Public Inquiry Report Describes Systemic Issues in CPS’s Special Education Program

 

ISBE leaders to recommend next steps at May 16 Board meeting

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today reviewed the final report from the Public Inquiry Team appointed to examine special education services in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The Inquiry Team found systemic problems that delayed and denied the provision of special education services to students. Policies, procedures, and systems also hindered the ability of educators and families to advocate for the services students needed.

The Public Inquiry report contains 43 findings of fact. The Inquiry Team found widespread issues with CPS’s Student Services Management (SSM) system, an electronic program that guides users through a series of fillable forms designed to develop a complete Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a student, and with the procedural manuals for using the SSM. The Inquiry Team also found systemic problems with CPS’s processes for collecting data to assess students’ need for services, authorizing IEP teams’ recommendations for students, and providing transportation for students.

“We have an obligation as the leaders of public education systems to create conditions that support every single child in our care,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “I deeply appreciate the full participation of all of the parties throughout this first-of-its-kind process in Illinois. This Public Inquiry allowed us to examine CPS’s special education program not just from an administrative compliance perspective but also from the view of the families and educators trying to provide students the best educational experience possible. We are encouraged that CPS has already begun taking steps to improve on the issues discussed in the report. We look forward to working together to build on CPS’s strengths and ensure all students receive the supports they need to thrive.”

ISBE General Counsel Stephanie Jones and ISBE Executive Director of Special Education Services Heather Calomese will meet with CPS and the advocates who brought the initial complaint to ISBE to develop a plan to ensure the concerns noted in the report are resolved prior to next school year. Jones and Calomese will recommend next steps at the State Board meeting on May 16 in Springfield.

ISBE initiated the state’s first-ever Public Inquiry after receiving concerns about potentially systemic issues with CPS’s special education program from families, educators, and stakeholders. The Public Inquiry process facilitates fair and transparent fact-finding on a matter of public concern, while maintaining the focus on the well-being and rights of students.

The Inquiry team held six public comment sessions, received input through a dedicated hotline, collected extensive documentation, and hosted a three-day open hearing to probe the evidence by asking questions of witnesses.

View the Public Inquiry team’s final report at https://www.isbe.net/publicinquiry.