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What's new in special education

Remembering pioneering NYC teacher and disability rights activist Judy Heumann

Read about the life and groundbreaking work of New York educator Judy Heumann who recently passed away at age 75. 

Caregivers of students with disabilities strongly support annual summative assessments.  Educators, not so much.

In the spring and summer of 2002, the National Center for Learning Disabilities conducted a survey and held focus groups to explore the perceptions of educators, caregivers and students with disabilities on the ability of annual summative assessments to measure academic achievement, evaluate school quality, and support student learning. Their findings are reported in Inclusive, Innovative Assessments for Students with Disabilities . The report also discusses related issues such as the evolution of current testing requirements, concerns over standardized testing, alternate assessment, and new innovative approaches to assessment under investigation.

Chancellor announces two new schools will join the DOE's Structured Literacy Schools pilot

With $100,000 funding secured in the state budget, teachers at P.S. 107 and P.S. 295 in District 15 are slated to receive "in-depth training on evidence-based literacy instruction" and interventionists who will provide instruction to students with, or at risk for, dyslexia in stand alone classes. Read more in the DOE's press release

Does inclusion provide clear benefits for all students? 

Controversy continues to swirl on this important topic. On December 14, 2022, Edutopia reported on “a landmark study” confirming that students with disabilities were best served in general education classrooms.  It was cited as one of “The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2022.” Yet, three weeks later, The Hechinger Report cited the results of a meta-analysis finding that “overall, students didn’t benefit academically, psychologically or socially from the practice.”  Noting that “[a]s a nation, we spend an estimated $90 billion a year ... on educating students with disabilities,” The Hechinger Report observed that “We ought to know more about how to best help them learn."

Calculating the Rate of Pay for Therapists and Nurses who Work Outsider of the Regular Workweek

In response to inquiries that we have received about the rate of pay for therapists working in the weekend SEED program, we are reviewing the manner in which nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists are paid for work outside of their regular workweek.

Cyber Shift calculates pay for DOE nurses and therapists. It has been programmed in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) standards for overtime, the NYC Department of Education Rules and Regulations Governing Non-Pedagogical Administrative Employees, and union contracts. Under these rules, the hourly straight-time rate is applied up to 40 hours per week. For all hours worked in excess of 40 hours each week, employees receive overtime at the rate of one and one-half times their regular hourly rate.

For example, when nurses and therapists work outside of the school day, such as before or after school or on weekends (summer included), they are paid their regular hourly rate of 1/1213 up to 40 hours per week. The regular workweek for full-time school nurses and therapists is 32.5 hours. From 32.5 to 40 hours, nurses and therapists receive their regular hourly rate. After 40 hours per week, they are paid the time and a half-rate.

To calculate the time and a half rate, multiply the hourly rate of pay by 1.5, then multiply the result by the total hours worked after 40.

New York State’s experiment with grade band certification for special educators is drawing to a close

At its September 2022 meeting, the Regents voted to establish a new Students with Disabilities All Grades certificate. Future holders of the new certificate will be able to teach students with disabilities in grades Pre-K through 12 in public schools. This is what you need to know about the new certificate structure:

  • With the exception of the Pre-K-2 SWD certificate, issuance of new SWD grade band certificates will be phased out.
  • Existing certificates (grade band and permanent special education) will continue to be recognized. 
  • Because the new certificate has different requirements than existing certificates, holders of existing certificates will not automatically become eligible for the new certificate. 
  • Holders of existing certificates may, but are not required to, obtain the new certificate. 
  • NYSED will continue to issue professional certificates and reissue initial certificates to those who meet the requirements.
  • Special educators who hold a SOCE remain qualified to teach a special class in a subject area in grades 7-12.
  • Special educators with SWD 7-12 certificates who wish to become certified to teach a special class in a subject area may do so by obtaining a subject area extension (now 12 credits rather than 18 or passing a content specialty test) or a limited extension.

The state's summary and FAQ provides more detail about the rollout of the new certificate. Contact a certification specialist at 212-331-6311 if you have questions about your specific situation.

Check out how your school is doing in meeting the needs of students with disabilities

In response to a local law passed by the New York City Council in 2015 and updated periodically thereafter, the DOE reports quarterly on compliance with students’ individual education programs. The report includes a narrative summary of the DOE’s progress and an Excel file with data on program and related service compliance disaggregated by superintendency, district and school. Compliance with transportation mandates is newly included in the September 2022 report. 

The USDOE’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issue new guidance on disciplining students with disabilities

All four documents (OSERS's Dear Colleague Letter;   Questions and Answers: Addressing the needs of Children with Disabilities and IDEA’s Discipline ProvisionsPositive, Proactive Approaches to Supporting the Needs of Children with Disabilities: A Guide for Stakeholders; and, OCR’s Supporting Students with Disabilities and Avoiding the Discriminatory Use of Student Discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) focus on the agencies’ longstanding concern with disparities in the use of discipline for children with disabilities and appropriate implementation of the two statutes. Notable is new guidance on “informal” removals and the application of discipline in virtual environments.

The term “emotional disturbance” has been officially changed to “emotional disability” in New York State regulations

The new term will be used beginning on July 27, 2022 on all IEPs developed or amended and any related documents. The name change does not change the coverage, eligibility, or rights of students with disabilities who currently have this classification. Nor does this change require that any IEPs already developed for the 2022-23 be changed.