Meeting of the Board of Regents | April 2003
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents
Lawrence C. Gloeckler
Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
TITLE OF ITEM:
Special Education in New York City
DATE OF SUBMISSION:
April 9, 2003
RATIONALE FOR ITEM:
Policy Discussion Prior to Action
Despite positive trends in several areas, the poor performance of non-disabled students in New York City is predictive of the even poorer performance of students with disabilities. In addition, the performance of students with disabilities in New York City lags behind that of their peers in districts across New York State that have greater fiscal resources.
The New York City Department of Education is now instituting a revised organizational structure that will reduce the number of administrative units and will allow educational administrators to focus on high-quality instruction for all students while non-pedagogical personnel handle such tasks as administrative, budget and personnel operations that have consumed so much time in the past. These reforms include an emphasis on research-based instructional strategies and school-level accountability for improved outcomes for students with disabilities. This challenging plan is designed to avoid unnecessary referrals to special education, to serve more students with disabilities in general education environments and to shift supports and resources to the classroom.
It is recommended that the Regents support Chancellor Klein�s reforms of instruction and services for students with disabilities in New York City. In addition, VESID should examine areas of possible regulatory relief in areas that do not contribute to improved student outcomes and pursue an accountability agreement with NYCDOE that sets outcome measures and targets for students with disabilities and includes a continuum of interventions if those targets are not met.
Special Education in New York City
New York City is the largest school district in the country. For the year 2000-2001, it reported 1,066,516 students enrolled in 1,213 public schools. (There were also 246,622 students enrolled by parents in private schools.) The public school enrollment is greater than the enrollment in 26 individual states and the District of Columbia. New York City serves more students with disabilities than any other district in the country with a reported 149,525 school age students identified (approximately 11 percent of the total school age population). New York City also has identified approximately 21,000 preschool students as eligible for special education preschool services.
The educational programs administered by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) have been operated through a complex administrative structure that includes:
- 32 Community School Districts - provide services primarily to pre-kindergarten, elementary and middle school students; occasionally offer high school level programs.
- Five High School Superintendencies - provide secondary level programs based on geographic location.
- Citywide Special Education Programs (District 75) - provide educational, vocational and behavioral support programs for approximately 20,000 students with severe or low incidence disabilities throughout all five boroughs.
- Chancellor�s District (District 85/74 High Schools) - administers selected schools under registration review (SURR) which have been mandated for improvement and which are geographically located in community school districts and high school superintendencies throughout New York City.
- Alternative, Adult and Continuing Education (District 79) - provides innovative secondary level instructional programs designed to meet the unique requirements of targeted student populations including gifted and talented, drop-out, at-risk, newly arrived immigrant, incarcerated youth, pregnant and parenting teens, basic literacy and adult learners.
Through the 1980s, a central Division of Special Education had responsibility for providing all special education services to students with disabilities. However, these functions have been decentralized over time. Currently, each of the entities described above, with the exception of District 75, is responsible for providing both general education and special education services. In addition, each of the 32 Community School Districts and the five high school superintendencies operate Committees on Special Education (CSEs) which are responsible for the evaluation, identification and individualized education program (IEP) development of students residing (or in some cases enrolled) within their geographic region. There are also five specialized CSEs that perform these functions for students who are hearing and/or visually impaired.
Key Performance Indicators
Despite positive trends in several areas, the poor performance of nondisabled students in New York City is predictive of the even poorer performance of students with disabilities. In addition, the performance of students with disabilities in New York City lags behind that of their peers in districts across New York State with greater fiscal resources. Some notable findings from the data are:
- In 2000-01, New York City's classification rate was significantly lower than the combined classification rate of the large four cities (11.2 percent compared to 15.0 percent) and comparable to the State average. However, Black and Hispanic students are more likely to be classified than White students.
- New York City has increased the percentage of students who participate in general education classrooms for 80 percent or more of the school day from 39.9 percent in 1995-96 to 45.1 percent in 2000-01. In the other large four cities, 48.2 percent of students with disabilities participated in such settings. In New York City, 58.6 percent of White students were provided such programs, while 39.4 percent and 45.3 percent of Black and Hispanic students were provided such programs, respectively.
- New York City continues an overreliance on special education placements where students are removed from general education over 60 percent of the school day (44.8 percent compared to the national average of 19.5 percent). However, New York City has decreased placements of students with disabilities in separate settings from 15.1 percent in 1995-96 to 8.9 percent in 2000-01. The large four cities placed 6.8 percent of students in separate educational settings. These numbers remain significantly higher than the national average of 4.2 percent.
- Compared to other N/RC categories of schools, New York City had the lowest percentage of students with disabilities performing at or above Level 3 (14.8 percent) on the 4th Grade ELA and on the 4th Grade Math (19.8 percent). In the large four cities, 24 percent of students with disabilities performed at or above Level 3 on the ELA and 31.5 percent on Math.
- Compared to other N/RC categories of schools, New York City had the lowest percentage of students with disabilities performing at or above Level 3 (3.1 percent) on the 8th Grade ELA and on the 8th Grade Math (3.7 percent). In the large four cities, 3.9 percent of students with disabilities performed at or above Level 3 on the ELA and 9.5 percent on Math.
- The tremendous increase in the number of students with disabilities participating in the Regents examinations across New York State is also occurring in New York City where there has been a 355 percent increase since 1997 in English with a passing rate of 39.2 percent. In Sequential Math, there has been a 147 percent increase with a passing rate of 21.7 percent. These increases reflect the increased access of students with disabilities to Regents courses.
- In New York City, a greater percentage of the 1996 cohort of students with disabilities met the graduation requirements after four years compared to the cohort in the large four cities in both English (55.4 percent and 40.3 percent, respectively) and Math (50.4 percent and 32.8 percent respectively).
- Compared to the previous year, New York City�s 2000-01 diploma rate improved from 40.3 percent to 45.4 percent. The diploma rate in the large four cities also improved from 47.2 percent to 53.0 percent.
New York City Department of Education Special Education Reform Plan
The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is now instituting a revised organizational structure that will reduce the number of administrative units and will allow educational administrators to focus on high-quality instruction for all students while non-pedagogical personnel handle such tasks as administrative, budget and personnel operations that have consumed so much time in the past. Highlights of the plan include:
- DOE will devote resources to significantly improving classroom instruction by providing proven professional development for our teachers so that they can most effectively meet a wide range of learning needs in each classroom. DOE will appoint instructional support specialists and train these specialists in nationally recognized Orton-Gillingham-based reading programs, as well as other leading instructional strategies. In September, DOE will begin training up to 1,000 teachers in these best practices.
- DOE will hold schools and principals accountable for ensuring that as many students as possible are able to be educated in general education classrooms. DOE will establish an enhanced school improvement system consisting of benchmarks, improvement plans, and technical assistance for schools. For those schools that are not meeting the goals to integrate children with special needs in general education classrooms, DOE is hiring teams of experts and setting aside $2.5 million to provide them with technical assistance so they deliver coherent going-forward plans for reform.
- DOE will no longer conduct evaluations of students at both the district and school levels; rather, the Department will conduct and finalize evaluations exclusively at the students� schools. In addition, the evaluation staff, which has primarily administered evaluations in the past, will now become directly involved in classroom instruction.
- DOE will streamline the current 37 district-level Committees on Special Education (CSEs) into 10 regional CSEs, which will support and no longer duplicate school-level evaluations. The CSEs, each of which will be part of one of the public school system�s 10 Learning Support Centers, will also continue to conduct specialized evaluations of hearing and visually impaired students and nonpublic school students and address the placement of children who cannot receive appropriate services in their current schools.
- District 75 will continue as a separate Citywide district for children with severe disabilities, instituting organizational changes to provide more coherent and consistent instructional programs. DOE will implement the new Citywide reading, writing, and math instructional program for those children in District 75 who take the same assessment tests as children in general education classes. For all other children in District 75, DOE will introduce greater coherence by implementing best practices to address specialized learning needs.
- Consistent with the new organizational structure of the City�s public school system, DOE will appoint local instructional supervisors in District 75, each of whom will supervise approximately 12 schools. DOE will centralize operations and administration for the District in one of the school system�s six new operations centers, enabling District 75 educators to focus on instruction and delivery of services. Finally, DOE will centralize and improve space planning for classrooms so that children with severe disabilities will receive their education as close to their homes as possible.
Next Steps for the State Education Department
In order to move forward and ensure a more sustained and permanent impact on the performance of students with disabilities in New York City, the State Education Department should:
- Continue to focus on a unified instructional system that recognizes that a successful special education program is dependent upon a successful general education program. It must be diligent in requiring an equitable application of the No Child Left Behind requirements to students with disabilities including accountability measures, school choice, and full access to remedial support.
- Support Chancellor Klein�s reforms of instruction and services for students with disabilities in New York City. These reforms include an emphasis on research-based instructional strategies and school-level accountability for improved outcomes for students with disabilities. This challenging plan is designed to avoid unnecessary referrals to special education, to serve more students with disabilities in general education environments and to shift supports and resources to the classroom.
- Maintain its commitment to targeting IDEA discretionary funds and other available fiscal and personnel resources to strategies designed to impact agreed-upon outcomes in the areas of greatest identified need. This includes the upgrading of VESID�s special education information systems to facilitate its ability to hold districts accountable, track both compliance and performance goals, and allow greater access to this information by school districts and the general public.
- Continued implementation of the VESID Office of Special Education Quality Assurance�s (SEQA) Focused Monitoring system, which gives the greatest attention to critical outcome measures in the areas of LRE or Achievement (next year Transition/Exiting will be added). The new process includes a root cause analysis that moves beyond compliance into programmatic issues and effective practices.
In addition, Regents support is requested for:
- Review of Statutory and Regulatory Provisions: VESID will analyze current mandates to identify any that may be barriers to, or not supportive of, improving student outcomes. It will also suggest certain additional cost-effective requirements if there is significant potential for improved student performance.
- Consequences: The current options for addressing serious levels of non-compliance need to be revised. An expanded continuum of consequences needs to be applied in a consistent and timely manner when commitments are not kept and progress is not achieved. Due to the unique nature and size of New York City, an accountability agreement with NYCDOE that sets outcome measures and targets for students with disabilities and includes a continuum of interventions if those targets are not met needs to be pursued. These interventions should be designed to increase public awareness of KPI performance as well as provide mechanisms for the Education Department to apply targeted sanctions, such as the redirection of IDEA flow-through funds at the administrative unit level (e.g., the newly instituted instructional divisions), if progress does not occur.