July 9, 2019, Chalkbeat: NYC vows to address special education failures detailed in state review. But will their reforms go far enough?
https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/07/09/nyc-vows-to-address-special-education-failures-detailed-in-state-review-but-will-their-reforms-go-far-enough/ In the wake of a scathing state report that found failures at virtually every level of New York City’s special education system, city officials acknowledged some flaws and pledged to address them in a response released Tuesday. The education department offered explanations for the systemic failures detailed in May’s state review, which found that initial evaluations for special education services are often delayed or don’t happen at all. Officials also promised a series of reforms to tackle other issues, including that mandated services go unmet and that the formal appeal process is overwhelmed with a surge in complaints, leaving students in limbo. In the response — which didn’t impress some advocates — the city said hundreds of new staff, including additional psychologists and lawyers, would be hired to help conduct evaluations and to handle disputes about services. They also promised to beef up preschool special education programs. The city education department “is fully committed to the action steps and timelines outlined in our [response],” schools Chancellor Richard Carranza wrote in a letter to the state education commissioner, “and we are focused on working toward full compliance in every area.” Whether those reforms result in significant changes on the ground will have enormous consequences: There are more than 224,000 students with disabilities in the city’s public schools, a population that alone would rank among the nation’s 10 largest school systems and whose students face significantly worse academic outcomes than their peers. Nearly a quarter of students with disabilities don’t receive all of their required services, with thousands of students not receiving any mandated services whatsoever, according to city data. … “We have added 4,300 more special education staff over the course of the administration, tripled the number of students with IEPs enrolled in 3-K and Pre-K, and expanded programs for bilingual students, students with autism, and preschooler,” she said in a statement. “The chancellor has communicated a clear sense of urgency, and we will continue to collaborate closely with the state to ensure all children receive the special education programs and services they need.”