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  • Number of NYC students referred for special education plummets during COVID shutdown: new data

    Nov 5, 2020

    11.03.2020 | NY Daily News | “It’s a huge drop,” said Maggie Moroff, the Special Education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “Those are kids that in other years would have been referred, they would in other years be getting services and supports now,” she added. 

    Advocates say the precipitous drop in special education referrals is likely related to the coronavirus school shutdown from mid-March to June. Families already overwhelmed by the virus and remote learning were probably less likely to ask for testing, Moroff said. At the same time, teachers felt less able to submit special education referrals for students they weren’t observing in person, Moroff added.

    Some schools told families to table the topic of special education until this Fall, when in-person classes restarted, Moroff added. “Everyone was scrambling,” explained Moroff, who noted Education Department officials had to figure out how to conduct complex evaluations remotely. “But what it all translates to is a lot of kids now going without services they probably should be getting, and in any an [sic] other year they would be getting.”

    The drop in special education referrals is another worrisome development for the roughly 200,000 city students with disabilities, who were among the hardest-hit by the shift to remote learning. Officials say they’ve worked to smooth the transition for those students by prioritizing them for city-funded iPads, offering services like physical and speech therapy online, and conducting evaluations and IEP meetings remotely.

    Roughly 16% of students with special education plans didn’t receive at least some of their mandated services by the end of the school year, the data shows — a slight increase over last year. Advocates for Children warned those figures “do not capture the significant regression many students experienced because their special education supports simply did not translate online.”Read article