NJSBA report proposes statewide plan for improving special education

A new report from the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) calls for statewide efforts to reduce special education classification by diagnosing children’s learning problems early and intervening with multi-tiered levels of support.

“Special Education: A Service, Not a Place” says such early interventions – which can often focus on students’ needs within the general education classroom – have proved to be effective in reducing the number of students later classified as needing special education services.

The report was written by NJSBA’s Special Education Task Force, which spent more than a year studying ways public schools could reduce special education costs while maintaining the quality of programs and services. The task force report makes 20 recommendations addressing such issues as funding, staff training, and the importance of early intervention.

In recent years, New Jersey school districts’ special education costs have increased much faster than the costs of general education, something Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA’s executive director, said has “often divided school communities into two opposing camps: special education and general education.”

“That’s not a healthy situation for any of our students.” Feinsod said.

Two major trends affecting special education costs since 2007 are “frequency of classification” and “severity of classification,” the report said. For example, between school years 2008 and 2012, the number of students receiving special education services increased 4.9 percent, while total public school enrollment fell by 1 percent.

To help school districts more accurately assess children’s needs and avoid over-classifying those requiring special education services, New Jersey should develop a multi-tiered system of supports that includes programs such as Response to Intervention, Intervention and Referral Services, and Positive Learning Supports, the report said. These types of programs would help school district identify children’s learning needs at an early age and provide strategies for intervening in the general education classroom.

Echoing the title of the task force report, Feinsod said school districts need to view special education as part of a range of services public schools provide to students, not a “place” where children are assigned.

“Public education should not be viewed as two separate systems – general education and special education – but rather as one continuum of instruction, programs, interventions, and services that respond to individual student needs,” Feinsod said.

Lawrence Hardy|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Special Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , |


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