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June 14, 2017
How do you find the right school when you have a physical disability? These students will tell you
The discussion will take place Thursday evening at the Manhattan School for Children.
March 14, 2013
City releases limited data about impact of special ed changes
Three years after launching an effort to integrate more students with special needs in mainstream classrooms, the Department of Education has some news about the initiative's effects. The department today released data showing that students with special needs in schools that participated in the first phase of the initiative saw their test scores improve more than students with disabilities at similar schools that were not in the program. Their attendance rates rose and suspension rates fell more than the students with disabilities at similar schools, too. And as the initiative expanded citywide this year, students frequently moved to less restrictive classroom settings in sixth and ninth grade, the years where the department required schools to serve all eligible students, regardless of their disability. The information partially satisfied special education advocates, who are on board with the goals of the city's reforms but have been clamoring for more data about the reforms' impact for more than a year. "From what I am seeing here it looks like there are positive trends — but I'm not seeing everything here that I want to," said Maggie Moroff, who heads the ARISE Coalition of advocates.
February 8, 2013
At bus driver strike hearing, Walcott bats away council criticism
Chancellor Dennis Walcott takes questions from Robert Jackson during a City Council hearing on the school bus strike. Agitated City Council members spent more than two hours today grilling Chancellor Dennis Walcott about the city's refusal to restore job protections for school bus drivers or intervene in their nearly monthlong strike. The hearing took place more than three weeks into the strike on a day when many families' tenuous transportation plans were complicated by the start of a snowstorm. Attendance in schools for students with disabilities, which have been hardest-hit by the strike, fell from 76 percent on Thursday to just 50 percent today. Maria Uruchima, whose nightmarish commute includes 8 buses and 4 trains, said her son wasn't feeling well, "so I just kept him home because it's going to be crazy out anyways." Even before the inclement weather, at least 2,500 students who attend schools in District 75, which serve special education students with the highest needs, "were still home," Maggie Moroff, Special Education Policy Coordinator at Advocates for Children, said in her prepared remarks. For students that made it to school, Moroff said parents sacrificed hours of their work days to get them there and many students arrived late anyway.
April 16, 2012
City's top special education deputy retiring as reforms roll out
The Department of Education's first-ever deputy chancellor for special education and English language learners is stepping down. Laura Rodriguez will leave the department at the end of June after 34 years working in the school system, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today. He has appointed Corinne Rello-Anselmi, a 33-year veteran who currently heads a branch of the department's school support structure, to replace Rodriguez. Rello-Anselmi began her career as a special education teacher and was briefly a deputy chancellor for special education after serving as principal of P.S. 108 in the Bronx. Then-Chancellor Joel Klein created the position, which supervises the instruction of about a quarter of a million children, in 2009 after department officials concluded a months-long review of the city's special education practices. Rodriguez, whose background was in supporting ELLs, was charged with integrating students with special needs into city schools. Under her leadership, the department selected about 200 schools that would accommodate all students. This fall, after a one-year delay, that pilot program is supposed to grow to include all city schools in a shift that some advocates and parents fear could be problematic for schools. The city has also proposed changing the way that schools are funded so that they have an incentive to spread students with special needs across all classrooms. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done between now and September to make that successful, so anyone coming in will have to jump right in," said Maggie Moroff, coordinator of the ARISE Coalition of special education advocacy groups. Moroff said she was surprised by the news of Rodriguez's retirement and had not met Rello-Anselmi during her monthly meetings with Rodriguez and other department officials.
July 20, 2011
Special ed teachers need 'tweaked' evaluations, advocates say
Advocates are worried that the city's new evaluation system could penalize teachers of students with special needs. The nonprofit organization Advocates for Children of New York recently released a fact sheet calling on parents to ask how the new system, which will be piloted in more schools next year, will affect those teachers. Sixty percent of the new evaluations is based on subjective measures like principal observations, and the other 40 percent is based on student test scores. AFC's concern is that teachers who work with high-needs students will be at a disadvantage because they likely won't see the gains in test scores that other teachers will. That will make it more difficult to earn a high evaluation score, lowering the incentive for teachers to take on students with disabilities and English Language Learners. "Teachers are basically going to be looking at lower test scores, and lower evaluations because they're so heavily reliant on test scores," said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator for AFC. "We're worried that they will be teaching more to the test in those classes."
May 20, 2011
Special ed reforms causing evaluation backlog, advocates say
Bumps in rolling out new special education rules are holding up crucial assessments of the city’s youngest students, advocates say. Consequences could be severe if the assessments aren't completed by the June 15 deadline. Students who don't receive placements by that date but do need special education services are entitled to full reimbursement of private school tuition dollars, according to state law. That’s not likely to happen: Even in a typical year there aren’t enough private school placements for all the students who are entitled to them. But the crunch does suggest the city faces difficulties in cutting its growing expenditures on private school special education placements, which Mayor Bloomberg complained last year costs the city $100 million annually. Months into the rollout of a set of special education reforms meant in part to integrate disabled children into their neighborhood schools, advocates report that the city is scrambling to evaluate children with special needs who will be entering kindergarten this fall. “It’s going to be really difficult to get things into place for a large number of families of students who are going to come into kindergarten next year,” said Maggie Moroff, the coordinator of the ARISE Coalition, which supports special education advocates.
February 1, 2010
City announces broad outlines of a special education overhaul
School officials outlined a plan to change the way city schools serve students with disabilities at a closed-door meeting this morning with special education advocates. The plan's first step: Telling schools they have to accept, and "embrace," students with special needs. "For too long, educating students with disabilities has meant separating them from their general education peers," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said in a statement. "Today we are building on the premise that every school must be able to educate the vast majority of these children." That premise represents a badly needed advance for the city schools, according to special education advocates. "The principles in [the plan] are wonderful, but they've been law forever," said Maggie Moroff, who coordinates the ARISE Coalition but was not speaking on the coalition's behalf. "The overarching goals are exactly what they ought to be, it's just that in my mind they’re not so novel."
July 2, 2009
A culture shift in special education urged after internal review
Special education advocates are giving early praise to recommendations released today that would transform schools' approach to students with special needs. The recommendations, which Chancellor Joel Klein endorsed, center on integrating students with special needs into the city's ongoing school reforms. Garth Harries, a department official who is starting a new job in New Haven, Conn., on Monday, authored the recommendations following a months-long review of the city's special education offerings. Actually implementing the plans will be left to a new top-level administrator who will be responsible for nearly a quarter of the system's students. Laura Rodriguez, a longtime Bronx educator who currently heads one of the support organizations that principals can choose to join, will become the city's first Chief Achievement Officer for Special Education and English Language Learners. Rodriguez will be one of only seven people reporting directly to the chancellor, making the needs of nearly 250,000 disabled students and ELLs "visible and transparent at the cabinet level" for the first time, Klein said.
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