Posts tagged "special education reforms"
January 14, 2013
The Department of Education is rolling back some special education policies that drew sharp criticism last week from many principals.
The principals were alarmed by a deadline, originally set for today, to “clean up” data about students with disabilities. The deadline raised concerns that the department would take back funds from schools whose students fell into lower-than-anticipated funding tiers.
“The last-minute data capture has left us scrambling to account for potentially massive cuts to our budgets halfway through the school year,” 20 principals wrote Thursday in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
In an email sent late Friday, the department’s chief financial officer, Michael Tragale, told principals that the department would push back the deadline and relax a particularly anxiety-inducing rule so schools could retain their special education funds. (more…)
January 10, 2013
Principals are pushing back against the Department of Education’s plan to seize money from schools whose special education students narrowly miss a bureaucratic cutoff.
Responding to the concerns, department officials said they would issue new guidance to principals that clarifies the department’s commitment to funding special education programs adequately and helping schools keep their budgets stable.
The confusion followed a change in the way the department allocates funds to schools this year as part of a reform effort aimed at helping students with disabilities. The change created tiers of funding levels: The more time special education students spend in classes mixed with general education students, the more money their schools get.
Many principals are finding out for the first time this week, because of a deadline to clean up special education data, that students they thought would bring in a higher rate fall into a lower tier instead — and the department could take back the difference in funds.
“The last-minute data capture has left us scrambling to account for potentially massive cuts to our budgets halfway through the school year,” 20 principals wrote in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott today. “And it is because of our strong commitment to flexible programming and the other cornerstones of the Special Education reform that our cuts will be so dramatic.” (more…)
September 25, 2012
One in four city schools have overcrowded classes, and the number of oversized special education classes more than doubled since last year, according to this year’s class size tally by the United Federation of Teachers.
Union members reported 270 special education classes with more than the mandated number of students in the early weeks of the year, up from 118 last year.
During a press conference outside a Chelsea school building, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the city’s special education reforms, which are meant to move more students with disabilities into general education classes, were “clearly and solidly behind” the too-large special education classes.
“We’ve never seen numbers like this before,” Mulgrew said about the oversized special education classes. “Principals are telling us they are being mandated to do things they cannot do, and this is going to be a big problem.”
The union’s contract with the city sets class size limits in each grade. When classes exceed the limit, the union can file grievances against the city to get the classes reduced in size — a process that can take months, Mulgrew said.
This year, the union identified 6,220 classes over their contractual limits in 670 schools during the first weeks of the year. While the number of oversized classes was actually down 11 percent from last year’s recent high of 6,978, the number of schools with oversized classes grew slightly, and the union estimates that nearly a quarter of all city students are spending all or part of the day in overcrowded classes for the second straight year. (more…)
September 21, 2012
Two weeks into the school year, fears about the rollout of special education reforms are turning into reality at some schools, according to parents and teachers from Upper Manhattan who met with the Department of Education’s top special education official Thursday evening.
But the official, Corinne Rello-Anselmi, said she has “been holding feet to the fire” to make sure that students are getting what they need despite the changes, which are bringing more students with disabilities to neighborhood schools that have served few students with special needs in the past.
The sweeping reforms have been underway for two years now, but most schools are only seeing the changes take effect this year. They were designed help schools integrate more students with learning disabilities into general education classrooms, and in the process bring the city up to speed with research that shows that special education students are more successful when they learn alongside students without disabilities.
Parents, educators, and advocates have warned that the department might be moving too fast and giving schools too little help to make the seismic changes. And at a meeting on Thursday of the Citywide Council on Special Education, a parent group that the city is required to support, some parents and educators said their experiences so far suggested that the warnings were well founded.
Yadira Cruz, a public school teacher and the mother of a sixth grader who has Asperger syndrome, said she sent her daughter to middle school at P.S. 187 in Washington Heights this year expecting the school to meet her daughter’s needs. Her daughter’s Individualized Education Plan calls for her to be in a small class composed exclusively of students with special needs.
But Cruz said her daughter was placed instead into a larger class that contains both students with disabilities and students without special needs. And a week into the school year, P.S. 187 started asking her to find another school, Cruz told Rello-Anselmi, even though she said the options for transferring at this stage in the year are limited. (more…)
July 20, 2012
The new head of special education at the Department of Education thinks long-planned reforms to the way city schools educate students with special needs are likely to be “very rocky” when they roll out this fall.
But Corinne Rello-Anselmi believes that not making radical changes would be far more damaging.
That’s what she told a group of parents who sit on a special education advisory board Thursday evening. It was Rello-Anselmi’s formal introduction to the board, the Citywide Council on Special Education, since taking over this month as deputy chancellor of special education and English language learning.
She replaces Laura Rodriguez, the first person to hold that position. Under Rodriguez’s leadership, the city launched sweeping reforms designed to integrate students with disabilities into classroom settings alongside their peers.
Those reforms have been underway in some schools for two years. But for most schools, the changes are taking effect only this year, bringing a new level of scrutiny to the special education deputy position. (more…)
June 21, 2012
When Bryan Stromer started high school in 2009, few people knew that the Department of Education was on the verge of announcing a radical rethinking of how students with disabilities are included in city schools.
The next year, his school, the selective NYC Lab School, became one of 260 schools to pilot special education reforms that call on all schools to serve students no matter what disability they might have. Advocates for students with disabilities support the shift, but as the Department of Education prepares to expand the initiative citywide this fall, some are raising concerns.
Stromer, who has a disability and is the student representative on the Citywide Council on Special Education, is a steadfast defender of the reforms after living under them for two years. In the Community section, he writes about the changes that have taken place at his school that have allowed him and his classmates with disabilities to take greater advantage of what the school offers.
In my school, only a handful special education students decide to take more than one year of foreign language because the advanced courses do not offer the same level of support, but I knew that I wanted to continue taking Spanish. Participating in the pilot of the reform caused my school to look at special education as a service and not just a place and because of this I was able to request that my Spanish class be supported with an ICT teacher. Knowing that this Spanish class would be ICT-supported allowed my classmates with disabilities and I to be comfortable with taking on the risk of continuing our Spanish studies.
Read Stromer’s entire account in the Community section. And check out GothamSchools’ archives for more coverage of the special education reforms.
June 20, 2012
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. (more…)
April 16, 2012
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. (more…)