Tuesday, June 17

Special Ed Delays for Middle Schoolers

In the days since middle-school placements were announced, we've heard repeatedly from parents of kids in CTT and self-contained special ed classes: Some students haven't received seats in middle school, even though they will graduate from grade school in a few days.

"Special education students will receive their placements this week," according to the DOE's Andy Jacob, who says that "a more comprehensive approach" to placement, along with making sure needed services are in place, cost the process "a few additional days" (which others might describe as a week or more, but never mind).

Elementary school guidance counselors were told that the special-ed students' placements would follow mainstream-ed matches, according to the DOE. Whether and when parents were similarly informed -- and if not, why not -- remains unclear. (We've asked.)

Parents who write us say there's a two-tier approach to middle school admissions, and that special-ed kids are treated as "second-class citizens." It's hard to believe that's actually true, but easy to see how parents, waiting for middle-school news and wanting the best for their children, can think it possible.

Readers, please keep us posted on when your special-needs children receive middle school placements. Also, we'd love to know how the school your child is offered compares with the choices ranked on the application. Thanks as ever for your feedback.


Anonymous said...

Helen, who is the most influential education reporter at the NY Times? With all the botched enrollment processes this year (siblings overlooked in pre-K, late middle school, even later G&T and now this special ed placement) and the excessive and needless expenditure of more an estimated $16,500 sending the G&T letters by courier I'm surprised that a good investigative reporter isn't all over this. With all due respect to the man, Andy Jacob sounds like some poor front man, with limited information trying to cover up the department's gross incompetencies. And he's not doing so great a job either. Geez... he could at least come up with some convincing argument or rhetoric in answer to questions rather than offering vague, uninformative explanations or ignoring the questions all together. This isn't accountability as far as I'm concerned and I would think that tax payers would expect more from the public office charged with educating our children.

Anonymous said...

There should be some explanation from the officials at the DOE. Parents of students and the students themselves must feel as though they are second class citizens. It seems discriminatory since the general education students have already received their placements and are going to orientations and auditions while the CTT and special education students wait on the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

I can not believe that someone has not yet filed a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

This serious delay has undermined the challenging task that parents have in allowing their children to remain annonymous as CTT and Special Ed students. These children can not answer positively when their peers ask which school that they will attend next year or if they'll be going to the orientations and auditions. If the delay continues much longer past the graduations I would think that this will have a negative effect on these kids.

Lindsey said...

For more information on this topic, see the article from this week's Insideschools alert.

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Parent of a Great special needs kid in Brooklyn said...

I am disappointed in all of us. Especially myself. My child, as well as others, have been hurt by the actions of decision makers in the Department of Education and the inaction of the rest of us. As these children approach the end of the school year, participating in graduation celebrations and enjoying the last days of some friendships that will inevitably end because they’ll go off to different schools, the elephant in the room is the missing piece that completes the process of moving from elementary school to middle school. This is the knowledge that one knows where one’s going. Parents are stuck with having to provide explanations as to why their children were not important enough to have been given this crucial information before they graduate. Well kids, grown-ups do dumb things and don’t think about it having learned to justify those same dumb things.

When parents recently inquired about why inclusion and special education students had still not received their middle school placements since the school year is, actually, over, Sandy Ferguson, Executive Director for MS Enrollment at the DOE, responded with the following during the week of June 17, 2008:

Thank you for sharing your concerns. I am very sorry to hear of the difficulty that the wait has posed for the students. In districts where special needs students were placed through the choice process, program and service category needs have had to be reviewed individually to make certain that students receive the appropriate middle school placement that will serve their needs.

Since districts in the past had different approaches for the assignment of special education students, the Office of Student Enrollment sought to take a different, more comprehensive approach to verifying placements that are informed by student preference and program need. Unfortunately, this is a time and labor intensive task.

Please know that our staff is working extraordinarily hard for long hours to make sure that placement information is delivered as quickly as possible. We expect notification to go out tomorrow.

As Mr. Ferguson pats himself and his colleagues on the back for all their hard work, he receives the tacit approval of his superiors and our acquiescence.

Various issues have contributed to the mess these kids are in. Some parents don’t want their children to be identified as special needs in special education. Others would be embarrassed if friends, neighbors and co-workers really knew that their children were labeled “special needs”. Many parents just feel powerless to protest. There is also fear of retaliation from the DOE through refusal to give services or loss of that coveted spot in a particular school. It does happen. On the other side of the battlefield, there are bureaucrats doing it their way. Some behave as if the DOE would be better off without students and parents. Other bureaucrats may really want to improve things, but the results are a scorched earth policy.

We were promised that things would be different when the present administration took over. Unfortunately, the architects of this brave new order can’t even come up with middle school placements before school is over. The decision process is not transparent and the reasoning is vague.

Yes, grown-ups do dumb things and they’re not always courageous even when it comes to children. On June 17, someone, anonymously of course, posted on this blog that the DOE had spent more than $16,000 on couriers for letters to talented and gifted students. This current situation should be an investigative reporter’s pursuit and the impetus for parents to organize and to act en masse. This also applies to the parents of general education children because when one group of children is treated so inequitably it contaminates all children.

I wonder if our children will forgive any of us when they find out about this.

Anonymous said...

This appears to be the norm for OSEEPO and the DOE. The DOE has created this department and staffed it with incompetents. They have stripped the CSE's of their ability to assist families. Though the process was not 100%, it worked because there are or were seasoned professionals that listened and worked with parents. OSEEPO has taken this attitude that parents have to accept what they offer and they will get it when they get to it. They are also at odds with the principals. If you are at odds with the principal, how can you ensure placements? OSEEPO is a waste of time and effort. All they offer is excuses. This is yet another attempt of Chancellor Klein's to fix something that wasn't broken. And then to do it without input from the staff who lived it daily, the unions that supported the staff and the parents whose lives are affected by it!

Anonymous said...

Hey, give Chancellor Klein a break. He took the time to do an interview with Brownstoner on brownstoner.com. I am being facetious and am actually a little miffed but think parents should read it - especially Brooklyn parents.

Lindsey said...

The Brownstoner interview with Chancellor Klein is here and it is worth reading.

Anonymous said...


I feel bad for you and your child, and you have real reason to be upset; No one "in control" bothered to consider the emotional impact that the delays would have on kids, and it makes it all the more painful that the "regular" kids now know where they're headed, while special needs students are still in the dark. Outrageous.

Do the people at the DOE perhaps not realize how stressful and torturous this wait has been? Do they not see it as reprehensible and extremely disrespectful to parents and children alike? Do they not see the high levels of anxiety that their decisions/indecisions have caused?