Parents and advocates may soon have a lot more information about how the city delivers special-education services.
The City Council’s education committee passed a bill Tuesday that would require the Department of Education to release annual reports detailing what percentage of students are getting the special-education services they require. The full Council is expected to approve the bill this week, chair Daniel Dromm said.
The reports, which would include city wide and district-level data, would show how long students wait to be evaluated, and then receive, special-education services; the percentage of students “in full compliance” and “in partial compliance” with their individualized learning plans;and a breakdown of those statistics by students’ race, gender, English language learner status, grade, and free or reduced-price lunch status.
The bill, first introduced in October, is meant to “shine a light on the services being provided and get some accountability in hopes we can have a broader further conversations about special education,” Dromm said.
The bill has the support of the Department of Education. The department has been expanding special education reforms meant to decrease the number of students kept separate from their general-education peers for close to five years, but the conversation around the changes has not being coupled with much available data, a point of contention for advocates of special needs students.
Last fall, Chalkbeat reported on wide disparities in the delivery of “related services,” a type of special-education support that includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, and help for sight or hearing problems.
For example, 19 percent of students in Jamaica, Queens had not received the services they required. In portions of the South Bronx, 10 percent of students hadn’t been provided their required services. However, in the city’s five wealthiest zip codes, just 1.5 percent of the students requiring special education services, went unserved.
Special education advocates contend the annual reporting could provide needed context on how the department can improve its assessment and implementation of services for special education students.
“We want to find out what the sticky points are in the process. Where are kids not getting services and where are they getting the wrong services?” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children New York. “If the [department] is required to share this information publicly then anyone can draw their own conclusions, they can draw their own advocacy points.”
The city’s first report would be released on Feb. 29, 2016 and include details on the delivery of special education services for the 2014-15 school year. Subsequent reports would be released annually on Nov. 1.