Walsh Weighs in on New York’s Placement on Federal Education Watch List

On Monday, The Board of Regents learned that New York has been on a federal watch list for failing to properly educate students with disabilities. Regents members are responsible for all educational activities throughout the state, but claim they were just made aware of the issue. However, New York actually has been on the watch list for a decade.

“It is alarming that the Regents members, who have been selected to serve and oversee our state’s education policy, were unaware that this was a problem until now,” said Walsh. “Their ignorance to these deficiencies could potentially jeopardize how federal funding is used. It appears that Regents members were not informed for years as to the seriousness and severity of the problems with special education in our state. Now that they know, I expect that there will be a plan of action.”

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) examines how individual school districts are educating their children with disabilities. They look into multiple factors, including graduation rates, test scores, parental involvement and suspension rates. A 2017-18 DOE survey found that of the state’s 700 school districts, 44 of them fail to meet the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)’s standards. Albany and Schenectady were found to be in need of federal intervention and had both been on the watch list for over a decade.

“Our special education students deserve a free and appropriate public education in a less restrictive environment. Just as each student presents unique abilities and challenges, an educational system must keep pace,” said Walsh. “We cannot afford, as a state, to underserve special education students and expect positive outcomes. Some students can graduate and enter higher education and others can enter the workforce. At the present time, 80 percent of persons with disabilities are unemployed, and of those who are employed, there is significant underemployment.”

Currently, students graduating high school are required to obtain a Regents diploma by passing at least five Regents Examinations. Students with mild disabilities are typically placed in special education Regents prep courses that will help them pass Regents exams and obtain a Regents diploma. Students with severe disabilities who are unable to pass Regents exams to obtain a Regents diploma have the option of completing a Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential (CDOS). The CDOS is a graduation certificate that allows students to complete 216 hours of occupational coursework, however most employers don’t recognize the CDOS certificate as valid indication of high school completion.

“I have continuously brought this up at budget hearings and in meetings. The Board of Regents cannot use a “one test fits all” approach to assess students with or without special needs.  We need to offer local diploma options again to reduce the reliance on Regents testing so that students with special needs can be just as successful as those without.”