Tens of Thousands of Special Needs Kids Are (Still) Falling Through the Cracks

by Lara Damashek

While there has been important progress in NYC special education (such as the Mayor’s “fast-tracking” of settlements, which has been the topic of many blog posts here), it would be irresponsible not to remind ourselves that there are a great many children who still need the community of special education advocates to keep on fighting.    

Earlier this month, the NYC Department of Education released long-awaited numbers that show how badly the City continues to struggle to serve its roughly 212,000 students with IEPs. Alex Zimmerman reported on widespread lags in completing required assessments in a November 1st article published by the education watchdog blog Chalkbeat. In the article, he reports that “[a]bout 30 percent of students had to wait longer than the two months allowed under law to be assessed for education plans that outline the services the city is required to provide them[.]” 

According to the numbers the Department of Education released, 71 % of students got their IEPs within the legally required time frame, as compared to 69.5 % during the prior school year.  As many of you are well aware, the city is required by law to evaluate a child, hold an IEP meeting, make a recommendation, and implement that recommendation within 60 school days of a parent giving their consent. See the NYC special education timeline in more detail at http://www.nyc.gov/html/acs/education/pdf/timeline%20requirements.pdf

And this wasn’t even the worst news. Chalkbeat further reported that the same data showed that “[j]ust 59 percent of students received the full range of services required on their individualized education programs, or IEPs, compared with 60 percent the previous school year.”

Although the city has warned against the reliability of its statistics, the message we take away from articles like this remains the same – there are far too many kids in our city who suffer as a result of ongoing delays in the delivery of special education services.