A Charter School for Students with Language-Based Disabilities on Staten Island

About 1 in 5 students has a language-based learning disability, of which dyslexia is most prevalent. And in the borough of Staten Island, there has long been a dearth of appropriate school placements that can adequately address these common learning issues for the over 40,000 students PK-8.  In fact, young students who live on Staten Island are sometimes bused for hours to other boroughs to get their educational needs met.

Bridge Preparatory Charter School for Creative Thinkers (aka Bridge Prep) hopes to change this dynamic. The proposed public charter school recently passed the first hurdle of the charter review process in Albany. Bridge Prep plans to open its doors to Staten Island residents for the 2018-19 school year, and while charter approval isn’t a sure thing, the project enjoys strong support from the Staten Island community, including from Borough President James Oddo, and hopes are high for an on-time opening.

The plan for year one, as outlined in Bridge Prep's letter of intent to the state education department, is to open five classes of no more than 12 students (one class for Grade 1, two classes each for Grades 2 and 3). By the 2022-23 school year, the student body will grow to over 300 students from Grades 1 – 7.

Public charter schools have free tuition. Applications will be open to Staten Island residents and filled by lottery.

Congratulations to the founders and to everyone who has worked so hard on behalf of students with dyslexia on Staten Island!

Bill to Clarify IEP Rights of Students with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia Passes Legislature

For many years, advocates for students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia have asked school districts to use the specific language of a student’s diagnosis in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Unfortunately, school districts routinely refuse to do this, wrongly citing federal law as pretext.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide services to students who are adversely affected by one of 13 named conditions, including those with a “Specific Learning Disability.” School district IEP teams sometimes tell parents that they can’t write “dyslexia” on an IEP, and can only use the generic term “learning disability” because that’s the name of the classification that covers it. This isn’t true. There is nothing in the IDEA preventing an IEP team from putting down “Specific Learning Disability” as the classification, while also using specific diagnostic language within the IEP document.

These labels do matter because an IEP is a binding legal document. The more specific and accurate the IEP is, the better it can serve its purpose of meeting the needs of a child—and the more effectively it can be used on that child’s benefit if a school district fails in its obligations.

It is very exciting that S.6581 /A. 8262, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by State Senator Martin Golden and Assembly Member Jo Ann Simon, has passed both houses of the legislature and will now move to the Governor for his signature. This bill directs the NYS Department of Education to issue a clarifying order to local school districts clearly spelling out the importance and legality of putting the words dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia in IEPs.

Language is powerful, and we are hopeful that saying and writing the words will help to raise awareness of the very specific needs of students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in our school system.  

If you happen to live in the districts of either Senator Golden or Assembly Member Simon, who both represent parts of Brooklyn, please take a moment to call or email them and thank them for this important legislation.