The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has found Andover Public Schools to not fully meet 45 of its education requirements — 24 in special education, 16 in civil rights and five in English learner education. 

As one part of its accountability system, DESE conducts a Coordinated Program Review every six years, meant to ensure that a district is meeting special education, civil rights and English Learner Education requirements.

A five-member team from the organization visited Andover Public Schools from March 3 through 7, 2014. The team interviewed staff and members of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, reviewed student records, surveyed parents of students with disabilities and observed classrooms and other school facilities. 

The team’s findings left Andover with a total of 32 more citations than its previous report in 2008, at which time Andover’s special education program received just three citations.

Of its 60 requirements for special education, 36 were deemed by DESE to have been either commendable or implemented, with the remaining 24 falling under the “partially implemented” tag, meaning that the requirement, in one or several important aspects, is not entirely met. 

In all, areas involving time lines, procedures, documentation, translation of documents, assessments and evaluations, as well as space and facilities, were marked as partially implemented. 

The results of the review were presented to the School Committee at a meeting in December.

“From my perspective, do we wish we still only had three?” asked Superintendent Marinel McGrath. “Absolutely. The fact that we have 24 is a good review for us and it points the way for where we need to make improvements.”

DESE found that Andover’s special education teachers “were not consistently present for Individualized Education Program team meetings and the excusal document was not completed.”

The district was found to also not consistently meet the 45-day timeline for eligibility requirements. 

Some additional notes contained within DESE’s review document state that:

Students with social skills needs who may be vulnerable to bullying, harassment and teasing do not always have skills and proficiencies identified on the IEP to address or avoid bullying, harassment and teasing.

Important documents are not always translated for parents whose primary language is not English.

Three special educators have expired licensure.

Students with significant disabilities and students with initial eligibility determinations that are ages 14 and over are precluded from attending team meetings.

Of its 16 marks in the civil rights category, seven were due to “gender identity” not being listed as a protected category in, among other places, student handbooks and policies regarding the administration of scholarships and prizes. 

Citations regarding English learner education involved staffing, formal processes for communication with and to parents, and the translation of documents for high incidence languages. 

The “partially implemented” rating requires that the School Department submit a Creative Action Plan to DESE that outlines what changes will be made to move the district forward.

Andover’s 62-page plan was submitted to DESE on Dec. 1, and was posted on the public schools website a short time later.

According to the action plan, “all special education educators have renewed their licenses.” The action plan also reports that two of the individuals with expired licenses are “unknown to the district.”

“The district has a process in place to ensure that licenses do not lapse,” the action plan reads. “Karla Kohl in the Human Resources Office runs (a) report monthly by expiration date, license and job title to generate a report of staff with licenses expiring.”

As for Andover’s planned action for meeting civil rights requirements, officials will review and update all district policies, communications and handbooks to insure the inclusion of the term “gender identity.”

Under the parameters of the review, “All corrective action must be fully implemented and all noncompliance corrected as soon as possible and no later than one year from the issuance” of the DESE report, which was dated Oct. 17, 2014.

The Special Education Parent Advisory Council is scheduled to present the results of its own Needs Assessment Survey to the School Committee at its next meeting on Jan. 15. That survey is meant to provide feedback to the school system in various areas, with a focus on special education.

To review the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education report on the Andover schools as well as Andover’s Creative Action Plan to address the report’s identified shortcomings and citations, visit http://search.doe.mass.edu/search.aspx?q=andover. 

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