Dr. Shine Calls for Reform of Middle School Special Ed

To close a widening gap between special education and general education students at Rye Middle School, Dr. Edward Shine presented a plan to reform the program at the February 14 Board of Education meeting. Since 2007, the achievement gap between special and general education students at the Middle School has increased by 50%. The high…

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Published February 28, 2012 4:42 PM
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To close a widening gap between special education and general education students at Rye Middle School, Dr. Edward Shine presented a plan to reform the program at the February 14 Board of Education meeting. Since 2007, the achievement gap between special and general education students at the Middle School has increased by 50%. The high school has actually narrowed the gap by 20% over the same period, while the elementary school gap has remained the same.

 

By Sarah Varney

 

To close a widening gap between special education and general education students at Rye Middle School, Dr. Edward Shine presented a plan to reform the program at the February 14 Board of Education meeting. Since 2007, the achievement gap between special and general education students at the Middle School has increased by 50%. The high school has actually narrowed the gap by 20% over the same period, while the elementary school gap has remained the same.

 

s-specedThe report, written by the District Management Council of Boston, recommends that Rye Middle School end the current co-teaching system, which has been in place for 12 years for special education students. “The co-teaching model has not improved student achievement consistent with national trends.” An alternative model is recommended, which would provide struggling students with targeted interventions in an extra period in the subject with 10-15 peers who are similarly struggling, both with and without Individual Education Plans. Students could be identified for enrollment in this extra period through formative assessments, and exited from it as soon as an acceptable level of proficiency in the targeted area is reached.

 

According to Dr. Shine, such an approach has proved less expensive and more effective in some school districts, and would reduce budgeted expenses by about $1,000,000 over the next few years.

 

But even a whiff of possible changes in special education programming is likely to be controversial for some in the school community. Special education and support programs serve nearly 20% of the student body, a rate higher than most districts Rye’s size. A survey conducted in the fall of 2007 showed that 90% of parents are extremely pleased with the support programs.

 

No change in the special education programs will come quickly, stressed Board member Ed Fox.

 

“I’m glad they’re taking their time,” said John Borchert, a science teacher at Rye Middle School. “It’s clear the data used to measure the gap isn’t complete.”

 

The District Management Council did praise RCDS for its data gathering, stating: “It has highly structured student data processes and an extremely able data analysis staff. This combination enables the district to capture and analyze any type of information and to quickly respond to new data requirements from the state.”

 

A two-to-three-year time period would be required to make any decisions. “Undoubtedly the district will be making difficult decisions over the next few years, all with an eye toward increasing efficiencies and improving performance,” said Mr. Fox.

 

The report also recommended the District implement a special education financial management system. Under the current system, the Pupil Personnel and Special Education Services develops its own budget independently of the district’s Business Administration Office.

The full report is available at ryeschools.org.

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