State Education Department

Staff Study: Oversight of the Performance of Special Education Programs

Elementary and secondary school students with disabilities may be provided with specially designed educational services in separate settings or in general classrooms with their nondisabled peers. According to federal law and State policy, these services must be provided in the least restrictive environment that is suitable for the students. In New York State, more than 360,000 students are enrolled in special education programs at a cost exceeding $4 billion. Between the 1979-80 and 1995-96 school years, the number of students enrolled in New York's special education programs increased by 82 percent, while total public school enrollment decreased by 8 percent.

We reviewed the State Education Department's efforts in developing a system for evaluating the performance of special education programs and found that, while such a system has been developed, the Department's oversight of the programs would be improved if greater use were made of the performance information produced by the system. We also reviewed the funding of special education programs and concluded that improvements are needed in the process used to fund the programs, as school districts are given financial incentives to place disabled students in costly, more restrictive environments and to classify nondisabled students as learning disabled.

For a complete copy of Report 96-J-5 click here.
For a copy of the 90-day response click here.