Meeting of the Board of Regents | January 2008
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
Rebecca H. Cort
The Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education Created by Article VII of the 2007-08 State Budget
December 20, 2007
Goals 1 and 2
Issue for Discussion
Improving Preschool Special Education in New York State (NYS) – Conclusions and Recommendations from the Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education - A Report to the Governor, the Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, the Director of the Budget, and the Board of Regents.
Reason for Consideration
Created by Article VII of the 2007-08 State Budget.
This item, which will come before the Committee in January, provides a summary to the Board of Regents on the conclusions and recommendations from the Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education.
Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 created a Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education. The 15 members of the Task Force served by appointment of the Governor. The Deputy Commissioner of VESID, as the Commissioner’s designee, and the Deputy Director of the Division of the Budget co-chaired the Task Force. The membership also included representatives from state agencies that play a role in coordinating services for preschool students. In addition, school districts, counties, and preschool special education providers each had three appointed members.
At the September 2007 meeting of the Board of Regents, a status report of the activities of the Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education was presented for discussion. A number of preliminary recommendations to address the designated task force functions were identified in the areas of (1) transition of children from early intervention to preschool special education, (2) the provision of preschool special education programs and services in the least restrictive environment (LRE), (3) a review of the rate-setting methodology and (4) a comparative study of systems for delivery of preschool special education programs and services in New York and other states.
The work of the Task Force concluded on November 6, 2007 with the approval and release of final recommendations for improving the State’s preschool special education programs as proposed in the Governor’s Executive Budget and the 2007-08 NYS Enacted budget. The Task Force Report is available electronically at http://www.vesid.nysed.gov/specialed/preschool/taskforce/finalreport1107.pdf and was forwarded to members of the Board of Regents.
The Task Force Report
The Report was prepared after a broad outreach to stakeholders, including parents, which resulted in an initial collection and review of more than 100 identified issues. These issues were condensed into a final set of nine recommendations. The Report presents two sets of recommendations: primary recommendations and secondary recommendations. Primary recommendations have the highest priority, while the secondary recommendations are considered to be important but of lesser priority. Each of the recommendations describes a rationale, the historical context and relevant facts considered by the Task Force, as well as a number of strategies and implementation issues. A copy of pages 11-29 of the Task Force Report is attached. These pages provide the rationale, strategies and implementation issues associated with each recommendation.
Primary Recommendations of the Task Force Report
The four proposed primary recommendations are:
- Enhance the knowledge and skills of Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) members, program providers, and parents to facilitate transition from Early Intervention (EI) to preschool, and increase meaningful participation and ensure consistency in decision making regarding preschool eligibility and service options.
- Encourage development of Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) for three- and four-year-olds across NYS to increase the availability of integrated settings and promote earlier connections between preschoolers with disabilities and their school districts.
- Focus the preschool decision making and service delivery processes with school districts since they have the federal and State responsibility for ensuring the provision of special education services. This will facilitate accountability and oversight of the preschool system by school districts and the transition between preschool and school age.
- Establish a new rate-setting methodology, using principles already being practiced by other service systems in NYS, to promote greater predictability and improved timeliness.
Secondary Recommendations of the Task Force Report
The five proposed secondary recommendations are:
- Ensure that the continuum of preschool services includes the flexibility needed to meet individual students’ needs in a cost-effective manner and is applied consistently across districts and programs, including access to educationally necessary July and August services for students transitioning from EI or newly entering the preschool delivery system.
- Increase opportunities for children with disabilities to be served in any early childhood setting by promoting consistent learning standards, improving pre-service and in-service of early childhood service providers, and encouraging collaborative relationships between approved preschool providers (4410) and other early childhood service providers.
- Enable continuity of provider services from EI to preschool special education system where appropriate to children’s needs.
- Reduce the high costs for transportation within the preschool system and avoid costs exceeding maximum allowable reimbursement rates.
- Improve mechanisms for tracking progress and child outcomes across EI and preschool systems in order to increase comparability between EI and preschool measures, predict future system needs, evaluate impact of EI and preschool services on future performance, and provide system oversight, especially with regard to timeliness of referral, eligibility determinations, and service delivery.
The Task Force acknowledged that statutory, fiscal and regulatory implications of their recommendations will require careful review, consideration and evaluation from the multiple perspectives of policymakers. The Executive and Legislature must review the fiscal and administrative implications of the county role in the preschool special education system.
The Department will need to identify those recommendations that can be addressed through continuation of current initiatives and activities, those that may be addressed through policy and regulatory revisions, and those more substantive and complex recommendations that will require long term analysis and implementation through legislative action and interagency collaboration.
With support of the Regents, the Department will move forward on activities to advance the Task Force recommendations. Additional staff resources are required to fully complete these and future actions. VESID is awaiting the approval of a staff position as authorized by Chapter 57. Given the scope and long term effort required, two additional professional staff will be necessary. Initial activities have been identified to address the recommendations below:
- To enhance the knowledge and skills of CPSE members, program providers and parents:
- develop training curricula for CPSE chairpersons on eligibility determinations, State and federal requirements and decision making.
- offer initial training for newly appointed CPSE chairpersons beginning in the summer or fall of 2008 and annually thereafter.
- update and disseminate the Parent Handbook.
- update the VESID publication, Guide for Determining Eligibility and Special Education Programs and/or Services for Preschool Students with Disabilities
- continue our work through VESID's funded project at the State University of New York at Albany to review the expanding needs of preschool students with autism, especially those requiring intensive behavioral interventions.
- To ensure the continuum of preschool services includes the flexibility needed to meet the individual student's needs in a cost-effective and consistent manner:
- review the continuum of services options for preschool students, seek public comment, and propose a recommendation for discussion with the Board of Regents.
- VESID is taking steps to establish a new model of intensive behavioral assessment and intervention to assess and address the needs of NYS’ children with disabilities with the most serious self-injurious and aggressive behaviors, with a goal to support these children in the least restrictive environment.
- To improve mechanisms for tracking progress and child outcomes:
- explore potential assessment instruments used by other states to measure student outcomes, including possible web-based systems and share findings with the Department of Health (DOH) EI staff.
- coordinate continued work with DOH on assessing children’s progress and measuring outcomes.
- explore with DOH and our respective technology units the possibility of establishing crosswalks so that individual student data can be shared between agencies to ensure a smoother and more productive transition for children and families.
- To encourage development of UPK for three-and four-year-olds to increase the availability of integrated settings and promote earlier connections between preschoolers with disabilities and school districts:
- encourage districts which operate or contract with community providers to run integrated special class 4410 programs to use UPK funds without penalty to support full-day programs and three-year-olds in the UPK portion of these integrated special classes.
- strongly support the use of UPK funds by school districts to form partnerships with child care, Head Start, and 4410 programs to serve children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and the setting that is most able to meet the needs of children and their families.
- encourage the use of prekindergarten standards across all settings so that instruction is aligned with established standards and the developmental needs of children.
- To establish a new rate-setting methodology to promote greater predictability and improved timeliness:
- work with NYS Division of the Budget to establish a second rate-setting workgroup to work out the details of the recommended methodological changes. This includes the adaptation of components of rate methodologies in use by other State Agencies primarily Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD).