Serving the District's Most Vulnerable Students

CONTACT: Jennifer Calloway 202.535.1096
July 1, 2010

The Fenty Administration Announces Plans to Dramatically Increase Capacity to Deliver Best‐in‐Class Services for Special Needs Students

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Fenty Administration announced a plan to fundamentally and quickly expand the options and opportunities for students with special needs in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Building on the strong foundation and significant progress made over the past three years, the Office of Special Education (OSE) will begin a comprehensive research and community engagement process to vastly improve the school system’s capacity to serve the most vulnerable students.

Beginning immediately, DCPS will simultaneously hold community meetings to engage stakeholders and issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct a feasibility study. The study will examine options for systematic improvements that will provide best‐in‐class programming for special needs students who require full‐time services. This includes: building new facilities, partnering with non‐public providers, expanding resources and supports in neighborhood schools, a scholarship program and modernizing current facilities.

"We are extremely encouraged by the progress we have made over last three years and excited about where we are going," said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. "The strides we’ve made are producing results for kids and illustrate our commitment to improving the quality of education for our special needs students."

"Under the guidance of Dr. Nyankori, we have bolstered our services and improved our ability to identify students in need of services at a younger age," said DCPS Chancellor DCPS Michelle Rhee. "We still have a long way to go, but parents can be proud of the work we are doing to ensure that students with the greatest need can receive a world‐class education in a District of Columbia public school."

"For years, OSE was hindered by incremental change that could not offer a competitive public education for special needs students in the District," said Dr. Richard Nyankori, DCPS Deputy Chancellor of Special Education. "But drastic improvements in five key areas ‐ dispute resolution, early identification of disabilities for ages 3‐5, provision of related services, implementation of Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and Medicaid recoupment ‐ have improved efficiency and advanced DCPS toward its goal of providing a world‐class public education for all our children," Nyankori said.


Currently, DCPS pays for approximately 25 percent of the District's 12,000 students with disabilities to attend private special education schools at a cost of $200 million a year. By expanding capacity with new facilities and programming, DCPS will be able to provide high‐caliber, competitive services for those students who require more intensive levels of support and reduce the reliance on private schools to educate District students.


The feasibility study will examine six comprehensive options that will enable DCPS to deliver quality services to students who require intensive supports to be successful in school and life:

• Option 1: Build five new facilities with best‐in‐class programming through a public/private partnership in which DCPS would lease the buildings with an option to buy and a private partner would operate them.
• Option 2: Through this option DCPS would increase capacity by building five new five best‐in‐ class facilities, as in Option 1, but would instead develop and implement programming without a private operator.
• Option 3: DCPS would partner with current and prospective non‐public providers to operate separate school‐within‐a‐school or separate classroom‐based programs within DCPS facilities.
• Option 4: Expand and strengthen special education services in neighborhood schools by ensuring that they have separate classes for students with full‐time service. These programs would provide structured support for students as they transition to a less restrictive environment.
• Option 5: DCPS would offer scholarship programs to families of students in need of full‐time placements. This program would allow parents who voluntarily opt‐out of DCPS programming to purchase special education services from a network of pre‐approved private schools.
• Option 6: Modernize and expand existing DCPS special education schools, maintaining its current footprint and re‐training staff in proven best practices.


In tandem with the feasibility study, DCPS plans to solicit feedback from parents of students in need of full‐time special education services and other stakeholders. Public meetings will be held to engage stakeholders in the planning process, discuss preliminary options, and to collect recommendations on which options the school system should pursue.

The schedule of meetings including time, date and location will be released in the coming weeks. For more information please visit

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