Special Education

Program Review

Mamaroneck Union Free School District

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Prepared by: Dr. Janet Derby & Joseph Fenaughty
 Special Education Consultants
 
Education & Management Services Inc.  P.O. Box 333 Palenville, New York 12463
 
February 6, 2008

 

 

                        Table of Contents                                                                              Page

Introduction and Methodology ……………………………………………….            1

History and Demographics ……………………………………………………           3

National/State Statistics ………………………………………………………          8          

School District Enrollment Data ………………………………………………            10

Student with Disabilities Population …………………………………………  13

District Operated Programs …………………………………………………..           14

Inclusion ……………………………………………………………………….         19

Staff and Student Ratio ……………………………………………………….           22

Program Observations ………………………………………………………..           23

Continuum of Services ……………………………………………………….            24

Related Services ………………………………………………………………          26

Out of District Placements ……………………………………………………            31

IEP Audits/Student Records Review, and CSE timelines………………………            34

Central Administration …………………………………………………………         37

New York State Assessment Data ……………………………………………..         39

English Language Learners, Math, Literacy ………………………………….  44

Recommendations for Staff Development …………………………………… 49

Diversity and Effective Use of Data …………………………………………. 51

Response to Intervention and Pre-Referral Process …………………………. 55

Accountability vs. Growth Models ………………………………………….. 58

Accommodating SWD in the Foreign Language Curriculum ……………….     60

Instructing ELLs, SWD, and the Disadvantaged …………………………….  62

Results of Meetings and Surveys ……………………………………………. 65

Program Costs ………………………………………………………………..         69

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

In October 2007 the Board of Education in the Mamaroneck Union Free School District (UFSD) contracted with Educational & Management Services Inc. (EMS) to conduct a study of the district’s K-12 special education program. The study included the following components:

 

·        Quantitative Review

·        Survey of Stakeholders

·        Continuum of Services and Least Restrictive Environment

·        Placements in Out-of-District Programs

·        Review of Delivery Models

·        CSE Procedures and Timelines

·        Data Collection and Assessment

·        Performance Indicators

·        Program Costs

·        IEP Audits

 

Methodology

 

      During November and December 2007, two consultants from EMS visited district K-12 programs, interviewed instructional, related services and support staff. The consultants also met with building principals and assistant principals, the two Directors of Special Education, the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, and the Superintendent.  A telephone interview was conducted with the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.  Additionally, the consultants requested, analyzed and/or reviewed many documents, reports and policies related to students with disabilities. These included:

 

·        Special education policies and administrative practices and procedures

·        Pre-referral intervention procedures and strategies

·        Criteria for classification and eligibility for special education services

·        District registration for students with disabilities

·        Procedures used to assess program effectiveness

·        Continuum of services available, class lists and staff assignments

·        Staff development plans for the last three school years

·        Special Education expenditures for the last three school years and the budget for the current school year.

·        Policy on Academic Intervention Services

·        Written procedures for child study teams

·        Section 504 policies and procedures

·        Referral Patterns in each school building

·        Data on students in out of district placements

·        Assessment Data for all groups of students

 

    

It should be noted that the following documents and/or written procedures were requested, but were not available at the time of the review:

 

·        Procedures, reports, documents used to assess program effectiveness

·        Program development initiatives over the last three school years

·        District wide pre-referral intervention strategies and procedures

 

 

State reports on enrollment, least restrictive environment and exiting information on students with disabilities, PD-1/4 and 5, respectively were also analyzed.

 

School District Description

 

Mamaroneck UFSD is located in Westchester County, and is the largest non-city school district in the county. The district utilizes services from the Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), but is not a component member. Public school enrollment for the 2006-07 school year, as reported to SED on the BEDS Report was 4,918 students (excluding Pre-K). Data from the PD-1/4 Report of Number of Students with Disabilities indicated that the number of special education students for the same school year was 662.  The percentage of students with disabilities in relation to total school enrollment was 13.4%.  This percentage is above average for New York State.

 

The number of staff in the special education department during the current school year [2007-08] includes:

 

     1    Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services

     2    Directors of Special Education (Pre-K- grade 5, Grades 6 -12)

     8    School Psychologists

    3.6  School Social Worker

   11    Speech Therapists

   48.5 Special Education Teachers

   45    Teacher Assistants

   62   Teacher Aides

 

The district operates four elementary schools (grades K-5): Central, Chatsworth, Mamaroneck Avenue [MAS] and Murray; one middle school (grades 6-8) Hommocks; and, one high School (grades 9-12).  The district operated preschool program is also located at the Mamaroneck Avenue School [MAS].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORY AND DEMOGRAPHICS

 

The First Residents of Mamaroneck

 

The Wappinger [meaning ‘East of the River’ or ‘Opossum’] Indians

who were Algonguin speaking, consisted of seven autonomous tribes or nations, at the time the first Europeans appeared in what is now known as Mamaroneck. These tribes were the Kitchawant, Nochpeem, Sintsink, Tankiteke, Wapping, Wecquaesgeek, and the Siwanoy. They were located on the East side of the Hudson River between the Bronx and Rhinebeck extending east to the crest of the Taconic Mountains on the border between New York and Connecticut. In 1600, the Wappinger probably numbered about 8,000 -13,000 in 30 different villages. It took a major conflict with the Dutch [Governor Kieft’s War 1643-45] to unite these nations under a single chief. These people were agricultural; and, were also expert fishermen and hunters of local game. They also knew how to grow tobacco and make maple syrup. They traveled the Hudson River in dug out canoes.

 

The Wappinger tribes suffered great casualties at the hands of the first European settlers-the Dutch, and then the English; and, from the Mahicans. They also suffered casualties from Smallpox epidemics [1633-35; 1692] and alcohol abuse. The remaining Wappinger fought for the Americans during the Revolutionary War and nearly half of them were killed. They fought at Bunker Hill, White Plains, Saratoga, and Barren Hill. They were with General George Washington at Valley Forge, and later served with Lafayette’s troops. In the 19th century, those that were left moved out of the area- some moving to Wisconsin. The Ramapo Mountain people in northern New Jersey may be descendents of the Wappinger of long ago.

 

Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s ship, the ‘Half-Moon’, provided an account of the Wappinger in his journal dated September 4th and 5th, 1609:

 

            This day the people of the country came aboard of us, seemingly very

            glad of our coming, and brought green tobacco, and gave us of it for

            knives and beads. They go in deer skins loose, well dressed. They have

            yellow copper. They desire clothes, and are very civil. They have great

            store of maize or Indian wheat whereof they make good bread. The

            country is full of great and tall oaks. This day [5th] many of the people

            came aboard, some in mantle feathers, and some in skins of diverse

            sorts of good furs. Some women also came to us with hemp. They had

            red copper tobacco pipes and other things of copper they did wear

            about their necks. At night they went on land again, so we rode very

            quiet, but durst not trust them

 

 

The Siwanoy of this area harvested clams and hunted wildlife. Women built the wigwams that housed 10-12 people who all worked ‘together’. It was in working together that they built community; and, used the natural resources around them for sustenance. The early pilgrims even fashioned their first homes on the design of the Indian longhouse. It was only later that they reverted to the styles they were accustomed to in Europe.

 

As with other tribes or nations, the Wappinger had an elaborate support system for their sick and aged, which was practiced with great compassion. They also fasted and spent time in intense prayer.

 

The sense of the interrelationship of all of creation, of all two-legged,

            four-legged, winged, and other moving things [from the fish and rivers,

            to rocks, trees and mountains] may be the most important contribution

            Indian peoples have made to the science and spirituality of the modern

            world.   –George E. Tinker, Osage

 

           

The Europeans Dominate

 

There are at least four variations of the meaning of ‘Mamaroneck’. One is ‘Gathering Place’; a second is ‘where the fresh waters fall into the salt’; a third is ‘the place where the sweet waters fall into the sea’; and, a fourth is ‘the place where he calls them together’. There is a common theme to all four of these variations. Mamaroneck is a place where distinct entities come together. These early people recognized the need for connecting with one another socially, economically, and politically. They realized that interdependence leads to prosperity for all. They learned that each separate entity had something to contribute to the whole; and, that the sum of the entities was greater than the whole.

 

            Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within

            it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound

            together.  All things connect.   –Chief Seattle, 1854

 

The Siwanoy tribe inhabited the area known as Mamaroneck before the Dutch and then the English came to settle in the 17th Century, making Mamaroneck one of the oldest settlements in Westchester County. On September 23, 1661, Englishman, John Richbell traded everyday common items with two Siwanoy Chiefs for all the land that is known as Mamaroneck – the ‘gathering place’. The first recorded meeting of the Freeholders of Mamaroneck took place on April 2, 1697 [as recorded in the Town Minute book]. There were about 77 settlers here then, comprised of from very distinct groups, bringing their own distinct cultural traditions. They were engaged in farming, fishing, milling, and lumbering. All worked ‘together’ helping one another, as they built a community that was ‘steady and healthful’ [William G. Fulcher].

 

Samuel Palmer, a Quaker, whose house stood on the spot where the Larchmont Public Library stands, was the first supervisor in 1697. Caleb Heathcote  [pronounced Hethcut], an Anglican, served in the Westchester Militia, and owned land that included the towns of Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, parts of White Plains, North Castle, and New Castle. He was Mayor of New York City in 1711. Heathcote was highly regarded by the early settlers because he was very involved with promoting economic development for all inhabitants and was attentive to the welfare of all. Heathcote helped to establish the first private school in Mamaroneck in 1704 and one of his daughters [Ann] was the wife of Lieutenant Governor James DeLancey.

 

Colonial Times

 

From 1776-1782 the Town of Mamaroneck was divided between those loyal to the Crown and those loyal to the Continental Congress. In addition, a number of Quaker families remained neutral. During this time, James Mott [husband of Lucretia Coffin Mott], Gr. Gr. Grandson of John Richbell and a well-known abolitionist, purchased a grist mill at the mouth of the Premium River. His ‘Premium Flour’ became known world-wide. This couple’s house, known as ‘Mill House’ was located at 4 Pryer Manor Road. On March 7, 1788, the New York State Legislature created the Town of Mamaroneck that was divided into three parts: 1) the Village of Larchmont; 2) part of the Village of Mamaroneck and the town of Rye which were incorporated as the Village of Mamaroneck; and, 3) an unincorporated area. The Town Schoolhouse opened in 1808.

 

The First United States Census was taken in 1790. At that time, there were about 15 families who owned slaves in the town. The Quakers had freed their slaves by 1779 and they provided payment for past services and education for the children of the former slaves. New York State finally abolished slavery on July 4, 1827.

 

In 1789, John Peter DeLancey inherited the Heathcote estates and on January 1, 1811, one of his daughters, Susan Augusta, married James Fenimore Cooper. John Peter was Town Supervisor twice. His son, William, became the first Bishop of Western New York. The DeLancey home, moved from its original site, is now a restaurant called ‘By the Bay’. Bishop William’s wife was Francis Munro whose paternal grandmother was the sister of Chief Justice John Jay [the Jay homestead was in Rye]. Francis’ father, Peter Jay Munro, was a lawyer in Aaron Burr’s firm. Peter Jay built a home at 18 Elm Avenue in Larchmont. The three early families, highlighted in this brief history, remain united today as one either travels throughout the town or looks at a map, as streets named for them are all in close proximity. [The Munro property was sold at auction in 1845 to Edward Knight Collins, who renamed the estate Larchmont [ Larch-after trees that grow in Scotland; and, mont- meaning hill or mountain].

 

The 19th Century

 

Until 1848, travel to New York City was by stagecoach, or as weather permitted, steamboats. The railroad modernized travel and helped transform Westchester from agricultural land to residential suburbia by the 1900s. In 1853, the Chatsworth Land Company was formed by the partnership of Davids, Jackson, and Burnett. [Chatsworth was the name of the country estate of Queen Victoria’s brother, the Duke of Devonshire.]Weaver Street, one of the oldest American highways, may have received its name from the French Huguenots of New Rochelle. They were skilled in weaving wool, silk and linen. Historians believe that the Huguenots sold their goods along the route that is today, Weaver Street. In 1889, Charles Murray formed the Larchmont Water Company and laid water pipes along present day Murray Avenue. He was also involved with banking and the stock exchange.

 

The 20th Century

 

Italian immigrants, represented in about 120 families, arrived in Mamaroneck between 1900 and 1904. The men made up most of the construction crews in the town and were paid about 75 cents a day. These families resided in unheated, wood-framed dwellings that were covered with tarpaper. The area where they lived in community was known as ‘Shanty Town’ or ‘Squatter Town’. Each family paid about $1 per year for rent. The property was owned by Jack Burnett, grandson of James, who was an original partner in the Chatsworth Land Company of 1853. The immigrant families used coal stoves, planted vegetable gardens, built fences from twigs or sticks, and had small chicken coops. The women washed clothing on rocks by a stream and in the winter had to break through the ice to get at the water. Ashes from coal stoves were used as a bleach to whiten clothes.

 

In the early 1900s, the village of Larchmont grew from a summer colony to a year-round residential community. In 1915 there were 2,069 people [according to the NYS Census] residing in Larchmont. [Incidentally, from 1902 to 1913, Chatsworth Avenue School was called Larchmont.] The population was widely diverse in socio-economic-status (SES), political sympathies, religion, and ethnic backgrounds. There were working class, middle, upper-middle, and upper-upper-middle, as well as upper-class groups of people. According to historians, the population was very transient. Of the 147 surnames in the 1891 village census and tax rolls, only 34 remained in the Federal Census of 1900. This trend continued well into the 20th Century. The village was a revolving door of faces.

 

By 1930, the population of Larchmont exceeded 5,000 individuals [up from 945 in the 1900 Federal Census]. In 1955, the only Black family living in the village was threatened with eviction [at 2028 Palmer Avenue]. The house was a small ramshackle structure that was declared unsafe for occupancy. The tenants, a mother [who had just lost her husband] and ten children, were unable to find affordable housing elsewhere. Volunteers came to their rescue with monetary contributions, materials, and labor that put the house back into a livable condition. The house at 2028 Palmer Avenue became a ‘gathering place’. Thereafter, the children continued to integrate Chatsworth School, where the PTA helped the family to continue to remain in the home.

 

The economy of the Town of Mamaroneck has, at one time or another, depended on farming, iron founding, lumbering, fishing, flour mills, an ice business, a water supply company, weavers, sawmills, cider mills, candy and comb manufacturing, shepherding [Goat Hill], water transportation, trading, real estate, merchants, manufacturing, services [shops, restaurants, shipping], and recreation [hunting, fishing, beaches, parks, picnicking, and the performing arts].

 

[Sources: Mamaroneck Town: A History of the “Gathering Place 1661-1997, by

Paula B. Lippsett, MD, 1997 and Larchmont: Official Centennial Edition, 1991 Village of Larchmont, NY, Cohber Press, Inc. Rochester, New York]

 

The 21st Century

 

The Town: According to the 2000 United States Federal Census, the total population of the Town of Mamaroneck was 28,967. The median age was 38.8 and there were 7,553 children under the age of 18. A total of 10.9% of the population was Hispanic or Latino; 2.8% were Black or African American; 0.3% American Indian and Alaskan Native; 3.5% Asian; 0.1% Pacific Islander; .4% other; and 82.0% white. A total of 36.9% of the 10,929 households had children under 18 years of age. The average family size was 3.15. The school population for enrolled children 3 years and over was 7,429. Numerous ancestries were reported by the white population. The top seven were: Italian 19.6%; Irish 14.6%; German 9.6%; Russian 7.2%; English 6.6%; Polish 5.2%; and, French 4.6%.

 

Major reported businesses and industries were: education, health and social services 22.6%; professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services 17.3%; finance, insurance, real estate, rentals and leasing 14%; retail trade 8.9%; transportation, warehousing, and utilities information 7.9%; recreation, accommodation and food services 4.8%.

 

The School District: The chart below details the Mamaroneck Union Free School District demographic information as reported by the District in October 2007 for the New York State Education Department’s Basic Educational Data System [BEDS].

 

1a. Mamaroneck District Wide K-12 Data as of October 2007 as Reported to SED

Bldg./Staff

Enr

Black

 

Asian/PI

Hispanic

Latino

White

Multi

Racial

F/R

Lunch

Library

Books

Non

Books

Murray

FTE-57

708

7-1%

16-2.3%

14-2%

659-93%

12-1.7%

3-.4%

21,000

200

Chatsworth

FTE-47

620

10-2%

19-3%

41-6%

550-89%

0

6-1.9%

24,933

871

Mam. Ave.

FTE-61

522

26-5.0%

31-5.9%

237-45%

227-43.5%

1-.2%

177-33.9%

12,349

352

 

Central

FTE-45

477

24-5%

36-8%

82-17%

335-70%

0

36-7.5%

14,300

45

Hommocks

MS

FTE 103

1,115

37-3%

51-5%

171-15%

856-77%

0

48-4.3%

19,000

240

Mam. HS

FTE-119

1,468

48-3%

44-3%

236-16%

1,140-78%

0

65-4.4%

25,936

80

Totals

[FTE-432]

4,910

152-3.1%

197-

4.0%

781

15.9%

3767

76.7%

13-.3%

335-6.8%

 

 

 *The total for minority students equals 1,143 or 23.3% of the total K-12 student enrollment. The Hispanic/Latino student population is 68.2% of the total minority population.

 

Note: The percentages of each minority population in the District’s data for the start of school year 2007-08 are higher than the Town’s data reflected in the 2000 US Federal Census, while the percentage of the white population is lower. The greatest increase is in the Hispanic or Latino population.

 

Mamaroneck continues to be a ‘gathering place’ for peoples of different ethnic origins and cultures. How do our contemporary global cultural needs compare with those of earlier centuries? How does the history of Mamaroneck strengthen us for the present challenges? How are we being moved as a community that is the ‘gathering place’? The school community typically reflects the greater community. It is a place for people to connect with one another. The school experience determines how well the ‘thread of humankind will be woven into a single web’. It determines how well each of the different units, regardless of ethnicity, language, race, color, or religion will be equipped to participate socially, politically, and economically on local, national, and global levels. If each of the units is well equipped, the community, on micro and macro levels, will continue to thrive in this ‘gathering place’ and beyond; and, the great spirit of past generations will be with us!

 

National Statistics

 

In the last two decades, the population of English Language Learners [ELLs] has grown 16%, whereas the general population has grown only 12%. English Language Learners represent the fastest growing segment of the school age population. Over all, in our country, 5.5% of the school population speaks a language other than English at home, and speaks English elsewhere with difficulty. [Estimates place the total ELL population at close to 10 million.] A recent Associated Press review of birth numbers dating to 1909 found the total number of U.S. births was the highest in 2006 [4.3 million] since 1961. Total births jumped 3 percent, the largest single year increase since 1989. Hispanics, as a group, have higher fertility rates [about 40% higher] than the U.S. overall, accounting for just about one quarter of all new births. The fertility rate among Hispanics is 3 children per woman [average is 2.1 for the U.S. as a whole]. For the first time, Hispanics accounted for more than 1 million births. The fertility rates were also up for Blacks- to 2.1 and nearly 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites. Adolescent childbearing was also up for the first time in 15 years. The birth rate for American teenagers rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-19 year old girls, after dropping 34 percent between 1991 and 2005 [National Center for Health Statistics]. The greatest increase was among Black teens followed by white and then Hispanic teens.

 

The 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education indicated that of the 41.2% of teachers who taught ELLS, only 12.5% had had eight or more hours of training to do so from 1997-2000. In 2006, 5.5 million Limited English Proficient [LEP] students attended public schools, and represented a total of 440 different spoken languages. Through Title I, Title III, and the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB], more than $13 Billion a year is provided for LEP and/ or ELL students to acquire English and to meet with success academically. Spanish is the language that is spoken by 70% of ELLs.  By 2015, it is estimated that 30% of the U.S. school-aged population will be ELLs.

 

In 2005, a total of 7% of 4th grade designated ELLs scored at or above the proficient level compared with 32% of native speakers in Reading Comprehension [4% of 8th grade ELLs compared to 30% of native speakers.] In the same year, 36% of all 4th graders scored at or above the proficiency level in mathematics, compared to only 11% of the ELL population. [It is interesting to note that while 24,000 Americans study Chinese, 200 million Chinese students study English!] The state of California is home to the most numbers of immigrants to the United States [27%], while New York State is second with 11%. However, New York State has the biggest gap between the rich and poor, out of all 50 states!

 

New York State Statistics

 

New York State is becoming increasingly diverse and globally connected. Immigrants make up 21% of the NYS population. Immigrants added $229 Billion to the New York State [NYS] economy in 2006, representing 22.4% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP].Their contribution to economic output is about the same as their share of the population. Immigrants start their own businesses [the number of Hispanic and Asian owned businesses is growing rapidly], invest in NYS, and work in jobs across the economic spectrum-the same as other New Yorkers. They tend to work longer hours than their U.S. born counterparts [39.8 hours compared to 38 hours per week].  About two-thirds of immigrants in the upstate and downstate suburbs own their own homes. Latinos have been moving into homes at a faster rate than Caucasians or African-Americans. Over one-third of all children growing up in NYS are part of an immigrant family [where at least one adult is foreign born]. About 8% of these children in immigrant families are in upstate NY; 31% are in the downstate suburbs; and, 57% are in New York City. These families are woven into the thread that forms the web of our schools and communities.

 

In New York City, 37% of the population is foreign-born. Immigrants make-up 46% of the labor force; bolstering the middle class. They make up a quarter of all CEOs, half of accountants, a third of office clerks, a third of receptionists, and a third of building cleaners. In NYC, the median income is the same for U.S and foreign born residents [immigrant labor force participation is higher than U.S. born].The U.S. native born population is more likely to be at the bottom and the top income brackets.

 

In the downstate suburbs, about 30% of residents were Hispanic, Asian or Black in 2005. Immigrants make up 23% of the work force [most being Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Black, as reported in 2005]. Approximately 5% of all immigrants in this area speak no English; 15% speak English ‘not well’; 21% speak English ‘well’; 22% speak only English; 37% speak English ‘very well’ [as reported in 2005 for individuals ages 5 and up]. Over half of foreign-born residents of the downstate suburbs have become citizens. This figure jumps to 85% for immigrants who have been in the U.S. for more than 24 years. Downstate immigrants with a college education make about 8% less than their U.S. counterparts, while those with less than a high school education make about 20% less. More immigrants, in the downstate suburbs, work as registered nurses than in any other occupation. They make up 41% of physicians and surgeons, 28% of college and university professors, 22% of accountants, and 19% of financial managers. Immigrants in the downstate suburbs are not sharing the economy’s growth in their geographic area.

 

 In upstate New York [above Rockland and Putnam Counties], immigrants make up 5% of the population. In health care, immigrants make up 35% of physicians and surgeons, 20% of college professors, 20% of computer software and engineers, 13% of computer scientists and systems analysts, and 80% of seasonal workers. The most common countries of origin for upstate immigrants are Canada, Germany, and Mexico [in that order]. Most upstate immigrants are white (52%0, followed by Asian or Pacific Islander (23%), Hispanic or Latino (14%), and Black (9%). The median income for immigrant families in upstate New York is virtually the same as for U.S born residents [in all income brackets].

 

Conclusions about Immigrants and the New York State Economy

 

Immigrants are a central component of New York State’s economic growth. They work in all parts of the NYS economy from top to bottom, contributing to its growth. They consistently fuel growth and vitality across all sections of the economy. Foreign-born Hispanics earn less than all groups except foreign-born Asians (not statistically different).

 

[Sources : A Special Report from the Fiscal Policy Institute on Immigrants in New York State: Working for a Better Life “ Immigrants Create Almost a Quarter of New York State Economic Output”, 2006; and, The Changing Face of the Empire State, a Report by the NYS Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, April, 2006.]

 

Researchers tell us that students who feel connected to their community tend to do better academically. It is very important that all children are known well by at least one significant adult in the school of attendance. A successful student is one who is healthy physically and emotionally, inspired to achieve, engaged in the arts, has equal opportunities, and is well prepared to take his/her place in a dynamic global economy. The children of the downstate immigrants are an important part of the future. [One in every three children under the age of 18 is living in an immigrant family-where at least one adult is foreign born.]

 

Mamaroneck School District Enrollment Trends

 

The chart below shows the breakdown for District enrollment data for years 2003-04 to 2007-08. School District data is the source for the information presented.

 

1b. District Wide K-12 Enrollment Data by Ethnicity for 2003-04 to 2007-08.

School Year

Asian

PI

Black

 

Hispanic/

Latino

White

Multi-

Racial

Total

LEP

F/R

Lunch

2003-04

153 (3%)

160 (3%)

650 (14%)

3753 (80%)

 

4718

169

(4%)

2%

2004-05

168 (4%)

159 (3%)

666 (14%)

3754 (79%)

 

4747

171 (4%)

7%

 

2005-06

210 (4%)

155 (3%)

721 (15%)

3773 (78%)

 

4859

174 (4%)

8%

2006-07

 

 

 

 

 

4958

 

 

 

2007-08

197 (4%)

152 (3%)

781 (16%)

3767 (77%)

13 (.22%)

4910

 

6.8%

Note: The white population is slowly declining and the Hispanic/Latino population is increasing.

The chart that follows shows the percentage of minority students in each building for school year 2007-08 as of December 1, 2007.

 

1c. Percentage of Minority Students by Building and Percent of District Enrollment of Minority Students by Building as of December 1, 2007.

School Building

Total School Enrollment

Percent of Minority Students

Percent of District Enrollment

Central

477

30.0%

2.9%

Mamaroneck

522

56.3%

6.0%

Chatsworth

620

11.3%

1.4%

Murray.

708

7.0%

1.0%

Hommocks

1115

23.2%

5.3%

MHS

1468

22.3%

6.7%

Total

4910

 

23.3%

Note: MAS School has the highest percentage of minority students and minority students there are the majority of all students in the school. Central Elementary School has the second highest percentage of minority students.

 

Demographic Trends for Students with Disabilities [SWD]

 

The chart that follows shows the percent of Students with Disabilities [SWD] by ethnicity in relation to total District enrollment since 2003-04. [District Data]

 

2. Percent of SWD by Ethnicity in Relation to Total District

   Enrollment

December

Total K-12 Enrollment

Asian/

PI

Black

Hispanic or

Latino

White

Total

2003-04

4718

11-.2%

44- .9%

157-3.3%

458-

9.7%

670-

14.2%

2004-05

4747

10-

.2%

37-

.78%

150-

3.2%

458-

9.6%

655-

13.8%

2005-06

4859

12-

.2%

29-

.6%

146-

3.0%

467-

9.6%

654-

13.5%

2006-07

4958

11-

.2%

23-

.5%

129-

2.6%

463-

9.3%

626-

12.6%

2007-08

4910

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: The minority group with the largest number of SWD is the Hispanic

or Latino population.

 

The chart that follows shows the percentage of SWD students by ethnicity in relation to the total number of District SWD students since 2003-04. [District Data]

 

3. Percentage of SWD students by Ethnicity in Relation to the Total Number of SWD Students Ages 6-21

December

K-12 SED Enrollment

 

Asian/Pacific Islander

 

Black or African American

Hispanic or

Latino

White

2003-04

670

11  [1.6%]

44 [6.6%]

157 [23.4%]

458

[68.4%]

2004-05

645

10 [1.6%]

37 [5.7%]

150

[23.3%]

458

[71%]

2005-06

654

12 [1.8%]

29 [4.4%]

146

[22.3%]

467

[71.4%]

2006-07

626

11 [1.8%]

23 [3.7%]

129

[20.6%]

463

[73.9%]

2007-08

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: For each year shown, the ethnic group with the highest percentage of identified SWD ages 6-21, other than white, was Hispanic or Latino.

 

The Chart that follows shows the percentage of Students with Disabilities [SWD] ages 14-21, by ethnicity. [District Data]

 

4. Percentage of SWD Ages 14-21 by Ethnicity as of December 1st Each Year

School Year

Asian

or Pacific Islander

Black or

African American

Hispanic

or Latino

White

Total

2003-04

5 (2%)

25 (10.2%)

50 (20.4%)

165 (67.4%)

245

2004-05

4 (1.6%)

19 (7.6%)

42 (16.9%)

184 (73.9%)

249

2005-06

2 (.7%)

19 (7.1%)

50 (18.7%)

197 (73.5%)

268

2006-07

3 (1.1%)

16 (6.1%)

45 (17.1%)

199 (75.7%)

263

2007-08

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: For each year shown, the ethnic group with the highest percentage of identified SWD ages 14-21, other than white, was Hispanic or Latino.

 

The chart that follows shows the percentage of District SWD for three groups within three classification categories, as compared to the U.S. Special Education student population for ages 6-21, in school year 2006-07. [District Data and US Dept. of Ed. Data]

 

5. Comparison of the District’s SWD Population and the U.S. SWD Population for 2006-07 in Three Categories: Emotionally Disturbed [ED], Learning Disabled [LD], and Mental Retardation [MR]

Group

ED in District

ED  in U.S.

LD in District

LD in U.S.

MR in District

MR in U.S.

White

24= 80.0%

57.44%

220=70.5%

54.82%

6=66.6%

58.43%

Hispanic

  5= 16.7%

11.09%

  76=24.3%

21.22%

2=22.2%

17.27%

Black

  1=   3.3%

28.79%

  13=  4.2%

20.52%

1=  1.1%

20.60%

Asian

  0

 

    3=  1.0%

1.70%

0

 

Total

  30

 

 312

 

9

 

Note: In 2006-07, the District had a higher percentage of white, SWD classified as ED, a higher percentage of white, students classified as LD and a higher percentage of white, SWD classified MR, than their counterparts in the U.S. Population. The same is true for the Hispanic or Latino SWD in the District for the same school year. However, the District percentages for Hispanic or Latino SWD, and percentages for the U.S. population of Hispanic or Latino SWD classified as ED and LD, were much closer than their counterparts in the white population. The District had a much lower percentage of Black and Asian SWD classified in all three categories, than their counterparts in the U.S. SWD population.

 

 

The chart that follows shows the amount of time SWD ages 6-21 [by ethnicity] spent outside of regular classrooms in school-based programs, in buildings attended by disabled and non-disabled students. [District Data]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Time SWD Ages 6-21, in School-Based Special Education Programs, Spend Outside the General Education Classroom [by Ethnicity]

Ethnic Group

Time Outside Reg. Classroom

2007-08

2006-07

2005-06

2004-05

2003-04

Asian/PI

20% or less

21-60%

more than 60%

 

40.0%

10.0%

50.0%

50.0%

8.3%

41.7%

80.0%

0

20.0%

82.0%

0

18.0%

Black

20% or less

21-60%

more than 60%

 

56.5%

34.8%

8.7%

44.9%

37.9%

17.2%

54.1%

29.7%

16.2%

38.6%

45.5%

15.9%

Hispanic

or Latino

20% or less

21-60%

more than 60%

 

38.1%

32.5%

29.4%

47.3%

26.0%

26.7%

45.3%

32.0%

22.7%

42.7%

32.5%

24.8%

White

20% or less

21-60%

more than 60%

 

70.1%

17.7%

12.2%

73.9%

14.1%

12.0%

74.8%

13.8%

11.4%

74.2%

14.6%

11.2%

Note: In 2006-07 and 2005-06 more, white SWD spent 20% or less time outside of the regular classroom than any other group. For all years reported, more, white SWD spent less time outside of the regular classroom than did Black/African American SWD or Hispanic/Latino SWD.

 

The next chart shows the sum of all SWD in regular school-based programs in district buildings over time.

 

7. Summary Report of All SWD in Regular School-Based Programs with the Number of Students Served Outside of the District Noted

Time Outside of Regular Classroom

2007-08

2006-07

2005-06

2004-05

2003-04

20% or Less

 

389 (61.7%)

433

(66.2%)

431

(66.8%)

433

(64.6%)

21% to 60%

 

129

(20.5%)

116

(17.7%)

121

(18.8%)

138

(20.6%)

More than 60%

 

112

(17.8%)

105

(16.1%)

93

(14.4%)

99

(14.8%)

Totals Served in District

 

630

654

645

670

# of Students Outside of District

 

28 (4.3%)

30(4.4%)

26(3.9%)

28(4.0%)

Note: From 2004-05 to 2006-07, the number of SWD who spent 20% or less of their school time outside of the regular classroom decreased by 5.1%, while the number of SWD who spent 21%-60% outside, increased by 1.7%; and, those who spent more than 60% of their school time outside of the regular classroom increased by 3.4%. The percentage of students served outside of school-based programs varied slightly between 3.9% and 4.3% in relation to the total number of SWD over a period of four years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Students with Disabilities Reported in Each Classification Category by Ethnicity as of December 1st, 2003, 2004, and 2005.[ SWD, ages 14-21 Noted at Bottom of Chart.]

                                 Asian/PI                  Black               Hispanic                   White                TOTALS

Classification

05

04

03

05

04

03

05

04

03

05

04

03

05

04

03

Autism

1

0

0

0

0

0

3

2

2

36

31

29

40

33

31

Emot. Dist.

0

0

0

5

5

6

8

7

8

28

25

28

41

37

42

Learning Dis.

4

4

0

15

22

29

81

77

77

238

230

242

338

333

354

MR

0

0

0

1

1

1

4

4

8

5

7

9

10

12

18

Hearing Imp.

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

3

4

5

4

4

5

Speech/Lang.

5

6

5

7

6

4

39

49

50

52

52

61

103

113

120

Vis. Imp.

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

1

2

1

1

Other Health

1

0

0

2

2

3

8

9

10

108

101

96

119

112

109

Mult. Disabled

0

0

0

0

1

1

4

4

2

18

17

15

22

22

18

TBI

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

3

0

5

3

0

TOTALS

12

10

11

30

37

44

148

153

157

494

471

486

684

670

698

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWD ages 4-21

2

4

5

19

19

25

50

42

50

197

184

165

268

249

245

Note: For the years above, more students of Asian/Pacific Islander ethnicity were classified as Speech / Language Impaired followed by Learning Disabled. More students of Black or African American ethnicity were classified as Learning Disabled followed by Speech/Language Impaired. More students of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity were classified as Learning Disabled followed by Speech/Language Impaired.  More white students were classified as Learning Disabled followed by Other Health Impaired.

 

District Operated Programs

 

It should be noted that the only building where there are written descriptions of programs/services with accompanying entrance and exit criteria is the Hommocks Middle School. The Middle School Principal provided these to the Consultants on the day of visitation. No other administrator provided such criteria. The chart below shows what consultants learned about the types of programs and services available in each building for this school year and the number of staff assigned:

 

School/Staff FTE/Program

 

Central – 7.5 FTE Special Education Teachers

                3.0 Speech and Language therapists

                1.0 School Psychologists

              11.0 Teacher Assistants

                9.0 Teacher Aides

 

                   Inclusion Program:  at grades 1-2, 3 and 5.

                   Special Class:  at grades: K, 1, 2/3, and 5 

                   Resource Room: at grades 3, 4, and 5 

 

Chatsworth – 4.5- Special Education Teachers (.5 assigned to AIS)

                       2.0 Speech and Language Therapists

                       1.0 School Psychologists

                        6.0 Teaching Assistants

 

                        Inclusion Program:  at grades k,1 2, 3,

                        Special Class: at grade 4

                        Resource Room:  at grade 3, 4, and 5

                       

Murray         4.3  Special education teachers

                        1.6   Speech and Language Therapists

                        1.0   School Psychologist

                        5.0  Teacher Assistants

                        3.0  Teacher Aides

                         .

                          Inclusion program:  at Grades K, 2, 4, and 5.

                          Resource room:  at Grade 3

                          Consultant teacher services: at Grades 1, 3

                            

Mamaroneck -  5.5  Special Education teachers

                           1.25 Speech and Language Therapists

                           1.0 School Psychologists

                           1.0 APE

                           1.0 SW

                           8.0 Teacher Assistants

                           3.0 Teacher Aides

 

                         Inclusion program: at grades K, 1, and 2,

                         Special Class: at grades 3, 4, and K-2 combination class

                         Resource Room:  at Grade 5

                          

  * Data taken from “Staffing plus TAs 2007-08” Report dated 09/24/07                  

                 

 

Hommocks – 14.0   Special Education Teachers

                         2.0   School Psychologists

                         1.0   Speech therapist

                                Teacher Assistants

                                Teacher Aides

`          

 Consultant Teacher Services (CTS), resource room, inclusion, special classes (skills, English, Math, Social Studies and Science) across all three grade levels and one self contained class for students with severe disabilities.

 

 

High School – 14.0  Special Education Teachers

                           2.0  School Psychologists

                             .4  Speech Therapist

                           1.0 Social Worker

                                  Teacher Assistants

                                  Teacher Aides

 [Consultant Teacher Services, resource room, inclusion, CORE classes (special class in content area subjects), and one special class for students whose exiting document is an IEP Diploma]

 

The continuum of services operated by the district has the following characteristics:

 

1.      In general the continuum in each building varies from year to year dependent upon the outcome of annual review meetings and the specific program recommendations made for each student. This has caused a significant degree of mobility, and disruption for certain students at the elementary school level. (see below)

2.      Of all students who attend programs in a school other than their home school in 2007-08, 52% were Hispanic and/or Latino.

3.      The Parent Handbook contains a general description of programs and services but, except for Hommocks Middle School there is no detailed information of each program on the continuum that includes entrance and exit criteria, the targeted population or a description of how the program is designed to meet students’ needs.

4.      Terms used to describe the services on the continuum are often used interchangeably. For example, inclusion, CTS and “push in resource room” are used to describe services that sound quite similar. This causes confusion for regular and special education staff, administrators and families. Regulatory language that distinguishes these services from one another should be used, and the services implemented according to Commissioner’s Regulations. In addition, all district special education handbooks should be revised so that they describe programs, services, and delivery models accurately.

5.      Each elementary school building has special classes, but not at every grade level. A lack of distinct criteria for various program models causes confusion about appropriate programming for students. Consequently the special classes in an elementary building seem like their own program rather than group of classes that make up a program.

6.      Also, classes that serve similar populations, like the MIS class at the middle school and the STEP class at the high school are not thought of as a program, but two distinct classes in different buildings. Staff in each program has typically not observed the other program in operation.  Neither class has a written curriculum that is used for planning and program activities. 

7.      The design of some support programs can affect students in an unintended way.  In one program, extra help is available to students after school, but students have to wait for the late bus at 5:00PM even though the support program ends at 3:30 PM. (This issue has been addressed in part by a grant that now provides the transportation at 3:30PM for some students) Another example is the Wilson Reading Program. If students do not progress out of a reading program in eighth grade, they must start the Wilson Reading Program in the high school.

8.      The behavioral support system in the upper grades needs to be enhanced to be more effective for students and educators.

9.      High School is designed around content area subjects- e.g science wing, math wing, and the like. As a result, special education classes are located in different sections of the high school –possibly affecting the coordination of programs and transition of students.

10.  Special education staff, in general, is not familiar with programs and services available in other buildings. Each building feels disconnected to another.

11.  There is no internal process in place to evaluate the effectiveness of specific programs or services. While individual student progress is reported at the annual review meeting, no other assessment method is used to look more systematically at program outcomes.

12.  Although the continuum includes three BOCES classes at the Hommocks Middle School, there are no resident students in these classes.

13.  Due to space constraints or enrollment fluctuations, some district-wide special class programs had to be moved to different elementary buildings [e.g. TEAACH class].

14.  In the 2006-07 school year, the CSE placed 60 students with disabilities in programs outside of the District [including private school placements].  If the district’s continuum of services was more comprehensive and consistent it is more likely that more students in outside placements could be accommodated in district programs at the secondary level. It may also be possible to create more stability on the continuum and keep more students in their home schools because the population would be larger within programs.

 

The continuum of services results in a number of students having to attend a school other than their home school – the school they would attend if not disabled.  The table that follows shows the number of students with disabilities attending district operated programs in schools other than their home school:

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  School Year 2007-08

 

                                    # Students/

Program School  Home School    % Total/Bldg                  Ethnicity       

                              W/H/B/AP*

 

Central                   Mamaroneck           33/82.5                      8/25/1/0            

                               Chatsworth               5/12.5                        4/1/0/0              

                               Murray                      2/5                             2/0/0/0                

 

Chatsworth             Mamaroneck           7/70                           4/3/0/0               

                               Central                     2/20                          2/0/0/0              

                               Murray                     1/10                           1/0/0/0                

 

Mamaroneck          Central                    2/66                            1/1/0/0

                               Murray                    1/33                            1/0/0/0

 

 

Murray                    None

*W=White, H=Hispanic, B=Black, AP=Asian Pacific Islander

 

The chart above shows that Mamaroneck has the largest number of students (40) attending programs in other schools. A total of  28 students (70%) are Hispanic  Over 82% of Mamaroneck students attend programs at Central; and, just over 75% of ALL students (3 out of 4) who attend programs in a school other than their home school are from Mamaroneck. It should be noted that any student who attends a program outside of the home school is placed in a self-contained class. 

 

The pattern in the two years preceding was similar:  In 2006-07 Mamaroneck students represented 61% of all students in other schools; 66% of those students were Hispanic; and 75% attended programs at Central.  In 2005-06 Mamaroneck students represented 62% of all students in other schools; 78% of those students were Hispanic; and almost 68% attended Central.

 

Recommendations:

 

  1. Programs, special classes and services need to be better defined. The language in the state regulations cited elsewhere articulates the nature of the program or service.  For example “a special class with a student to staff ratio of 6:1+1 is designed for students whose management needs are determined to be highly intensive” helps explain the needs of students that the class is designed for. The district is working to create better descriptions that help delineate the target population to be served, that contain exit and entrance criteria, and state what each program or service is expected to do. Once the services are clearly articulated the role of CSE at annual reviews is to match the needs of the students with the program criteria that have been established. There is some degree of flexibility in the regulations regarding age ranges and class size. This may result in some special classes serving students in more than one grade level.
  2. The vast majority of students who do not attend programs in their home school are from Mamaroneck Avenue and in the current school year eight out of ten of those students attend special classes at Central.  That school is more similar demographically to Mamaroneck than any of the other elementary schools and is closest in proximity. It is recommended that MAS become a primary grade school and Central serve students in the intermediate grades. This would allow MAS to focus its attention and staff expertise in the area of early childhood education and serve students and their families from the Central School zone.  The Central school would be able to develop an expertise in the education of students in the intermediate grades and serve students and their families from the MAS School zone. This would create a single home school concept for students in the primary and intermediate grades. Each school already has experience educating a diverse student population. These experiences can be shared and refined to create a learning environment in each school that responds to diversity, supports families and makes the transition from one school to the other seamless.
  3. There are a number of programmatic issues described herein that need to be addressed including continuity of programs, curricula, assessment, design and the like. The Director positions were created to provide educators with expertise in this area. Both Directors need to dedicate all their time to providing supervision and support to the instructional and support staff in the schools for which they are responsible. It is not feasible to expect the Directors to develop and supervise programs and still be involved in the CSE process. Such a change should be done with clear expectations and within realistic timelines. This needs to be a priority for the Assistant Superintendent for Student Services.

 

The Concept of Inclusion

 

 The inclusion concept varies significantly within a building and across elementary and secondary schools. Inclusion is in different stages of development in different schools. When consultants visited schools, it was necessary to have principals and school personnel at each building explain what ‘inclusion’ meant in their individual schools, since inclusion is different depending on the school building and/or level. Inclusion is not seamless systemically.

 

In the course of our visits to schools consultants heard many different comments from staff and administrators about inclusion. Some of those comments are cited below:

 

·        The concept was just launched in our building this year – we were told that we were having one

·        The model needs to be changed so that we can have two special education teachers per grade level

·        I am not aware of any process in place to evaluate the program

·        Part time consultant teacher (CT) does not work – most of the support is provided by a TA who has the least experience and training

·        Even the most experienced special education teacher is seen as an aide by my students

·        We have been doing inclusion in our building for many years, but the model is different the last couple of years

·        There was no roll out of the concept - it just happened.

·        In our first year of inclusion and we have to find time to meet and plan on a weekly basis

·        Special education teachers were not available for the summer training program

·        The expectations of the program are not clear

·        The program is working well in the lower grades,  but in the upper grades the additional SWDs have effected accountability

·        Co-teaching is difficult in my school because the content is difficult; relationships must be established and there are control issues in the classroom

·        Every inclusion teacher has an aide, but the aide is not listed on the IEP

·        The special education teacher in my class seldom teaches a lesson

·        Co-teaching is difficult (to implement) because of schedule, lack of planning time and the number of periods needed for CORE classes, team planning and skills classes

·        More teachers are embracing inclusion, but need more direction

·        Regular education teachers have difficulty with modifications and what is essential to assess

·        CTS (consultant teacher service) is usually 1:1 – inclusion teacher may support up to five students

·        What do we do in inclusion classes when the school policy says “no co-teaching”? [HS]

·        In one class co- teaching occurred because the regular education teacher was new and didn’t know about the policy [HS]

·        Are the right students in inclusion classes?

·        Need more time to ground students in content areas – how does the inclusion model address that?

                                                      

The comments reflect personal perceptions of inclusion across the district. The comments should be seen as a candid and frank effort to describe what the program seems like for staff and administrators who are directly involved in implementation. The comments also reveal areas that need attention and support in order to move the program forward.

 

The fact that inclusion was started in some buildings this year and already existed in others, indicates an effort by the district to address the least restrictive environment mandate and increase the level of support in regular classes for students with disabilities. Sometimes it is better to start initiatives and work out the bugs along the way, rather than work out all the bugs at the onset. Nevertheless, it is quite evident to consultants that serious work still needs to be done to improve the quality of instruction and opportunities for good, on-going staff development as well as opportunities for staff to collaborate.

 

 Since the current Part 200 regulations for consultant teacher services will include an option to add “integrated co-teaching service” to the continuum, section 200.6 (d) and (g) respectively are reproduced below and include the new language for co-teaching services.

 

Consultant teacher services shall be for the purpose of providing direct and/or indirect services to students with disabilities who attend regular education classes including career and technical education classes, and/or to such student’s regular education teachers. Such services shall be recommended by the committee on special education to meet specific needs of such students and student’s individualized education program (IEP) shall indicate the regular education classes in which the student will receive consultant teacher services. Consultant teacher services shall be provided in accordance with the following provisions:

 

1)   The total number of students with disabilities assigned to a consultant teacher shall not exceed 20.

2)   Each student with a disability requiring consultant teacher services shall receive direct and /or indirect services consistent with the student’s IEP for a minimum of two hours each week, except that the committee on special education may recommend that a student with a disability who also needs resource room services in addition to consultant teacher services, may receive a combination of such services consistent with the student’s IEP for not less than three hours each week.

3)   Upon application and documented educational justification to the commissioner, approval may be granted for a variance for the number of students with disabilities assigned to a consultant teacher as specified in paragraph (1) of this subdivision.

 

A school district may include integrated co-teaching services in its continuum of services.  Integrated co-teaching services means the provision of specially designed instruction and academic instruction provided to a group of students with disabilities and non-disabled students. (Integrated co-teaching services must meet the following requirements):

 

1)      The maximum number of students with disabilities receiving integrated co-teaching services in a class shall be determined in  accordance with the students’ individual needs as recommended on their IEPs, provided that effective July 1, 2008, the number of students with disabilities in such classes shall not exceed 12 students

2)      School personnel assigned to each class shall minimally include a special education teacher and a general education teacher.

3)      Additional personnel, including supplementary school personnel, assigned to such classes by the district, may not serve as the special education teacher pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subdivision.

 

The Consultants have the following recommendations to offer:

 

Recommendations:

1)   Central School has an administrator with experience in implementing inclusion practices who assisted with staff training alongside the Elementary Director last summer. It is recommended that this school be utilized as a “training ground”.  Resources should be allocated so that training, utilization of research based practices and capacity building can result in a model that works. Once this is accomplished, regular and special education teachers from other elementary schools could rotate into Central for training, support and coaching. A variation on that is to have the staff at Central assist staff in other schools with support and training. Either way, the goal is to provide a level of support to staff that does not currently exist.

2)   The revised regulations now include integrated co-teaching and the corresponding requirements. The implications that the new regulations have on the use of teacher assistants and aides to support inclusion will need to be discussed and analyzed.

3)   Opportunities for staff to visit model programs in other schools in proximity or elsewhere in the state should be considered. There is a state-wide listing of model programs on the State Education Department’s Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Students with Disabilities (VESID) website. .

4)   The issue of common planning time was often cited by school staff as an obstacle. Yet in many schools, staff and principals found ways to plan together both within the school day and outside of school hours.  Ideally, common planning time needs to be made part of the school day at all levels. At both the elementary and secondary levels, there is time in the school day when staff is in school, but cannot be assigned a duty. This year, the district is in discussion with each of the bargaining units to develop new agreements. Consultants recommend the addition of time for common planning and that it be dedicated and assigned for collaboration.

5)   Staff and administration need to work together to develop clearer program descriptions, expectations, and methods of program evaluation. Staff expressed many good ideas and suggestions to improve programs. They need to be heard and their ideas considered.

6)   Several special education teachers at the high school are dually certified in both special education and a content area subject. Dually certified special education teachers could be assigned to teach a subject in their certified content area to regular education students. This will help to dispel the belief that only regular education teachers can be subject matter specialists and will help special education teachers gain the perspective of a general education teacher.

 

The chart that follows shows staffing patterns in each school building:

 

Staff to Student Ratio by Building

 

                            # of            SE              Assistants/       Staff    

School                SWDs**  Teachers         Aides              Total            Ratio

 

Central                  89             7.5                   27.0              34.5            1:2.5

 

Chatsworth          52              4.0                   14.0              18.0            1:2.8

 

Murray                 43              3.5                   14.0             15.5            1:2.7

 

Mamaroneck        64              5.5                  15.0*           20.5             1:3.1

           

Hommocks          174           14.0                   21.0             35.0            1:4.9

 

High  School        222           14.0                  16.0              30.0            1:7.4

* three part time aides are included = 1.0 FTE

 

[The district is providing an adequate level of staff to provide support and services.]

 

 

Program Observations

 Site visits to each school was intended to provide Consultants with an opportunity to observe programs firsthand and afford staff and administrators the chance to discuss program strengths, weaknesses and areas of concern. The classroom visitation schedule was set up to observe a class and then spend time with instructional staff to discuss the program and ask questions. Except for a few teachers who had previous commitments, virtually all special education teachers were observed and/or interviewed. Teacher assistants and aides were either observed in their assigned program or as a group.  The following descriptions are some programs that Consultants think worthy of highlighting in this report:

 

·        In a self-contained class (10:1+2) the teacher actively encouraged students to think and make choices on their own [e.g. what should we do next and why?]  On a math task the teacher connected the new skill to prior learning experiences. In that same math group the teacher was teaching and redirecting students while at the same time focusing on behavior and social skills. The three assistants in the room were actively engaged with students. Occupational and speech therapists ‘pushed in’ to the classroom and a behavioral consultant assisted with one student.

·        In a grade 2-3 self contained class that was designed for students who were challenged in a regular class the teacher had classroom centers for various subjects such as science, math, and reading. Students rotated through certain activities either in small group or in a couple of cases 1:1 instruction.  The teacher had high expectations for academic performance and behavior. The Consultant could not distinguish between the classroom teacher and the teacher assistant until introductions were made. Watching the class was like seeing a play that had been well rehearsed – everyone knew what was expected, where to go and how to behave. The teacher’s ability to manage and direct people as well as orchestrate numerous activities at the same time was quite unique. Writing journals were used to help students remember what they had learned the day before. [Students are expected to transfer their recorded knowledge from their journals to a project they are working on.] Projects were displayed all about the room; and, it was evident that students had not only completed the projects, but had learned a number of concepts in the process.

·        The Consultant visited a grade K-1 self- contained special education class that had a new teacher. This teacher has had prior experience in working with students who exhibit severe behavior and learning problems. While gathered together in the morning circle, every student was expected to respond in some way to the teacher’s questions. Options included oral responses, gestures, signing or responding through the use of a communication device. During story telling the teacher continually reinforced attending behaviors and encouraged students to point to pictures as a way to express story details.  Positive behaviors were consistently reinforced. In some cases communication boards were used to indicate what the student needed. Family bingo emphasized relationships and roles. One teacher assistant worked 1:1 with a student to record and chart behavioral progress. A behavioral specialist provides a training program for parents of the students in this class. 

·        A geometry lesson on vertices and lines was taught in a grade 1 inclusion class. The lesson flowed smoothly, back and forth between the regular and special education teacher as they co-taught the lesson. The classroom teacher rephrased questions so that students would come up with the answer. Both the special education teacher and assistant worked with small groups. Students easily transitioned to other activities because the choices and directions were clearly articulated by the teacher. The practice activity was explained and illustrated by the teachers.  An assessment check list was used to verify that students had learned the skills taught.

·        Students in a special biology class worked on an experiment involving concepts of diffusion and osmosis. The teacher did a lot of coaching to successfully motivate students to do the work. Students worked together successfully in groups.

·        The Student Teaching Employment Program [STEP] students were nurtured by a long-term sub, and a number of teacher aides and assistants. Some of the students attend the BOCES occupational program. One site in the community has been developed for job training/coaching and the school cafeteria has been a resource for students this year. Staff attended a workshop on job coaching. The special education teacher coordinates referrals for adult services to VESID.

·        Students in a middle school self-contained English class developed a paragraph on the treatment of workers. The teacher guided students through the assignment and provided positive feedback. Students easily moved on to complete the assignment independently.

·        Students in a middle school resource room worked on different activities during one period. The teacher listed the ‘agenda’ on the chalkboard and students were on task the entire period.

·        Students in a sixth grade English inclusion class were instructed by the special education teacher. The general education teacher was absent and the special education teacher followed the plans for the class. Students responded positively to the lesson. It was evident that the special education teacher was very familiar with the content and method of delivery for the lesson.

 

Continuum of Services/Least Restrictive Environment

 

Federal laws, and state laws and regulations describe a school district’s responsibility to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE means that students with disabilities (SWD) are to be educated with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate, and, attend their home school (i.e. the school they would attend if not disabled). This means that it is appropriate to provide specially designed instruction, consultant teacher services and supplementary instruction for SWDs in the regular class setting.

 

Part 200 Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education states in part:  “that placement of SWDs in special classes, separate schools or other removal from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that even with the use of supplementary and services, education cannot be satisfactorily achieved.” Clearly there is a stated preference to educate SWDs in the regular class setting.

 

LRE also required that a continuum (range) of programs and services be available to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities from least to most restrictive and include from least to most restrictive: remedial and related services, consultant teacher, resource room, special class and programs outside the district such as BOCES, approved private day and/or residential schools, and home bound instruction.

 

Part 200 Regulations also specify descriptive criteria for programs and services on the continuum. Special classes must meet the following criteria:

 

·        instructional groups will be determined by the similarity of needs in four areas:  academic achievement, social development, physical development and management needs

·        the maximum number of students assigned to a special class and the corresponding staff ratio are delineated in section 200.6 and described below. 

 

1.      15:1 special class – for those students whose special education needs consist primarily of the need for specialized instruction.

2.      12:1+1 special class – for those students whose management needs interfere with the instructional process to the extent that an additional adult is needed within the classroom to assist with instruction

3.      6:1+1 special class – for those students whose management needs are determined to be highly intensive and require a high degree of individualized attention and intervention with one or more supplementary school personnel assigned during periods of instruction

4.      8:1+1 special class – for those students whose management needs are determined to be intensive and require a significant degree of individualized attention and intervention with one or more supplementary school personnel assigned during periods of instruction

5.      12:1+4 special class – for those students with severe multiple disabilities whose programs consist primarily of habilitation and treatment. In addition to the teacher there shall be one staff person for every three students. The additional staff may be teachers, supplementary school personnel and/or related service providers.

6.      Age range – shall not exceed 36 months.   For special classes that consist of students whose chronological age exceeds 16 years there is no age limit and 12:1+4 special classes also have no age limit.

 

Resource room programs are for the purpose of supplementing the regular or special class instruction for those students who are in such need of supplementary programs. Resource room programs must meet the following requirements:

 

·        each student shall receive such services at least three hours per week but the service can be combined with consultant teacher services if so determined by CSE.

·        students may be assigned to a resource room for up to 50% of the school  day

·        the size of instructional groups may not exceed five students and students must be grouped for instruction based on similar needs relative to academic achievement, social development, physical development and management needs.

·        the caseload for resource room teachers cannot exceed twenty (20) students at the elementary level, and 25 students in grades 7-12 or in a multi-level middle school program.

 

Consultants analyzed the continuum of services available in the district within the context of the federal and state requirements highlighted above. Discussion about what consultants found appears below.

 

The district does provide a range of programs and services for students with disabilities that include (from least to most restrictive) related services, consultant teacher services, resource room programs, special class, placement in settings outside the district including BOCES programs, approved private day and residential schools both in and out of state, and when necessary home/hospital instruction. However, consultants have concerns about the “blends’ that are occurring in some cases; with the number of students out of their home school; with the number of students in outside placements; and the lack of consistency from year to year in the entire continuum of services offered. This is discussed further in this report [particularly number 4 in the discussion of continuum of services that follows in this report].

 

Related Services:

 

Speech and Language Therapy – There is a total of 11 full time speech therapists in the district.  The coordinator of the Speech Department is one of the full time therapists. The coordinator is paid an annual stipend. This year, the Speech Department is meeting on a monthly basis with the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services. Efforts have focused on standardizing the kindergarten screening procedures, the role of a  speech therapist on the instructional support teams, looking at different therapy models [e.g. a 3+1 week schedule that would provide therapy services three weeks in a row and the fourth dedicated to consultation], evaluations and working directly with other school staff.

 

 The Department has established speech and language entrance and exit criteria for students with disabilities. The criteria (revised 01/22/01) include specific entrance requirements for articulation, fluency, voice and language.  Both the exit and entrance criteria make references as to how speech/language disorders affect educational performance. 

 

The Coordinator provided consultants with schedules for each therapist for the current school year and data on speech/language therapy caseloads district-wide for the current year (projected) as well as the prior school year (actual)

 

 The chart that follows shows the number of speech/language therapists assigned to each school for the 2006-07 school year with a breakdown of caseloads by type of student served.

     

                                    

 

                                         CPSE/                                                             AVERAGE/

School Building    FTEs    CSE     504  REG.ED  AIS  CT TOTAL CASELOAD

 

Central                  3.0        64          4         25            17            110           37*

 

Chatsworth            2.0       48          1         22              5              76           38

 

Mamaroneck          3.0      37/54     4          22             5     3      125           42

  

Murray                   1.6       40          3         26           21     3        93           58**

 

Hommocks             1.0       36          2          9                    4***   47           47

 

High School             .4       27                      1                    5***   28           27

 

TOTAL                   12.0     37/269     14     103          48     15       479       

 

*rounded up

** part-time therapist has 26 students

    Full time therapist has 67 students

*** not included in total

 

At the time of the site visit the coordinator only had caseload projections for 2007-08 and they included the following totals:

 

CPSE/CSE – 42/285

504 -                 9

REG.ED. -      87

AIS -               50

TOTAL -      482

 

The data shows a similar distribution of students provided therapy services.

 

According to the data provided the number of projected individual and group sessions for 2007-08 school year by school was as follows:

 

School              #/%Individual sessions               #/%group sessions

 

Central                      72/28                                        188/72

 

Chatsworth                36/36                                         63/64

 

Mamaroneck              75/33                                       150/67

 

Murray                          9/7                                          118/93

 

Hommocks                 14/20                                         56/80

 

High School                 10/24                                        31/76

 

TOTAL                       216/26                                      606/74

 

Except for Murray, the percentage of individual speech therapy sessions ranges from a low of 20% at Hommocks, to a high of 36% at Chatsworth.

 

Observations/Recommendations:

 

While many therapists indicated an interest and preference for classroom based therapy, in reality, very little therapy is delivered in classroom settings.  Obstacles that prevent more therapy in the classroom include, (1) no time in the schedule, (2) the nature of some therapy requires a small, quiet setting, and (3) the reality that there is a high number of students on caseloads.

 

Based on interviews with speech/language therapists, observation of programs and analysis of documents and data, Consultants offer the following recommendations:

 

  1. Regular monthly staff meetings have helped to give a focus and direction.  There is a renewed sense that therapy methods and models need to be critically reviewed and that there be initiatives to provide better coordination across the district. This includes developing a clearer vision of the issues and challenges that lie ahead for providing the types of services that students need in order to be successful academically and socially. Such initiatives and activities also need to be integrated into the Assistant Superintendent’s focus areas noted elsewhere in this Report.

 

  1. Many therapists expressed a real concern that teachers and other school based personnel really do not understand what speech and language therapists do. In the recent past there have been few opportunities to do much staff development in this area.

 

  1. The use of technology, computer assisted instructional programs and other assistive devices can often supplement therapy programs and reinforce skills.  IEPs include references to software programs or equipment such as FastForward, FM systems and Dynavox machines. Professional journals and conferences often provide updates on the latest technological advances. The Speech and Language Department needs to take inventory of what currently exists in this area and develop a “technology plan” for the utilization and implementation of equipment and software programs that are cutting edge. Staff training should include regular and special education teachers and support staff to ensure full utilization of such programs and equipment. The District should consider the position of Assistive Technology Coordinator to decrease the amount of fragmentation that now occurs in staff training, and to help track inventory as well as, in calibrating and repairing equipment.

 

  1. The Department should develop entrance and exit criteria for speech improvement services [services given to 504, AIS, and declassified students].  This will help distinguish students who need speech as a related special education service from those whose needs can be met in a speech program outside of special education.

 

  1. Excluding Murray Avenue School, the average percentage of individual therapy sessions in the other three elementary schools is almost 33%.  Individual therapy sessions significantly impact on schedules and reduce time for classroom based therapy. Individual therapy should be reserved for students’ with unique speech and language disorders. The Department should develop written guidelines for individual therapy sessions. The guidelines should include a review of recommendations for individual therapy by a team of speech/language therapists.  Individual therapy should be time limited and periodically reviewed.

 

  1. The Department should annually report the results of speech and language interventions. Such a report should include the number of students discharged, number who have met benchmarks and objectives, number with reduced therapy recommendations and the like.

 

  1. The school with the most English Language Learners (Mamaroneck) has a ratio of 57.6 school age students for each therapist. Research shows that English Language Learners should be immersed in language development in order to more quickly learn a second language. Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull [Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to build on students’ cultural strengths, ASCD, 2008] remind us that inclusive discourse [communication of thought through words and encouraging a discourse style that is based on the student’s home culture] is important. They also remind us that differences in a student’s discourse are not necessarily a sign that the student has deficiencies in language development or learning ability. Teachers must value such students’ ‘ways with words’- not just with vocabulary and syntax, but purposes that language is used for, the way conversation and formal talk are structured, and how or why topics are chosen in relation to a cultural context. [ELLs are discussed at length in another section of this report.] Students are active learners whose development occurs within social and cultural contexts. Teachers and support personnel have opportunities to build new capacities for ELLs.

 

School Psychologists – There are currently eight school psychologists.  Each elementary school has one full time psychologist and, the Hommocks Middle School and the High School have two full time positions each.

 

The Coordinator of School Psychologists provided the information below regarding the provision of counseling services for students with disabilities for the current school year. Note that school psychologists also provide support and counseling services to non-disabled students.  Those services are NOT included in the chart  that follows:

 

School    Individual Sessions  Group Session  Consultation     Total

 

Central                  1                        4                          14                    19*

 

Chatsworth            0                        0                            7                      7

 

Mamaroneck          2                        0                           2                     4

 

Murray                   1                         4                            7                    12

 

Hommocks            13                       9                           19                   41

 

High School           34                      12                         25                    71**

 

*Counts are all estimates         **Includes some duplicate counts

 

Information above shows that the counseling service provided to students with disabilities includes different models and the total sessions provided was 154.  About 33% of the sessions are individual, 19% are group and 48% are consultation.

 

This year, the psychology department’s focus is on Instructional Support Teams and functional behavioral assessments (FBA).  Last year, the Department focused its work on counseling models. Also, this year a bilingual school psychologist was added to the High School

 

In addition to conducting individual psychological evaluations, school psychologists also complete re-evaluations, act as liaisons from the buildings to the special education department,  do updated testing for students who are graduating; and, assume other responsibilities.

 

Observations/Recommendations:

 

  1. Job descriptions for school psychologists have not been updated in many years. One description for the high school psychologist was dated October 1978.  Although the job description did contain some useful information, it is important for the Department to update these documents to reflect current professional practices. School psychologists should be involved in the development of a district-wide approach to Response to Intervention (RTI), the development of behavioral management systems and approaches that can be utilized in the elementary, middle and high schools. These practices should be incorporated into the revised job description.
  2. Of the four elementary schools, Central has the largest concentration of SWDs [95 at the time of visitation], but only has one school psychologist. The school psychologist at Central is responsible for annual reviews, triennials [approximately one-third each year], and chairs the building level IST as well as the CSE. The Central Psychologist counsels students, also. The IST meets regularly for approximately two hours each week. Referrals are made by teachers in writing to the chair. This year, more referrals have come from the First Grade level [usually the most number of referrals come from the Third Grade level]. The school psychologist works with the special needs students at the Fifth Grade level in helping them to transition to the Middle School level [the 5th grade has the most number of SWD] A psychological intern is available three days a week to help with required observations and testing. The psychologist is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  3. School psychologists should work together to develop a vision for the Department which  includes five year goals, a description of best practices and how to integrate and use the expertise of school psychologists in classroom-based instructional  practices.

 

 

 

Occupational Therapy:


There are three Occupational Therapists and two Occupational Therapy Assistants [COTAs] currently on staff in the District. Occupational therapists [OTs] deliver their services through both ‘push-in’ and ‘pull-out’ models. The OTs are usually at CSE meetings for children coming into kindergarten from a preschool setting and make recommendations for OT services. The OTs ‘push-in’ to classrooms where the model is welcomed by teachers. In other cases, OTs pull students out of the general education classroom for OT services. OTs have been ‘bogged down’ with handwriting referrals. Focus on a unified writing program [PAF reading program incorporates writing] should remedy this situation as long as the program is followed correctly and consistently by all. Occupational Therapists have been able to work with other staff members in a ‘Team’ approach at both Central and Mamaroneck Elementary Schools. In addition, OTs receive referrals from parents of students in private schools. Students in private schools do not have to pass through a pre-referral process like their public school peers. The District plans to hire another OT part time for two days per week. Students at the same grade level who need OT services cannot always be clustered for similar services.

 

Out of District Placements – In the New York State Education Department’s Performance Plan for Students with Disabilities, one of the stated goals is to reduce the number of students in out of district placements to 5% of all students classified. The chart below shows the number of students placed in out of district programs for the school year’s indicated. 

 

 

                                  Placement Type        TOTAL TOTAL     PERCENT

School Year         OPS/BOCES/PRIVATE   FTEs   SWDS   CLASSIFIED            

                          

2006-07                 6.21/31.78/21.74             59.73      615          9.7

 

2005-06                 5.00/30.13/21.02             56.15      587          9.6

 

2004-05                 6.00/23.80/17.99             47.79      633          7.5

 

2003-04                 3.00/34.26/19.64             56.90      651          8.7

 

Data is from Attendance and Private Excess Cost Aid Output Reports.  Data does not include students with disabilities that were parentally placed in other settings. According to IEP Direct in the 2006-07 school year 34 students were placed by their parents. If the number of students placed by their parents in other settings was included the total FTEs of students in out of district placements as a percent of classified students for 2006-07 would be 15.2%.

 

The following table compares other Westchester County school districts and Mamaroneck relative to the number of students in out of district placements and cost for 2006-07 school year.

 

                 

  Total Number    TOTAL          TOTAL                       COST/

School District  Out of District   SWDS  PERCENT  EXPENSE    STUDENT

 

Chappaqua               26.97             428          6.3%      $1,996,016      $74,008

 

Scarsdale                  45.40             240       18.9%       $3,259,809      $71,802

 

Bedford                    16.12             352         4.5%           $931,232     $57.768

 

Katonah                   29.12              513         5.6%        $2,063,647     $70,867

 

White Plains          100.89              796        12.6%       $5,550,634      $55,016

 

Yorktown                  41.33            516          8.0%       $3,511,585      $84,965

 

Lakeland                   99.34            976         10.2%       $5,765,011     $58,033

 

Mamaroneck            59.73            615          9.7%        $3,626,376     $60,713     

 

The table shows that Mamaroneck has the fourth highest percentage of students placed in out of district placements and spends the fifth largest amount per student.  Data for parentally placed students in other districts was not available.

 

A further analysis of student data in IEP Direct revealed the following information for out of district placements in the 2006-07 School Year.

                                    

Home School              #/% Outside district                  Ethnicity

 

Central                                    5/8.5%                                4 – W

                                                                                           1 – H

 

Chatsworth                             3/5.1%                                 2 – W

                                                                                           1 – AP

 

Murray                                    4/6.8%                                 4 – W

 

Mamaroneck                          6/10.2%                                4 - W                                                                       

                                                                                            2 – H

 

Hommocks                            13/22.0%                             11 – W

                                                                                            2 – H

 

High School                          28/47.4%                              26 – W

                                                                                             2 – H

W = White, H = Hispanic, AP = Asian-Pacific Islander

 

The Chart above shows the following information:

·        67.4 % of students in out of district placements are from the middle and high school.

·        89.8% of students in out of district placements are white

·        Of the elementary schools, students from Mamaroneck Avenue and Central combined, represent almost 61% of all elementary pupils in out of district placements.

 

Observations/Recommendations:

 

  1. Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, two Directors and Supervisor for Out of District Services have initiated an analysis of out of district placements to determine what students could be accommodated in district operated programs. That analysis has included the grouping of students by similar needs and/or achievement levels, and age. The establishment of a clearer, more stable continuum within the district will increase opportunities to transition students back into the district and reduce the need for out of district placements in the future.
  2. A number of students now participate in BOCES placements that are housed in typical school settings. It is recommended that district staff continue to visit these programs to better understand how the continuum of services and programs could be expanded within the district.
  3. All students in out of district placements and their families need more direct contact with school personnel from their home school.  It is not practical to expect the Supervisor to perform this function.  Instead, that individual should be a professional staff member from the student’s home school. For example at the Middle and High School a guidance counselor could be assigned responsibilities that included visits to off school site (whenever possible with the student’s parent or guardian); development of transition plans for eligible students and tracking of required course work.  At the elementary school level a case manager could be assigned a similar function. The ultimate goal for all students in out of district placements is to return back to the home district as soon as possible. While that may not always be possible for all students, each student and his/her family should always feel that the district is working toward making that goal a reality. Therefore, school staff should make every effort to know how these students are progressing in the district sponsored program located outside. 
  4. Students are recommended for out of district placements by the two Directors, who chair the CSE meetings in their respective buildings. Once those CSE meetings have resulted in a recommendation for placing a student in an outside placement, the Supervisor for Out of District Services reviews data in the student’s file and selects outside placements that match the student’s needs. Referral packets are sent to the schools and parents are notified. Outside agencies/schools review packets and set up intake evaluations for the student.  The parents and Supervisor usually attend these intake meetings. If the student is accepted at more than one program the parent is usually given a choice.  The Supervisor then schedules a CSE placement meeting where the IEP is finalized.  Staff from the agency/school often participates by teleconference.   This procedure should be changed for the following reasons:

 

·        Building level CSE meetings are dominated by staff members who feel “pressure” to acquiesce to building demands and wishes

·        Each Director is put into the position of gatekeeper – and also needing to work in the school after a decision is made. 

·        There is no district level CSE involved in the decision to move students outside of the district. When the Supervisor finalizes the IEP, that function only ensures that the program, related services and other IEP provisions match the arrangement that was discussed at the intake meetings.

 

CSE decisions that involve placement outside of the school district need to be made carefully and critically. Outside placements often are continued for multiple school years.  It is just as important for the CSE to understand what specific changes need to occur in order for the student to return to the district as it is to explain the reason(s) why the student needs to leave the district for special education programs and services. To create a system with better checks and balances the following changes are recommended:

 

·        A referral to CSE for placement outside the district should initially be reviewed by the CSE. The goal of that meeting should be to document efforts to address academic, learning and behavior problems that resulted in the referral. The CSE should then describe the nature of the program and services that it believes will address the student’s needs. Parents/guardians should be involved in this initial meeting and collaborate with the team in the development of the specific recommendations. The CSE should describe how the parents/guardians have been kept informed of the events leading up to the referral and the interventions and supports tried. The building level instructional support teams should be used as necessary.

·        A District Level CSE meeting, composed of individuals not from the child’s school, should then meet to review the information and make a formal decision regarding placement in a more restrictive setting. A representative from the school other than the Director should participate in the meeting.

·        Annual reviews for all students in out of district placements should be conducted by the District Level CSE. The home school liaison should participate in the meeting and report on student’s progress toward addressing his IEP goals etc. Based on reports from school/agency staff, and input from parents/guardians as well as the home school liaison, recommendations for the following school year can be made.

 

 

Individualized Education Program Audits

Student Record Review

 

The purpose of the IEP audit was twofold: (1) to determine compliance with federal and state regulations; and, (2) to assess the development process and quality of the document as a local tool for assessing student needs. Individual student records were reviewed to determine the availability of required evaluations, consent forms, due process notices, and timeliness of meetings.

 

The consultants reviewed about five percent of student records and IEPs. Since the district focused attention over the last school year on the initial referral process, the consultants decided to examine referrals to CSE for the period November 2006 to October 2007. The initial referral listing, included the following information:  name/recommended school, grade, decision status, disability, date of receipt of referral, meeting date and program start date.

 

The district is using IEP Direct software to generate IEPs.  Overall, student records contained all required notices, and consent forms. Each record contained all required evaluations.  The evaluations detailed strengths and weaknesses as well as areas that needed special education services or related services support. The evaluations were multi-disciplinary in nature, meaning that various specialists including special education teachers were an integral part of the evaluation process. Meeting and placement timelines were consistent with state regulations. In a few records, timelines exceeded requirements but there was documentation explaining the delay or rescheduling of meetings or program start dates.  However, based on a review of student records and IEPs, and discussions with staff, the consultants identified the following issues and/or concerns:

 

·        notices to parents of BOE action regarding a CSE recommendation were sent to parents the same day that BOE met.

·        some Social History Reports completed by parents, were either unsigned and/or undated. Staff members in different buildings appear to be using different instruments or procedures to complete this report. In some cases, comments about a family’s social history are incorporated in the individual psychological evaluation

·        consultant teacher services did not always specify the content area subject

·        goals and objectives that address the transitional planning process were incomplete or were left blank on some IEPs.

·        while quarterly progress reports are routinely provided to parents, Hispanic families only receive the cover letter in Spanish. The actual progress report is in English.

·        IEPs are not translated into the native language, when necessary, for families whose native language is other than English.

·        CSE is using an outdated form to document eligibility for classification of learning disability. IDEA 2004 includes a revised form for use

·        Records often contained data/information on interventions or efforts to address learning problems prior to referral to CSE.  However, the quantity and quality of the information varies significantly across the district. 

 

Recommendations:

 

·        Support staff has already corrected the issue of sending home recommendations the same day as the Board of Education meeting is held.

·        PPS staff should develop a district-wide procedure to complete required social history reports. The consultants can provide sample forms if needed.

·        Consultant teacher services need to specify the content area in each student’s IEP.

·        The transitional planning grant recently awarded to the district should be used to improve the entire transitional planning process, including the utilization of individual goals and objectives. Staff training should focus on new data elements.   

·        Reports, IEPs and any other correspondence need to be sent to families in their native language. Procedures should be developed and reviewed on an ongoing basis to identify families that need reports and documents translated into their native language..

·        Demographic information on IEPs, including dominant language spoken in the home, should be updated at each annual review meeting or more often as necessary, to ensure accuracy and completeness.

·        The section on pre-referral intervention strategies includes recommendations.

 

CSE Process and Timelines

 

Consultants reviewed written referral procedures (currently being updated to reflect staff changes), referral forms, annual review committee notations, and data in IEP Direct regarding dates of consent, evaluation, and placement. 

 

The written referral procedures describe in detail the process to be used for initial referrals from the building, parent referrals, transfer referrals and program reviews. The process requires on going tracking of the referral, regardless of where it originates, specific timelines for certain activities such as date consent form sent to parent, date meeting is scheduled, and date upon which required evaluations must be completed. A routing slip is used to track evaluations and a CSE Referral Log database is maintained in the Office of Student Services to monitor the process. Based on the date of consent a mandated initial meeting date is projected 30 days out to ensure that meetings are held in a timely manner. Each Director reviews the log and routing sheet. All required assessments are due in Office of Student Services five days prior to the scheduled meeting

 

The District has established two Committees on Special Education (CSE) – a full CSE and a sub-CSE in each building. Full CSE membership includes all mandated members and meets to make initial eligibility determinations and significant changes in program services and placement [e.g. movement to a more restrictive setting or placement outside the district].  The sub-CSE is used primarily to conduct annual and/or program reviews, minor program changes and modifications such as changes in related services levels.  Sub-CSE meetings can be chaired by Directors, school psychologist, special education department chairs, or anyone else duly appointed. Full level CSE is almost always chaired by a Director. In each building, Sub-CSE membership and full CSE membership include the same individuals, except that a parent is added for full CSE membership. This structure does not provide for a different level in an appeals process. A district level CSE composed of different individuals [instead of a full CSE with the same school staff] would provide parents with a district level appeals process before having to go to mediation or an impartial hearing.

 

Overall, the CSE process is working quite well. Timelines for meetings, completion of IEPS and other notices is occurring routinely. The annual review process, while time consuming, is well planned and coordinated and IEPs are completed prior to the start of the school year. Student strengths, weaknesses and needs are identified in individual evaluations. It was easy to link goals and objectives on IEPs with stated needs in the assessment document.

 

Observations/Recommendations:

 

  1. In order to complete the annual review process, a significant amount of time is dedicated to planning and coordination, scheduling meetings, and preparing and/or completing and/or disseminating IEPs to staff and parents. The process from start to finish takes half the school year to complete. The two Directors are essentially responsible to manage the process, chair selected meetings, review IEPs for accuracy and completeness, and work with other administrators to modify or add programs based on the results of CSE meetings. This results in virtually no time to supervise programs in schools or assist staff with program related issues. It is recommended that each Director’s responsibilities for Chairing CSE Meetings be reassigned to other staff or a new position be created to do this. While this cannot be implemented until the 2008-09 school year, time now should be spent looking at the process to determine various options to conduct the annual review process. The Directors must focus on staff supervision, and staff and program development.
  2. For students transitioning from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school, or post-secondary placements, the annual review meeting is conducted by staff in the building that the student is leaving. This meeting should be held in the building that the student is going to. A representative from the student’s current level would participate in the meeting. The primary advantage is that the staff most familiar with the next level’s programs and services leads in making recommendations. This helps to reduce the need for additional meetings in the fall, and allows the staff at the new level to become familiar with each student; and, can help address questions or other issues that families may have. The District should consider the position of a Transition Coordinator at the secondary level to help students and families transition between schools and to post-secondary placements.

 

Central Administration

 

Prior to this school year there was a director and two assistant directors that administered the special education program. The position of Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Service was created this year and the two assistant director positions were reclassified to director level positions. As a result, the district level special education leader has been elevated to a cabinet level position. The Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services has direct contact with Board of Education; and, is in a better position to act as a change agent while providing coordination for support services district-wide. The director level positions should be placed on an administrative par with building principals. The Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction is the regular education counterpart to the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services.

 

The Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services provided consultants with a document entitled “Preliminary Draft – 2007-2010 Areas of Focus”.  This document, dated 10/23/07 highlights areas that need attention and asks staff, “How can you embed this preliminary (Areas of Focus) into the BOE goals – your individual/department goals –and school goals? How do they connect?”.  The document is included in the appendix, but it is mentioned here because it is the most current document that consultants have seen that begins to set a framework for goal setting, self-evaluation, and coordination of services. The only other document that appears to have specific goals and objectives is the District Special Education Plan, developed during 2005-06 school year. Some of the goals in this Plan correspond to focus areas in the Preliminary Draft. For example:  “create a more inclusive instructional environment and school community; advance in the implementation of more authentic assessments; establish more comprehensive transition programs; and, develop and implement a daily living skills curriculum at the middle and high school level”.

 

Consultants interviewed the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and learned that  (1) there is no district-wide curriculum committee, (2) there is no systemic method for sharing, interpreting or using state assessment data to inform decisions about instruction, (3) there is no district Academic Intervention Plan [AIS] containing program criteria, nor any plan as to  how services will be delivered or who will deliver them;  these are all building level decisions, (4) Curriculum Mapping has not been completed district-wide and there is no real articulation about curricula either horizontally or vertically-except in Math and Science since these subjects are more prescriptive in nature, (5) there are different handwriting programs in different buildings, and, (6) kindergarten students are not screened until fall.

 

Many of the focus areas in the above mentioned document have been included and/or commented on in this Report, and have been areas that many staff and administrators have alluded to during interviews. Hopefully this common sense of purpose will sustain the hard work that lies ahead.

 

Recommendations:

1.      There is no document or procedure in place that describes how special education program and services are to be evaluated. This report has included an analysis of different state and local reports (blueprint) to assess program effectiveness. The strategies and documents used in this report should be incorporated into district evaluation procedures.

2.      Consultants had a sense of disconnectedness when visiting programs and observing services. There are good practices, as well as excellent teaching and innovative ideas in the district – but, in general, staff members do not have knowledge of what is happening elsewhere. Special education department meetings are not routinely held [although Consultants were told that this is being addressed this year]. As a result, teachers do not have opportunities to share best practices, or reflect on their practices, or mutually celebrate successes.  Opportunities to come together for these purposes help to develop not only a school culture, but a district culture. The sense of disconnectedness results in curricula concerns, lack of coordination and planning of services, continuity of programs and other issues that negatively impact on students.  This needs immediate attention.

3.      After conferring with the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, there seems to be a number of areas of responsibility that overlap and need to be worked out with the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services. These include, (1) Instructional Support Teams (IST), (2) staff development, and (3) curricula.  However, Consultants believe that there are certain areas that should remain as regular education initiatives. These include, (1) Instructional Support Teams (IST), (2) response to interventions (RTI), (3) development of individual accommodation plans (section 504), (4) academic intervention services, and (5) reading programs. However, that is not to say that some decisions need to be jointly made when they involve SWDs. For example, a question as to how SWDs will access reading instruction through the services of a reading specialist may arise.   SWDs are eligible to receive regular education services.

4.      Collaboration between the two Assistant Superintendents should occur regarding academic intervention services (AIS).  Currently, there is no district-wide policy on AIS.  While each building is providing AIS, there is no consistency across the district. The AIS Plan is a mandated requirement. The Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction should make this a priority.

 

New York State Assessment Data [School Report Card Data]

 

The federal No Child Left Behind [NCLB] Act requires that states develop and report on measures of student proficiency in English Language Arts [ELA], mathematics, and a third indicator. New York State uses science as the third indicator at the elementary and middle school levels and graduation rate at the secondary level. Schools or districts that can document student proficiency in each of these accountability groups on these measures are making Adequate Yearly Progress [AYP].

 

English Language Arts [ELA]: To make AYP in ELA, each accountability group must make AYP by meeting both the participation AND the performance criteria.

 

  1. Participation Criterion: At the elementary and middle school levels, 95% of grades 3-8 students enrolled during the test administration period in each group with 40 or more students must be tested on the NYS Testing Program [NYSTP] in ELA, or, as appropriate, the NYS English as a Second Language Achievement Test [NYSELAT], or the NYS Alternate Assessment [NYSAA] in ELA. At the secondary level, 95% of seniors in each accountability group with 40 or more students must have taken an English examination that meets the student’s graduation requirement.

 

  1. Performance Criterion: At the elementary and middle levels, the Performance index (PI) of each group with 30 or more continuously enrolled [on BEDS day in October of each year until the test administration period] tested students must equal or exceed it Effective Annual Measurable Objective –AMO-[the Performance Index value that each accountability group with a school or district is expected to achieve to make AYP. The Effective AMO is the lowest PI that an accountability group of a given size can achieve in a subject for the group’s PI not to be considered significantly different from the AMO for that subject. [If an accountability group’s PI equals or exceeds the Effective AMO, it is considered to have made AYP.],  or the group must make Safe Harbor [an alternate means to demonstrate AYP for accountability groups that do not achieve their Effective AMOs in English or mathematics]. Safe Harbor targets are calculated using a formula equation.

[Note: A group may meet the participation criterion, but not the performance criterion.]              

 

Mathematics: The same criteria for making AYP in ELA apply to mathematics. The elementary/middle levels, the measures used to determine AYP are the NYSTP- and the NYSAA in mathematics. At the secondary level, the measures are mathematics examinations that meet the students’ graduation requirement.

 

Secondary Level Graduation Rate: For a school to make AYP in graduation rate, the percent of students in a particular graduation-rate cohort in the All Students group earning a high school diploma by August 31 of the cohort’s graduating year, must equal or exceed the Graduation-rate standard [55%] of the Graduation-Rate Progress Target.

 

Explanation of Terms for the Charts that Follow:

                                                                                                           

The Performance Index [PI] is a value from 0 to 200 that is assigned to an accountability group, indicating how that group performed on a required State test (or approved alternative) in English language arts, mathematics, or science. Student scores on the tests are converted to four performance levels, from Level 1 (indicating no proficiency) to Level 4 (indicating advanced proficiency).

 

At the elementary/middle level, the PI is calculated using the following equation: 100 x [count of continuously enrolled tested students performing at levels 2, 3, and 4 + the count at levels 3 and 4] + count of all continuously enrolled tested students.

 

At the secondary level, the PI is calculated using the following equation: 100 x [count of cohort members performing at levels 2, 3, and 4 + the count at levels 3 and 4] + count of all cohort members.

 

A District in Good Standing is one that has not been identified as a District in Need of Improvement or a District Requiring Academic Progress. Although the District has not been identified as needing improvement it is interesting to look at the data in such a way as to compare the differences or spread between the PI and Effective AMO Target for each subgroup. Even though an accountability group’s PI equals or exceeds the Effective AMO, and the group is considered to have made AYP, would it be of value to know how well each accountability group scored above its Effective AMO? The charts that follow present such information for 2003-04 to 2006-07 as found on the School Report Card for each of these years.

 

 

 

 

 

                             

2004                              2005                           2006                        2007   

A. Elem./MS ELA

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

All Students

183

170

117

101

+66

+69

188

178

125

110

+63

+68

183

120

+63

183

120

+63

Black or African American

 

 

 

 

 

 

148

110

+38

156

110

+46

Hispanic or Latino

 

133

 

95

 

+38

162

138

119

103

+43

+35

156

116

+40

147

116

+27

Asian or Pacific Islander

 

 

 

 

 

 

190

112

+78

189

112

+77

White

184

179

117

100

+67

+79

194

186

125

110

+69

+76

189

119

+70

191

119

+72

SWD

145

123

109

95

+36

+28

154

129

117

104

+37

+25

139

116

+23

136

116

+20

LEP

 

 

 

 

 

 

161

109

+52

103

111

-8

Economically

Disadvantaged

 

 

 

 

 

 

147

114

+33

136

114

+22

Note: In years 2003/04 and 2004/05, Elementary and Middle School scores were reported separately. The top number is the elementary score and the bottom number is the middle school score. They have been combined since 2006-07. Positive differences between the Performance Index [PI] and Effective Annual Measurable Objective [AMO] have been consistently the highest for the Asian/PI and White student populations than for any other subgroup. Positive differences for SWD are the lowest out of all the subgroups [with the exception of LEP students in 2006-07]. At the elementary/middle levels, all student subgroups made adequate yearly progress [AYP} in English Language Arts [ELA] except Limited English Proficient [LEP] students in 2006-07.

 

                                    2004                      2005                           2006                          2007

B. Elem./MS Math

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

All Students

193

180

 

130

75

+63

+105

196

179

136

87

+60

+92

183

84

+99

185

84

+101

Black or African American

 

 

 

 

 

 

148

74

+74

151

74

+77

Hispanic or Latino

 

157

 

68

 

+89

187

137

130

80

+57

+57

151

80

+71

165

80

+85

Asian or Pacific Islander

 

 

 

 

 

 

196

76

+120

192

76

+116

White

193

187

130

74

+63

+113

198

189

136

87

+62

+102

189

83

+106

190

83

+107

SWD

179

130

122

69

+57

+61

187

128

128

82

+59

+46

136

80

+56

143

80

+63

LEP

 

 

 

 

 

 

117

72

+45

146

75

+71

Economically

Disadvantaged

 

 

 

 

 

 

144

78

+66

157

78

+79

 

                                    2004                      2005                           2006                          2007

C. Secondary ELA

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

All Students

181

136

+45

190

142

+48

193

148

+45

179

153

+26

Black or African American

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hispanic or Latino

140

126

+14

160

131

+29

 

 

 

143

144

-1

Asian or Pacific Islander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White

190

135

+55

195

141

+54

197

147

+50

185

153

+32

SWD

130

127

+3

160

133

+27

167

139

+28

118

146

-28

LEP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Economically

Disadvantaged

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: At the Secondary Level, Hispanic or Latino students and SWD did not make AYP in ELA.

 

                                    2004                      2005                           2006                          2007

D. Secondary Math

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

PI

AMO

Diff.

All Students

172

126

+46

180

133

+53

192

140

+52

183

146

+37

Black or African American

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hispanic or Latino

120

116

+4

147

122

+25

 

 

 

*152

137

+15

Asian or Pacific Islander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White

182

125

+57

186

132

+54

195

139

+56

190

146

+44

SWD

123

117

+6

153

124

+29

158

131

+27

*149

139

+10

LEP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Economically

Disadvantaged

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: At the secondary level Hispanic or Latino students and SWD did not make AYP since less than 95% of seniors in these groups with 40 or more students took the state test. Therefore, these groups did not meet the Participation Criterion for making Average Yearly Progress [AYP]. How well is each of the subgroups meeting standards?? What difference does it make?

 

Table 9:   H.S.  Graduates Earning a Regents Diploma

Year Ending

03

04

05

06

General Education Students

270

or

100%

252

or

100%

NA

NA 

Students With Disabilities

33

or

100%

40

or

100%

NA

NA

 

 

Table 10: H.S. Non-Completion Rates [Number of Students]

School Year

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

General Education Students

8

33

10

8

Special Education Students

2

2

2

1

Total Number

10

35

12

9

 

Student Performance Data:

 

Student performance data should be used to integrate district curriculum work with the school improvement process [improving student learning]. Assessment, curriculum, standards, instruction, and staff development need to be interwoven within the total learning environment in order to improve student learning. Assessment, curriculum, staff development and instruction are interrelated. The standards provide the framework. The ‘how’ is determined by educators. Standards are not the curricula. They guide total alignment and maintenance of the instructional program. If there is a strong connection among the curricula content [as stated in District documents] the content that is actually delivered [instruction], and the content that is assessed, the total instructional program will be aligned and students’ learning will improve.

 

The role of assessment is to inform instructional decisions. These decisions are related to the content learned and not learned well, effective instructional methods and materials, and best practices [research-based and proven] for meeting the needs of different learners. Assessment also helps to identify areas of concern where students are not performing satisfactorily either as a group or individually, and is useful in identifying staff development needs. Looking at data that is ‘raw’ can show us range, distribution, and patterns of success and failure of different groups or individuals in the student population.  Raw data is understood easier than aggregate information that is most often presented [e.g. central tendency, mean]. It is important to construct meaning from data. Questions to ask when looking at ‘raw’ data are: (1) What is this saying about our District or our school? (2) What is reflected here? (3) What are we doing well? (4) What do we need to improve upon? (5) What might it take to realize the improvement that is needed? In addition, assumptions may surface concerning SWD, ethnic groups, ELLs, gender and/or the disadvantaged populations; and, we need to verify them [ e.g.,  All SWD should be exempt from a foreign language].

 

The term ‘triangulation’ was a term that was used long ago in navigation. It described navigation at sea by using charts, instruments and the stars to determine location and direction. Today, we apply it in the decision-making process for school improvement. It implies the need to use multiple indicators to confirm where we are and where we should be going. So, in essence, it still means a method for gauging location and direction. Multiple assessment indicators [some objective and some subjective in combination with one another] should always be used to inform decisions regarding instruction and staff development. Using multiple indicators provide for powerful arguments either for or against, in the decision-making process.

 

 

 

 

Why Standards??  Standards are needed …

 

1.      To prepare students for current and future academic requirements

2.      To prepare students to meet the demands of changes in knowledge, necessary skills, society; and, communication and technology

3.      To be able to articulate a shared vision of what is expected of students and what graduates will know and be able to do [everyone is on the same page-know where we are going and what we have to do in order to get there

4.      To promote high educational expectations for ALL students so that they will become literate citizens who will be able to participate fully in our society and have the skills to successfully compete within a dynamic global economy

 

There are ten major elements that must be in place in order to successfully implement a standards-based system.  Those elements are: administrative support; on-going opportunities for staff development, study, and practice with support; daily opportunities for collaborative planning; expertise in developing good classroom assessments; ability to interpret data; excellent knowledge of the standards and school curricula; opportunities to interact with ‘experts’; routine communication with parents; a plan  that is implemented to actively involve parents in their children’s learning; and, ability to help students transition successfully. How well is Mamaroneck doing?

 

English Language Learners:

 

The bilingual programs of today are mostly a product of the Bilingual Education Act [Title VII] passed in 1968. Congress passed the Act as part of the Civil Rights Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs receiving federal financial assistance. The Bilingual Act requires that, when needed, schools must provide equal educational opportunities specifically for language minority students. The Office of Civil Rights [OCR] enforces the Act.

 

Under the Act, ELL students must be kept in an adequate program until they can read, write, and comprehend English well enough to participate meaningfully in all aspects of the school’s curriculum. While the OCR provides a set of characteristics that bilingual programs must have, it does not require any specific program for ELL instruction. Because of variations among bilingual programs, data on the academic success of ELL students can be difficult to evaluate. Under NCLB, students within the LEP category can be counted for up to two years after re-designation as fully English Proficient [but, data cannot be disaggregated for former and current LEP students, making it difficult to evaluate the performance of schools in educating ELLS].

 

The 1994 and 2000 versions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA], required each state to develop an assessment system that includes ELLs and ensures that they make adequate progress from year to year [LEP students in public schools 12 or more months]. The Improving America’s Schools Act [IASA] and the NCLB tightened many of the testing exemptions used by states and raised the accountability stakes for tracking and improving ELL students’ performance. In June of 2006, the U.S. Department of Education notified the New York State Education Department [SED] that the use of an alternative English as a Second language [ESL] test instead of the English Language Arts [ELA] test was no longer consistent with the requirements of the Federal No Child Left behind Act [NCLB].The practice had been to allow LEP/ELL students to take the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test [NYSESLAT] for up to three years rather than taking the ELA assessment. Subsequent to this directive, New York State must administer its ELA assessment to LEP/ELL students who, as of January 3, 2007, have been enrolled in school in the United States for one year or more. New York State was directed to comply with this NCLB requirement by the end of the 2006-07 school year, and SED has been warned that failure to do so could result in a loss of Federal funds. This directive could have a significant impact on New York’s students.

 

The National Center on Educational Outcomes [University of Minnesota] published a report in 2007 [“Standards-based Instructional Strategies for ELLs with Disabilities” by D. Albus, M. Thurlow & A. Clapper] concentrating on the types of successful instructional strategies for ELLs that exist in the top ten states with the most number of ELLs and the bottom ten with the least number of ELLs. The researchers at the Center also wanted to determine whether the strategies were linked to state learning standards by subgroups [e.g. SWD, General Education, ELLs with Disabilities, ELLs]. New York State ranks fourth in having the largest number of ELLs. However, there is no state instructional document in New York that clearly connects a specific state standard to a strategy in reading, math or math/science. There are three known state instructional documents in the area of reading that mention state standards in the text, but without any language that makes a direct connection between a specific standard and strategy. In addition, none of the three documents cite research with the ELL population. No documents connecting strategies to standards are known to exist in math or math/science. In contrast, the state of Washington, which ranks eighth of the ten largest ELL populated states, has 31 standards-based state documents that clearly connect standards to strategies; AND, each of the documents cites the research that is associated with each of those strategies. Overall, there is a limited research base on successful instructional strategies for ELLs with disabilities available. Therefore, there is a need for more published research on successful instructional strategies for students across a range of language and cultural backgrounds and with diverse types of disabilities. Information as to how to help ELLs with disabilities is critical. It is also important to educate parents so that they, too, are familiar with state standards and what they can expect their children to know and be able to do.

 

Understandably, there is an urgent need to improve instruction for all ELL students, both in special programs and in mainstream classrooms. As long as the number of families immigrating to the United States, and in particular, New York State, continues to grow, many children will continue to enter school with a language other than English. Next to accommodating for students who have behavioral issues, accommodating for ELL students can be the most challenging for regular classroom teachers.

 

According to a Center on Instruction Report in 2006 [English Language Learners Strand; Harvard School of Education & the University of Texas at Houston], estimates place the ELL population at over 9.9 million, with about 5.5 million classified as Limited English Proficient [LEP]. In the last two decades, the population of ELLs has grown 169 percent while the general population has grown only 12%. By 2015, it is estimated that 30% of the school-aged population in the U.S. will be ELLs. Unlike their native English-speaking peers, ELLs –particularly young children-are acquiring a second language while they are developing a first language. As they are developing conversational ability and basic reading skills, ELLs must also develop oral and written academic language skills for the development of academic knowledge and success in content area classrooms. Researchers claim that mastery of academic language is the single most important determinant of academic success for students. Proficient use of-and control over-academic language are needed for content area learning to occur. While many ELLs have the basic skills, they lack sufficient complexity and sophistication in their oral and written academic language to meet today’s standards.

 

Most ELLs do not demonstrate significant reading difficulties in the primary grades. The difficulty comes later on when there is a shift from learning to read to reading to learn; and, text becomes central to the delivery of curricula and overall academic success. Those in middle and high school may have difficulty in comprehending and analyzing texts, and in writing and expressing themselves effectively. Many with academic challenges have been enrolled in the public school system since kindergarten, and by the time they reach the upper grades, they do not have a formal designation in order to receive support services for language development. Instead, they have been identified as having sufficient English Proficiency for participation with English only speaking peers. The ELLs typically have good conversational skills [which are not intellectually demanding], but abilities to deal with academic language may be lacking, thereby negatively affecting their academic success. Those that have good conversational skills appear to sound very fluent to most people and are said to speak English well. Those are the students who understand their teachers’ questions, converse with English-speaking peers, and perhaps translate for their parents [meaning that the native language is probably spoken in the home]. However, their daily written work and assignments may not reflect this fluency. Such students may be falsely classified as learning disabled or language impaired; or may be labeled as poorly motivated or lazy. A teacher’s approach based on students’ cultural and social needs can positively affect student participation.

 

 Jane Hill and Kathleen Flynn, in Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners, [ASCD; Alexandria, VA, 2006] use the metaphor of an iceberg when explaining the concept of surface and deeper level of language proficiency. The students just described above have only developed the tip of the iceberg [i.e. conversational English], while the large portion of the iceberg is still hidden under the sea. These authors go on to say that without developing academic English skills, ELL students are not able to develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to understand and express the new and abstract concepts presented to them in the classroom. Many would benefit from a better fit between their instructional needs and the instructional environment in order to prevent some of their difficulties.

 

Reading Literacy

 

In November 2007, scores for the Progress in International Reading Literacy [PIRLS] 2006 edition of the test were released. American 4th graders outscored children in 22 of 39 other nations that took part in the assessment [215,000 4th graders world-wide]. Although the U.S. average score remained above the international average, the United States is statistically the same in 2006 as it was in 2001. The achievement gap between Hispanic and Black students and their white peers in the United States persisted. In the United States, the average score for white 4th grade students was 560, and 518 and 503 for Hispanic and Black students, respectively. Russia was the top scorer with 565 points, representing a 37 point gain over results in 2001. Hong Kong, some Canadian provinces, Singapore, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy, and Sweden, were the next highest.

 

Girls scored higher than boys in the United States. According to the January 8, 2008 edition of Newsleader [vol.55, No.5], Black and Hispanic students make up approximately 38% of 4th graders across the nation.

 

Math

 

A recent report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, commissioned by the White House, found that in mathematics, American students achieve more poorly at higher grades. This finding is consistent among researchers. The 19 member panel has reviewed approximately 18,000 research documents and reports and is supposed to deliver a final report to the White House by February 28, 2008. The panel’s recommendations could guide Math Now, a federal grant program approved by Congress in 2007, which has not yet been funded.

 

What Literacy Is

 

Literacy is more than being able to read and write. It means being able to think complexly in a newly acquired language. Encompassing the use of what is familiar and meaningful is critical to success in learning to read and write well, whether in one’s native or second language. According to Geneva Gay, Ph.D. [Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory and Practice, University of Washington, Seattle: Teachers College Press, 2000], children may be at a disadvantage for success in early reading tasks if there is a mismatch between the structures, values, and expectations of the home language and school language. In schools, where all instruction is given in English, non-native speakers with no schooling in their first language may take as long as seven to ten years to reach age-and grade-level norms. Immigrant students who have had two or three years of schooling in their native language take at least five to seven years to reach the same norms. Children in such circumstances may spend their entire career attempting to catch up.

 

Recent research informs us that language minority students are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of school than native speakers. English Language Learners [ELLs] tend to receive lower grades, tend to be judged by their teachers as having lower academic abilities, and are more likely to score below their classmates on standardized tests of reading, writing and math. The best way to teach students as they are learning English as a second language is still very much subject to debate. Some researchers believe that it is a mistake to focus on teaching ELLs English, first, at the expense of social-emotional needs. Both cognitive and academic development in one’s first language has been found to have positive effects on second language learning.

 

Catherine Snow [Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP), Harvard School of Education, 2005] suggests that literacy should be defined in terms of what it takes to function in one’s culture on a daily basis, rather than solely upon a standard language. Literacy development is a socially-constructed process that builds upon a foundation of prior knowledge for meaning. Learning to read in one’s native language that encompasses the familiar and meaningful is critical to success in learning to read in a second language. Some researchers assert that students who spend four to seven years in quality bilingual programs sustain academic achievement and outperform mono-lingually schooled students in the upper grades [fourth grade and up]. Currently, more researchers are in agreement that learning to read and write in the first or native language supports success with reading and writing in the second language. Interestingly, literacy skills related to decoding tasks of reading have been found to transfer between languages. Strong literacy skills in the native language are a very good predictor of how well fluency is attained in the second language. However, these skills should not be developed in isolation. They must be contextualized within meaningful instructional contexts for transfer to occur. Environments filled with print examples in both languages should be available to students [e.g. newspapers, books, multi-cultural materials, signs in classrooms and school corridors, audio-tapes for home use]. Students should be able to easily access materials in both languages to have in their homes, as well as in their classrooms. Opportunities to read and write in both languages should also be available in classrooms [multi-language classrooms]. Snow says ‘we need to identify which kids have which problems, to what degree, and decide what do we do about it’ She, and others [Is Literacy Enough?: Pathways to academic success for adolescents, 2007] strongly advocate for on-going reading support in both middle and high school, especially in the area of comprehension. The authors identify attending multiple schools and family disruption as risk factors for students. They stress the importance of academic and emotional support from teachers and parents.

 

Literacy is Important in Science

 

It is also interesting to note that fifteen-year old U.S. students ranked lower, on average, than their peers in 16 other countries, out of 30 other ‘rich’, industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] on the PISA [International Assessment in Science]. The average score among industrialized nations was 500 while the U.S.A.’s average score was 489. The PISA is given every three years. More than 40,000 students from 57 different countries, representing close to 90% of the world economy, took the assessment in 2006. In contrast with other countries, second generation immigrant students in the U.S. did not perform better than their first generation peers. Eleven countries scored lower than the United States. The top scorers were Finland, followed by Canada, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, France, and Iceland.

 

The science test measures science literacy, as defined by OECD. Literacy on the PISA is defined as the ability to think scientifically and identify questions, gain new knowledge, explain scientific phenomena, and draw evidence-based conclusions about issues in science. When compared with their peers from other developed nations, U.S. students scored only 7 points lower than the international average [which was their best], on questions that asked them to identify scientific issues. However, U.S. students were at their worst, scoring 14 points below their the international average, when they had to interpret or explain phenomena scientifically, and identify correct explanations, descriptions and predictions [as reported by Sean Cavanaugh, in the December 4, 2007 issue of Education Week].

 

 

 

What ELLs Need

 

A balanced literacy program is important for ELLs – one that incorporates traditional and meaning-based curricula. Different approaches are necessary because of the great diversity of skills and experiences among the ELL population with literacy in their native language. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol [SLOP], 2000 developed by Echevarria, Vogt, and Short, is a research-based model emphasizing both content and language objectives that mainstream teachers can use to better instruct ELLs. This model meets the NCLB requirements that a school’s method of language instruction be research-based. The SLOP was first used as a research instrument and after its effectiveness was tested for more than six years by the National Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence, it was modified into a system for lesson planning and instruction. Just as we have learned our primary language in stages, so do students learning a second language, move through various stages. It is therefore very important for teachers to know which stage of acquisition each ELL is in [reproduction; early production; speech emergence; intermediate fluency; advanced fluency]. This is critical for effectively differentiating instruction for students. It will inform the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of instruction for each student.

 

Recommendations for Staff Development

 

Through a meta-analysis of over 100 studies conducted by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning [MCREL], researchers identified nine categories of instructional strategies that proved to be exceptionally effective as best practices for increasing student performance. Those strategies are outlined below.

 

  1. Setting Language and Content Objectives and Providing Feedback

Teachers must have a firm foundation in how our language works in order to give students appropriate feedback. They need training in the areas of linguistics, sociolinguistics and language use. The educational environment becomes a friendlier place. Teachers give students directions for a focus-learning and students have information as to how well they are doing in meeting a goal. Setting objectives creates the teaching path and helps students to focus on information directly related to the objectives. Objectives should be flexible and teachers should enter into contracts with students to obtain specific objectives. Students are less overwhelmed when they are told ahead of time, what they are going to learn each day.

  1. Nonlinguistic Representations

These enhance students’ ability to represent and elaborate on their knowledge. Students are aided not only in understanding material better, but recall the knowledge more readily (e.g. projects, activities, physical models, pictographs, graphic representations.)

  1. Cues, Questions and Advance Organizers

      These enhance students’ ability to retrieve, use, and organize knowledge. Prior knowledge becomes activated and students are personally stimulated to become           engaged in learning (e.g. descriptions of new learning content, skimming, stories,   graphics or other visual representations, headings, bold type).

 

 

 

4.      Cooperative Learning

This involves pairing or grouping students differently throughout the school day   so that students have opportunities to make sense of new knowledge by interacting authentically with others.

  1. Summarizing and Note Taking

This enhances students’ ability to process, synthesize and organize information. Teachers should not assume that students have already learned these skills at a lower level in their school experience (even though these skills have been taught in prior years).

  1. Homework and Practice

      The purpose for assigning homework is to provide an extension of learning         opportunities-to review and apply knowledge and skills.

  1. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

This is important in establishing the relationship between effort and achievement. Students can learn that effort pays off, even if they have not believed it. According to research, rewards can have a positive effect on intrinsic motivation; and, are effective when a standard of performance [clearly defined goals that a student is aware of] must be attained in order to receive them. Positive, verbal reinforcement is even more effective than tangible rewards.

  1. Generating and Testing Hypotheses

Research shows that the deductive [general to specific] approach to hypothesis and testing generation is more effective than inductive [specific to general]. Teachers should ask students to clearly explain their thinking in the process of forming hypotheses and conclusions. This helps to clear up any misconceptions and deepen understandings.

  1. Identifying Similarities and Differences

Forming new connections and insights, as well as clearing up misconceptions occur when students are involved in tasks that help them identify similarities and differences in learning content. Research informs us that both teacher-directed and student-directed comparison tasks enhance student knowledge. Direct instruction is more effective when teachers desire to have students focus on specific similarities and differences. Also, using visual representations [graphics, metaphors, analogies, diagrams, matrices, models, and the like] to represent similarities and differences easily generate similarities, and differences; and, facilitates students’ understanding of , and ability to use, knowledge.                       

The focus of all instruction should emphasize meaning. Families and caregivers are also a great resource. Schools can greatly enhance the students’ literacy development by collaborating with parents and families. Morrow and Young’s [“A Family Literacy Program Connecting School and Home: Effects on Attitudes, Motivation, and Literacy Achievement”  in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 89, 1997] research found that when developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive literacy activities were used in schools and homes and,  parents were involved in the planning and implementation; and, when monthly meetings were held with parents, students and teachers, the literacy achievement of participants increased. Researchers focusing on the Hispanic or Latino population are in agreement that Latino immigrant families are not only very interested in their children’s education, but are very trusting of the schools to educate their children. Like any parent, Latino parents want to be respected. Other researchers have documented much the same for African-American, Asian-American, and Native American parents in their desire for a quality education for their children. All students could benefit from learning to honor diversity, and learning skills that will help them relate to others in a positive way. Individuality should be something to be respected and celebrated.

 

Leadership to create such an environment is a responsibility of all in the school – not just invested in a small number of individuals. This hinges on the capacity and opportunities for staff to ‘develop’. School district and building leaders need to develop processes for ELL parent involvement and that of the greater community, as well.  A well known model of parent and community involvement was developed at Johns Hopkins University by Epstein, Coates, Salinas, Sanders & Simon in 1997 [Community Partnerships: Your handbook for action, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press]. It is a research-based model and includes six types of parent and community involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering [includes active recruitment], learning at home, decision-making, and collaborating with community. The appendix of the book contains an example of a three-year parent and community involvement plan- September 2005-to June 2008. The authors emphasize the need for all of the District’s staff to develop or improve knowledge and skills relative to how to work effectively with parents and families of ELLs. In addition, the District needs to develop mechanisms whereby parents and families can increase their knowledge and skills relative to active participation in school activities and their children’s education.

 

What We Know About Diversity and Education

 

A report entitled, Diversity Within Unity: Essential Principles for Teaching and Learning in a Multicultural Society, [Banks, Cookson, Gay, Hawley, Irvine, Nieto, Schofield, & Stephan, 2001] is the product of a four-year project conducted by the Multicultural Education Consensus Panel, sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, and the Common Destiny Alliance at the University of Maryland. The members of the panel reviewed and synthesized research related to diversity. As a result, the panel published twelve essential principles, derived from research and practice, which describe how educational practice related to diversity can be improved in schools. [These principles are contained in the appendix of this report.] These principles are meant to guide educators in improving student achievement and intergroup skills. The principles are organized into five categories: (1) Teacher Learning; (2) Student Learning; (3) Intergroup Relations; (4) School Governance, Organization, and Equity; and (5) Assessment. The authors of this report stress that is incumbent upon teachers to become knowledgeable about the social and cultural contexts of teaching and learning if learning opportunities are to be increased for all students. Teaching should be culturally responsive to students from diverse backgrounds [i.e. racial, ethnic, cultural, and language].

 

Therefore, effective professional development should include programs that help teachers to: (1) become aware of their own personal attitudes toward racial, ethnic, cultural, and language groups; (2) become knowledgeable about the histories and cultures of the diverse students in their schools; (3) increase their knowledge about the diverse perspectives that exist among different cultural communities; (4) become aware of the factors that perpetuate stereotypes about various cultural groups; (5) improve their knowledge and skills in providing all students with an equal opportunity to attain academic and social success in school.; (6) learn methods of inquiry to learn about their students’ culture and experiences; (7) use various approaches to cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and grouping of students; (8) learn how to include the perspectives of the ‘losers’ rather than just the ‘winners’ when studying history or current events; (9) learn how to create salient sub-groupings within the school day so that all students have daily opportunities for inter-group contact-for the purpose of improving inter-group relations-thereby creating a sense of ‘community’; and (10) learn how to teach members of various cultural groups the social skills necessary to interact effectively with members of another culture.

 

Effective Use of Data in the Context of a Learning Community

 

Data driven dialogue should take place among professionals, students, parents/caregivers, and members of the greater community. This is what should provide momentum for continuously improving student achievement. Results on high-stakes assessments are only a small part of the equation in making informed decisions about student learning. These measures provide accountability data and do not function very well in a formative way unless results are used to adjust instruction. Multiple measures of skills that really matter should be used to obtain accurate information about student learning results and to inform decisions about instruction. Results should continuously be disaggregated by ethnicity, language groups, economic groups, gender, special programs, and the like; and, then analyzed in relation to individual and/or clustered student work. Item or cluster-level analyses should also be conducted and compared to the various types of student measures.

 

Effective use of data occurs in the context of a professional learning community, where everyone in the learning community is very clear about the school’s mission and vision. The learning community must be committed to and focused on improving student outcomes for all students. The learning community must be collaborative in nature and reflective about its educational practices. Assessment results should cause staff to inquire into their own practices in implementing standards-based programs. Collaborative structures must be created and sustained. Teachers and support staff need time to meet regularly [at least weekly] by department, in vertical or grade level teams, or in action research study groups. Teachers and support staff should routinely engage in data-driven dialogue and collaborative inquiry. Teachers need to make collective sense of the data, recognize root causes of existing problems, respect and consider all perspectives, and together, find solutions. Examples of data that might be collected and reviewed when students are not achieving might include: formal and informal assessments, curriculum maps, student work, classroom practice surveys, enrollment and/or attendance data, classroom observations, and even student interviews. Decision making and action planning should follow the dialogue surrounding such data. Teachers should have access to the data that they need and can use.  A summary of standardized tests results provide little guidance unless the data is disaggregated in order to uncover existing gaps-gaps that may exist in performance between whites and minorities, rich and poor, girls and boys, and/or regular and special education students. Item level analysis or cluster analysis can pinpoint the particular content strands that various students find troublesome. Such analyses can provide insights into the levels of students’ academic language ability, communication skills, and mathematical reasoning abilities. Examination of student work provides insights into how students think and provides clues as to how to improve their learning.  Common multiple assessment measures such as grade level, subject area, or course specific assessments should be collaboratively designed by teachers and focused on knowledge and skills they agree upon as central to the curriculum. Such measures are good examples of formative assessments [i.e. assessments for learning] and can be used as a common focus for collaborative inquiry [data driven dialogue] into improving student learning.

 

The Data Quality Campaign [DQC], a partnership of national organizations-including the National Center for Educational Accountability [NCEA] and the National Association of Secondary School Principals [NASSP]-to improve the quality, accessibility, and use of data in education- annually conducts a survey about state data systems to determine the progress states are making to determine the number of states that have built the infrastructure to tap into the power of longitudinal data. [There are ten essential elements of a longitudinal data system.] Support for this project came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As of September 2007, only four states [AR, DE, FL, & UT] have reported that all ten elements are in place for the 2007-08 school year. New York State is lagging behind in this endeavor. Longitudinal data is data gathered on the same student over time-from year to year. This allows districts to track the progress of the same students yearly to determine growth patterns and to acquire information for determining program effectiveness. Each of the 50 states progress in establishing the Ten Essential Elements is evaluated annually. The Ten Essential Elements are as follows:

 

1.      A unique statewide student identifier that connects student data across key databases across years [45 states]

2.      Student-level enrollment, demographics and program participation information [49 states]

3.      The ability to match individual student’s test records from year to year to measure academic growth.

4.      Information on untested students and the reasons why they were not tested [37 states]

5.      A teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students by classroom and subject to teacher training and qualifications [18 states]

6.      Student-level transcript information including information on courses completed and grades earned

7.      Student-level college readiness test scores [Sat I & II, ACT Scores, AP & IB exams taken [15 states]

8.      Student-level graduation and dropout data [49 states]

9.      The ability to match student records between the P-12 and higher education systems [22 states]

10.   A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity, and reliability [42 states]

 

These elements must be in place to adequately answer the questions below:

 

1.      Which schools produce the strongest academic growth? [Elements 1, 3, & 4 are needed to answer this question.] New York can answer this question.

2.      What achievement levels in MS indicate that a student is on track to succeed in rigorous HS courses? [Elements 1, 3, 6, & 7 are needed to answer this question] New York cannot answer this, yet.

3.      What is the school’s graduation rate, according to the 2005 National Governor’s Association Graduation Compact? [Elements 1, 2, 8 & 10 are needed to answer this question.] New York cannot answer this, yet.

4.      What high school performance indicators [e.g. enrollment in rigorous courses or performance on state tests] are the best predictors of students’ success in college or the workplace? [Elements 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, & 9 are needed to answer this question.] New York cannot answer this, yet.

5.      What percentage of high school graduates, who go on to college, take remedial courses? [Elements 1, 8, & 9 are needed to answer this question.] New York cannot answer this, yet.

6.      Which teacher preparation programs produce graduates whose students have the strongest academic growth? [Elements 1, 3, 4, & 5 are needed to answer this question.] New York cannot answer this question, yet.

 

While New York State is slowly developing the essential elements to improve the quality, accessibility and use of longitudinal data, school districts can build their own capacity to do so. Standards, supported by capacity and a well developed accountability system are needed for educational excellence. Research has identified several promising strategies for increasing a district’s potential for supporting system-wide instructional improvement. They are listed below:

 

1.      Develop a clear vision of instructional quality in the major content areas. Learn what research tells us are effective practices for different students at various developmental levels.

2.      Balance persuasive and coercive methods of influence to build system-wide commitment to the instructional vision. Sometimes people must use their authority to tell others what to do, whether they agree or not. Stake-holders wish to be heard or listened to, but are content to have those, in authority make the tough decisions. Coercive methods alone result in superficial compliance. Persuasive methods of influence work to convince others of the value of particular approaches, appealing to their sense of professional responsibility. Good leaders have the ‘power’ to positively influence others to follow. The three Cs-compelling, convincing and cajoling may work best.

3.      Build capacity through staff development at all levels of the organization. A commitment to building District capacity requires a latticed network of both formal and informal learning opportunities at all levels of the organization. These may include introductory and advanced content-based workshops for teachers, school-level coaching and professional learning opportunities that focus on questions of practice, and leadership development for school and district leaders. All of these efforts must integrate with, and support, the District’s instructional vision.

4.      Use data formatively to inform both instructional and individual decisions about students and about programs.

a.      Data provides feedback to teachers, students, and caregivers

b.      Data is used to hold individuals and groups accountable for performance.

c.       Data is used to monitor implementation and effectiveness of programs-to inform decisions about modifying, changing, or eliminating

d.      Data is used to facilitate continuous learning for every student, at every level of the organization

 

Develop strategies to sustain efforts over time. Continue to refine and improve. Infuse the reforms and changes into District routines, practices, and culture. [“Why We Need District-Based Reform”, by Jonathan Supovitz in Education Week, Nov. 28, 2007]

 

Response to Intervention [RTI]: A Pre-Referral Process

 

When the Individual with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] was reauthorized in November 2004, and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEIA] a new mandate  was included that requires state agencies to use a data-driven process [implemented in the regular classroom] that determines whether a student responds to scientific, research-based intervention [implemented according to the research] as part of the evaluation process when determining eligibility for classification as Learning Disabled [LD].

 

Through the IDEIA, schools are allowed to use up to 15% of federal special education dollars on early-intervention programs for students who are not identified as needing special education, but who need extra support in the classroom. (Federal education law requires schools to make sure that a student’s learning problem is not a result of inadequate instruction.)

 

 Long-standing concerns about the inadequacies of the ability-achievement discrepancy criterion for identifying students with LD have emphasized the need to develop alternative techniques to identify learning disabilities. One such technique is the Response-to-Intervention Model [RTI], (also known as the Problem-Solving Model). Generally, a three-tiered approach is used in the RTI Model to describe the levels of instruction:

 

Tier 1: Instructional strategies or interventions are used with an entire class or at a school-wide level [screening of literacy skills, academics and behavior, Curriculum-Based Measurement, differentiated instruction].

Tier 2: Interventions are used with small groups of students who have similar instructional needs [teachers collaborate with a single colleague or the entire Instructional Support Team]

Tier 3: Students who do not respond to interventions in Tier 2 receive instruction designed to meet their specific individual needs [Instructional Support Team conducts a comprehensive evaluation].

 

[Instructional interventions can be utilized in large and small group settings or individually.]

Currently, RTI is a very ‘hot’ topic in education. Proponents say that RTI is very effective for improving student achievement if implemented carefully; and, is a technique for steering students away from special education. Skeptics say that the model has been less effective for older students than for young, emerging readers. Those in the middle say that RTI is a process that still requires research, but still offers the best method for getting research-based instruction to students and thus transforming approaches to teaching. It may be the way to change the nature of instruction for all students.

 

RTI relies on general education teachers to provide interventions to students- using research on those interventions as the ‘how-to’ guide; and using data to inform decisions about instruction. Diagnostic work should not be left to general education teachers. School specialists have a significant role in supporting regular classroom teachers in the delivery of RTI services and helping to set progress targets for the students served. Therefore, RTI should be an integrated service delivery system. Staff development is a means to educate all educators about effective, research-based interventions. Teaching practices also contribute to the knowledge base about effective interventions, as well as reviews of research.

 

Leadership is a function to which everyone contributes. School growth is dependent on the capacity for staff to ‘develop’ within an open and participatory environment. In addition to opportunities for increasing their knowledge and skill base, staff needs to increase confidence, competence, and capacity to work together in teams [another three Cs]. It is about being sensitive and respectful to the professional views and personal feelings of others. It is about coalition-building, changing attitudes and beliefs, openly discussing beliefs and educational practices, willingness to participate in discussions and debates, willingness to learn and implement different approaches, willingness to open the conversations to other professionals outside of the immediate school setting  [other constituents], as well as including parents and students; and, perhaps leadership is about changing behavior. This is what leading an all-inclusive district is about. Inclusion is not just a practice-it is a culture!

 

The success of any RTI model that is implemented is directly related to a set of criteria for eligibility implementation, on-going student assessment to inform instruction, and program evaluation. In a memorandum written by Fiona Jones [December 2004], regarding RTI in IDEIA and published by the International Reading Association, the author cautions districts while developing “best practices” for Response-to-Intervention. She offers a set of points to be considered for developing a systemic RTI Plan. Essential questions [keeping in mind that there also may be others that are District- specific] that districts need to answer when developing plans are listed below:

 

1.      At what point does a student qualify for the intervention in the RTI Model?

2.      What types and now much intervention are appropriate?

3.      What is the acceptable level of progress?

4.      If a student is later identified for special education services, how will his or her program and instruction differ from what was previously received?

5.      How will instruction be provided, and how will all service providers, including the general education teacher collaborate to support the student?

6.      How will the RTI Model affect the provisions of accommodations both in the classroom, and in curricular and standards-based assessments?

7.      What is the role of technology in RTI?

8.      At what point will a student be deemed to be “non-responsive to the intervention{s} provided?

9.      How will all staff be trained in the RTI Model?

Recommendation: Develop a systemic plan that answers the questions above.

Consultants reviewed how Instructional Support Teams [ISTs] currently function district-wide and learned that they do not function systemically. Consultants acknowledge that there are different challenges at the middle and high school levels and staff at the secondary level, traditionally, is not eager to embrace the IST concept.  However, at all levels, everyone needs to be involved in conversations about at-risk students and everyone needs to share knowledge, resources and data [both academic and social factors] to inform instructional decisions about what particular students need in order to be successful. Schools can no longer continue to be fragmented and disconnected.  Today, there is plenty of existing research that clearly documents a strong link between social and economic disadvantage on one side and low student achievement on the other. These factors must also be addressed in order to improve student achievement for all children rather than solely concentrating on academic, assessment-based accountability. Perhaps the schools could work more closely with other resource agencies who are better equipped to help students and families economically to develop an overall inclusive plan to address their needs. Schools are equipped to help students and families with academic and social needs, however.

 

The Iowa State Education Department has developed seven principles for RTI: (1) Belief that all students are part of one proactive educational system; (2) Use scientific, research-based instruction; (3) Use instructionally relevant assessments that are reliable and valid; (4) Use a problem-solving method to make decisions based on a continuum of student needs; (5) Use data to guide instructional decisions; (6) Provide professional development and follow-up modeling and coaching to ensure effective instruction at all levels; (7) Provide for strong leadership to ensure commitment, resources, improve instruction, and build capacity and sustainability over time. [Education Week, January 23, 2008] (The latest National Association of Secondary School Principals Poll to the question – “What is the greatest obstacle to teachers using data to inform instruction?”- found that lack of training or know-how was the first reason cited, followed by lack of time, not part of the school culture and fear of revealing unflattering information. The last two reasons were in a tie. )

 

Recommendation: Amend the Current Pre-Referral Process Schema

 

Consultants suggest the addition of an intermediary step between Step 1 and Step 2 of the current Pre-Referral Process Schema [provided to Consultants]. In Step 1: Initial Concern [academic or behavioral] of the current process, someone on the school staff communicates the concern to the parent and the general education teacher gathers student work and anecdotal records. Consultants recommend a different Step 2 in the process, before a building level review, which is the current Step 2. The new Step 2 should include a process whereby the teacher with the concerns about a particular student brings those concerns to the Chair of the IST, who in turn brings the teachers and a specialist, who is a member if the building IST, together for consultation. At this step, the teacher and consultant [e.g. speech and language therapist, reading teacher, occupational therapist] develop a written plan to address the concern with an intervention on a short-term basis. This is documented on a one-page form and timelines for evaluating the intervention{s} are mutually set. The teacher and specialist partner to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention with the student, and at that point may decide that the intervention is sufficiently working or working somewhat or not working at all. They have the option to continue with the current intervention, or continue with the current intervention with modification, or try another intervention, or involve another specialist if needed, to develop another short-term trial. Formal evaluation [with parental permission] could be part of the process at any point if the teacher and specialist need additional information about the student. This may not only be useful in improving the immediate intervention plan, but  also later at a formal building level IST or CSE meeting, if necessary. Formal assessments completed at stages prior to a referral to the entire IST or CSE could decrease the time it takes to increase service levels or provide a different type of service that students may need; and, may be more acceptable to parents as part of the District’s responsibility to provide for their children in the regular education setting for as long as possible. [In other words, formal assessments are not necessarily precursors to classification.] The Building Level Review Step then becomes Step 3 in the current process only when the interventions planned and implemented by the ‘partners’ have not been successful.

 

Recommendation: Revisit the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development [CSPD] Guidance Document and CSPD Plan Template

Consultants reviewed the District’s CSPD document [rev. 5/19/04]. This document should be reviewed and updated as soon as possible since this is a development planning tool for preparing personnel and stakeholders to provide the supports needed for the education of SWD and their nondisabled peers in the Least Restricted Environment. This document contains valuable information about state indicators and benchmarks, as well as District level data about General Education Students and SWD in various subgroups over time. This document contains sections on data analysis, goals and objectives, implementation, current practices, evaluation and long range plans.

 

U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings explains NCLB [2001] as a public law “that is about getting kids to be on grade level”. Chief among the law’s requirements is that states must assess students annually in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in highs school; and, use the test scores to determine whether schools are making adequate yearly progress [AYP] toward ensuring that all students are proficient in those subjects. This includes accountability for students in racial and ethnic subgroups as well as SWD, and ELLs. President Bush has said that he will veto any NCLB reauthorization bill that would ease accountability [Status Model] requirements. However, he is considering accepting provisions that would reward schools where students make incremental progress [Growth Model]. The program entitled Reading First has been cut drastically, while Title I has seen a modest increase. The category for special education K-12 grants has risen slightly as has improving teacher quality grants. Title V grants for innovative programs have been eliminated and funds to states for vocational education have been decreased.

 

The Accountability Model [a Status Model]:

This model tracks the state of each grade from year to year, rather than tracking individual student’s growth in achievement from year to year. Schools that start at low levels of performance, in one or more groups of students, are not rewarded for any student gains. In this model, students at a particular school might show significant gains in student achievement, but such a school could still be declared a school in need of improvement under the NCLB Law. Conversely, a school that starts with a high student achievement rate can backslide, and not be targeted for intervention, as long as the total number of students scoring as proficient does not fall below the school’s target/goals.

 

 

 

 

The Growth Model:

This model allows educators to focus on what the goal is – i.e. to grow students academically. The model provides instructionally valuable information for staff. Three pieces of data are needed to track students’ growth individually:

 

1.      A unique number to identify each student

2.      Assurance that proficiency levels are consistent across grade levels

3.      Information about why specific students are not assessed.

 

Currently, 34 states have this data. States have been eligible to apply to use a growth-based accountability model. New York State did not apply. There are nine states currently using growth models. The new provisions in the reauthorization of NCLB may encourage more states to move to a Growth Model.

 

 Recommendations for Instruction of ELLs [Harvard University ELL Strand]

 

Provide early systemic, explicit and intensive instruction in phonological awareness and phonics in order to build decoding skills. [Delaying this type of intervention until ELLs gain increased proficiency in English is NOT advised.]

  1. Increase opportunities [K-12] for ELLs to develop sophisticated vocabulary knowledge. Research tells us that only 5 to 10 percent of classroom instructional time is devoted to vocabulary instruction for all learners [especially in MS and HS]. Students need conceptual knowledge to develop vocabulary skills and background knowledge [frequent, intensive, systematic, and complex].
  2. Reading instruction in K-12 classrooms must equip ELLs with strategies and knowledge to comprehend and analyze challenging narrative and expository texts. Instruction should focus on the process of comprehension [engage, reflection, thinking, predicting, summarizing] rather than the product of comprehension [e.g. reading a passage/text and answering a set of questions].
  3. Instruction and intervention to promote ELLs’ reading fluency must focus on vocabulary and increased exposure to print. Individuals whose word-recognition skills are automatic can devote greater cognitive resources to comprehending the text.
  4. ELLS need significant opportunities to engage in structured academic talk in all K-12 classrooms. Although it is important for students to practice their language in informal settings, it is more important that there are structured opportunities in educational settings, with supports in place [to talk and discuss].
  5. Independent reading is only beneficial when it is structured and purposeful and there is a good reader-text match.
  6. Academic language instructional support is as central to mathematics as it is to other academic areas.

 

 

 

 

*

Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English for English Language Learners [ACCESS]

 

WIDA [World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment] is a consortium of states dedicated to the design and implementation of high standards and equitable educational opportunities for English language learners. The consortium has not only developed ACCESS, but has also developed Spanish language arts standards and is planning a system of parallel academic assessments for beginning English learners. Originally established through a federal grant, the WIDA consortium consists of fifteen partner states: Alabama, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. These fifteen states account for approximately 450,000 ELLs in Kindergarten through grade 12 in approximately 3,500 school districts.

 

The authors of the ACCESS Test state that this is a standard-based criterion referenced English language proficiency test designed to measure ELLs’ social and academic English as well as the language associated with language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. There are five grade level clusters: K, 1-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. For each grade level cluster, the standards specify one or more performance indicators for each content area within each of the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The continuum of language development within the proficiency levels are: Level 1-Entering; Level 2- Beginning; Level 3-Developing; Level 4-Expanding; Level 5-Bridging; and, Level 6 Exiting. These levels describe the spectrum of an English language learner’s [ELL’s] progression from knowing little to no English, to acquiring the English skills necessary to be successful in an English-only mainstream classroom without extra support. There are also guidelines for accommodating ELLS with disabilities, divided into each of the four domains of the test-listening, reading, writing and speaking-with indications of whether a particular accommodation is appropriate for the domain. The W-APT [WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test or the ‘screener’ is used to measure the English language proficiency of students who have recently arrived in the U.S. or in a particular district. The WIDA Consortium website is http://www.wida.us/

 

Accommodating SWD in the Foreign Language Curriculum

 

Richard Sparks and James Javorsky [“Students Classified as LD and the College Foreign Language Requirement” in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 32, No. 4, 329-349, 1999] are two well known researchers on the topic of why some students, classified with disabilities and not classified, have difficulty learning a foreign or second language. They studied students in secondary and post-secondary settings. The results of empirical studies consistently show that students who experience foreign language learning problems have significantly weaker native-language skills [e.g. reading, spelling, vocabulary, writing], particularly in the phonological-orthographical (i.e. sound and sound-symbol) component of language, and lower foreign language aptitude (as measured by the Modern Language Aptitude Test) than students without foreign language learning problems do. Their studies have also shown that students with significantly weaker native-language skills, and foreign language aptitude, achieve lower levels of oral and written proficiency in a foreign language over two years of study than do students with significantly stronger native-language skills and foreign language aptitude. Furthermore, their studies suggest that high anxiety, low motivation, inappropriate language-learning strategies, and poor study skills are NOT likely to be causal factors of foreign language learning among these students. Their findings also suggest that the cognitive, academic achievement, foreign language aptitude, and foreign language learning profiles of LD and non-LD students who exhibit foreign language learning problems are similar. Therefore, there is no evidence to suggest that students classified as LD who exhibit foreign language learning problems require a foreign language program that differs from the program required by students not classified as LD who also exhibit foreign language learning problems, a finding that mirrors native-language research in reading. Sparks and Javorsky are worried that a notion of a foreign language disability, which is assumed to be intrinsic to the student, will reduce the motivation for language teachers to be innovative in their teaching approaches and will discourage LD professionals from encouraging students classified as LD to enroll in a foreign language. Recent research finds that students classified as learning-disabled [LD] can become proficient in a foreign language at some level.

 

In addition, these researchers suggest that the presence of an IQ – achievement discrepancy, or classification as LD are useful criteria in predicting which students may experience difficulty passing foreign language courses. Educators should not make the assumption that students classified as LD will fail or experience difficulty with foreign language courses. Studies have found no significant differences in foreign language grades, level of foreign language proficiency, or oral and written native-language skills between students classified as LD who exhibit foreign language learning problems and those not classified as LD who exhibit foreign language learning problems. When classified students experience difficulty in foreign language learning, the full continuum of special services should be available to them before considering to waive the foreign language requirement.

 

In the 1960s, Dr. Kenneth Dinklage, of Harvard University wanted to find out why some of Harvard’s brightest and best students were not passing their language classes. When he interviewed these students he found that a great many of them had been diagnosed as Learning Disabled and had been able to accommodate through various means, including lots of hard work. However, taking a foreign language in college triggered the problems that the students thought they had ‘overcome’. Some students in the interview group had never been classified, but after testing, were found to have learning disabilities. Lenore Ganschow and Richard Sparks [“Effects of Direct Instruction in Spanish Phonology on the Native Language Skills and Foreign Language Aptitude of At-Risk Foreign Language Learners’ in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28, 1995]began looking closely at Dinklage’s observations and conducted their own studies. Along with other researchers, they have concluded that most learners experiencing difficulty with foreign language learning have problems with ‘phonological awareness’. As a result, these students may have difficulty with the basic sound units of language, phonemes, and do not recognize these basic units of sound accurately and efficiently. The problem is linked to perception and production of language for comprehension. According to their theory, excellent language learners are strong in all three of the linguistic codes, while very poor language learners are weak in all three. Those, who are in between excellent and very poor may be proficient in conversational language, but weak in grammar and writing. Conversely, some students may be able to read and write fairly well, but cannot speak well or may not understand much of what is said to them.

 

Teaching SWDs a Foreign Language

 

Ganschow and Sparks recommend teaching the fundamentals of phonology in the student’s native language before foreign language instruction begins. Students should be taught to recognize phonemes, to decode, or read words, efficiently and to encode, or apply the sounds to the written language. They learn what language is and how its sounds and parts function. Application of this knowledge to the language they are trying to learn is the next step. These researchers stress that phonological skills should be heavily stressed when children are learning to read. Another approach is to adapt the foreign language course according to principles of instruction known to be effective for LD students-reduce the syllabus to the essential elements, slow the pace of instruction, reduce the vocabulary demand, provide constant review, adapt the curriculum to  teach to students’ strengths while remediating underdeveloped skill,  and incorporate much multisensory stimulation. Schools need personnel versed in the problems of foreign language difficulties for learning disabled students.

 

In addition, foreign language teachers should work with the entire school community to integrate the foreign language curriculum into the school’s educational program. The school should make effective use of parent and community resources. The connection between language and culture should be made explicit and foreign language instruction should be implemented within a context of cultural experiences. This will facilitate authentic learning.

 

The Inclusion Model for Education

 

The Courts, in Daniel R. v. State Board of Education, 874 F.2d 1036 (5th Cir. 1998) and in Sacramento City Unified School District v. Holland, 786 F. Supp. 874 (E.D. Cal. 1992) cautioned that the appropriateness of inclusive education (providing education services to SWD in their neighborhood schools, in age-appropriate general education classes, with the necessary services and supplementary aids) should be determined based on the following:

 

1.      whether the student will receive little or no benefit from inclusion because of the nature and severity of the disability;

2.      whether the student’s behavior is so disruptive that the education of other students in the classroom will be adversely affected; and,

3.      whether the cost of providing inclusive education to an individual student significantly affects the availability of district resources for educating other students.

 

The inclusion model requires cooperation and collaboration among all professionals responsible for SWD to ensure that those directly working with such students have the expertise needed to help them succeed academically and socially.

 

The majority of researchers who have investigated the effectiveness of inclusionary models have concentrated on elementary school settings. Elementary teachers are more likely to implement inclusive programs more successfully due to the nature of the structure and organization at the elementary level. There is a need to acquire more knowledge about the kind of methods used for inclusion at the middle and high school levels and their effectiveness. In this way, educators will become informed about the variables that influence the successful implementation of inclusive programs and the preparation needed by staff working in inclusive classrooms. Difficulties educating SWD in regular classrooms at the secondary level are related to one of the following realities: (1) secondary teachers feel more pressure to cover course content to ready students for state assessments; (2) teaching loads for secondary teachers vary, with the maximum in NYS set at 150 students per teacher; (3) it is more difficult for secondary teachers to find common time to collaborate with other staff, because of the structures at the secondary level- grade, subject, department, or other organization within buildings; (4) many SWD are not ready for the demands of the secondary setting; (5) the secondary school culture is more content than student centered and traditionally encourages students to take more responsibility for their learning [than at previous levels]. Inclusion may be something very different at the secondary level from that of the elementary level.

 

Given all of the above, successful inclusive programs require support from administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and other stake-holders who come in contact with SWD. In addition, all who work with SWD need adequate time for ‘team-work’; and, time to engage in learning and practicing the science, art and craft of teaching. Staff development plans for working with SWD should be included in the District’s Comprehensive System of Personnel Development Plan.

 

Well designed staff development opportunities not only supports improvements in the skills of all staff, but also improves perceptions and attitudes, as well. As a result, positive, meaningful changes can occur. Staff development should be designed to address needs in the following areas: (1) characteristics of SWD; (2) the development and implementation of Individual Educational Plans-IEPs; (3) special education law; (4) methods to assess students’ needs; (5) best practices for teaching SWD within a regular classroom setting; (6) methods in how to best instruct students with behavioral issues; (7) differentiated instruction; (8) best practices for involving parents in their children’s learning; (9) various methods for assessing all students; (10) methods in how to design good classroom assessments – and in various modalities; (11) interpreting and using assessment data; (12) the co-teaching model; (13) the principles and demands of inclusion; (14) adapting curriculum and developing testing modifications that assess essential content; (15) task analysis methods; (16) computer assisted instruction; (17) grouping techniques for different skill level across the curricula; (18) cooperative learning; (19) effective methods for providing feedback to students [e.g. rubrics];(20) using assessment data to inform instructional decisions; and,  (21) finding time to reflect on instructional practices.

 

The Disadvantaged

 

Urban schools educate about one- third of all minority students. About one-third of all students are in poverty. Urban schools educate twice the national percentage of English language learners. Statistically, Latinos and African-American children are more likely to be poor than white children. According to a recent article entitled, “Low-Income Students in Public Schools-2006”, that appeared in Education Week [Nov. 7, 2007, vol. 27, No. 11], a total of 46% of students who attend public schools in the United States come from low-income families. The average for southern states is 54%; non-South is 41%; New York State is 42%; California is 51%; Oregon is 50%; Arizona is 46%; Illinois is 49%; West Virginia is 52%; Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut are 29%; and, New Hampshire is 20%. On an international scale, the percentage of American children living in poverty is the highest of any of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] member nations.

 

Researchers say that if the current population trends continue, students from low-income households will constitute more than half of the K-12 enrollment in public schools nationally within the next 10 years [based on free and reduced lunch figures]. The whole nation will be at risk of failing if this new majority of students fail in school. The United States will have inadequate capital to build and sustain good jobs, a good quality of life for its citizens, and a well-informed democracy.

 

According to the National Assessment of Title I, high poverty schools received less Title I funds than did low poverty schools in 2004-05. While the number of students participating in the Title I program has tripled since 1994-95, funding for Part A has increased by 35% in the past seven years. Although the achievement gap among poor, minority, and other students may be closing a bit, most states are unlikely to meet the goal of 100% proficiency by 2012-14 if student achievement gains stay at their current pace.

 

In 2005-06, 84% of all schools identified as needing improvement received Title I funds. However, nearly 25% of all principals and 30% of teachers in those identified schools were not aware that their school had been identified as in need of improvement [according to the National Assessment Report]. The report indicated that participation in the school choice option more than doubled form 2002-03 to 2004-05 and participation in SES [supplementary education services] increased by more than tenfold.  Schools identified for improvement had teachers, who were not highly qualified, teaching SES students.

 

Disadvantaged students who regularly attend high quality after-school programs for at least two years, are academically far ahead of peers who spend more out-of-school time in unsupervised activities, according to findings from an eight- state study of such programs-known as the “Promising Afterschool Programs Study”. Those conducting this study reviewed 35 after school programs serving 2,914 students in 14 communities stretching from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Seaside, California. All of the programs had been in operation for at least three years, and were selected because of their records of success. Researchers found that over the course of three years, the more that students were engaged in supervised after school activities, the better they did on a range of academic, social, and behavioral outcomes. The findings from this study are similar to a growing body of research linking after school organized programs to gains in social and emotional outcomes, as well as improved grades. [“High Quality after School Programs Tied to Test Score Gains”, by Debra Viader, in Education Week, November 28, 2007]

 

The increasing diversity that our communities are experiencing should be viewed as rich opportunities to forge a common destiny from the tremendous ethnic, cultural, and language diversity. Educators should view this diversity as an opportunity to build upon cultural strengths and characteristics that students bring to school. Perhaps more importantly, at no other time in our history, will the variety of cultures, in our own communities, provide our nation with the diverse perspectives, issues, and characteristics that are needed in order to learn how to live peacefully and prosperously with our global neighbors.

 

Schools must find a way to inspire and fuel motivation among personnel and students. Mission and vision statements do not necessarily inspire or motivate. Outstanding leaders do; and, leadership is everyone’s responsibility. How many staff members, parents, students, or community members can tell us what the mission and/or vision statements say? How can these statements become more meaningful in this community?

 

Results of Meetings and Surveys

 

Special Education Parent-Teacher Association (SEPTA)

 

On the evening of December 6, 2007 consultants met with ten members of the Board of Directors of SEPTA at the Hommocks Middle School Library for approximately 3 ½ hours. Prior to the meeting, the Board President had contacted SEPTA Board members to help ensure that everyone was aware of the nature of the meeting, and would come prepared to discuss systemic issues of mutual concern. Attendees represented students in various grade levels and placements, including students who have been parentally placed in private schools. SEPTA has been active in the district for many years and currently has about 300 members.

 

Parents expressed many positive comments about their children’s special education program in general,  the support provided by the district; and, the open communication that exists between SEPTA and  the Assistant Superintendent for Student Services. The parents also had high praise for the two Directors of Special Education, recognizing their knowledge and expertise. However, the SEPTA Board members did express concerns about programs and services. Those concerns are expressed below.

 

·        Foreign Language (FL):  Foreign Language instruction begins in Middle School, at the Hommocks.  Many Middle School students with disabilities are exempt from taking a FL and must wait until high school to begin instruction. This is due in part to the fact that resource room services, important electives [such as drug prevention and sex education] and foreign language instruction are competing for the same time slots in the school schedule. This causes parents to have to make difficult choices for their children, when all three are very important for their children. The FL courses at the high school are fast paced and very challenging for SWDs. These students are at a disadvantage in High School since their general education peers have already been provided FL instruction in Middle School. Many SWDs have language- based learning disabilities that often result in lower grades that impact on total GPA and college entrance requirements. Also, there is no special education support in FL courses for SWDs. Parents are eager to know what impact, deferring the FL coursework until high school, has on their children. Suggestions to address the issue of providing SWDs FL support included:

(1) providing for an additional period outside the school day to schedule resource room services; (2) providing more culturally-based and slower paced classes;

(3) offering FL to SWDs on a pass/fail basis at the high school; and,

(4) offering courses in other languages such as Greek or Latin.

·        Inclusion: Comments about the inclusion program at elementary level were varied: one parent expressed that her child had positive experiences in  his first two years in program, but now he is in a self-contained class; another parent stated that her pre-K level child was not classified, but really benefited from the program; some parents of regular education (RE) students expressed concern about dilution of skills; some indicated that more needs to be done to explain the benefits of inclusion to parents of general education students; others said that the consultant teacher service (CTS) is not really co-teaching with regular education teacher, but more of a focus on specific students and skills; another parent indicated that her child is mainstreamed as much as possible in her school; and, parents of general education students at one elementary school made comments about their school becoming a dumping ground for special education students.  Comments from parents of students at the secondary level were also varied and included:  at the high school, special education teachers are in regular education classes every other day; are the right students in these classes- i.e. more students coming out of CORE (self-contained classes) and are placed in regular education classes, because of  the Least Restrictive Environment [LRE] mandate;  some parents stated that students  receiving RR/CTS  often end up in inclusion classes thereby raising issue of proportionality; another commented about how difficult it is for teachers to create a challenging class for fast paced students  while maintaining a slower pace for other students; another questioned the need to offer something between CORE classes and inclusion; another was concerned that there is no support in FL at the high school; another commented that the exceptional results (graduation) add to the frustration for parents whose students just miss entry into AP courses and those challenged by the curricula; another suggested that perhaps the  district should hire a consultant to look at the high school math program. Consultants learned that many parents of SWDs pay for math tutoring and feel there is something wrong with the math program; and, others questioned whether there is a need for more elective courses after meeting graduation requirements such as business math or personal finance.

·        Writing: The elementary level is now more focused on writing and has dedicated units of study to this area. Parents seemed very familiar with a formal writing program at the Windward School and wondered why the program cannot be replicated in the District;  another parent stated that while some AP classes at the HS are dedicated to writing there seems to be no direct instruction in writing in other courses at the high school to help SWDs; another commented that the Hommocks MS  does not have a formal writing program.; and, another commented that there was a grant two years ago where eight teachers were selected and trained so there is [must be] a recognition that more in the curricula needs to be done in this area.

·        Social Skills: One SEPTA member stated that four years ago, the District decided not to purchase a social skills program (commercially produced) that included mentoring by regular education students because some parents of regular education students resisted this aspect of the program. Another commented that while there is some social skills work being done, it is not enough – there is a need to have a set of values and standards, as well as a more cohesive program district-wide.

·        Open campus: Parents were concerned that if a student’s schedule has a study hall before lunch, and an elective after lunch, that student could be out of the building for more than two hours. There was also concern that when a teacher is not present for class students are free to go anywhere they want.

·        Transition:  Parents of elementary students are not sure what school their children will be attending until very, very late in the summer before school starts in September.  Parents wonder why they are not privy to knowing about placements prior to the end of August; others expressed concern that  in the extended school year program in the summer of 2007, one of the self-contained classes had no certified teacher and the aides had no experience with SWDs;  others expressed concern that they often find out from the College Board that they must apply to have accommodations made for their children with disabilities at the college or university level, instead of being informed of this by school personnel; another suggested the need for high school transition specialists to assist with college testing accommodations and informing families of the services available for learning disabled students at various colleges; others commented that  parents need to network better with other parents who have gone through the transition to college process; another suggested more career exploration and internship opportunities  need to be offered at high school;  and, others suggested tracking students in college would be useful practice to determine how graduation results impact on post-college outcomes .

·        Technology: A parent commented that the  district lacks expertise in this area and it takes time to arrange for outside consultants;  others wondered how the district is using technology to improve and supplement instruction; others wondered why they cannot obtain assignments and class notes at the middle school level from the website; others stated that they were not clear where keyboarding is taught in the district;  and, others stated that there is a technology plan for hardware but not for delivery of instruction;

·        Busing:  Parents stated that every child should be bused regardless of how far he/she lives from school and wondered why some students are bused and some are not.

 

Mamaroneck High School Student Survey Results

 

1.   [44] Does the Staff make you feel welcomed at school?

Yes 73%          No 27%

2.   [45] Have teachers or counselors in your school included you in planning for your education?

Yes 67%          No 33%                                              

3.   [44] Is your school preparing you to either go on to college or to get a job after high school?

Yes 68%          No 32%                                                          

4.   [45] What type of diploma are you working toward?

 *Regents 25%             Local 73%                   GED 2%

5.   [46] Have you met with a counselor about applying for VESID Services?

Yes 11%          No 89%

6.   [39] How many years do you expect to be in high school?

One year 85%

7.    [47] Does your school have after school activities {extracurricular) that you are involved in?

Yes 55%          No 45%                                  

8.    [47] Do you have a job outside of school?

Yes 49%          No 51%

9.   [47] Have counselors or teachers at your school helped you to learn about services that you might need after high school?   Yes 55%            No 45%

 

10.   [46] Do you feel safe in school?  Yes 76% No 24%

 

 [The number in brackets before each question indicates the number of responses to the question.]

 

Summary of Responses from Teacher Assistants and Aides [30 surveys returned]

 

1.      Who do you Report to?

Responses varied: special education teachers; assistant principal; building principal; department chair first, then one of the school principals; never been explained as to who I should report to; the teachers who I work with.

2.      If you have a written job description either attach it to this page or please explain what your understanding is of your duties and/or responsibilities, on the back of this page.

Responses: Only one person indicated that there was anything in writing and attached a paragraph from the teachers’ contract listing five different duties for teaching assistants. All others indicated that they have never received a written job description.

3.      How often do you receive a written evaluation and when was the last time you received one?

Responses: The majority indicated ‘never’. Three indicated they received one when they received ‘tenure’ only. One newly hired person indicated that this will happen in February 2008 and again in March or April 2008.

4.      Are you regularly involved in staff development activities? Please explain whether you help plan activities in any way and/or participate in them; and, where are these activities provided [inside or outside of the District, or both]?

Responses varied: A few indicated that they attend all staff conference and development days; aides indicated that they are not included before or after school-are not compensated for extra hours; some indicated they attend only on conference days at times, but in-district only-no opportunities to attend outside-of-district; one individual indicated that he/she has had only two opportunities to attend outside-of-district conferences twice in 14 years.  Everyone said that Assistants and Aides are not involved in planning and that activities on conference and/or staff development days are pre-planned for them.

5.      Please describe the strengths of the special education program.

Responses varied: several indicated that there is a qualified and caring staff of specialists; others indicated the inclusion concept; extremely knowledgeable regular and special education staff; the availability of support services-especially 1:1 help; working together as a team of ‘emerging’ teachers who are bright, caring and go above and beyond for every child; and, opportunity for staff to learn from each other; inclusion classes work better than self-contained classes.

6.      Please describe areas in the special education program that needs to be improved upon.

Responses varied: District meetings or at least within each individual building with all staff working in the special education department to discuss ideas and communicate with each other; more 1 on 1 time with students; foreign language department needs help; helping children with ADD and ADHA perform better in the classroom; the Spanish special education children need much individual one on one help because of poor reading, spelling, and writing skills-yet, every year, these students are passed along; physical space is an issue when three or more adults are working in the same classroom-need to be assigned to the largest rooms within the building; communication to the Spanish speaking families needs improvement- they need to understand the special needs process and even the most basic things are sometimes not understood-such as ‘special needs’-sometimes the parents feel like their children are retarded when someone suggests testing; put two teaching assistants with each teacher rather than one assistant and one aide-assistants can do more; have a full-time special education teacher for each inclusion class; and, better communication among all staff working with the same students.

 

Program Costs

 

The consultants analyzed program costs associated with special education.  In order to do this, two sources of information were used, 1) data from the New York State Education Department, and 2) district information.

 

SED data reflected total costs in account code 2250 for the 2006-07 school year.  The consultants took that amount and divided it by the FTEs reported on the Attendance and Private Excess Cost Aid Output Reports for that school year for a district of similar size.

 

 

                               Enrollment     Total         Spec. Education

District                    of  SWDs    Enrollment     Total Costs         Cost Per Pupil

 

Chappaqua               443          4,196            $9,139,688              $20,631

 

Katonah                   513          4.054             $9,037,984              $17,618

 

Scarsdale                 269           4,643            $8,584,565              $31,913

 

Bedford                    353           4,332            $8,089,861               $22,917

 

White Plains             796           6,881            $20,870,337             $26,219

 

Lakeland                  976           6,372             $17,425,445             $17,854

 

Yorktown                  516           4,194            $10,537,096              $20,421

 

Mamaroneck             615           4,895            $12,078,258             $19,639

 

According to the data above, Mamaroneck has the third lowest cost per student.  Note that the chart does not reflect expenses to support special education from any federal or state grants.

 

The consultants also compared expenditure information provided by the Business Office.

 

School Year                                      2006-07

Account Code 2250                        $12,078,258*                                              

Total Expenses                             $101,814,819*          

% of Costs for Spec. Ed.                       11.8%                                      

Classification Rate **                             13.4%                                 

*Expenses as reported in A fund account code only.

 

The data in the above chart shows that special education expenses are not disproportional to total school expenses. This methodology does not take into account the pro-rata special education costs associated with employee benefits, transportation and overhead.

 

 

An analysis of special education expenses over the last four years shows the following:

 

·        Special education expenses from 2003-04 to the 2006-07 school year have increased by $3,005,756 or 33%. If the budgeted expenses for 2007-08 are included, then special education expenses over a five year period increased by $4,343,747 or almost 48%.  Enrollment data in special education for the same time period has remained has shown a decrease. (650 in 2003-04 to 615 in 2006-07.  This may be due in part to the number of parentally placed students and the fact that these students are not reported on either the attendance report or the private excess cost aid output report.

·        Tuition expenses from 2003-04 to 2006-07 for students attending approved private schools and other public school districts has shown an increase of $754,248 or 71%.  If the budgeted expenses for 2007-08 school year are included, then the increase over a five year period is 73 % or $772,665.  Enrollment data for students in these placements has shown an increase of six students for the period 2003-04 to 2006-07.

·        The percentage of the total special education budget spent to support students in out of district placements was calculated for the school year’s indicated:  2003-04 ((27%), 2004-05 (23%), 2005-06 (27%), 2006-07 (30%)

·        BOCES expenses from 2003-04 to 2006-07 have shown an increase of $389,017 or 27%.  Enrollment data for BOCE placements has shown a decrease of 2.48 FTEs.