Texas can’t improve special education without data

Carl & Suzanne Shepherd:

A child’s academic progress is every parent’s concern; tracking that progress is a fundamental responsibility of our schools. Good educational data and metrics, with evidence-based instruction, can change the outcome of a child’s life.

For a child like our son, who has Down syndrome and does not take Texas’s suite of standardized tests, that data is largely missing. If it exists at all, it’s defined one student at a time, in a special education student’s Individual Education Plan, or IEP. Objective data on the academic progress of groups of special education students, if they don’t take standardized tests, doesn’t seem to exist at all. Without it, evidence-based choices about instruction, services and materials can’t be made.

Until recently we thought the lack of data was due to a lack of funding. Now, we’re pretty sure it’s not.

In November 2015, we began meeting with the superintendent of our local school system to discuss how our proposed donation of $500,000 might be used to collect this data and improve the outcomes for kids in special education. We weren’t naïve enough to expect instant acceptance and implementation of the proposal, but we did hope the district would move quickly to embrace the idea and the money. It didn’t work out that way.