DiNapoli: Pandemic Disrupts Particular Training; Many College students Lacking Mandated Providers

New York students with disabilities lost some or all of special school achievement due to school closings and the move to distance learning during the pandemic, which likely worsened pre-existing achievement deficits, according to a report released today by New York Auditor Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Distance learning has disrupted the entire education system, but the students who need special education services have been particularly hard hit,” DiNapoli said. “A key part of this year’s reopening plans should be how to make up for student learning losses and ensure they achieve their educational goals.”

Schools work with service providers and a student’s family to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that meets the student’s unique learning needs. During the 2019-20 school year, more than 464,400 students in New York public schools, or 18% of the state’s total K-12 enrollment, had a disability.

During the COVID-19 crisis, programs and services for students with disabilities were disrupted by abrupt closings in March 2020 and a significant reliance on school districts on hybrid learning models in the 2020-21 school year. A lower proportion of students with disabilities returned to fully face-to-face tuition (6%) than the national average for all students (7%). While all students faced the challenges of the health crisis, economic upheaval and the use of new technologies, students with disabilities were often unable to receive services prescribed by the IEP or from a distance, potentially reducing the quality of the services or their effectiveness, especially with therapies that require practical, personal interaction or specialized equipment.

New York City, which trains nearly half of the state’s disabled students, reported that up to 46% of students with disabilities received only some or none of the interventions in their IEP as of November 2020, down to 24% in January 2021. Another 28% did not receive full or partial services such as speech therapy or occupational therapy, with the number falling to 13% in January 2021. Disabled students who required bilingual services suffered the greatest losses, with 41% of students eligible for bilingual counseling, which has not been used since January.

Research has found that the learning loss during the pandemic may be greater for students with disabilities, and the performance gaps that occurred prior to the pandemic are likely to widen. In 2019 grades 3-8 state English language proficiency exams, 52% of general education students met or exceeded the standard of achievement compared to only 14% of students with disabilities. A similar competence gap of 37 percentage points was found in the mathematical condition assessments of grades 3-8 in 2019.

Significant new resources available over the next four years provide an opportunity to address the learning losses suffered during the pandemic as many schools return to face-to-face learning. Government aid to education will increase by $ 8.4 billion over the next few years. In addition, New York received over $ 15 billion in federal emergency education through three relief packages.

DiNapoli said school districts should prioritize spending of state and federal assistance on special education programs and related services to help address short-term setbacks and long-term inequalities for students with disabilities. A renewed focus on educational achievement data collection will also directly support the efforts of the State Education Department to better understand the impact of the pandemic on students with disabilities and to find appropriate solutions where state and government aid can best be used.

Disruption of special education services: bridging the learning loss gap from COVID-19

Track state and local government spending on Open Book New York. With State Comptroller DiNapoli’s Open Data Initiative, search millions of state and local government financial records, track state contracts, and find frequently requested data.


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