DCASE

The District of Columbia Association for Special Education (DCASE) is the alliance of non-public and charter schools serving students with disabilities from the District of Columbia.

In assessing the city’s performance in holding hearings and providing services for children with special needs, consultants Amy Totenberg and Clarence J. Sundram judged the public school system to be in a “very different state.” They related how there had been no coherent management system, no way to track cases and a large backlog of cases. Citing the concerted efforts of school leaders and the talented staff they recruited, the consultants reported “substantial progress” …

— Washington Post Editorial, January 6, 2011

In March 2009, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) decided to adopt a radically new approach to an old problem: the disturbing backlog of special needs assessments that was preventing many students from receiving services they were entitled to.

Despite a history of mistrust between the District and non-public special education schools, DCPS entered into a partnership with DCASE to use qualified therapeutic staff at DCASE-member schools to perform the backlogged DCPS assessments.  The DCASE Blackman/Jones Assessment Project was born.

Open Organize was hired to build a system to track and manage every aspect of the assessment process — from the identification of the students entitled to assessments, to the assignment of a qualified assessors, to the performance and delivery of the assessments themselves.  Finally, a coherent management and tracking system was in place, one that produced the detailed documentation required to ensure all parties remained confident that the partnership was working.

And progress was made: within two years, The DCASE Blackman/Jones Assessment Project cleared the entire DCPS backlog, performing 761 assessments, hundreds of which had been long overdue. As a result, more students received appropriate services they were entitled to, and the District of Columbia saved millions of dollars in legal and compensatory fees.