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The state of special education at HISD

Still a lot of work to be done.

Houston ISD’s quality of special education services remains in “grave” shape due to inadequate staffing, confusion among employees and a lack of accountability, according to a district-appointed committee reviewing the quality of programs provided to students with disabilities.

In a draft report expected to be presented to HISD trustees Thursday, members of the district’s Special Education Ad-Hoc Committee said the district needs to better address its many shortcomings and school board members should provide more oversight of efforts to improve delivery of special education services. The committee, comprised of district leaders, special education experts and HISD parents, has been meeting since February 2017, in response to a Houston Chronicle investigation that found a years-long pattern of Texas school districts — including HISD — denying access to special education services.

The committee’s 11-page draft report, which is expected to undergo some revisions before Thursday, echoes many of the findings documented earlier this year in a third-party review by American Institutes of Research. The nonprofit found HISD needed more staff members dedicated to special education, better clarity about delivering services to students and clearer systems for carrying out essential programs for students with disabilities, among other areas of improvement.

The committee is expected to issue several recommendations to HISD’s nine-member school board. They include ordering HISD administrators to issue a detailed response to the American Institutes of Research report and mandating regular reports to trustees about the district’s plans for improving special education services.

“It’s going to take years of persistence and commitment to special education to get the district to where we want it to be,” said HISD Trustee Anne Sung, who chaired the committee.


Kara DeRocha, an HISD parent and special education advocate who sat on the committee, said district leaders need a consistent, detailed and well-managed plan to satisfy long-frustrated families.

“The biggest problem in HISD has always been follow-through,” DeRocha said. “There are a lot of great plans that come out, but the devil is in the details and making sure they do what they said they’d do with fidelity.”

See here for all previous blogging on the topic. HISD had embraced the state’s artificial limits on special education in the past, and then-Superintendent Carranza set up the review of the district’s practices last January. The state is also working on a reform plan, but all these things will cost money. I agree with Kara DeRocha that the devil is in the details, but look at the budget appropriations first. It remains to be seen that the Lege will deal with this in an adequate manner.

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  1. Andrew Lynch says:

    Houston ISD’s quality of special education services remains in “grave” shape due to inadequate staffing, confusion among employees and a lack of accountability. HISD is too big. Break up the district into smaller regions.

  2. Manny Barrera says:

    Big Jolly caters to people like you Andrew. Do you have data to support what you propose?

  3. Ross says:

    Breaking up HISD is an incredibly stupid proposal with no redeeming qualities, other than adding additional administrative layers. A better plan is for the State to quit sucking money out of the district via recapture, and funding education sufficiently. That won’t happen until scumbag piece of shit Dan Patrick and his ilk disappear.

  4. Bill Daniels says:


    Agree with the first part about not breaking up HISD.

    As to the second, I’m good with ending Robin Hood, but when we do, then let the Edgewood School District pay for their kids, and HISD can pay for HISD kids. If Edgewood wants more money spent on their kids, then they should raise property taxes in THEIR district. Education is a local issue.

    Don’t blame Dan Patrick because he doesn’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul. That’s what Robin Hood is, and there’s really no point in replacing one form of it for another.

  5. C.L. says:

    I have no idea why my HISD tax dollars ultimately are getting funneled to McAllen’s La Joya 28,000 student ISD so they can build a $20M sports complex that holds a 90,000 sqft water park, a 27-hole golf course, a planetarium, etc…

    Good grief, State aid accounts for 75% of the ISD’s budget, and the water park charges local residents to use it ?

  6. Ross says:

    @Bill, one big point behind the original Edgewood suit was they couldn’t raise taxes high enough to fund schools at an equitable level. Edgewood had a tax rate twice as high as other districts that raised half as much funding per student.

    In addition, the Texas Constitution pretty much requires that the Legislature provide funding to schools – it’s not a local only thing.