Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Look at Students with IEP's In DeKalb Schools
What Is the Future of Students With Disabilities?

The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is the third largest district in Georgia, serving slightly more than 100,000 students. Recently, I compiled a spreadsheet showing the percentage of K-12, students with IEPs (students with disabilities) at each school. This was done by matching the Oct. 2016 enrollments posted of the GaDOE website with the number of students with IEPs at each school. The number of students with IEPs at each school was obtained through an open records request. 
Currently, 9.8% of DCSD K-12 students have IEPs compared to 13% nation wide.  
DCSD has eleven charter schools, including Tapestry Public Charter. 55.8% of Tapestry students currently have IEPs. If one excludes Tapestry from the calculation, the percentage of students with IEPs in DCSD charter schools is 7.5%; half of the national percentage. This is concerning to me.
The percentages of DCSD charter school students with IEPs (other than Tapestry Public Charter) ranges from 2.8% at DeKalb Academy of Technology and the Environment Charter School, to 11.7% at Peachtree Middle School.  
There are a variety of reasons why the percentage of students with disabilities in DCSD public charter schools is lower than the district average. One of the reasons I have heard from parents is, after their child is admitted through a lottery process, the school tells them it is not able to meet their child's needs, or provide the services their child requires. These families are forced back to the neighborhood schools. 
Another common theme heard when speaking with parents is, the charter school failed to implement their child's IEP with fidelity. Families move their students back to their neighborhood schools, hoping their child's IEP will be followed. This was my experience.  
In DeKalb County, there isn't an effective mechanism to enforce IEPs. Also, the GaDOE process for filing a grievance is onerous and heavily skewed in favor of school districts. 
Another thing that stands out when looking at the spreadsheet is the percentage of students with IEPs enrolled in DCSD magnet schools. Only 1.2% of students at Kittredge magnet and and 1.0% of students at Wadsworth magnet have IEPs. At Arabia Mountain High School, 3.4% of students have IEPs. Less than 4.5% of students at the DeKalb School of the Arts and the DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts have IEPs. Overall, 8.4% of students enrolled in magnet schools in DCSD have IEPs. 
Given the probable confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, I am very concerned with the hypocrisy of the rhetoric of "school choice." In DeKalb County, "school choice" does not provide families of students who have disabilities the same choices as other families.  
Kirk Lunde
Tucker, GA
Click the following link to view the spreadsheet which documents the number of DCSD Charter schools with IEP's (tab in spreadsheet): 

My note:  If any of you were able to view Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing one had to be horrified at her views on education, especially that of children with disabilities.

“I think that is a matter that’s best left to the states,” DeVos said when asked by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., if she believed that all schools receiving taxpayer dollars should be required to adhere to the mandates of the IDEA.

“So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and then what, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?” Kaine responded.

“I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states,” DeVos insisted.

Later in the hearing Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., whose son has cerebral palsy, revisited the issue.

“That’s a federal civil rights law,” Hassan said of the IDEA. “So do you stand by your statement a few minutes ago that it should be up to the states whether to follow it?”

“Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play,” DeVos said.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” asked Hassan.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos acknowledged.

Hassan said she’s concerned that some voucher programs, which DeVos has supported, require students with disabilities to give up their rights under the IDEA in order to take part. This could lead to public schools becoming “warehouses” for students with special needs and those from families unable to pay the difference between vouchers and the cost of private school tuition, she said.

“I just would urge you to become familiar should you become nominated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” Hassan said. “I do have to say I’m concerned that you seem so unfamiliar with it and that you seem to support voucher schools that have made students sign away their rights to make sure that the law is enforced. That’s very troubling to me.”
Click the following link to read the entire article:


  1. Interesting food for thought. I have a friend who completed an IEP for her son. She was told by the school's counselor that his IEP disqualified him from entering the magnet lottery. I thought that was odd at the time but now I'm curious to know if that's the District's policy or bad information.

    1. Absolutely bad information. My child has dual exceptionality, so he gets served under gifted status and an IEP.

  2. DeKalb County's interpretation of what disqualifies a student from gifted & magnet programs is questionable. Two attorneys have told me they are just waiting for someone to bring them a case on that issue because they feel they can win.

  3. The DCSD School Choice Website,, has Eligibility info for each Magnet program. It states nothing about an IEP (except to state that one is required for Senate Bill 10 applications.)

    I think Anonymous' friend should apply her son to the Magnet program if she believes it is right for him. At the very least, send an email to and check it out.

    As far as an IEP student being eligible for the Gifted program, there is nothing in the Eligibility tab of the DCSD Gifted website ( that excludes an IEP student.

    Parents, if your child meets eligibility requirements and the child and you agree that the program is a good fit, then by all means apply.

  4. I don't believe an IEP excludes a child according to DCSD, but it is the extra time on testing that some IEPs call for. It does seem discriminatory in my humble opinion.

    1. Above (re extra time) I am referring to Gifted.

    2. Now, in order to qualify for gifted, the tests have to be given with a standard admnistration. If a child has CERTAIN modifications due to an IEP, that would be non-standard and would not qualify. SOOOO, there is not a one answer fits all to this policy. As with the point of an individualized education plan, it truly depends on the individual student.

  5. If you have an IEP/504 plan with an "Extended Time" accommodation for standardized tests, you are automatically disqualified from the Gifted Program in Dekalb. (I don't know about the magnet program, but it wouldn't surprise me if the same was true there.)

    This is against federal law (IDEA) but until someone brings a law suit, there is little parents can do to fight it. Even the school counselor agreed, but she was powerless against "district policy". My dyslexic child with a 130 IQ was denied gifted services essentially because she's a slow reader.

  6. I should clarify my previous comment, which was written poorly. What I should have written was...

    DeKalb County's interpretation of what disqualifies a student from gifted & high achievers magnet programs is questionable.

  7. Kirk,
    why don't you send a straightforward email to Stacey Stepney and ask if students who have IEPs are eligible for gifted testing, and if they meet the gifted requirements, are they eligible to receive gifted services?

    If Ms. Stepney doesn't reply, well you've learned something. Then you can either ask Dr. Lisa Martin the same question, and/or email Stan Jester and ask for his support.

    Much better than speculation.

  8. Kirk knows more about IEP's and Special Education than most DCSD employees and certainly much more than Stan Jester.

  9. Isn't the point to reveal the DCSD policy and get it changed if it is wrong, rather than to cast aspersions on DCSD and Stan?

    I didn't mean to imply that Stan Jester is or should be more knowledgeable than Kirk about IEPs. But, Stan as a BOE member has the opportunity to ask DCSD, in a televised public meeting, about policy. Whether you like him or not, he can find things out and make them public.


  10. I have had a conversation with Dr. Martin, and with Dr. Calloway, regarding the issue of exclusion from gifted due to testing accommodations. Their response was they would look into it since both of them are new to the district.

    It has been a number of months and no response from either of them. I assume it is still on their to-do list.