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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Special Education in New York City

Elizabeth A. Harris at NYT:
By the Education Department’s own accounting, more than 25 percent of students with disabilities, or nearly 50,000, did not receive the kind of specialized instruction to which they were legally entitled to in the 2016-17 school year, the most recent year for which that information was available. That was actually better than the year before, when more than 40 percent of students with disabilities did not receive their mandated instruction.

In many cases, the city doesn’t even know in real time if children are getting what they need because the computer system designed to keep track of interventions, which has cost the city at least $130 million, has been riddled with technical glitches and systemic problems since it was instituted in 2011.
While the graduation rate for all students has improved significantly in recent years, just 43.4 percent of students with disabilities finished high school on time in 2017, nearly 30 percentage points lower than the citywide rate. Nearly half of those graduates with disabilities received what’s called a local diploma, with requirements that are less rigorous than the norm.
Will Mantell, a spokesman for the department of education, said the city has made changes to improve special education by hiring more staff, and enhancing training and data tracking. “We’ve made real progress,” Mr. Mantell said. “We know there’s more work to do, and this is a focus area for the chancellor and the D.O.E.”
In the meantime, for students across the spectrum of disability, navigating the system can be a draining battle. “We find that families of students with a range of needs struggle to get the evaluations and services that their children need,” said Randi Levine, policy director of Advocates for Children of New York, which often intervenes with the Education Department on behalf of families. “We hear from families whose children only need speech therapy who are having difficulty getting it. And we hear from families whose students have autism and a range of complex needs who are having difficulty getting the classes and services their child needs.”