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Rochester, NY: One in 5 children classified SPED

April 17, 2017, Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle: Rochester school district looks to shrink special education enrollment The Rochester City School District is aiming to reduce its special education classification rate, saying many of those students could receive intervention services in a less onerous way. One in five Rochester children is classified as special education, a rate that stands out in Monroe County but not among similar districts statewide. Buffalo and New York City have higher classification rates, and Syracuse is equal to Rochester at 20 percent. … Rochester Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams did not name a target rate, but said the district has relied too heavily on special education classification to get students basic support like more reading instruction. "If you have a system that requires students to be classified to get that support, you'll create the need for unnecessary classification," she said. "If someone refers (a student) for classification, I want to know: Are you doing that because you need more information on how (the student) learns to read or do math? Or are you just trying to get the student placed (in special education)?"... Any explicit attempt to reduce special education enrollment, though, can be freighted with practical and political risk. It is hard to know the "true" level of disability needs among a given student body, but there are certainly some children in Rochester who require services yet don't receive them. … Special education rates in Rochester are not just high, but increasing. Initial referrals for special education placement have risen 72 percent since 2013-14, a time of declining district enrollment; placements have more than doubled.

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