To enable it to review additional areas of its special education program for quality assurance, Education should collect information about the frequency of the provision of each service contained in all students' IEPs. Education should then use this information to annually review the frequency of mental health services and follow up with SELPAs when it observes a significant reduction in the frequency of services.
Education continues to not concur with this recommendation as it relates to undertaking new data collections from LEAs. However, Education followed through with its review of AB 114 (fund balances and frequency data). This review determined that there was no significant decline in the frequency of mental health services (see response provided for Recommendation 21). In addition, the data did not provide evidence of significant declines in mental health related services from FY 2011-2012 through FY 2014-2015. Education considers this recommendation closed and no further updates will be provided.
Education states that it will not implement this recommendation and explains that the recommendation would require it to collect additional data from LEAs. Education also indicates that it believes it identified no significant decline in the frequency of mental health services through an assessment it performed in response to Recommendation 21. However, that assessment addressed the number of services provided, rather than the frequency of those services. Further, it is unclear to us how Education would be able to identify any trends in data that it acknowledges it does not currently collect from LEAs.
Education continues to not concur with this recommendation as it relates to undertaking new data collections from LEAs. However, Education is initiating a new monitoring activity this year that addresses elements of this recommendation, as well as "Chapter 2 - Recommendation No. 2" below. This new activity includes reviewing existing data Education receives from LEAs concerning their implementation of IEP-based mental health services (including the frequency of such planned services), reviewing each LEA's history in expending AB 114 funds, and identifying any LEAs that have large AB 114 fund balances and a concurrent decrease of reported planned IEP-based mental health services. Education will contact any LEAs identified as having large AB 114 fund balances and a corresponding decrease of reported planned IEP-based mental health services to obtain additional information. The information requested will concern the LEA's use of AB 114 funds and any other fund sources to provide IEP-based mental health services, and its recent history concerning the provision of IEP-based mental health services. Based on the information provided by the LEAs, Education will follow up as appropriate to obtain additional information and potentially initiate additional monitoring activities to address concerns about the LEA's use of funds or provision of IEP-based mental health services.
Education states that it does not agree with portions of our recommendation. Specifically, it indicates that it does not agree that it should collect additional information from LEAs beyond what it already collects. However, as we state in our audit report, Education does not require LEAs to report information about the frequency of services included in students' IEPs. Because collecting and analyzing data about the frequency of services would provide Education with information it could use as it oversees the special education program, we recommended that Education first collect this information and then analyze it to identify any significant reductions in service frequencies. Education asserts that as part of implementing recommendation 21, it is analyzing the frequency of services. However, it is unclear to us from its response how it plans to do this analysis without first requiring LEAs to submit this information. Until Education requires LEAs to report frequency information, it will not be able to conduct this analysis for all LEAs and therefore will not be able to fully implement this recommendation.
Education continues to not concur with this recommendation. As explained in our prior responses, aggregated frequency data provides limited insight on the quality of local service provision given that services are expected to change in response to changing student needs. Consequently, service delivery pattern changes should occur accordingly.
However, in an effort to gain further insight concerning LEAs' provisions of mental health services, Education is reviewing the annual reporting of the number and frequency of mental health services provided to students. In cases in which an LEA's year-to-year services decline significantly, Education plans to ascertain the causes for the decline and provide technical assistance when appropriate.
Despite the fact that Education indicated that it will not implement this recommendation, we have assessed this recommendation as pending implementation. In its response, Education states that it is reviewing the annual reporting of the number and frequency of mental health services provided to students and that it plans to analyze this data to identify the reasons for any declines in service provision. Because its planned action is essentially what we recommended Education should do, we determined that the recommendation is pending implementation.
Education continues to not concur with this recommendation. As explained in our initial response, aggregated frequency data provides limited insight on the quality of local service provision given that decisions are expected to change in response to changing student needs. Changes in type and frequency of student services provided are expected due to changing student needs. Consequently, service delivery pattern changes could occur accordingly.
However, changes in current state law could impose additional obligations on LEAs that may create new reporting requirements. For example, Senator Beall's office has sought Education's input and assistance in drafting legislation, Senate Bill 884* (SB 884), that would require LEAs to annually report the actual frequency of each related service provided to each student pursuant to the Individualized Education Programs (IEP). This additional information would allow Education to make year-to-year comparisons to identify anomalies in service provision levels among LEAs, and to follow up if needed; Education will require additional resources to undertake this increase in workload.
*The specific legislative language noted in this response can be found in SB 884, which is pending approval and subject to revision.
Education's response is confusing. Education appears supportive of legislation that would require LEAs to submit data on the frequency of services on student IEPs and notes that if this type of data were reported by LEAs, it would be able to perform year-to-year analysis to monitor service provision levels. However, in its response to our recommendation to collect this same type of data and analyze it, Education states that this data can provide only limited insight. Unlike other recommendations in our report, we directed this recommendation to Education and not to the Legislature. We continue to believe that our recommendation, if implemented, would improve Education's oversight of special education and that it should be implemented without delay.
Agency responses received are posted verbatim.