External Reviews - Audits From Outside FCPS

The Office of Auditor General (OAG) manages audits on FCPS by external agencies or organizations

Special Education Review 

FCPS is committed to fostering a responsive, caring, and inclusive culture where our students and staff feel seen, valued, and supported. 

At the request of the School Board, FCPS Office of Auditor General engaged a consultant to conduct an independent, third party review of FCPS’ special education program. The contract was awarded to the American Institutes for Research® (AIR) in October 2020. The comprehensive review is divided into two phases, both of which include data collection, data analysis, and reporting. We are currently in the second phase. The final report is due to the Board between September - November 2022.

The graphic below shows the timeline for each of the two phases of the review. More details about elements in the graphic are included in the written section below.

timeline for phases of contractors report on special education

Special Education Comprehensive Review Goals

  1. Evaluate the system’s design, structure, and established processes. 
  2. Evaluate the adequacy of human capital resources. 
  3. Analyze the alignment of services with evidence-based practices.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness of communication with stakeholders.

AIR presented their interim report in September 2021, which addressed emerging themes of strengths and areas of focus, based on data collection and analysis from December 2020-March 2021. Their final report will be shared between September - November 2022. 

Year 1 Plan

The interim report summarizes emerging themes from Phase I data collection activities, including areas of strength and areas of focus referenced above.

Phase 1 data collection included:

  • Extant data on special education programming and student performance.
  • Documents related to FCPS infrastructure, strategic planning, guidance on policies and procedures, professional development offerings, and documentation of stakeholder feedback.
  • A review of IEPs for a randomly selected, representative sample of 300 students with disabilities.
  • School staff survey.
  • Survey of parents of students with IEPs and Section 504 plans.
  • Two focus groups with selected Central Office and school-based administrators leaders. 

Year 2 Plan

  • The two major data collection tasks in the second year of the project will be stakeholder focus groups and on-site classroom observations.
  • AIR will conduct 40 focus groups with a range of participants including parents of students with disabilities, teachers, administrators, and instructional support staff. 
  • Focus groups will address targeted topics pertaining to special education programming, instruction, human resources, and communication. 
  • AIR will randomly select participants for the groups based on the topic. Focus groups will occur between January and May 2022 and will be conducted virtually.
  • Additionally, AIR will perform 150 classroom observations across 50 schools between January and May 2022. Schools and classrooms will be chosen for observation via a random, representative sampling process. 

Special Education Review Timeline

December 2019: School Board forum topic requested Office of Auditor General (OAG) to amend the annual audit plan to include a review of FCPS special education services.

May 2020: FCPS issued RFP to solicit proposals for the provision of a comprehensive review of FCPS special education services. 

October 2020: FCPS engaged the American Institutes for Research® (AIR) to conduct an independent, third-party review of its special education program. 


December 2020-March 2021: Data collection

April-June 2021: Data analysis

September 21, 2021: AIR presented the Year 1 interim report and presentation document at a  School Board work session.


October 2021-May 2022: Data collection

November 2021: Based upon the feedback collected from the School Board in the September 2021 work session, the Audit Committee recommended additional funding for the Year 2 for stakeholder focus groups, classroom observations, and extant data analysis totaling $87,443. The Board voted to approve the modification. The original contract value was $375,398.  

January 11, 2022: School Board Work Session re FY21 OAG Annual Report.

January-May 2022: Year 2 focus groups conducted virtually.

June-September 2022: Data analysis

September - November 2022: AIR to issue final report to Board.