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special education

mom working on core strength on exercise ball with daughter
David J. Phillip / Associated Press

Across Texas, some school districts are now offering teletherapy services to students with disabilities. It's the first large-scale launch of its kind, so teachers and therapists are having to get creative to meet the needs of these students. 

Around this time of the school year, Karen Sams expects to be in the "sweet spot" with her 17 third graders — the point at which, after months of watching them closely, she knows their quirks and understands how to motivate them.

Robyn Garza / Texas Tribune

Losing the stability of a school day frustrates 14-year-old Logan Heller. He regularly melts down: screaming at the top of his lungs, hitting himself in the face and fleeing from anyone who tries to calm him.

The Texas Education Agency says there's been a 56% increase in the last several years of the number of children tested for a disability.
Laura Isensee / Houston Public Media

When Houston ISD Superintendent Grenita Lathan emailed parents about the district moving to online learning, Jane Friou quickly looked for updates for students like her 12-year-old daughter Elise — students with disabilities.

She didn’t find any.

Britany Miller said that she's tried at multiple charter schools to get her son Nicholas Davis, 13, the support he needs. Nicholas was diagnosed with ADHD and depression in elementary school.
Laura Isensee / Houston Public Media

Twice, Britany Miller has asked for special education services and accommodations at two different Houston-area charter schools for her son, Nicholas Davis, who struggles with depression and an attention disorder. 

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Federal officials have ordered the Texas Education Agency to pay a former special education director more than $200,000 in damages for illegally firing her.

Interns in Fort Bend ISD's program to grow its staff of licensed specialists
Laura Isensee / Houston Public Media

In the last three years, Fort Bend schools have seen the demand for special education almost double. More teachers and parents are asking for children to be tested for a disability — which district leaders say is a huge step forward since the end of a Texas policy that denied services to tens of thousands of children for over a decade.

Carolinda Acevedo, 13, says she feels calmer and more supported at her new online school than at her public school, where she was denied special ed services.
Chris Paul / Houston Public Media

Last year, as a seventh-grader at Lake Jackson Intermediate, Carolinda Acevedo struggled in class — even though she loves learning. She'd stay up late to finish her homework, but then did poorly on state exams. 

Every time Jennifer Tidd's son was secluded or restrained at school, she received a letter from his teachers. Her son has autism and behavioral issues, and over three years — from 2013 to 2016 — Tidd got 437 of those letters.

"I see this pile of documents that's 5 inches tall that represents hundreds of hours of being locked into a room, and I feel, you know, horrible," Tidd says.

She's sitting in her living room in Northern Virginia, her head hanging over the stack of papers. Tears are in her eyes.

Twenty child advocacy groups and nonprofits called on Texas lawmakers this week to increase funding for a struggling program that helps more than 50,000 small children with disabilities and developmental delays in the state.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Texas Education Agency owes the federal government millions of dollars for failing to match a special education grant.

From Texas Standard:

Two years ago, the Houston Chronicle investigated how Texas had been creating the false impression that there was declining demand for special education. The investigation was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and it showed that Texas had found ways to cap the number of special-education students, and block others from even qualifying. It was essentially a money-saving strategy, but now the federal government says it's time to pay up, and fix the system.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Education Agency is starting the search for organizations to help school districts overhaul special education following a federal finding that the state had effectively denied students with disabilities access to needed services.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

RICHARDSON — Jaculyn Zigtema, a special education director in Whitehouse ISD in East Texas, told state education officials Monday that she planned to hire two diagnosticians, four teachers and two behavioral specialists to handle an anticipated spike in students considered eligible for special education.

Eddie Seal / For The Texas Tribune

After gathering thousands of responses from parents and advocates, the Texas Education Agency has sketched a new plan for educating kids with disabilities — with limited money.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Texas says it promises to reform its special education services following federal findings that the state denied thousands of children those services for over a decade.

Lawyers and parents say the state has a long way to go.

Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Education Agency released a preliminary plan for reforming special education Thursday.

Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

After a federal report blasted Texas for failing kids with disabilities, educators and public education advocates are pointing the finger directly at state legislators who, they argue, first suggested capping special education to keep costs low.

Hello! Money is on our minds in this mid-January edition of the Weekly Roundup.

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Texas failed to make special education services available to all students with disabilities who needed it, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Special ed enrollment in Texas is up; there are new maps of Trump’s border wall; Wendy Davis’ filibuster is getting made into a movie; and more.

Angel Vazquez is 9 years old, has hearing loss in both ears, has trouble speaking and struggles to concentrate in class. He's a year behind in school, just learned how to read and is still learning English. For nearly two years, his mom, Angeles Garcia, tried to get him evaluated for special education at his elementary school in Houston.

Garcia sent the school three letters, pleading for an assessment. She even included medical documents describing some of his disabilities, but she says the school ignored her.

Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

With increased federal attention on the low percentage of Texas students receiving special education services, the state is poised to ensure the number of students receiving such services will increase over the next year. And disability rights advocates are hoping to go even further, aiming to improve the overall quality of those services.

John Koetsier / Flickr

The 2017 Legislative session kicks off next week. Among the many topics sure to spark debate is education. KERA looks ahead to several of the education issues Texas lawmakers will tackle when they meet.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Federal officials have fanned out across the state after allegations that Texas capped special education enrollment at 8.5 percent to save money. 

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Federal and state education officials got an earful from angry parents Monday night at a meeting in Richardson. Most say their school districts have denied special education services to their kids who deserved them.

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U.S. Department of Education officials want to hear from Texas families and students on getting access to special education services. The two-hour sessions are scheduled to begin Dec. 12.

Speaker Joe Straus Calls For Immediate Special Education Overhaul

Oct 27, 2016
Alana Rocha / The Texas Tribune

House Speaker Joe Straus urged the Texas Education Agency Wednesday to immediately overhaul its system for identifying students in need of special education services.

When Rosley Espinoza's daughter was very young, in preschool, she started acting differently. She seemed distracted and would get in trouble at school.

"Lack of interest, teachers' notes coming home with behavior notes," Espinoza says, speaking in Spanish.

She says she asked school officials to evaluate her daughter, Citlali, for special education, but they didn't.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Texas has the lowest special education enrollment numbers in the nation. Parents of some special needs students say they’ve spent years fighting with Texas schools to get services for their kids — services schools are required to provide under federal law. 

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