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Saturday, August 2, 2008

New report on special education and D75 schools

See this new report, "Improving Special Education in NYC's District 75," about the multiple problems with the separate special education district known as D75, which also reveals how dysfunctional the entire system of special education is in NYC public schools. The study was carried out by specialists and administrators from other large school districts, under the aegis of the Council of the Great City Schools, and recommends keeping the special nature and services of D75 intact, but integrating them into the rest of the school system more effectively and efficiently.

The report reveals a far higher proportion of NYC special education students in separate, segregated settings than other districts throughout the state; pervasive conflicts between the principals of D75 schools that are located within regular schools over the way in which their students are deprived of access to essential facilities; how low-achieving students are referred to D75 placements as the time nears for state assessments grows near, so their school of origin won't be saddled with their test scores; how D75 students have few opportunities to be incorporated in the regular school’s classes or to interact with the rest of the student population, even when located in the same building; the way in which the new schools started by DOE commonly exclude and discriminate against D75 students; the manner in which Leadership Academy graduates principals with no apparent interest or training in improving outcomes for these students; the inappropriate practice of referring eighth grade students to D75 schools who have been retained multiple times, as well as high school students with few course credits, and students with “challenging behavior,” and the failure of DOE to include “anything in the accountability system pertaining to incentives or sanctions for the achievement of students with disabilities.”

Here's just one meaty excerpt, detailing yet another inadequate aspect of the school progress reports, as designed by
Columbia Law Professor James Liebman, head of
DOE's Accountability office:

Community schools can be recognized for the exemplary performance of students with disabilities (as well as other high-need students), but the process does not recognize the differences among students with disabilities ranging from relatively small-impact speech-language impairment to challenging sensory, emotional, or cognitive impairments.

A school can gain only three extra credit points on its overall score for exemplary gains among high-need students, such as those with disabilities.

• The Progress Report does not appear to take into consideration the extent to which students—

Are referred to other schools just prior to state assessments

Are enrolled by community schools following a District 75 placement

Are included and supported in the general education program

Are given access to general education programs and activities, if they are in District 75.

But check out the whole report; it is an excellent if rather depressing read.

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