Report: Distant studying prompted particular training college students to fall behind throughout pandemic 

The move to distance learning during the pandemic has disrupted special education services for disabled students across the state, including Long Island, which is likely to exacerbate an already larger performance gap, according to a report released Wednesday.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s report found that 464,000 students with disabilities across the state – that’s 18% of K-12 enrollments – were lost when schools closed their doors to full face-to-face learning and distance learning in March 2020. or hybrid options alternated vital services.

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

The lack of face-to-face learning, for example, made specialized classrooms and small-group classes virtually impossible for students with individualized education programs (IEPs), the report said.

Services and therapies that normally require personal interaction or specialized equipment, including occupational or physical therapy, had to be provided remotely, limiting their effectiveness, the report said.

A survey of 1,500 families conducted in May 2020 by Parents Together, a Manhattan-based national advocacy group, found that only 20% of students with IEP received all of their services, while nearly 40% received no services at all.

Parents of children with IEPs were more than twice as likely to report that their child did little to no distance learning and that distance learning was failing, according to a June 2021 report by the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Bureau.

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In Nassau County, 79% of 26,643 students with disabilities have graduated compared with 95% of general education students, according to data provided by the DiNapoli office for the 2019-20 school year. Meanwhile, 17% of Nassau students with disabilities were still enrolled after four years, compared with 2% of general education students.

In Suffolk, 78% of 35,557 students with disabilities graduated in the 2019-20 school year, compared with 93% of general education students, DiNapoli’s office said. In addition, 16% of Suffolk students with disabilities are still enrolled after four years, compared with 4% of general education students.

The auditor’s office found worrying data in New York City that educates nearly half of the state’s disabled students.

The city’s Department of Education reported in February that nearly a quarter of students with special needs – approximately 54,000 students – were not receiving all of the special education programs required under their IEP. Another 4%, or about 9,000 students in the city were not receiving services under their IEP, city officials said.

The long-term effects of the pandemic may have an impact on future special education case numbers.

During the 2019-20 school year, the number of urban teenagers referred to special school services decreased by nearly 27% from 22,000 students to 16,000, the report said.

Skills gaps between students with disabilities and general education students have widened during the pandemic, including on state exams in English and math, the auditor’s report said.

However, DiNapoli said an increase in government education aid expected in the coming years, along with more than $ 15 billion in federal emergency education funds included in COVID aid packages, could fix some learning loss.

“School districts should consider approaches to prioritizing spending of state and federal aid on special education programs and related services that are urgently needed,” the report said.

Robert Brodsky is a breaking news reporter who has been with Newsday since 2011. He is alum from Queens College and American University.


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