Effective Practices in Increased Student Performances

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Description of Program

The availability of general education and special education preschool programs is the key to success for students now and later when they enter school age programs. My dual role as a special education administrator and a general education advisory board member enables me to facilitate parents and professionals in this community, and ultimately results in students achieving higher performances on all levels of education in School District 6.

As an administrator of the Committee on Preschool Special Education I ensure that children receive appropriate preschool services as mandated by their Individualized Education Programs. It is my duty to guide parents during the referral and evaluation process and ensure them of their due process rights. I then chair the committee of evaluators, special educators, general educators, preschool coordinators, and clinicians, to develop an appropriate Individual Education program for each preschooler in need. I present options according to State Education Department guidelines, and present the continuum of services in terms that parents can understand. I make sure parents and educators are comfortable with the final recommendation of the committee. I then contract the appropriate service providers, utilizing agencies, schools, and independent providers and deliver them in the least restrictive environment for each individual preschool student.

As a member of the Universal Preschool Advisory Board in District 6 I help to ensure that preschool programs are available to all four year olds in this district. I was one of the original members of the Advisory Board when we first implemented “UPK” classes in New York City. I helped select the first preschool sites in the district and continue to evaluate prospective sites and re-evaluate our current program. We now have classes in six public schools and ten private schools, and accommodate approximately eight hundred four year olds in half-day programs throughout the district. I consult with the UPK general education teachers to help identify and accommodate children with special needs in their classrooms.

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I am familiar with the broad spectrum of services available for preschool students in both the public and private domains, in special education and general education. Subsequently, children receive appropriate services in a timely fashion, according to State Education mandates, and in the least restrictive environment. Parents are comfortable with recommendations and services. Special education teachers and service providers have workable programs that can easily be implemented. General education teachers have the support they need to accommodate special education students in their preschool classrooms. I help this community educate young children early and successfully. The carry over we sees into school age programs is impressive.

Description of Qualitative Exemplary Practices

I was one of the first Preschool Special Education Administrators hired by New York City when the Committee on Preschool Special Education started in 18. In those early days, services were only provided to four year olds, and in self-contained classrooms, and only in private special education preschools. Through the years the school district’s jurisdiction expanded to accommodate three and four year olds, not just five to twenty one year olds as in the past. And instead of placing children in segregated classrooms, in privately contracted schools, we allowed for related services, such as Speech/Language, Occupational, and Physical Therapies, and Counseling, to be provided in the regular preschool settings or even in the home. The continuum of services now also includes the Special Education Itinerant Teacher program that provides support in the regular classroom setting, with consultation for the regular classroom teacher, and direct assistance for the student within the class, to maintain that student in that general education class. Another addition to the continuum was the Special Class in the Integrated Setting, which allows for preschool students with disabilities to benefit from a special education teacher and staff, together with their non-handicapped peers, in the same structured classroom. This continuum of services reflects the consideration of the State Education Department mandate that services be delivered in the least restrictive environment. But it is how the CPSE Administrator carries out these mandates that ultimately decides whether children are actually receiving appropriate services in the least restrictive environment.

It is my obligation to inform parents and teachers, and administrators and directors of programs, and clinicians and service providers, of what options are available, according to this continuum of services, and to deliver them in the least restrictive environment. I was instrumental in initially working with the District Office in implementing the first integrated class on the preschool level in this district, which is at P.S. 1. And when parents of the children in preschool integrated classes and SEIT programs started to demand the same type of services when their children entered kindergarten, I helped the district office and CSE review teams in recommending and implementing integrated classes and consultant teacher programs on the school age level. So, we see that what started with preschool services transitioned into the elementary school age level programs. Empowered parents on the preschool level insist on similar services and patterns for success on the school age level.

When CPSE first started we had to classify preschool children with the same specific classifications used on the school age level. It was difficult to categorize, or label children, especially at such a young age. Now, we use one generic term, “preschool student with a disability,” which is a less restrictive means of classifying educationally handicapped youngsters. I remember one particular case of a student with Down’s syndrome. I directed the parent to look at different special education sites in order to place his son in an appropriate class. After looking at one particular site, the father called me and said, “I know my son is mentally retarded, but does he have to be in a class with stupid children?” I learned from this parent’s words. His words opened my mind, and opened my heart. I learned that even children with severe disabilities are entitled to be schooled with non-handicapped peers, given the right support services. Eventually that child was mainstreamed into an integrated class setting. When he transitioned from the CPSE to the school age CSE, that father was well aware of his rights, knew what the continuum of services was, and insisted that his son receive appropriate services in the least restrictive environment just as he had on the preschool level.

It is my goal to inform other administrators and the general public of what services are available for preschool students, and to identify and service children as early as possible. I have done this by personally training new CPSE Administrators in New York City over the past ten years. I sat on the committee that developed the current Standard Operating Procedures Manual for New York City Board of Education. I consult on a daily basis with other administrators, and directors of both special education and general education preschool programs. I assist in the smooth transition of preschool students with disabilities into the school age programs by working with the CSE teams that evaluate and place children for kindergarten. I actively participate on the UPK Advisory board our community. I have run workshops at local preschools to inform parents and teachers about preschool services available in our community. I feel it is my duty in my roles as both special education administrator and general education UPK Advisory Board member to empower parents and professionals, and continually meet the needs of preschool students. Ultimately this empowerment is reflected in parents and professionals in the entire community, preschool and school age.

Description of Outcomes

When I first taught in NYC school over twenty years ago, I taught a self contained class of educationally handicapped kindergarten, first and second grade students. Most had never received preschool services of any kind, and most had been identified as needing special education services only after failing in the regular class placement, after they had started elementary school.

My goal as CPSE Administrator and as the Universal Preschool Advisory Board member is to make sure children are receiving appropriate preschool services, so that they will succeed in school early. Children who have problems educationally must be identified before they fail on the school age level. As an administrator in District 6, working with CPSE and UPK I can ensure for the early identification and delivery of services on the preschool level. Early identification will lead to greater success and less restrictive services on the school age level. Many students who receive preschool services are decertified before they even enter kindergarten. Therefore we see greater student performance for both general education and special education students in the upper grades.

Educational services can be viewed in the shape of a pyramid. The preschool services - general education in the form of the UPK classrooms and special education preschool services � form the base of the pyramid. This component is the foundation for the upper grades, or the higher levels on the pyramid. Educational services, be it special education or general education, should be broad based and extensive. If we give broad based, enriched services and supports on the preschool level, the student will need fewer and less restrictive special education support services on the elementary level. Parents are more informed now regarding what their children need on the preschool level. They transition their children into the elementary school programs with the same expectations they had when their children received preschool services. Quality preschool programs through CPSE services and UPK programs will result in better-prepared students overall. If student outcomes are higher on the preschool level, they will subsequently be higher on the school age level.

As an active Universal Prekindergarten Advisory Board member and an Administrator for the Committee on Preschool Special Education in District 6 I do all I can to ensure quality services on the preschool level, which ultimately results in greater student performance on all levels of education.

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