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Parents Give Special Ed Programs Good Grades

May 22, 2008 — Parent satisfaction with special education services in the territory is notably high, according to a federally mandated survey conducted by the State Office of Special Education (SOSE).
A sampling of survey results was outlined Thursday to special education personnel and the media by the Eastern Caribbean Center (ECC) of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), which was hired to conduct the SOSE survey. It asked parents or guardians of special education students whether they agreed, strongly agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements posed in six categories. Sixty percent of the 1,853 calls placed by trained interviewers in December resulted in completed surveys.
The final version of the survey is still pending, according to ECC Director Frank Mills. Mills said his department wanted to revise three minor points, but he called Thursday's presentation representative of the overall findings. The survey contained some 50 questions. Mills said that for the sake of brevity he presented answers to approximately half the survey questions in his presentation, and the number of favorable responses to the questions presented averaged close to 80 percent.
"The important thing for (SOSE) to hear was despite the high percentages in all areas, there were areas of weakness, and that was important for them to understand," he said.
For example, in the area of satisfaction with special education services, close to 90 percent of respondents felt the teachers were knowledgeable. But 55 percent of parents were unhappy with the lack of public forums on special education to solicit parent input. That was the only one of the sample questions presented Thursday which recorded more negative than positive responses.
The survey's six categories were: Assessment of Student Progress; Parent Attitudes Toward the Individual Education Plan, (or IEP, which every special education child is given according to his or her unique needs and skills); Satisfaction with Special Education Services; Special Education and the Family; Parents Perception of the School, Teachers and Administrators; and Transition from High School.
The category receiving the highest number of favorable responses was Assessment of Student Progress, where parents generally agreed that their child was improving in academic and social skills. The weakest category was Transition from High School, and complaints from two audience members supported that conclusion.
SOSE director, Carrie Johns, apologized and offered her help. She said in the future, the survey should better focus her department's efforts.
"The Office of Special Education is driven by data," explained Johns. "We will repeat this annually so we can compare, know what the improvements are or if we decline in certain areas. With this data we can do professional development, and we know where to go from here."
SOSE provides supplemental funding through grants received from the federal government to the Department of Education for programs, including implementation of the IEP as well as the hiring of specialized personnel, such as therapists.
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