Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

This month’s Bright Spot comes from Karen Gatto, Director of Pupil Personnel in Croton-Harmon.  In the past few years the district has helped students successfully exit from the 12:1:2 high school Special Class.

What were students able to achieve?

* They passed Regents level classes with support.

* They joined clubs with typical peers.

* They attended general education health, PE, and elective courses and found new interests. One student became a photographer for athletic teams. The other held a class officer position. The students have made new friends outside of the special class setting.

* Their self-esteem and confidence has increased.

* Their communicative ability and self advocacy have increased.

What practices or systems made this possible?

⇒ Students attend their CSE meetings and practice self advocacy; professionals “listen” better than ever before.

⇒ Students are taking general education classes and working towards a CDOS Credential; staff have higher expectations for students.

⇒ The CSE thinks creatively and “outside the box”. The team took risks, trying new things.

⇒ The CSE listened to parents and worked as a partner with them. Parents provided effective follow up support outside of school.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Principles 1, 2, 3, and 6 from the NYS Blueprint for Improved Results for Students with Disabilities are specifically evident in our experience:

1. Students engage in self-advocacy and are involved in determining their own educational goals and plans.

2. Parents, and other family members, are engaged as meaningful partners in the special education process and the education of their child.

3. Teachers design, provide, and assess the effectiveness of specially designed instruction to provide students with disabilities access to participate and progress in the general education curriculum.

4. Schools provide high-quality inclusive programs and activities.

Never say never!

This month’s Bright Spots again come from our year-end survey.  This time we looked at the responses of the teachers and administrators from multiple districts, including Carmel, Port Chester, White Plains, New Rochelle, Southern Westchester BOCES, Byram Hills, Eastchester, Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES, Dobbs Ferry, Putnam Valley and the PARC Preschool, who attended the RSE-TASC Student-Directed IEP series last year.

What were students able to achieve?

Educators described some powerful impacts on students, including:

* Students developed a better understanding of their strengths, needs and goals and took ownership of their IEP development.

* Students changed their view of teachers and the school; they now feel they have control of their education instead of it “just happening” to them.

* Students and their IEP teams created much more reflective IEPs with a more accurate focus on student needs.

 What practices or systems made this possible? 

Educators implemented more student-directed practices, including:

* Students were more directly involved in the creation of IEPs and in CSE meetings; at one high school, every student presented on his/her strengths, needs, interests and future plans at the annual meeting.

* Staff used templates to develop accurate goals and measurement processes that were shared with students.

* Transition and graduation information was shared at meetings and systematic procedures for developing coordinated transition activities were put in place for all students, starting at age 14.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Principle 1 of the NYS Blueprint for Improved Results for Students with Disabilities, i.e., Students engage in self-advocacy and are involved in determining their own educational goals and plans, begins by fully engaging all students in the creation of their own educational plans.  It can be done!


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