REPORT ON PROGRESS IN IMPLEMENTING REFORM OF PRESCHOOL SPECIAL EDUCATION

Executive Summary
Report on Progress on Implementing Reform
Results of Reform Initiatives
Data
Charts of:
Additional Reform Activities
Future Directions

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

New York State's preschool special education program grew dramatically from 1989 when approximately 18,000 preschool children with disabilities received special education programs and services at a cost of $226 million until 1995-96 when it served 55,730 three- and four-year-old children with disabilities at a cost of $597 million. Approximately three-fourths of these children were served in nonintegrated settings (i.e., a special education setting, hospital, or separate school) in 1994-95. In January 1996, the Board of Regents endorsed six goals to reform the State's preschool special education program. These goals led to the development of a legislative proposal and subsequent legislative action in order to serve more children in integrated settings in a more cost-effective manner. These goals are consistent with the provisions of the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that view special education for children ages three through twenty-one as a service to support children's education, rather than a place, and emphasize program accountability, student results and access to general education.

During the 1996 legislative session, legislation was enacted to amend the preschool special education program. Statutory amendments addressed the following areas:

Consistent with legislation, the reform initiatives have dramatically increased the provision of special education services in integrated settings and improved the cost effectiveness of the program through implementation of business plans; expansion of Special Education Itinerant Teacher Services (SEIT); staff development and training opportunities for parents, school personnel, Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) members and day care providers; and the establishment of a data collection and verification system that provides information on the type of setting in which the child is receiving special education services and information on the continuum of specific services that are provided to preschool students with disabilities.

Of the seven states serving the greatest number of preschool students with disabilities, based on census data, New York State provides special education services to the largest percentage (5.82%) of preschool students with disabilities. Data from 1992-93 to 1995-96 reflect a continuous growth in the number of preschool students receiving special education programs and services, from 37,715 to 55,730 or a 48 percent increase. Progress has been made in addressing the goal of decreasing transportation costs statewide. Total transportation costs for preschool students with disabilities decreased 35 percent from approximately $133 million in 1993-94 to approximately $87 million in 1995-96.

The 1997-98 data indicate that progress has been made in increasing the percentage of preschool students receiving special education services in integrated settings. However, statewide averages often do not reflect regional and school district-level differences. For example, 459 school districts exceeded the statewide average in their placement of preschool students in integrated settings as compared to 205 school districts that did not.

Additional activities to reform preschool special education are currently under way. Quality assurance efforts will focus on counties and school districts having higher than average numbers of preschool students in separate special class programs and monitor trends in the numbers and placements of preschool students receiving special education services and costs of the preschool special education program.

REPORT ON PROGRESS IN IMPLEMENTING REFORM OF PRESCHOOL SPECIAL EDUCATION

New York State's preschool special education program was redesigned in July 1989 to be in compliance with the Federal requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Department is responsible for assuring that eligible three- and four-year-old students with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education to meet their individual needs in the least restrictive environment.

In 1994-95, 73.4 percent of identified preschool students with disabilities received special education programs and services in nonintegrated settings (i.e., a special education setting, hospital, or separate school). From 1989-1995, the numbers of three- and four-year-old children identified as having disabilities and the costs of their services increased tremendously. By the 1995-96 school year, 55,730 eligible preschool students were receiving preschool special education services at a cost of $597 million (State and local dollars).

In January 1996, the Board of Regents endorsed the following goals to reform the State's preschool special education program:

A number of events have since occurred which impact on the service delivery system for preschool special education. The 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA views special education as a service to support the education of children ages 3 to 21, rather than a place. It also emphasizes program accountability, student results and access to general education. The amended IDEA is consistent with the Board of Regents preschool special education reform goals. Reform of special education, including preschool special education, focuses on the quality of programs, rather than solely on compliance with procedural requirements.

This report summarizes the results of the initiatives that have been implemented to achieve the goals to reform preschool special education and the remaining issues to be addressed.

Results of Reform Initiatives

A number of preschool special education reform initiatives have already dramatically increased the provision of special education services in integrated settings and improved the cost effectiveness of the program. Four of these initiatives are described below.

- Department staff conducted statewide training for school district personnel to implement new requirements established by Chapter 474 of the Laws of 1996. During the 1996-1997 school year, more than 2,000 individuals participated in the initial training. An additional 300 representatives of boards of education and Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) chairpersons received follow-up training.

- The Department, in consultation with the State Office of Children and Family Services, produced two video-teleconferences for day care providers to address increasing the provision of services in integrated settings and natural environments. Approximately 4,700 individuals participated in these events.

- The Department conducted training statewide for CPSE chairpersons and municipality representatives during 1997-1998 to develop the necessary competencies and improve the decision making process of the CPSEs. To date, 10 of the 12 scheduled sessions have been conducted with an average of 60 participants per session.

- For the past two years, the Department has funded the Early Childhood Direction Center Network to develop and deliver a parent education series entitled, "The Parent/Child and Professional Partnership Journey through Early Childhood Special Education." The training promotes the placement of children in the least restrictive environment and strives to ensure that parents of preschool children with disabilities have access to information on Federal, State and local policies and procedures regarding preschool and school-age special education services. From April through June 1998, 778 parents were trained. Additional sessions are scheduled for areas of the State that have a high percentage of students placed in separate sites.

Data

Our State served 55,730 preschool students with disabilities in 1995-96. In New York, 5.82 percent of three- and four-year-old children are served through the preschool special education system, the highest percentage of the largest seven states. Illinois serves 4.5 percent and California serves 3.3 percent. Data from 1992-93 to 1995-96 reflect a continuous growth in the number of preschool students receiving special education programs and services, from 37,715 to 55,730 or a 48 percent increase. The total transportation cost for preschool students with disabilities statewide has also decreased from approximately $133 million in 1993-94 to $87 million in 1995-96, a 35 percent decrease.

In 1994-95, as part of its Strategic Plan, the Office of Vocational and Education Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) established a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to increase the percentage of preschool students with disabilities receiving special education services in settings that include nondisabled children. The 1997-98 data indicates that 45.1 percent of preschool students were provided special education services at home or in typical early childhood education programs as compared to 26.6% in 1994-95. This is a result of implementation of the business plan requirement during the 1997-98 school year. (See chart below.) Chart of Integration of Preschool Students with Disabilities

Data for the Big Five Cities in New York State were compared individually and in aggregate to the rest of the State for the 1996-97 and 1997-98 school years. One-third of all preschool students with disabilities in New York State are being served in New York City. However, in 1997-98, of the Big Five Cities, New York City reported the smallest percentage of preschool students served in integrated settings (24.1 percent). (See chart below.)

Chart of Integration of Preschool Students with Disabilities

Similarly, the second largest city in New York State, Buffalo, had the second lowest rate of the Big Five Cities in serving preschool students with disabilities in integrated settings (29.7 percent). Almost every one of the Big Five Cities increased its number of preschool children served in integrated settings from December 1, 1996 to December 1, 1997. Syracuse served 96 percent of its preschool students with disabilities in integrated settings during the 1996-97 and the 1997-98 school years. (See chart below.)

Statewide averages often do not reflect regional and school district-level differences. There are differences among school districts in the extent to which preschool students with disabilities are provided services in integrated settings. For example, 459 school districts placed 45.1 percent (the State average) or more of their preschool students in integrated settings, compared to 205 school districts that placed less than 45.1 percent of their preschool students with disabilities in integrated settings. (See chart below.)

Chart of School Districts Placing Preschool Students in Integrated Settings

Nearly 81 percent of counties meet or exceed the statewide average (45.1 percent) for serving preschool students with disabilities in integrated settings. December 1, 1997 data reflect that in 50 of 58 counties, with the boroughs of New York City reported as a single municipality, at least 45.1 percent or more of preschool students with disabilities were served in integrated settings. This includes 20 counties in which 71 percent or more of these students were being served in integrated settings. Only eight counties had less than 45.1 percent placed in integrated settings. (See chart below.)

Chart of Preschool Students with Disabilities Placed in Integrated Settings in the  Municipalities in NY State

In 1998, for the first time, data are available on the placement of preschool students with disabilities within the State’s continuum of services. These data will help us more discreetly track the types of services provided to students with disabilities. These data provide baseline information to track further effects of the Department’s preschool special education reform efforts.

From July 1997 to June 1998, more than half (54.2 percent) of preschool students with disabilities were provided related services, SEIT services, or special class in integrated settings. In 349 school districts, 71 percent or more of identified preschool students with disabilities were provided these services (significantly above the statewide average). (See chart below.)

Chart of School District Placement in Related Services

During 1997-98, 45.8 percent of preschool students received special class services in nonintegrated settings. 28.6 percent were in full-day special classes, while 17.2 percent were in half-day special classes. (See chart below.)

Pie Chart of Placement of Preschool Children with Disabiities

On average, school districts placed 28.6 percent of preschool students with disabilities in full-day special classes in nonintegrated programs. 501 school districts were below the average in terms of placing preschool students in full-day separate special class programs while 175 exceeded the average. Only thirty-nine districts statewide placed 51 percent or more of preschool students with disabilities in full-day special classes in nonintegrated settings. (See chart below.)

Graph of Percent of Preschool Students with Disabilities

Additional Reform Activities

Additional activities to reform preschool special education are under way but their benefit is not yet fully known. During the coming year, data will be gathered to assess their impact on reforming preschool special education.

Future Directions

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