CPS faces more intensive state monitoring following a ruling that the district isn’t doing a good enough job helping students transition from Early Intervention services into preschool special education.

The ruling in March came as the result of a complaint filed by the non-profit Health & Disability Advocates. Early Intervention programs provide services for developmentally disabled children from birth to age 3, when they are legally guaranteed transition into preschool special education.

The district has long suffered from a shortage of staff to evaluate preschool children for special services, and children in Early Intervention programs have also been affected. 

The complaint said that families have found delays at every step in moving into preschool, including meetings CPS is supposed to set up with parents and evaluations the district is supposed to schedule. The state agreed, finding that there are “district delays of a systemic nature in developing Individualized Education Plans for children referred from Early Intervention services.”

As a result, the state has ordered CPS to provide information on the status of each child who was supposed to transition from Early Intervention into preschool special education since Jan. 7, 2012.

The district was supposed to turn in that information by last Friday. It also must detail its plans for hiring more professionals to more quickly evaluate preschool students for special needs, and must prove that it is communicating with Early Intervention service providers.

Five children named in the complaint (representing more than 2,000 who were potentially affected by the delays) have also been awarded catch-up services to compensate for months of delays in services.

Amy Zimmerman, director of the Chicago Medical Legal Partnership for Children at Health & Disability Advocates, says her organization knows CPS is working on fixing the problems.

“We’ve been meeting with them and we are cautiously optimistic. But it’s a big system and I think [the Early Intervention issue] probably needs more time and attention than the resources they are currently giving to it,” Zimmerman says.

CPS would not offer details on its plans to make sure the transition process is brought into compliance.

Markay Winston, chief officer of diverse learner supports, said in a statement that “CPS is committed to providing the supports and services necessary to ensure our youngest students transition from early intervention into preschool programs that meet their needs in a timely manner.”

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