Special Ed. Evaluator

(Note: This post is a copy of a document I created for the Facebook group Clarkstown Parents to Save Our Schools.

On Sept. 2, 2011, the New City Patch ran an article with the headline: Clarkstown Schools Identified By State As “District In Need of Improvement”.  At the Sept. 8th Board meeting, the CCSD school principals gave presentations that included detailed results analysis of the 2011 English Language Assessment (ELA), with action plan and goal set proposals to improve scores.  Mr. DeGaetano commented, “Most of the district is doing fine.” 

Indeed.  Like most NYS schools identified by the state as “in need of improvement”, the CCSD’s deficiencies are specific to the programs for the sub-group “Students with Disabilities” (SWD).  The ELA scores of SWD in Grade 6 of Felix Festa Middle School (FFMS) A did not meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP).  Similarly, SWD in Grade 8 of FFMS D did not make AYP.  The district was also cited for Birchwood’s four-year graduation rate, because a handful needed to attend summer school to earn their diplomas. 

Dr. Keller-Cogan identified the CCSD’s need for an outside evaluation of the Special Education programs in 2008/2009, but her request for funding this evaluation was denied.  In 2009/2010, the Board preferred that the District perform its own evaluations and action plans, and then review the results in a year.  In 2010/2011, the state announced in August that those results fell short of AYP as described.

Unlike this person, Dr. Keller-Cogan is not the type to say, “I told you so!”
Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This year, the BoE has received an RFP to perform the evaluation from a highly qualified institution that is nationally respected in Special Education, and the Board viewed a presentation from these consultants.  The net cost of the proposal to the CCSD is $15,000.  This is 0.008% of the CCSD budget. 

At the September 8th meeting, Mr. Malgieri added a motion to the agenda to approve the RFP for the Special Ed evaluation.   Dr. Keller-Cogan very clearly reiterated that the district does not have the resources, personnel, or expertise to perform the evaluation on a level that these consultants can do.  She reminded the Board that the district has provided each BoE member with binders of data for the past two years that demonstrate the district’s need for an outside evaluation. 

Only Mr. Malgieri, Mrs. Hoeneveld and Mr. Carlucci voted in favor, with Mr. Katz, Mr. DeGaetano and Mrs. Ehrenberg abstaining.  Given the repeated and impassioned requests by Dr. Keller-Cogan and this new designation from the state, how did this not pass?  Mr. Katz said that, with the time passed since viewing the RFP and the presentation, he wanted to review the RFP before voting.  Mrs. Ehrenberg wanted the funds to come from the General budget, not from an already strained Special Ed budget.  Neither of these are unreasonable points.

What was inexplicable was hearing Mrs. Ehrenberg and Mr. DeGaetano still insisting that the CCSD should fix the problem first, and THEN bring in the evaluators.  Let’s think about this for a moment…

“I said I’ll call the plumber next year…AFTER you fix the leak!”
Mrs. Ehrenberg mentioned that she had heard from other districts that such evaluations did not significantly help them.  Since our Students With Disabilities (SWD), despite being “in need of improvement”, significantly outperform the state SWD average of 14.5% proficiency, I would say those other districts need to be overhauled so badly that they are not able to take advantage of those evaluations.

Understand that SWD, like the rest of the CCSD, showed overall improvement in 2010/2011 and met 36 of 38 criteria in the Math and ELA assessments.  In two areas, this improvement was not enough.  After a certain point, one must recognize that it is time to bring in an outside evaluator who can compare what you’re doing to current standards, practices and concepts.  In the CCSD, an evaluation may suggest just a few small changes that will make a big impact, not only in those two areas, but also across Special Ed and potentially the entire district.

Approve the RFP.

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