OUR AGENDA FOR CHANGE
Inclusion in policy decisions.
Create a system to ensure that all students, including students with special needs, are considered in all decisions involving education policy and budget.
Physical access to all schools and programs.
- Provide equal access to school sites, programs, and information for students with special needs and their families.
- Ensure that students with special needs have the same access to school choice and school options as their peers.
- Re-commit to supporting a full range of programs and services along the Continuum of Special Education Services, including a diversity of models for inclusion.
- Provide full access for families of students with special needs to visit and obtain information about schools and programs.
Clear and specific lines of accountability and supervision.
- Institute transparent and effective lines of accountability to protect the rights of students and families of students with special needs at every level.
- Designate and train an individual within each school, who reports to the principal, to be responsible for ensuring that (i) students with disabilities receive the services and accommodations to which they are entitled, and (ii) school staff is competent to deal appropriately with sensitive issues involving both students and parents.
- Restore a clear chain of command between school principals and the Chancellor to ensure appropriate delivery of supports and services to students with disabilities and to further the likelihood of resolution of differences without requiring families to take their concerns to impartial hearings.
Meaningful investment in promising practices.
Invest in a system-wide commitment to innovation and implementation of creative academic and educational programs to improve the progress of students with special needs. Support and replicate programs that work.
Access to resources and support.
- Increase access to resources and support for students, families, educators, and all other school personnel working with students with special needs.
- Increase and improve professional development with an emphasis on ongoing coaching and support for classroom teachers.
- Provide teachers and other school personnel with incentives to take continuing education courses in disability awareness and history.
- Release a standard operating procedure manual so interested parties utilize consistent policies and procedures.
- Address much-needed resources to English Language Learners with special needs.
- Increase significantly the provision of assistive and adaptive technology through greater access to quality testing and improved implementation.
- Create a working group of parents, advocates, educators, and outside specialists to work with the DOE to address systemic issues regarding the provision of assistive and adaptive technology services in the schools.
Information on rights and options prior to IEP meetings.
- Provide more information for parents of students with special needs regarding their children’s individual progress and the options that should be available to them.
- As required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), report a student’s meaningful progress toward meeting Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals with each report card.
- Provide to families information in advance of an IEP meeting concerning the rights of the parents and students, and supply copies of any new evaluations or anecdotal information expected to be relied upon at the meeting.
Meaningful resources for guidance during transitions.
- Improve and expand guidance and planning at each school, and across each school level, to assure that students with special needs have genuine access to the full range of opportunities and receive the services to which they are entitled in order to progress.
- Coordinate service delivery across government agencies resulting in a reduction of barriers to families and students with special needs.
- Assign an individual at each school specific responsibility, supported by on-going professional development, for planning for all critical transitions of students with special needs. Critical points of transition include the move from preschool to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to post-secondary life, as well as from more to less restrictive classroom settings.
- Designate a guidance counselor at each middle school dedicated to work with students receiving special education services and assist with transitions to high school.
Centralized oversight mechanism.
- Develop a system-wide monitoring and oversight structure that is accessible to families.
- Create a system-wide Ombudsman’s office, outside of the DOE’s purview, to conduct independent research and reporting, as well as to address parental concerns about their children’s special education supports and services.
- In the alternative, make the DOE’s special education call center and Office of Special Education Initiatives directly and meaningfully available to parents with concerns by publishing the phone numbers for these offices and by improving training of 311 operators to assure that they consistently refer parents to the trained personnel at the call center rather than give substantive information directly to callers.
Public dissemination of all data on service delivery and outcomes.
- Make data regarding special education service delivery and outcomes significantly more transparent.
- Publicly disclose on an ongoing basis meaningful data showing the extent of system-wide compliance with timelines for provision of programs and services and the distribution of students receiving special education services along the continuum from least restrictive to most restrictive environments.
- Upon publication of test scores, graduation rates, and other performance data, publicly disclose results disaggregated by disability and classroom setting.