So many children are being misdiagnosed with autism these days. Special education officials need to be on the look out for parents who push their doctors, or hire “special education advocates” to insist their children are "autistic" when there is no OFFICIAL CONCRETE autism diagnosis for the child. In California, there is rampant abuse of the autism label among parents of young children trying to get their children extra help in the classroom, when if you look at these children, they are talking normally, walking, writing, reading and doing everything normal, but may only be “mentally ill” with bipolar, depression or have aphasia (loss of speech) or dysphasia (difficulty comprehending speech) due to subclinical or obvious seizures. Truly a problem situation that is rooted in the overall ignorance and confidence of doctors, psychologists, special education administrators and school psychologists to properly discern who is autistic and who is not. And WHAT other disorders and conditions can mimic autism. A truly autistic person always presents as being in their own world, they DO NOT answer your questions like normal non autistic children! You will see echolalia (repeating the same sentences or words) or you’ll see obsession on ONE or TWO subjects. You’ll also see obsession on routines and rituals. Obsessions with water play. Mild to severe self injurious behaviors. And a hallmark trait of autism is fixations on different foods, flavors and textures. Don’t be fooled by parents who want their children to be autistic because they themselves are mentally ill and don’t know how to care for their children. Or are taken in by the “hype” of autism around them. The last straw was when yet ANOTHER mom told me her child was diagnosed with “high functioning” autism, but admitted he “may be just PDD (pervasive developmental disorder)” When I asked her, “Does it bother you that your son may be labeled with autism when he really doesn’t have it?” the mother said, “I don’t really care. So long as he gets the services he needs in school.” There you have folks. The autism label is no longer about autism, it’s about people like Jenny McCarthy who never had an autistic child (he had Landau Kleffner Syndrome) but rode the autism wave and made millions off her books, and parents who don’t really have autistic children, but insisting they do, are now costing taxpayers millions by having their children diagnosed with autism “for the services” and autism researchers who don’t give care if they are really including real autistic children and adults in their studies, cuz it’s just about money. No wonder there is an “epidemic” of autism, because there is an “epidemic” of people who are so CLUELESS about what autism is and isn’t, has created MASS chaos and confusion. Wake up people.

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