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Special Ed Experts Raise More Questions About Controversial Data-Mining Company

Texas has already been scrutinized nationally for limiting special ed services

Since 2004, Texas has discouraged schools from enrolling more than 8.5 percent of all students in special education. Now lawmakers have banned that practice.
Since 2004, Texas has discouraged schools from enrolling more than 8.5 percent of all students in special education. Now lawmakers have banned that practice.

More concerns are emerging about a company awarded a $4 million no-bid contract to mine special education data in Texas, based on the company’s previous work in Louisiana.

News 88.7 obtained a copy of that report by SPEDx, which experts say raises serious questions about their methods and findings.

“What jumped out at me is that it seemed counter to much of the research that has been done nationally,” said Randy Soffer, with the University of St. Thomas.

SPEDx_Louisiana-report

Soffer pointed to national research that shows children with disabilities do better academically and socially when they’re included in general education classes. But SPEDx found that in Louisiana, students made more progress when they were more isolated in special ed classes.

Soffer added other concerns include how SPEDx based its findings only on standardized test scores — instead of including student work, individualized education plans and more qualitative analysis — and how it focused on how to save money.

“If they were to replicate what they did in Louisiana here in Texas, I would have major concerns,” Soffer said. “Again, based on the methods that were used, the limited data that was analyzed, how it was analyzed. I just think there are a lot of concerns here.”

Texas has already been scrutinized nationally for limiting special ed services.

Sabina Duhon, a speech language pathologist, echoed many of the same concerns, especially since Texas has already been scrutinized for limiting special ed services.

She said for speech therapy, the report took a standardized approach instead of what individual students need.

I think Texas is moving backwards if they were to make determinations about children and whether they should be eligible for services or not, if they go by this report. This report is cost-cut analysis at best,” Duhon said. “It diminishes children as individuals. It looks at them as a stereotypical group rather than the unique children that they are. I believe it would cut the number of special education even lower.”

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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