May 4, 2008 — Parents of children with special needs in the territory have reportedly given the Department of Education a passing grade when it comes to meeting educational goals for their children.
Results of a survey will be released May 22, but in the meantime, Carrie S. Johns, the state director for special education, said her department is generally pleased with what the survey showed.
"It indicated that 76 percent of our parents were satisfied with the program," said Johns.
Johns said the territory's public schools serve 1,690 special needs children through what are known as an individual education program, or IEP. An IEP adjusts educational standards for children whose differing abilities prevent them from meeting traditional academic expectations.
"We develop goals in reading and core subjects," Johns explained, adding that related services such as speech, physical or occupational therapy are also incorporated in an IEP, depending on the child. The IEP is then reviewed annually to determine if it meets the child's needs.
"You bring a core of people together: the parent, teacher, principal and supervisor of special education and you develop an educational plan for this particular child that is unique for your child," Johns explained. "No other plan is like yours."
Parent responses to questions about their child's IEP were positive, according to Johns.
"They stated that they are informed, and they do participate in the IEP; they are notified in the appropriate time, and they are involved in it," she said. "They also said they understand the special ed program and agree with the services we offer."
One area Johns feels is not up to par is inclusion of all parents in school-wide activities.
"I would like the parents to have more activities at the school include those parents in everything and not isolate them because they are special education," she said.
The survey was conducted by the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Eastern Caribbean Center, on behalf of the State Office of Special Education, which is under federal mandate to report on the progress of special education programs for funding purposes. Some 1,600 parents were interviewed between November and January, and a detailed report on the survey results will be presented at a public meeting on Thursday, May 22, from 10 a.m. to noon at UVI in the Administration and Conference Building, Room 142-1B.
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