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Oversight Committee on Special Education

Published
February 25, 2019
Type
Testimony

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Education Committee for holding this important oversight hearing on the New York City Department of Education’s provision of special education services.

We testify today to highlight the need for better quality and increase in the delivery of special education supports and services for more than 250,000 students with disabilities ages 3-21 in New York City. We also testify today to bring more attention to the need for the equitable inclusion of all students with disabilities in all schools and activities. We believe there is a direct relationship between the extent to which students with disabilities are integrated with students in other program settings, and receive all their mandated related services, and the extent to which they make academic progress.

INCLUDEnyc (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs) has worked with hundreds of thousands of individuals since our founding 36 years ago, helping them navigate the complex special education service and support systems, so that young people with disabilities can be included in all aspects of New York City life.

We fully support and thank the Council for all the proposed bills. In particular, we are grateful that they will provide more transparency and oversight of special education services; especially the introduction of bill 900-2018. This bill will hold the NYC DOE accountable for the delivery of related services. We know from our own experience and extensive work with families that related service delivery is extremely inconsistent throughout the school year, and that students are not receiving all their mandated services. The DOE should be held accountable for ensuring that a student’s mandated services are fully implemented as required by law. We also applaud the addition of requiring DOE to publish data on assistive technology services. Additionally, we are grateful for proposed bill 1406-2019 that would require the Department of Education and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to report annually on preschool special education and early intervention services.

Every year thousands of parents call INCLUDEnyc for help with resolving special education issues due to lack of parental support at the school level, regional level, and from DOE Central. Persistent issues include:

  • Understanding special education
    • Quality of evaluations and IEP development
    • Students not receiving Related Services
    • Inappropriate classroom placements
    • Parents not knowing their rights and how to escalate issues when necessary
    • Apprehension on sending their child to a District 75 program
    • Concerns about the restrictiveness of their child’s classroom setting
  • Academic progress of their child
    • Overall quality of instruction
    • Absence of reading instruction
    • Need for appropriate interventions and accommodations
    • Applying to kindergarten, middle, and high school
    • Lack of transition plans and coordinated activities

In addition to the long-standing issues noted above, we also hear from many parents on issues of translating special education documents such as IEPs, busing, and bullying.

One mother, who speaks only Spanish, recently called INCLUDEnyc for help. She told us that her 15-year-old non verbal autistic daughter who attends a District 75 program has been waiting for an Assistive Technology device for more than two years since the service was first documented on her child’s IEP. The mother emotionally explained her daughter’s frustration–her inability to express herself at school and at home, and how she screams when she feels unheard or is in pain. This mom also fears for her own safety because her daughter becomes physically aggressive at times because she doesn’t have the basic tools she needs to communicate with those around her. No child and parent should be put in the situation to wait for the support needed for this basic human right.

As a result of these persistent special education issues, we recommend that the Department of Education:

  • Ensures the number of school psychologists is adequate so that students are evaluated and receive special education supports and services in a timely manner
  • Creates borough-based Related Service Centers to increase access to services for families close to home and in their home language
  • Requires additional professional development for general and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and school administrations on basic characteristics of learning, emotional, intellectual, and physical disabilities, as well as sensory processing disorders and the value of inclusion
  • Requires additional professional development for general and special education teachers and paraprofessionals on differentiated instruction
  • Measures the extent in which schools integrate students with disabilities with nondisabled students via existing mechanisms such as Quality Reviews, Learning Surveys, and School Quality Reports
  • Recognizes that inclusion of all students with disabilities, including students attending District 75 programs, should be an integral part of all school diversity initiatives

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important matters. We look forward to partnering with you to improve equity and access for all students with disabilities in New York City.

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Glassman

Executive Director