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November 1, 2017
More students with disabilities got required services last year, but large gaps remain
Last school year, 73 percent of students with disabilities received their mandated services — up from 59 percent the previous year.
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May 9, 2017
New York City’s special ed tracking system malfunctioned more than 800,000 times per day, but changes are underway
Officials promised to "implement these changes as quickly as possible.”
time for an upgrade
November 18, 2016
New York City reveals new plans to upgrade its dysfunctional special education data system
How significant those upgrades will be remains to be seen.
August 12, 2016
Judge OKs a formal inquiry into the city’s notoriously unreliable special education tracking system
The city could be forced to answer questions as part of a legal proceeding that hasn't occurred since 1900.
March 16, 2016
After 41 SESIS errors over two hours, a special-ed teacher joins a push for reform
A forum this week highlighted special-education challenges, including problems with the $130 million data-tracking system, SESIS.
SESIS UNDER FIRE
February 1, 2016
James sues city for not properly tracking services for students with disabilities
Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the city alleging its special-education data system prevented students from receiving services and lost the city millions.
November 21, 2013
After city pays millions in SESIS overtime, complications remain
Special education teachers say it's a common feeling: the students are gone for the day, and it's time for the real work to begin. But if they need to record something on a student's Individualized Education Program, it's probably too late. Early efforts to curb overtime payments have now become policy, as the Department of Education reminds principals to keep staff members out of SESIS—the online system that tracks special education students—after the school day ends unless the principal has committed to pay for that time. The reminders were spurred by arbitration that ultimately cost the city $41 million in belated overtime to teachers and staff whose after-hours work violated union contracts. For months, some principals have been looking for ways to give teachers more time during the day to work with the notoriously glitchy system (made more frustrating by slow school Internet speeds). But teachers and principals say that serious problems remain, as students' information is now updated more slowly, data entry takes time away from student interaction, and some teachers continue to work without pay. "Is that the reality? Of course it's the reality," said Carmen Alvarez, the UFT's vice president for special education, of the continuing issues. "Do I like it? No. Did we tell it to the DOE three years ago in writing? Yes."
July 23, 2013
Special education chief steers talk away from SESIS issues
On Monday, Comptroller John Liu released an audit that turned the public's attention to the city's special education data system, which has received significant criticism in the past. Last week, we spoke to Corinne Rello-Anselmi, the deputy chancellor of special education. I asked her about the most important initiatives in special education and she didn't mention the data system; rather, she talked about the bigger picture of special education in the city. Here are some of the most interesting takeaways from our conversation. How her personal experience led to a focus on the importance of inclusion in special education Rello-Anselmi was appointed deputy chancellor in April 2012 after Laura Rodriguez, the first-ever deputy chancellor for special education, stepped down. It was a critical moment for special education policy in New York City, with reforms to the system just months from rolling out in full. Rello-Anselmi joined central administration as a seasoned insider working in the field, having worked in city schools for 33 years. She began her teaching career at P.S. 108 in the Bronx as a self-contained special education teacher. Later, she served as principal of the school for ten years.
July 22, 2013
Liu eschews own audit to focus on Medicaid reimbursements
Liu at a press conference outside Tweed Courthouse, where he discussed Medicaid reimbursement for special education students. New York City Comptroller John Liu’s audit into the city’s embattled special education data system, released today, hammered home well-established issues, but found few new problems with the three-year-old initiative. Liu, who is running for mayor, instead used the occasion to highlight a challenge not mentioned in the audit — the city's ongoing struggle to get reimbursed for low income students with disabilities who are entitled to federal Medicaid dollars. Over the last two years, the city has collected just 25 percent, or $74 million, of the $284 million amount that the city had hoped to be reimbursed for, Liu said today at a press conference. Liu took the finding from a city budget report published this spring. But he said that responsibility for the losses lies with the city's data system, which his audit criticized. The data system, built to track 190,000 special education students with Individualized Education Plans, makes it "practically impossible" to file for reimbursements, Liu said, a claim that a city spokesman later disputed. Schools began using the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) in 2011 to keep better track of students with disabilities. School staff working with special education students are required to log information about all stages of their IEPs, including details about initial assessments, meetings with parents, services provided, and changes made to the plan.
April 30, 2013
Overtime bill for staff using special ed system totals $38.5M
The city doled out $38.5 million in back pay to schools staff who were wrongly required to work overtime on a buggy special education data system, according to payment details released today by the education department. Nearly 30,000 therapists, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists received the overtime payments this month after an independent arbitrator ruled in January that the Department of Education violated the United Federation of Teachers' contract. The first round of payments, on April 12, totaled $2.6 million for 1,700 occupational and physical therapists and the second and final payment — $35.9 million — went out to the rest of employees today. The total number of educators who qualified for overtime far exceeded the UFT's estimates, which hovered at around 10,000. The UFT filed the labor complaint in mid-2011, charging that staff should not have been required to work outside of their contractual school day.
January 3, 2013
In case of special ed data system, a ruling mostly in UFT's favor
Teachers who worked outside of their regular school day to enter information in the Department of Education's special education data system last year will get paid for their time, according to a labor decision announced today. After teachers told the United Federation of Teachers that using the new system to record information about their everyday activities was burdensome, the union filed an official complaint in mid-2011. An arbitrator heard the union's case and the Department of Education's defense on 19 dates between December 2011 and October 2012 before concluding that the department's implementation violated the union's contract. "After the longest arbitration in UFT history, the independent arbitrator, Jay Siegel, today concluded that the workday provisions in our contract had been violated," UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote in a letter to other union officials late today. The city was permitted to introduce the system, called the Special Education Student Information System, without the union's consent, Siegel decided. But he ruled that it was wrong to require educators to record their encounters with students when doing so required them to work outside of their contractual school day.
November 29, 2011
Report links SESIS struggles and DOE's contracting practices
The special education data system that has teachers and parents frustrated carries a $79 million price tag — and wasn't even tailor-made for the city schools. That's according to a report by Ruth Ford and Adrienne Day about the Department of Education's contracting practices in the current issue of City Limits, the magazine of the nonprofit Community Service Society of New York. The year-old Special Education Student Information System, or SESIS, was meant to make information about students with disabilities more accessible. But its rollout has been bumpy, with school staff and union officials complaining that using the system is burdensome. Tracing SESIS's origins, the City Limits report characterizes the system as "neither an unbridled success nor a total failure" but rather a symptom of the DOE's reliance on private contractors to solve local problems — a practice that DOE officials said could soon see greater quality control. From the article: The DOE put out a request for proposals for a new system and got several bids. The Virginia-based consulting company Maximus won the contract.
October 19, 2011
Walcott downplays SESIS issues at first town hall of school year
A new special education data system isn't as bad as its critics say, Chancellor Dennis Walcott told Bronx parents Tuesday night. The chancellor acknowledged that the Special Education Student Information System was earning “mixed reactions” from educators, but he downplayed concerns that it was a “systemic” problem. The web‐based system was created to track information about students with disabilities and is being rolled out this year, to massive complaints. Over the summer, SESIS was blamed for leaving some special needs students without school seats. Now, teachers are saying the system is extremely burdensome to use. As a compliance deadline approached last week, the union blasted the DOE for its “total incompetence” in managing the system rollout. In a separate email, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel called SESIS a “systemic problem that is affecting almost everyone who uses it in almost every school.” Walcott voluntarily addressed those concerns and others last night at a meeting with District 7 parents in the Bronx. It was the first of many town hall‐style meetings that Walcott will host this year in accordance with a law that requires the chancellor to visit each of the city's 33 districts in a two‐year period. At this meeting, held at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, Walcott answered questions about budget cuts, school closures, absent teacher reserve deployments, and class sizes. He brought SESIS up on his own.
October 14, 2011
Union urges vigilance on glitchy special education data system
The teachers union is telling its members that the Department of Education's expectations around a new special education data system are "unconscionable." By tomorrow, teachers of students with special needs are supposed to enter information about them in a new data system, Special Education Student Information System (SESIS). But the system has been buggy since it went online this summer, and teachers are complaining that they have too little training and time to enter the information by the deadline. A letter to UFT members today urged teachers to push back against unreasonable expectations. “The problems related to SESIS are not your fault, but are a result of the DOE’s total incompetence in managing the school system as a whole and this initiative in particular,” said UFT Secretary Michael Mendel in a letter sent to teachers today. “We recognize your hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, the people in charge of the school system, your employer, do not. They do not value your dedication and commitment to your students.” The union is encouraging teachers to let their supervisors know that the requirements are too burdensome and to track the time they spend grappling with SESIS. Teachers are also being encouraged to file grievances if they are told to enter data into SESIS outside of their work day or if they are punished for not meeting the data entry deadline.
May 20, 2011
Special ed reforms causing evaluation backlog, advocates say
Bumps in rolling out new special education rules are holding up crucial assessments of the city’s youngest students, advocates say. Consequences could be severe if the assessments aren't completed by the June 15 deadline. Students who don't receive placements by that date but do need special education services are entitled to full reimbursement of private school tuition dollars, according to state law. That’s not likely to happen: Even in a typical year there aren’t enough private school placements for all the students who are entitled to them. But the crunch does suggest the city faces difficulties in cutting its growing expenditures on private school special education placements, which Mayor Bloomberg complained last year costs the city $100 million annually. Months into the rollout of a set of special education reforms meant in part to integrate disabled children into their neighborhood schools, advocates report that the city is scrambling to evaluate children with special needs who will be entering kindergarten this fall. “It’s going to be really difficult to get things into place for a large number of families of students who are going to come into kindergarten next year,” said Maggie Moroff, the coordinator of the ARISE Coalition, which supports special education advocates.
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