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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Special Education and Inequality in NYC

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the experiences of different economicethnic and racial groups.   Inequality is a big part of the story. Affluent states and school districts have more resources than poor ones.  Educated professionals are better able to protect their children's interests than poor people who never went to college.

Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the New York City Department of Education’s special education data report for the 2018-19 school year:

New York City continues to fall short when it comes to educating its students with disabilities. While the percentage of City students fully receiving their recommended special education instruction continued to trend in the right direction in 2018-19, we are nevertheless dismayed that more than 15 percent of students with disabilities—a total 28,960 children, more than the total enrollment of the Yonkers public schools—still did not fully receive the instruction to which they are legally entitled.
 The modest decrease in the timeliness of evaluations in 2018-19 is a clear signal that the City must invest in additional school psychologists, as a delay in evaluating a student inevitably means a delay in providing appropriate services if that student is found eligible. For more than one in four students who were evaluated for special education for the first time last year, more than two months passed before an IEP meeting was held to determine what learning support should be put in place, in large part because current staff are burdened by unmanageable caseloads. Two months can feel like a lifetime to a child who is struggling in school, falling behind their peers, and rapidly losing confidence in their own abilities. The special education process can be a lengthy one, even when all timelines are followed; these additional delays in getting students the help they need are simply unacceptable.
Yoav Gonen and Alex Zimmerman at Chalkbeat:
The information gap between evaluations provided by the city compared to those done privately — which typically cost over $5,000 — is not unique to Jorge. Interviews with more than two dozen advocates, parents, and experts revealed a flawed two-tiered evaluation system that leaves many students’ needs unaddressed.
Like many aspects of the city’s public school system, the evaluation process is complicated for parents to navigate — and savvy families who can pay for private evaluations have a big advantage.

School psychologists, who are responsible for conducting special education evaluations, work under heavy caseloads, which can make it challenging to conduct quality evaluations. The assessments themselves are often delayed, leaving students without vital services for months.
Meanwhile, families who can afford neuropsychological evaluations, often not covered by insurance, can get a clearer sense of their child’s disabilities — along with pages of recommendations that spell out what services are needed.
By contrast, the city’s evaluations don’t offer specific diagnoses, like dyslexia or attention deficit disorder.