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April 3, 2003
PR- 088-03


Reforms to Focus on School Classrooms, Increase Accountability of Schools in
Meeting Needs of Special Education Students, and Raise Achievement Levels

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced a comprehensive reform agenda to improve special education programs throughout New York City schools. These changes include improving instruction for special needs children by appointing instructional specialists and professional development in nationally recognized instructional strategies; holding schools and principals accountable for improvements in special education; providing services and incentives for better school performance; and streamlining the special education evaluation process. In addition, District 75 will be maintained as a separate Citywide district for children with severe disabilities, and the District will institute organizational changes to increase its instructional focus and coherence. The Mayor and Chancellor announced these reforms at P.S. 87, which has one of the City's strongest special education programs, in Queens.

“The need for comprehensive reform of the special education system in our public schools is manifest - for too long, the system has failed shamefully to help our children learn and raise their levels of expectation and achievement both in the classroom and in life,” Mayor Bloomberg said.  “We will no longer tolerate a largely segregated and largely failing system that unmercifully ravages the lives and future of our children.  Today’s reforms reflect our commitment to providing first-rate instruction and high-quality services for those children with special learning needs in the classroom.  By prioritizing the needs and interests of our children and eliminating unnecessary bureaucracies, we will increase the level of accountability for improved special education where it matters most - in the public schools of New York City.”

“We are focusing our energy and resources on significantly improving classroom instruction by providing proven professional development for our teachers so that they can most effectively meet a wide range of learning needs in each classroom,” Chancellor Klein said. 
“At the same time, we will hold schools and principals accountable for ensuring that as many students as possible are able to be educated in general education classrooms. To help meet these important goals, we will provide schools with incentives for improved performance and assist schools that are falling behind.”

To support improved classroom instruction for children with special needs, the Department of Education (DOE) will appoint instructional support specialists and train these specialists in nationally recognized Orton-Gillingham based reading programs, as well as other leading instructional strategies.  In September, DOE will begin training up to 1,000 teachers in these best practices. 

To ensure that individual schools are making progress in improving their special education programs, DOE will establish an enhanced school improvement system consisting of benchmarks, improvement plans, and technical assistance for schools.  The Office of Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Diana Lam will monitor the progress of all City schools in meeting the new special education benchmarks.  The Department will also provide assistance to those schools that are under-performing and incentives to improve school performance.

With these special education reforms, DOE will no longer conduct evaluations of students at both the district and school levels; rather, the Department will conduct and finalize evaluations exclusively at the students’ schools.  In addition, the evaluation staff, which has primarily administered evaluations in the past, will now become directly involved in classroom instruction.  DOE will also streamline the current 37 district-level Committees on Special Education (CSEs) into 10 regional CSEs, which will support and no longer duplicate school-level evaluations.   The CSEs, each of which will be part of one of the public school system’s 10 Learning Support Centers, will also continue to conduct specialized evaluations of hearing and visually impaired students and non-public school students and address the placement of children who cannot receive appropriate services in their current schools.  By conducting the entire evaluation process at the schools, the Department will now make critical decisions concerning students where instructors and administrators interact with the children on a daily basis. 

District 75 will continue as a separate Citywide district for children with severe disabilities, instituting organizational changes to provide more coherent and consistent instructional programs.  DOE will implement the new Citywide reading, writing, and math instructional program for those children in District 75 who take the same assessment tests as children in general education classes.  For all other children in District 75, DOE will introduce greater coherence by implementing best practices to address specialized learning needs. 

Consistent with the new organizational structure of the City’s public school system, the Department will appoint local instructional supervisors in District 75, each of whom will supervise approximately 12 schools.  DOE will centralize operations and administration for the District in one of the school system’s six new operations centers, enabling District 75 educators to focus on instruction and delivery of services.  Finally, DOE will centralize and improve space planning for classrooms so that children with severe disabilities will receive their education as close to their homes as possible.

Contact: Ed Skyler / Jerry Russo 
(212) 788-2958
  David Chai  ( DOE )
(212) 374-5176