The Sad State of Special Education in New York


Well-Known Member
75 School Districts Identified for Low Performance Among Students with Disabilities
The State Education Department has identified 75 school districts as “In Need of Assistance or Intervention” because of low performance among students with disabilities, Commissioner Richard Mills announced today.

This action is part of the Board of Regents initiative to close the achievement gap. It is also required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Many districts identified, which include the Big Five cities, have graduation rates below 35 percent and dropout rates above 20 percent among students with disabilities. Many districts also had low performance in one or more of the 4th and 8 grade English and math tests and failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress in 2004-05. Districts with 30 or more special education students in the cohort were identified.

Districts “In Need of Assistance” will go through a review of instructional practices to ensure they are using proven, research-based methods and/or professional development. They will get help from special education experts funded by the State Education Department. Districts “In Need of Intervention” may also be required to redirect their federal IDEA funds, which totals $700 million statewide.

“Students with disabilities can and do succeed in many schools throughout the State,” Commissioner Mills said. “But in other schools their performance is very low. The Regents are putting the spotlight on this problem and requiring major improvements. All schools can and must help these students to achieve the standards.”

The U.S. Department of Education will also soon identify states as “In Need of Assistance or Intervention” under IDEA. States and school districts that fail to make progress can ultimately face federal intervention or lose federal funding.

New York State has 410,000 students with disabilities, about 12 percent of the total public school student population. About 225,000 or 55 percent of students with disabilities are in the 75 districts that are being identified today.

The statewide graduation rate for students with disabilities is only 37 percent; the dropout rate is 19 percent. New York has set a goal of 80 percent graduation, with a target for improvement from the current 37 percent to 52 percent by 2011.

All of New York City’s 32 geographic districts are identified, as well as the alternative high school district.

The State Education Department will provide identified districts with assistance from special education experts funded through IDEA and located regionally throughout the State.

The attached chart and slides provide additional information.




Thanks dreamer.

This is an excerpt from your link.

Low Graduation Rates for Students With Disabilities

According to data reported by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), graduation rates for students with disabilities are just over 32%. Another 11% no longer identified as needing special education services which means that they became fully mainstreamed students without an Individualized Educational Plan (LEP). Even if all of those students who were no longer listed as having a disability earned regular diplomas, that would still mean that only 43% of students identified as in need of special services earn a high school diploma. Six states (Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida) graduate under 25% of students with special needs. Yet, despite these deeply alarming figures, there is little to no publicly reported data on graduation rates for this subgroup at the district level.

Re push-outs:

Woven throughout this report are narratives about students from a sampling of states—Alabama, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Mississippi—who have either dropped or felt "pushed" out of school (some are in the 15 state review). Several of these stories illustrate the "dark side" of high stakes testing policies. Many of these students and their families express shock and dismay when they are told they will not be allowed to return to school or to graduate because of their poor test performance. Some were conscientious and hard-working, had done well in their classes and had made plans to pursue post-secondary education. Others had experienced severe problems outside of school, but still expressed interest in continuing their education. Yet, they found themselves stranded in an educational no-man's land with few options or advocates. Collectively, these stories suggest that there may be "perverse incentives" in many states to push low-performing students out the back door. If true, without more powerful incentives for schools to "hold onto" students through graduation, the "push-out syndrome" is likely to grow more severe.

Discouraging. As parents we sometimes have to face the realization that not all students have the ability to learn, but as a Nation, I think we can do a better job than allowing 57% of IEP students to drop out of school. Disgraceful.


New Member
A sad state indeed. Pennsylvania is no different. The latest recommendation for our difficult child, despite his desire to go on to post-secondary ed., his almost perfect attendance, and obvious willingness to learn, is vo-tech "because he seems to like to work with his hands". Excuse me??!! He also likes Social Studies, Science etc. but because his is only marginally successful with the academics, he just doesn't meet their expectations as a college bound student. We have refused their suggestion and he will continue regular ed. until graduation, unless our legislature decides to make the PSSA a high stakes test.



With advocacy one can almost always keep an IEP student in school. (Granted, you have to know how--that's why we're here!)

The same cannot be said for a regular ed "push out." There is NO protection.

Back to my soap box that our kids need IEP protection BEFORE they get to middle school. That is the exclusive reason I made sure my son was IEP qualified in 6th grade. He never attended a "Special Education class" in public school. He also graduated from high school-- a private high school that met his musical, not emotional, needs, but that was our choice. If I had wanted him in public school, he would have been there. It is VERY difficult to get rid of a kid who has an IEP if the parent knows how to keep him in school and the kid will go.

Obviously based on graduation rates, either parents do not want their kids in school (odds on that chance??) or they do not know how to keep their children in school. Also, with older kids, they, themselves, may not want to stay. In some cases, this is not the SD's "fault." In others, the SD made the school a very unwelcoming place where a 17 or 18 year old difficult child does not "want" to be.

In any event, kids who need school the most are being tossed out.



Well-Known Member
Staff member
While I realize that there are schools that are not meeting the needs of special education students, let me tell you the other side. Statistics are not always what they seem.

The high school I teach at is a high-performing school by any measure. We are on Newsweek's top 1000 high school list, score well above the national SAT average, and send students to Ivy League schools every year.

And yet, we were a school on NCLB's needs improvement list for two years for not making AYP. The reason? We are a host school for a class of severely disabled students. These students will never walk, talk, or be able to live independently, never mind hold down a job. However, these students are counted toward our AYP. Although they do not have to take state mandated tests, they do have a checklist of goals. Our teachers rated the progress honestly and because some students did not receive enough checks, our school was rated as needing improvement.

NCLB is clearly at odds with IDEA and my professor in a recent class predicted that would be the very thing that brings down NCLB. It can't happen soon enough as far as I am concerned.



In that the ultimate goals of NCLB and IDEA are to appropriately educate our children, I do not agree that NCLB and IDEA are at odds.

in my opinion, NCLB is the result of too many schools not doing their jobs as it pertains to educating numerous students.

A perfect example is my son and his reading comprehension problem -- and there are thousands out there with a weakness or disability that hasn't been appropriately address.

But, it doesn't do much good to be able to "read" if you can't comprehend what you've read. The school fought tooth and nail against giving him the services he needed because he was "making A's and B's." I was told I was "an overly concerned mother." It was no, no, and no! to help.

When he failed the reading accountability testing in 3rd grade, the principal advised "we were shocked." It was a contrived reaction. (Over a 2 yr period there had had many meetings about it with-principal, asst. principal, counselor, teachers, diagnosticians and Special Education directors.) My response was, "Why would would anybody be "shocked?""

difficult child didn't get the help he needed until he failed the accountability/NCLB testing. The fact is is that difficult child's struggles didn't matter until it impacted someone besides difficult child and us. We lost 2 very valuable years in intervention and services. I'm very pro NCLB.

With that said, there are indeed children that just can't learn. As with so many other laws, we tend to go from one extreme to the other. In these severe disability cases, there should be a different variable to measure AYP.

An interesting aside: difficult child's 5th grade Language Arts teacher said they just couldn't understand why so many kids were reaching the 5th grade and still couldn't read. I didn't want to offend her, so I refrained from telling her that unaddressed problems in lower grades were just being passed on to teachers in higher grades because teachers and counselors in elementary school were not advocating for their students. (In our case, they were just following the mandate of campus and district level administration.)
We are a host school for a class of severely disabled student

What is a host school?

In that the number of students in severe disability type classes is usually very small compared to regular classroom sizes, it's amazing that one classroom would have such a profound impact on the school's AYP. How many students are in the classroom? What's the average number of students on campus?


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Instead of having just one or two students at each school, they are grouped into a class or two at one of the schools in the school district.

A school can fail to meet AYP if even one subgroup fails to meet the AYP standards.

Here is an interview that I took part in as a requirement for my recent class. I think that the Special Education teacher explains it better than I can. This teacher teaches a small class of autistic students at a neighboring high school.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Question: What do you think are the most pressing legal and ethical issues confronting public schools in today’s society?

Answer: I believe the most pressing legal issue in education right now is the No Child Left Behind Act. I believe that the core goals of the act are good, but there are serious flaws in the law and the implementation that must be fixed. The problems include: AYP; Assessment of students with disabilities; Highly Qualified teachers; and funding for NCLB.

Question: What changes would you like to see in the law? Do you think special education students shouldn't even be counted in AYP?

Answer: I would like to see NCLB amended; this would allow the IEP team to once again be responsible for determining how the students with disabilities are assessed. This would be in alignment with IDEA, rather than having NCLB and IDEA work against each other. (I wonder which law/act would supersede each other in a court of law!) Under IDEA, the IEP team members work directly with the student and therefore are best able to determine the manner in which the student should participate in state assessments. If the IEP team recommends an out of level assessment, that assessment should count for AYP participation and proficiency purposes. States should be required, as they already are under IDEA, to establish clean eligibility
criteria for IEP teams to use in determining how students with disabilities participate in state assessments, including alternate and out of level assessments. Districts should be required to train IEP team member in how to apply the criteria. Yes, I think special education students should be counted, however, the progress that these students make, should reflect the progress from their goals and objectives. I think we should teach up and have high expectations, but they should also be realistic.



I think both of you are right:

Once again there are problems because IDEA is the same for all disability levels--been that way since 1975, and is unlikely to change. I think NCLB is appropriate in holding SDs accountable for mildly disabled students' performance.

I think the situation Kathy described is nuts--and happens a lot.

Finally, I think NCLB is awful because as I said in my original post on this thread, NCLB is feeding the "push-out" of "at-risk" (but not IEP qualified, so they have no priotection) students AND mildly disabled students, too. This feeds the "school to prison pipeline."

I hope that a new administration will take a hard look at the "unintended consequences" of NCLB.



Well-Known Member
Staff member
You are right, Martie, situations like I described are common. Here's another one. A neighboring high school, another very high-performing school, got on the needs improvement list because of missing the 95% participation in the Georgia High School graduation test in <u>one</u> small subgroup.

All high schools in Georgia are required to meet the AYP benchmark of 95% participation rate on the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) in all subgroups.

It didn't matter that the other students in the school (as well as the other students in the subgroup) scored at the top in all four subjects that are tested on the GHSGT.

So now administrators in my district are literally knocking on doors trying to get kids to show up on the testing days (which in my opinion is the parents job, not ours).



Martie: I agree that NCLB is feeding the “push-out.” But as I’ve opined before, until there is some individual criminal consequences for SEA and school district administrators who intentionally circumvent the law, these type actions are not likely to change whether it’s IDEA, NCLB or XYZ related.

Kathy: Thanks for the clarification. When I read host, I interpreted the students were being considered guests.

I don’t know exactly how AYP is applied. I do recall that within the last +/- 2 yrs, the percentage of Special Education students that were being opted out of the standard accountability testing was lowered. This was done because Districts were strongly steering sd IEP committee members to push it to help hold the line on the budget.

The alternative testing percentage change may have been a Texas issue rather than a national issue – I don’t know because I don’t follow those type issues within NCLB closely.

A grave problem with educational laws is that they are never appropriately funded. They will never be appropriately funded unless voters demand it. Lack of funding causes all types of problems including putting a lot of pressure on teachers for things that are beyond their control, e.g., lack of adequately trained support staff, too high student/teacher ratios, etc.

I interpret the last paragraph of the Special Education teacher’s comments to ultimately say she wants things the way they were prior to NCLB coming on-line, e.g., with IDEA controlling and progress measured from IEP goals and objectives. As long as IDEA is fully implemented and enforced, that’s not a bad thing in my opinion.

The reality is, however, that IDEA has never has been fully funded, implemented or enforced. IEP goals and objectives are too often so vague as to be worthless.

As a parent, one of the things I like most about NCLB is that in Texas the testing is directly tied to defined Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills by grade. (See for an example) If a student doesn't pass the accountability testing, it should flag a parent that their child is not on grade`level and intervention is needed.

Because educating children is so important to me personally, and on this board we deal mostly with parents trying to keep their kids in school, it’s hard to fathom there are so many irresponsible parents out there. Truancy law in Texas is pretty strong. But one thing is for certain – a teacher can’t teach a student that’s not available. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when sd personnel have to go door-to-door trying to get kids to go to school.