What's new in special education

New guidance on students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia

The New York State Education Department released new guidance in August 2018 on the unique educational needs of students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. Responding to legislation adopted in 2017, this guidance clarifies that school districts may reference or use the terms dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia in evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in developing an individualized education program (IEP) for an IDEA eligible student. Guidance documents include: Meeting the Needs of Students with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia; Identification of Students with Learning Disabilities within a Multi-Tiered System of Support; and Students with Disabilities Resulting from Dyslexia, Dusgraphia and Dyscalculia: Questions and Answers.

Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOPM)

The “everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask (or didn’t know where to find)” document for special education is now online with a functioning and easy to use table of contents! Check it out. The DOE wants feedback. So, if there is anything you see that requires clarification, needs to be added, or strikes you as “un-doable,” let us know.

The UFT has developed a guide that has pages from the new SOPM with passages highlighted that are of particular interest to members. Topics covered include parent referrals and staff requests for referrals; timelines for evaluation and placement and caution about waiving three-year reevaluations; who needs to attend IEP team meetings and for how long; recording IEP team meetings; admonitions about selection of the district representative; limitations on changing IEPs without a meeting; and information about training requirements for IEP assigned paraprofessionals, particularly behavior support and health paraprofessionals.

High leverage practices in special education video series

A recently launched video series showcases special educators using high leverage practices to meet the individual needs of real students, in real classrooms, at different levels of intensity. The videos, developed by the Council for Exceptional Children in partnership with the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR), highlight research based practices in a variety of settings, subject areas, grade levels and student needs. HLPs addressed in the first four videos are 1) Provide Positive and Constructive Feedback to Guide Students' Learning and Behavior; 2) Systematically Design Instruction Towards Learning Goals; 3) Use Explicit Instruction and 4) Use Strategies to Promote Active Student Engagement. Less than 20 minutes in length, the videos are a good resource to enhance professional learning. Learn more about all 22 HLPs in special education »

Testing accommodations for students with disabilities

This new testing accommodations guidance document supersedes the guidance in NYSED’s May 2006 Test Access and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. Updates in the guidance document cover areas including: computer-based testing, assistive technology accommodations, tests read, use of spell-check devices/software, procedures on the use of a scribe and multiple day test administration. This guidance document should be used in conjunction with the School Administrator’s Manuals for all assessments and examinations included in the New York State testing program.

New safety net graduation option [UPDATED]

In December 2017, the Regents expanded the superintendent determination safety net option for students with disabilities. Under this new option, students with disabilities who have not earned a minimum score of 55 on the ELA and/or Mathematics Regents examinations, or did not initiate an appeal of a score between 52 and 54 to meet the eligibility requirements for the superintendent’s determination option, may satisfy the eligibility conditions by completing the requirements for a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential. Students with IEPs who satisfy the new eligibility requirement, are able to earn a local diploma if student has passed all required courses and the superintendent determines that the student has otherwise demonstrated proficiency in the “knowledge, skills and abilities” in ELA and/or mathematics as well as any other subject for which there is a required Regents examination. Recognizing that many students with disabilities have not had access to all of the coursework and work based learning experiences needed to earn the CDOS Commencement Credential, principals have flexibility in awarding the credential to students who have not fully met the requirements for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.

In June 2018, the Board of Regents approved the permanent adoption of regulatory amendments expanding the superintendent’s determination option. A NYSED memo explaining the change was disseminated in August 2018. Attachments to the memo include Information on a Superintendent Determination Option for Graduation with a Local Diploma; Sample Parent Request for Superintendent Determination Option for Graduation with a Local Diploma; and updated Questions and Answers on the Superintendent Determination Option.

This updated chart describes safety net options available to students with disabilities to graduate with a local diploma.

A public comment period is required prior to final adoption of the amended regulation. The UFT submitted comments generally supporting a non-examination based pathway while offering several recommendations to strengthen the credential.

See the New York City Department of Education High School Academic Policy Guide »

Updated promotion policy for students with disabilities in grades 3 to 8

The DOE recently updated the promotion policy for students with disabilities in grades 3–8 who participate in standard assessments. Under the new policy, promotion decisions for most students with disabilities will be based on grade level promotional benchmarks. Student progress toward meeting those benchmarks will be based on multiple measures. The expectation is that most students with disabilities will have standard promotion criteria.

Modified promotion criteria will still be available, but only for students whose rate of progress is very slow and who require significant modifications to participate in the general curriculum. For these students, promotion decisions will be based on progress toward meeting rigorous annual goals in ELA and math rather than the CCLS checklist.

In most cases, changes in promotion criteria will be considered at each student’s next regularly scheduled IEP team meeting. A FAQ on the promotion guidelines addresses many of the questions that are expected to come up about this policy shift. Information for families about the updated policy is also available.

Schools are responsible for defining and communicating to staff, students and families the grade-level promotion benchmarks that will be used to determine whether students have mastered the content and skills they need to successful in the next grade together with the multiple measures that will be used to assess student progress at the beginning of the school year. Detailed information about the promotion process, including promotion benchmarks and measures of performance is available in the DOE’s Promotion Implementation Guide.

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