Articles tagged with special education

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: , |

NYSSBA applauds veto of special education placement bill

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed legislation that would have required school officials to consider a special education students’ home life and cultural backgrounds when making educational placements. The bill would have given parents more power to demand a publicly funded private education for their children with disabilities.

The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA), other education groups, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had opposed the bill, which likely would have resulted in more placements in religious schools.

NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy Kremer released a statement praising the veto:

“The bill would have made a child’s cultural and family background a factor in special education placements, thereby promoting religious segregation in special education placements at taxpayer expense.  This result is contrary to the pluralistic values upon which our public education system was established,” he said. “Although we respect the personal choices that parents make to raise their children in accordance with their faith and culture, it would have been wrong to obligate taxpayers to pay for these private choices.”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to Cuomo urging him to veto the bill. NSBA noted that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the main federal special education law, includes provisions for addressing issues related to cultural and religious differences during the placement determination stage and it allows parents to petition school districts for private placements. Adding another legal layer to these proceedings would delay a placement and could increase legal costs for both parents and school districts, according to NSBA.

“This expansion of the educational placement process could create a situation where such decisions become subjective in nature rather than being based on educational outcomes, actual data reflecting a student’s present levels of performance, and the spirit and intent of the IDEA and Section 504,” wrote Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. “Further, such expansions could have the unintended consequences of promoting school vouchers, preferences toward certain private and parochial schools, and the promotion of segregated schools on the basis of economic status or family income – all irrelevant to appropriate special education placement determinations.”

According to The New York Times, Cuomo said in a memo that the bill “would have created ‘an overly broad and ambiguous mandate’ to send more students to private schools, burdening taxpayers with ‘incalculable significant additional costs.’”



Joetta Sack-Min|August 3rd, 2012|Categories: Religion, Special Education, Educational Legislation, Diversity, Educational Finance, School Vouchers, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , |

Early intervention, important for students, hard for new teachers to implement

Response to Intervention has been called one of the best innovations for education in decades. But as much as it’s talked about in education circles these days, the concept is hard to grasp without a specific explanation. A conference sponsored by the Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse last week attempted to do just that for novice educators.

The methods used in RTI to provide early interventions to struggling students are based on century-old, well-established goals of public health, several speakers explained.

“Universal screening is the key part of [RTI], and that comes from public health,” Russell Gerstein, executive director of the Instructional Reading Group, said at the conference.

By assessing all students near the beginning of a school year, an effective RTI program will identify those who are struggling to learn basic concepts in math, reading, and other subjects, just as a routine physical exam helps doctors see the potential for a health problem. From there, educators can prescribe more diagnostic tests or research-based “treatments,” such as small group study sessions, to help those students catch up with their peers. And like medicine, the at-risk students are frequently assessed to find out if the prescribed treatments are working or if more help is needed.

RTI is often called a special education program, as it’s authorized in the 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the nation’s main special education law. But it’s actually designed to prevent students who don’t need to be identified as disabled from entering special education. By giving those students early interventions in the general education classroom, they can avoid falling behind in their learning.

It’s a great concept, but it also takes a lot of coordination and work within a school. We’ll be reporting on how to build a successful RTI program in the upcoming September issue of ASBJ.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Naomi Dillon|June 17th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |
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