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Boston: $50M for special ed inclusion in public schools

Feb 12, 2023, WCVB5 Boston: $50 Million Investment in inclusion to change special education in Boston

Video: Interview with Boston School Superintendent, Mary Skipper Anchor: In fact during the State of the City address, Mayor WU announced a major investment of $50 million on inclusion.

BPS enrolls more special ed students on average than the state and the nation and over identifies black and Latino male students as having a learning disability.

BLACK MALE STUDENTS: 14% TOTAL SCHOOL POPULATION 24% ENROLLED IN SPECIAL EDUCATION LATINO MALE STUDENTS: 21% TOTAL SCHOOL POPULATION 29% ENROLLED IN SPECIAL EDUCATION Explain more, if you would, about why black and Latino students are being identified as having disabilities at a higher rate.

Superintendent: A lot of this comes down to making sure that we’re doing a lot of the work on the ground level with our teachers in our tiered support system so that students get the best supports they can when they’re first beginning to struggle.

When that does not happen, when a system our size doesn’t have that type of structure in place, which we call a MTSS structure and a strong student support, then you see over-identification where it’s not needed.

Or you see students being recommended for what we call more restrictive environments than what they need.

The promise of inclusion is to really

change the mindset of the district and the experience of the district. It’s to value all of our students.

And so having our special education students having the ability to be in the least restrictive environment in whatever school of their choosing with the correct supports and along sides their regular education peers, this is what we know from research base is going to increase the level of achievement for all.

Anchor: Once black and Latino males get tracked into special education, it’s almost impossible for them to get out of that.

Superintendent: That is right. …This for us was a landmark in terms of changing the contract, working with our teacher union as a partner in this, and we’re beginning the rollout of inclusion with the first 22 schools in the cohort. So we’re very excited about that, through the budget process.

Clearly Mayor Wu’s historical commitment of $50 million to support this initiative could not happen without her.

Anchor: How do you plan to measure results?

Superintendent: Lots of different ways. I think academically everything has to be framed about student outcome. That is one of the big switches to our system right now.

And on the academic side, this will be a series of academic measures that are way beyond just state test scores. We have to be looking at the organic data that we’re collecting on a daily basis and meeting those performance measures.

Every educator has a role in this. Everyone has an accountability.

Anchor: Lots of benchmarks along the way.

Superintendent: Lots of benchmarks. It’s not even just counting the numbers, it’s the quality of experience. That’s what we have to begin to do, is really to talk to children, talk to parents about what is their experience.

Anchor: And keeping them engaged and excited about coming to school.

You’re credited with a decrease in students dropping out of school.

What some of those successes that you’re going to bring to Boston to keep young people engaged?

Superintendent: I have always felt, from my middle and high school teaching and certainly principalship with Tech Boston…

The dropout is really a reflection of the system, not the student. And so when you have a student drop out, that’s really our failure. That’s something we have to own accountability for. We have to decide what we didn’t do for that student or that family.

We’re doing a big reengagement campaign right now…to be able to get students back in, develop our educational options to meet students where they are, not where we think they should be. Surround that with lots of out of school opportunities for students. …


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