New Mission

New Mission


My idea is to explore how other countries around the world are dealing with education and special education issues. I’d like to see different successful schools, wherever they may be, up close. I’d like to sit down with directors and administrators. I’d like to speak with government officials who keep a pulse on the education affairs of their communities. I want to learn more about education around the globe through speaking with locals, seeing the schools, and shaking hands with the people responsible for implementing the systems. If you know of any outstanding (public or private) special needs schools in other parts of the world, I’d love to hear about them. If you know any education experts from around the world, I’d love to be introduced to them. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts or ideas. Read more about my mission.

Search This Blog

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gifted And Talented

A bill pending in the NYS Senate Committee on Education proposes better programs and services for "twice exceptional students" - those children who have the unique combination of being "gifted and talented" while at the same time being a child with special needs. 

For those interested, the text of the bill can be viewed at:
http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S1273-2011

New Milestones In Testing Accommodations

Check out this interesting article describing what the future has in store for special needs students in the area of testing accommodations:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/06/03/33tests_ep.h30.html?tkn=ZXPFFiefCDnqVnd%2F%2F5SE5dbuneFb99rn30g3&cmp=clp-edweek

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interesting Example Of The Interplay Between State And Federal Governments When It Comes To Special Education Funding

Although this Education Week blog post relates to South Carolina, it is an interesting example of the tension between state and federal governments when special education funding is involved.  States cannot decrease special education funding from year to year without a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.  Over the last two years South Carolina has cut its special education funding by roughly $111 million and if it does not replace those funds, it will be penalized by losing that same amount of federal funding that it otherwise would have been entitled to.   

Full text available at:
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2011/06/another_state_denied_power_to.html

Proposed Changes To New York Education Law

I received the following email yesterday regarding proposed changes to New York education law:

ATTENTION PARENTS OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

Albany is considering legislation RIGHT NOW that will make it harder for you to go to a hearing to enforce your rights or obtain additional academic support for your child.

Why should you be concerned? Two bills before the Senate (S5816 and S5758A) would:

Ø Reduce the amount of time you have to enforce your rights against your school district by cutting the statute of limitations to 180 days for parents who unilaterally place their children in nonpublic school and to one year for everyone else.

Ø Eliminate the right of parents who home school their children or who pay private school tuition to get related services for their child unless they tell the school district that they plan to do this by April 1 of the year before they want the services.

Ø Force parents who home school their children or pay for private school tuition to go through mandatory mediation before they could file a due process hearing.

Ø Allow school districts to cut Academic Intervention Services for students with IEPs.


Call your legislators (518-455-2800 for your State Senator and 518-455-4100 for your Assembly member) and Governor Cuomo (518-474-8390) IMMEDIATELY and let them know you oppose S5816 and S5758A for these reasons. Make it clear that none of the special education mandate relief provisions above should be included in any legislation or session-ending deal.


To read the full text of these bills, visit http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menuf.cgi.  Type in the bill number, click on the box at the top of the page that says "text," and then hit "search."  The proposal about reducing the statute of limitations from 2 years to a shorter period has been attempted before and has failed.  Mediation is intended to be an alternative to an impartial hearing, not a prerequisite.  The passage of either of these amendments would be an abrogation of the rights that parents currently possess.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waivers On NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND Requirements

The No Child Left Behind Law, for me, conjures up an image of a parent threatening and threatening and threatening to punish a child but never following through with that promise.  In the same way it seems like No Child Left Behind might not live up to its promise, not if Secretary Duncan has anything to do with it.  It's no secret that the goals in George W. Bush's famous education law - requiring 100% of students in public schools across the country to be proficient in math and reading by the year 2014 - are unrealistic.  Our proficiency levels are nowhere even close to that (see the movie Waiting for Superman for more on this).  NCLB provides for strict repercussions - such as school closures - if these proficiency goals are not met.  This was probably a result of the country's obsession with accountability which influenced the passing of the law ten years ago and still remains an important part of the education debate today.

Secretary Duncan has spoken about the possibility of Congress amending and re-authorizing the law, and what action needs to be taken if Congress fails to do that.  He has suggested using his "executive authority" to absolve states of some of these requirements by granting waivers...since NCLB provides that "the secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement of this act".  According to some accounts, if we judged public schools right now according to the standards in NCLB, most would qualify as failing.  I think that Secretary Duncan's outspokenness on this issue has reminded us that strict requirements for accountability and threats of closure alone are not enough to improve our education system and the way our children learn.  Recognizing the ways that we screwed up with NCLB and figuring out what would be realistic goals for the next ten years is a pivotal step for the future of our country.

SRO Reverses Impartial Hearing Officer's Award Of Tuition Reimbursement For Bay Ridge Prep

In SRO 11-015, the school district appealed an impartial hearing officer's decision to award tuition reimbursement to parents who had placed their son at Bay Ridge Preparatory School.  There was no issue about the appropriateness of Bay Ridge Prep.  The child had been placed in the school's Bridge program which provided the extra support that he needed in areas like reading, comprehension, writing, math, and organization, and addressed his issues with anxiety - the district did not argue that Bay Ridge Prep was inappropriate.  Instead the district argued that (a) it had offered the student an appropriate education, and (b) the parent's did not deserve to win because of their conduct.  Ultimately, it was the second of these arguments that the SRO decided to hang his hat on.

Under the law, in certain situations you have to notify the school district that you are planning to place your child in a private school and seek reimbursement for the tuition.  The law says that reimbursement may be reduced or denied if parents do not provide such notice and explain their concerns and why they are rejecting the district's program.  Because the law says "reduced or denied" a hearing officer or review officer has discretion about whether to throw out the case completely or simply reduce the parent's award - here the SRO used his discretion to throw out the case completely.  His reasoning was that the parents failed to identify the nature of their concerns about the IEP and/or the recommended school placement prior to enrolling their child in the private school. What the letter did say, albeit a bit vaguely, was that the recommended public school placement could not provide appropriate grouping based on student ability or meet the child's specific individualized needs.  The letter said that the nature of the issues with the offered program/placement would be explained in the impartial hearing request.

The difficulty with this case is that the SRO agreed that the IEP created by the CSE was inappropriate and that Bay Ridge Prep was appropriate.  The IEP goals failed to address several of the child's core areas of difficulty.  The SRO agreed that Bay Ridge Prep was an appropriate program capable of addressing these needs.  So the issue was just how to come down in this case...and the SRO came down against the parent despite evidence that the parent(s) had participated in numerous CSE meetings, had visited the recommended schools, and had communicated with the school district.  This was not enough for the SRO who decided the equities against the parent.

One takeaway message from this case is the importance of being clear about the reasons for rejecting a specific program or placement.  If you've mentioned your concerns at an IEP meeting, it's probably also a good idea to follow up with a clear letter so there's no confusion.  Another point to take away is that a hearing officer or review officer's has a certain amount of discretion - his or her use of that discretion can be the deciding factor in your case.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Common Themes - Importance Of Inclusion; Budgetary Problems Nationwide

This New York Times article, although it highlights the Chicago public school system, provides insight into the importance of inclusion and the least restrictive environment.  It also highlights the kinds of budgetary difficulties affecting school districts around the country.

Read article at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/us/05cnccenter.html?_r=1

Special Education Mandate Relief Proposals (continued)

Following up on the previous blog post -

The following is a list of some of the changes being proposed by the NYS Board of Regents as an effort to reduce the obligations of school districts to parents of children with special needs:

- Eliminate the requirement that a psychologist attend each CSE meeting, and the requirement that a parent member attend each CSE and CPSE meeting
- Eliminate the requirement that a school physician attend the meeting when timely requested by the parent
- Change the requirement that the parent selects the preschool evaluator and instead allow the school district to make that decision
- Establish that all public school districts are approved evaluators for pre-school purposes
- Change the timeline governing school districts' obligation to conduct an initial preschool evaluation from 30 school days from the time of parental consent to 60 calendar days from the time of consent
- Modify the level of required testing with respect to initial evaluations
- Eliminate the requirement that school districts have plans and policies for appropriate declassification when it is determined that an individual no longer has special education needs

Their argument is that NYS went beyond its call of duty when the legislature enacted laws that were stricter than what federal law mandated.  In some areas NY law does require things that federal law does not address (see http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/policy/mandaterelief-fed-vs-state.htm).  Presumably that was because the legislature understood that federal law didn't go far enough and that education was an issue important enough to require heightened responsibilities.  New York is known for its availability of services for children with special needs but at the same time there are many families being deprived of services they are entitled to.  As important as the budget is, reducing school district responsibilities can have long-term consequences.  I'm not sure if requiring the presence of a school psychologist at IEP meetings is what's breaking the bank or most in need of reform.  We need to address the sheer number of students who require special education supports and I'm not sure that our education system is in such a state that we should be looking to abrogate parent and child rights.

Special Education Mandate Relief Proposals

The Board of Regents, recognizing that local school districts are in financial straits and seeking to reduce their financial burden, has proposed changes to New York State law that would narrow parental rights in the special education process and decrease school district's legal obligations to parents.  On May 16, 2011 the Regents indicated its support for the NYS Education Department to seek public comment on various proposals in anticipation of either proposing statutory changes or adopting new regulations.  Three public hearings have been scheduled to allow an opportunity for public comment, as follows:

New York City - June 28, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.
Rochester - June 28, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.
Albany - June 29, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.  

For more information about these public hearings visit http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/policy/mandaterelief-publichearing611.htm

Details of these proposed changes will be discussed in the next blog post.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kindergarten Craziness

According to the Daily News, delays within the DOE have left the city scrambling to find spots for over 15,000 special education students who are supposed to be starting kindergarten this fall but do not have placements.  This could result in many of these students enrolling in private schools at the city's expense. 

Read the article at:
 http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2011/06/05/2011-06-05_specialed_mess_could_cost_city_big_15500_kids_still_in_limbo.html