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Asked and answered
November 14, 2018
Are special education reforms moving too slowly? Chicago monitor responds to criticism.
"There’s been a lot of broken trust between parents and schools, parents and central office, parents and administrators," Chicago schools special education monitor says
November 1, 2016
Thousands of students still wait for special education services or don’t receive them at all, city figures reveal
"The fact that they’re doing the reporting and that it’s public and people are looking at it is a good thing."
By the numbers
March 2, 2016
Grim statistics show city still failing to evaluate, serve many students with disabilities
Newly released data show New York City is still struggling to provide services to students with disabilities — a group larger than Hawaii’s entire student population.
November 18, 2015
For students with severe disabilities, New York must do more to see if schools measure up
Lori Podvesker explains that parents who have children in District 75 programs need more information about individual schools to make informed decisions.
September 25, 2014
To best serve their students, schools need to be realistic about their special-ed capacity
Schools can't be afraid to get real about what they can and can't provide for students with special needs if they want to come up with the best plans for students, Mark Anderson writes.
June 6, 2014
Unable to suggest other schools, teachers left with special ed reform dilemma
A middle school special education teacher is concerned that city policy has schools like hers constantly scrambling to support the needs of new students who might be better served by different schools.
March 25, 2014
How my school is bringing teachers together to improve students’ IEPs
In a series about special education, teacher Mark Anderson describes the limitations in the traditional IEP process and explains how he changed the way his colleagues share their insights about students' needs and performance.
November 21, 2013
After city pays millions in SESIS overtime, complications remain
Special education teachers say it's a common feeling: the students are gone for the day, and it's time for the real work to begin. But if they need to record something on a student's Individualized Education Program, it's probably too late. Early efforts to curb overtime payments have now become policy, as the Department of Education reminds principals to keep staff members out of SESIS—the online system that tracks special education students—after the school day ends unless the principal has committed to pay for that time. The reminders were spurred by arbitration that ultimately cost the city $41 million in belated overtime to teachers and staff whose after-hours work violated union contracts. For months, some principals have been looking for ways to give teachers more time during the day to work with the notoriously glitchy system (made more frustrating by slow school Internet speeds). But teachers and principals say that serious problems remain, as students' information is now updated more slowly, data entry takes time away from student interaction, and some teachers continue to work without pay. "Is that the reality? Of course it's the reality," said Carmen Alvarez, the UFT's vice president for special education, of the continuing issues. "Do I like it? No. Did we tell it to the DOE three years ago in writing? Yes."
June 20, 2012
Lawsuit demands DOE increase language services for parents
Parents attended a rally at Tweed Hall, where they demanded the DOE provide more translation and interpretation services to those whose children require special education. Advocates filed a federal complaint today against the city Department of Education that they said represents years of troubling reports from parents who don't speak English. Hundreds of those parents have come to the advocacy groups with concerns that the department doesn't provide sufficient language services for navigating special education. And with extensive special education reforms in progress, the need for language services is more pressing than ever, said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children. AFC, which represents low-income students and students with disabilities, joined with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to file the complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights on behalf of 19 city families. The complaint charges the city with violating federal, state, and city laws by failing to provide translation services for the parents of children with special needs. The complaint profiles one of the parents in detail. Nyuk Siem Looi, who speaks only Cantonese, has two sons who are autistic and cannot speak. According to the complaint, Looi has been told to bring her own interpreter to meetings and pressured to sign documents about her sons' educational programs that she could not understand. Parents named in the complaint were joined by dozens of others at a rally on the steps of City Hall today after the complaint was filed, many holding umbrellas to relieve themselves from more than 90-degree heat.
May 28, 2010
Brill-ing Down: Adding to Steven Brill’s NYT Magazine Report
Steven Brill's latest article chronicling the politics of the Race to the Top competition has caused a torrent of commentary. One contentious aspect of the piece is Brill's comparison of two schools that share the same building: Harlem Success Academy and P.S. 149. After Valerie Strauss picked up the statistics posted on the New York Public School Parents Blog, there has been much speculation about what types of kids are attending each school. Just how different are the populations anyway? To figure out the answer, I looked at NY State Accountability Report Cards, the Special Education Service Delivery Report for P.S. 149, as well as special education invoices provided to the UFT by the New York State Education Department. I chose these data sets because they seemed to be the most reliable and the most comparable. By "comparable" I mean that both Harlem Success and P.S. 149 have to submit to the state as part of their Accountability Report Cards data on students who receive free or reduced price lunch (an indicator of economic need), whereas, for instance, only P.S. 149 lists something known as the poverty rate (which is slightly different.) According to this data, Harlem Success Academy does appear to serve fewer needy students, both in terms of economic status, limited English proficiency, and special education needs. On the other hand, Harlem Success dramatically outperforms P.S. 149 on 3rd grade test results.
November 7, 2008
State, special ed advocates tussle over proposed changes to IEPs
Special ed advocates objected to the limited choices in this drop-down menu on the proposed IEP form. A new push by the state to standardize the way school districts plan which services special needs students should receive is rattling parents across New York. At the heart of the process is a document called the Individualized Education Plan, which a team of experts crafts to describe the student's educational needs and how the school should address them. For years, every school district has used its own IEP form. Now, state officials have created standardized forms to be used by all districts. The officials say this is an important move because it will create consistency across the state, but special education advocates are worried that the new form could put children's needs in jeopardy. Everyone agrees that IEP forms are crucial documents because they are the strongest form of insurance a parent can have that his child will get specific services. Advocates worry that the forms the state is pushing would weaken that insurance.
November 6, 2008
State special ed hearing conflicts with city special ed conferences
I just spent the afternoon at a public hearing about the state’s proposed changes to special needs students’ individualized education plans. I’ll have more to…
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