After failing for the eighth straight year to meet service delivery targets for special education, Los Angeles Unified School District has begun interviewing staff to understand why records indicate thousands of students with disabilities are not receiving their prescribed services.
The effort, led by the district's Office of the Independent Monitor, seeks to determine whether the shortcomings are due to documentation problems, actual failures to serve students or both. Jaime Hernandez, the office's research director, said the goal to show a student received any service was "really a very low bar to meet."
"We would have expected some more progress," said Hernandez, who believes the problem is likely both bad data and lack of services.
Attorneys who represent special education students and their families said many children with special needs receive few or no services and that the true service delivery rate in LA Unified, which enrolled more than 82,000 special education students in 2010-11, could be worse than records show.
"My guess is about 60 percent of services are being delivered," said Valerie Vanaman, an attorney with Newman Aaronson Vanaman, a Los Angeles firm that joined the American Civil Liberties Union in filing a 1993 class-action lawsuit that led to independent oversight of LA Unified's special education program.