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Meeting of the Board of Regents | May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008 - 11:00pm

sed seal                                                                                                 







Rebecca H. Cort 


Closing the Achievement Gap:  Strategies for Students with Disabilities Implemented in 2007-08



April 30, 2008


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Discussion


Does the Board of Regents concur with the actions identified for continued improvement of the performance of students with disabilities?


Reason for Consideration


Review of Policy


Proposed Handling


This issue will come before the VESID Committee at its May 2008 meeting.


Procedural History


Not applicable


Background Information


The State Performance Plan (SPP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reports the State's performance on important measures for students with disabilities and sets measurable and rigorous targets for improvement over a six year period.  The SPP, approved by the U.S. Education Department (USED), identifies specific improvement strategies to reach those targets.  The State's second Annual Performance Report (APR) was discussed by the Regents in January 2008.  This report provides information on specific actions implemented during the 2007-08 school year and next steps for continuing progress in 2008-09.




We recommend that the Regents support the proposed actions.


Timetable for Implementation









              The Board of Regents outlined a vision for New York State (NYS) in the November 2006 P-16 Education: A Plan for Action that includes actions to close gaps in achievement along lines of income, race and ethnicity, language, and disability.  As identified in the P-16 Report, most students with disabilities do not leave school ready for either postsecondary education or employment.  Graduation and dropout data for students with disabilities from 2006-07 are not yet available.  However, based on 2005-06 data on the 2002 total cohort of students with disabilities, only 19 percent of students with disabilities in the big five cities and 44.7 percent in the rest of the State (total State - 37.5 percent) graduated with a local or Regents diploma while 38.8 percent of students in the big five cities and 19.8 percent in the rest of the State (total State - 22.2 percent) dropped out of school.


              This report identifies specific actions the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) has taken in the 2007-08 school year to implement the identified actions in the P-16 Education: A Plan for Action that have resulted in:


  • A new process to review district practices to develop and implement high quality individualized education programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities.


  • Development and use of standardized and research-based Quality Indicator Review and Resource Guides to lead districts to assess and improve their use of research-based instructional practices for students with disabilities.


  • Enhanced knowledge and skills of VESID staff and technical assistance providers on research based instructional and school improvement practices.


  • Increased resources directed to the lowest performing school districts.


  • Policy that promotes the more appropriate identification of students with disabilities and special education services provided in general education classes where students have access to the general education curriculum.


  • A plan to deliver comprehensive training for committee on special education (CSE) chairpersons to be offered in the fall 2008.


  • Availability of guidance documents on the special education process.


  • Improved transition planning and outcomes for students with disabilities.


  • A plan to expand resources for information and assistance available to parents of students with disabilities throughout the State.


  • Public reporting of each school district’s results for students with disabilities.


The actions that led to the above results are described more fully below under action steps as they were identified in the Regents P-16 Education: A Plan for Action.


  • Set annual State targets for improvement, publish performance data and hold low-performing school districts accountable, including redirecting federal Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) funds in low-performing schools to improve performance



  • VESID published its Annual Performance Report (APR) in February 2008.  A summary of the results of the APR was provided at the VESID Committee meeting in February 2008.  This report identifies the State’s progress in meeting its measurable and rigorous targets for improvement in important performance and compliance areas for students with disabilities.



  • VESID identified required improvement activities for each of the 69 school districts, including New York City (NYC) that were identified as in need of assistance or in need of intervention based on their performance in the areas of graduation, drop out and State assessments for students with disabilities.  Each of these districts participated in a focused monitoring review and/or received VESID directed technical assistance. 


  • VESID publicly reported on the performance and compliance results for each school district relating to students with disabilities, as required by federal law.  The website publication of the Special Education School District Data Profiles reports each district’s results in the areas of graduation, drop out, State assessments, least restrictive environment placements, preschool and post-school outcomes, transition planning, suspension rates and disproportionality by race/ethnicity in the identification, classification and placement of students with disabilities and will track each school district’s progress from year to year against the State’s annual targets for improvement.



  • Identify instructional practices contributing to poor student performance and help school districts identify and make improvements.  Describe and promote effective practices, especially those addressing improved literacy and positive behavioral interventions, through district-to-district assistance.


  • VESID added an "educational benefit" review of IEPs of students in its monitoring review of the identified school districts.  Through these reviews, actions are identified to improve the IEP development and implementation process to ensure that the student is benefiting from special education (e.g., the goals and services recommended for the student are based on student needs and there is documented progress being made from one year to the next).


  • To ensure that the technical assistance provided by VESID’s funded networks is high quality, research based and consistent across the State, VESID charged its Special Education Training and Resource Centers (SETRC) to convene work groups to develop Quality Indicator Review and Resource Guides.  These guides serve as the tool for SETRC in their technical assistance work with school districts.  Key questions, “look fors” of effective practice and research-based resources to improve instruction have been compiled in the following areas :



  • Early and adolescent literacy instructional practice
  • Specially designed and intensive reading for students with disabilities (explicit instruction, targeted focus, assessment)
  • Systemic support (leadership, professional development)


Behavioral Supports and Interventions

  • School-wide positive behavioral supports
  • Classroom behavior planning
  • Targeted small group behavioral interventions
  • Intensive, individualized behavioral interventions


Delivery of Special Education Services

  • Instructional environment and practice
  • CSE process and IEP development (in development)


  • Rich and rigorous professional development has been provided to VESID’s technical assistance providers to build a common base of content knowledge and skills in research-based instructional practices. 


  • Since October 2007 all SETRC personnel were required to complete the VoyagerU Reading Academy, which is a professional development program that combines group interaction and online technology to provide a research-based foundation in early literacy instruction. To date, 102 SETRC Professional Development Specialists (PDS) have completed the VoyagerU Reading Academy and 17 additional new SETRC PDSs are currently enrolled.


  • VESID brought in State and nationally recognized experts to provide professional development to its staff and technical assistance providers.  These individuals and topics discussed included:


  • Mark Ylvisaker, Ph.D, College of St. Rose - Evidence-based practice in special education using individualized hypothesis testing or diagnostic teaching, and development of strategic, self-regulated students.


  • Dean Fixsen, Ph.D and Karen Blase, Ph.D., National Implementation Research Network - How to work with education systems in the complex process of adopting innovative, research-based practices with fidelity to achieve and sustain good outcomes.


  • Dee Berlinghoff, Ph.D., Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh - Using direct instruction and explicit strategy instruction for students with disabilities, bridging the research to the reality for implementation.   


  • Robert E. March, Ph.D., School-wide Positive Behavior Support - How schools can use proactive behavioral supports and strategies to create effective learning environments.


  • Lori M. Strong, Ph.D. College of Saint Rose - Adolescent Literacy: Research to Practice to Quality Indicators - The urgent need to implement effective practices to improve adolescent literacy. 


  • VESID’s funded Higher Education Support Center (HESC) has convened three study groups to connect the Quality Indicator Review and Resource Guideson Literacy, Behavioral Supports and Interventions, and Delivery of Special Education Services to pre-service teacher preparation programs.  The study groups have begun to analyze the content of the quality indicators in the context of their curricula to determine how the quality indicators could be integrated into teacher preparation.


  • Regulations were adopted to promote “Response-to-Intervention” (RtI), a research-based process for schools to organize instruction to meet the diverse needs of learners.  RtI is a problem-solving approach that identifies general education students struggling in academic and behavioral areas early and provides them with systematically applied strategies and targeted instruction at varying levels of intervention.  In 2007, VESID convened a group of experts to assist the State in establishing its RtI policy as well as its plan to provide guidance and technical assistance to schools and parents.  VESID has developed a request for proposals (RFP) to establish a State technical assistance center on RtI.


  • NYS Regulations were amended to add options to the continuum of special education services to promote the delivery of specially designed instruction in a general education classroom by adding integrated co-teaching services and the combination of resource room and consultant teacher services to meet the minimum level of service requirements for these services.


  • Direct VESID’s technical assistance resources to school improvements in literacy, behavioral supports and quality delivery of special education services; improve achievement and reduce disproportionate representation of students of color by preventing inappropriate referrals to special education and by increasing declassification rates; and expand availability and capacity of technical assistance centers to promote training and implementation for Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS).


  • For the 2007-08 school year, VESID increased the allocation of IDEA discretionary funds to selected SETRC programs that had a demonstrated need because of the number of school districts identified for support or intervention in their region.  The additional funds allowed these programs to hire additional full-time professional development specialists to work in districts with the poorest performance.


  • VESID increased funding to the New York University Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality (TAC-D).  TAC-D's technical assistance has been directed to lead to changes in instructional practices in those school districts with significant disproportionality by race/ethnicity in their rates of identification, classification and/or placement of students with disabilities as identified under the NYS’ State Performance Plan (SPP). 


  • VESID has developed an RFP to add 11 additional parent centers to provide training, information and support to parents of students with disabilities in locations throughout the State. 


  • Increase the number of students with disabilities transitioning directly from high schools to vocational rehabilitation training programs, employment and/or college.


  • VESID is promoting school district use of TransQUAL-Online.  TransQUAL is a research-based district self-assessment and planning tool designed to support school district teams improve compliance with transition components in the IEP and promote positive post school outcomes for students with disabilities. Transition Coordination Site (TCS) technical assistance providers use the data generated from TransQUAL to determine regional technical assistance needs. To date, 2036 TransQUAL Work Plans have been developed by 486 district teams.


  • Using TransQUAL, TCS network partners and SED staff will provide training in May to New York City IEP specialists from each of the five boroughs. These IEP specialists will serve as turn-key trainers in New York City.


  • VESID continues to oversee the 60 Model Transition Program (MTP) grants to urban, suburban and rural districts that will benefit students with disabilities at approximately 150 high schools. These projects are creating partnerships among high schools, the State vocational rehabilitation services, local vocational rehabilitation providers, independent living centers, colleges and universities, and the business community. Cornell University and the University of Buffalo have joined SED in this initiative.


  • VESID's TCS network provided targeted technical assistance to approximately 108 school districts to improve their transition planning.  TCS’s work included providing workshops on the transition planning process, assisting schools to develop community based work experience programs, improving student with disabilities’ participation in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and improving collaborations between schools and vocational rehabilitation.



Next Steps:


  • Based on 2006-07 data, VESID will identify school districts as in need of assistance, in need of intervention, or in need of substantial intervention based on their performance in the areas of graduation, drop out, State assessments for students with disabilities and certain compliance findings. As a result of this identification, VESID will direct technical assistance resources and identify improvement actions for each of these school districts.


  • In 2008-09, VESID will fund a PBIS State Technical Assistance Center to make available comprehensive training and enhanced expertise to regional PBIS Specialists throughout the State.


  • In 2008-09, VESID will identify successful schools and districts, document the practices that the district incorporated to sustain such practices and provide grants to replicate these effective practices in identified low performing schools.


  • VESID will provide grants to school districts to develop RtI programs and have its funded statewide technical assistance center on RtI assist school districts to develop high quality RtI processes.


  • VESID and the Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education (EMSC) will continue their work to explore the development of career and technical education program options for students with disabilities to effectively decrease dropout rates.