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Report raises questions about Hawaii’s special-education system

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A new state-commissioned report released today raises a host of organizational and systemic issues with the delivery of special education services in Hawaii public schools, including concerns about the transparency of funding and variations in services from region to region.

State Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the report was aimed at helping the Department of Education figure out how to improve services and boost achievement for special education students.

"We’re really looking at improving academic success for students with special needs," Matayoshi told a legislative panel this morning, at a presentation on the report.

The report found: 

>> Current funding and staff allocation formulas promote "strong disincentives" to move special education students to general education;

>> Organizational structures and roles are confusing, and the statewide DOE system makes it difficult to find "clear lines of responsibility and accountability" for special education services;

>> There are big variations, school complex-to-complex, in the amount and type of staffing and consistency of special education services;

>> Though only a small number of special education students are placed in private schools to meet their needs, those costs represent a "disproportionately high percentage of the state’s special education expenditures."

>> An analysis of special education costs is difficult, because of multiple funding codes;

>> Special education students continue to perform far below adequate yearly progress targets and have not seen overall improvements, as general education students have;

>> Parents have difficulty navigating the process, and "desire assistance to understand and participate" in ensuring their children are getting adequate special education services.

The West Ed report was commissioned by the state Department of Education for $415,000.

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