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June 26, 2008

 


DiNapoli: Thousands of New York City Special Education Students Not Receiving Needed Services

Department of Education Efforts Outpaced by Demand for Services

The New York City Department of Education must improve the timeliness of its evaluations and placements of special education student applicants, according to a report released by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report also noted that the number of students who do not receive recommended support services, such as speech or physical therapy, doubled between 2003 and 2007.

“Delays in evaluating and placing special education students only add to the challenges these students are facing,” DiNapoli said. “The size and diversity of the New York City school system present unique challenges. But timely evaluation and arrangement of appropriate special education services for students gives these children greater opportunities for success. Every student deserves every opportunity to succeed; the DOE should make sure they get that chance.”

The DiNapoli report showed that during the 2006-2007 school year, a monthly average of 4,549 students remained in an evaluation process for more than 30 school days, with more than 2,400 remaining for more than 60 days. In addition, a monthly average of 14,479 students were in the placement process for more than 60 school days with more than half of those students remaining in the process for more than 80 days.

While the report notes that 55 percent of the cases in the placement process for more than 60 days were either the result of students not attending the program arranged for them or because parents did not respond to an offer of placement, 16 percent of those students remained in the process because the Department of Education never made an offer of services.

Under a consent decree issued in 1979, following a court ruling in the Jose P. v. Ambach federal lawsuit, the Department of Education is required to complete each new evaluation within 30 school days of receiving parental consent to evaluate or within 40 school days of receiving a request to evaluate. Under the decree, a student must then be offered appropriate services within 60 school days of receipt of parental consent to evaluate or within 70 school days of the request to evaluate.

The DiNapoli report also found:

  • Each year, the DOE receives between 100,000 and 115,000 requests to evaluate students’ needs for special education services. The number of referrals peaked at 114,060 in the 2005-2006 school year and then declined to 112,997 in the 2006-2007 school year.
  • The number of students in the evaluation process for more than 30 school days nearly doubled to 5,361 (18 percent of the average monthly cases in the evaluation process) after a reorganization during the 2003-2004 school year. The number declined slightly to 4,549 students (14 percent of the average monthly cases in the evaluation process) during the 2006-2007 school year.
  • Nearly 9,500 cases in the evaluation process were carried over to the start of the 2006-2007 school year, the second highest level since the 1997-1998 school year. More than 40,000 cases in the placement process were carried over to the start of the 2006-2007 school year.
  • The percentage and number of students in the placement process for more than 60 days is significantly higher in recent years than the 2000-2003 period, rising from 56 percent in the 2000-2001 school year (9,826 students) to 68 percent in the 2006-2007 school year (14,479 students). Students who are recommended for placement in programs provided in a language other than English are more often delayed than students whose primary language is English.
  • Unfilled requests for related services, such as physical and speech therapy, more than doubled from 28,624 in June 2003 to 64,897 in June 2007.
  • In a 2005 audit conducted by the State Comptroller’s Office, the DOE acknowledged that it faced a “severe shortage” of speech therapists, counselors, and physical and occupational therapists, and that it was trying to recruit such providers.

Click here for a copy of the report.

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