Chester County Special Education

Omigosh, if I had a nickel for every time I was asked this! Ok, this is not the answer you want to hear. But I cannot in good conscience make a recommendation for you. I’m sorry. I’ve thought this over for a few days and even consulted with some good friends.

Here are some of my reasons why. If I’m being 100% honest, I do not think that there is any one best school district in Chester County, PA for special education. I truly don’t.

best school district in Chester County, PA for special education

Chester County School Districts and Special Education

First, I am reminded of a discussion I had with a bunch of bloggers recently. One of them asked, “We’re thinking of moving to this School District, what do you all think?” My initial gut response was, “Well, if my kid had an IEP they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice.” Then, another blogger chimed in, “Both of my girls have IEPs and we live there and I have nothing but good things to say about them.”

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So there you go. As I said in this post about “Should you move to a more IEP friendly school district?” everyone’s experience is different. I have heard of horrible situations in some of the “best” districts, and I know families who live in some districts that many advocates consider the worst and they are doing well.

I do not know you or your child. And I would be doing a disservice by making a recommendation. I can’t be saddled with that responsibility if it doesn’t go well for them. Some districts have decent autism programs and some are much easier to get an APS placement.

We have some of the best schools here. Some are even top-ranked in the state and in national surveys. But, even for “best in the state” I know of some scenarios involving a very young child that was just so poorly handled from start to finish. It really taints my opinion of them. They are not the best in the state in my eyes.

Staff and Attitude turnover

Attitudes in a district can change on the flip of a coin. Today is Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvania (this was originally written in 2013 on a Primary Day), with many school board seats up for voting. The answer I give you today could be different tomorrow depending on today’s election outcomes.

A 5-year-old is young and a district may be doing great things right now. But as some districts get the reputation for being good at this, they become ‘destination districts’, and that strains their resources as more families move into the district.

A few weeks ago, a reader contacted me with a similar question, she actually gave me 2 or 3 district names and asked which one was the best. I answered her and I regret doing so. I am sure that the words I used were, “If I had to choose one of those districts for my family, I would choose….”

Chester County is one of the largest counties in the state with over a half-million residents. But it gets awfully small in special education land. If it becomes known that I am publicly making recommendations for one district over another, that compromises what I can do for my clients. If it gets back to a district that I dislike them, it can hurt my advocacy work and that’s not good.

IEP School District: How to Choose One if you have an IEP

  1. Talk to friends, family, and co-workers. All counties in Pennsylvania have a Right to Education task force, which is a parent-led and parent-driven organization.
  2. Contact the Chester County Local Task Force, and see if you can speak with some families. {Disclosure: I am currently the chairperson for this.}
  3. Ask physicians.
  4. Read the ODR website and get a feel for how often they are in due process and look for trends in the cases.
  5. Find support groups or parents groups, but remember everything you hear from them will be anecdotal. You can also read the monitoring reports for each district.

It sounds like a lot of research and work, but it should be.

And, all this being said, I am certainly open to my readers making recommendations if they’d like. So if you like to do that, readers, leave a comment.

{Author’s note: This was originally published in 2013 but recently updated.}

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