The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

February 27, 2013

Fewer students in special programs

By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — The percentage of Medina students receiving additional assistance from special education programs is improving, which school officials say is a sign that program investments are helping students.

According to state-calculated figures presented Tuesday to the Medina Board of Education by Director of Special Programs Albie Suozzi, 11.4 percent of the district’s children participate special education and other educational assistance programs in-district and out-of-district.

That’s down from figures that were as high as 15 to 16 percent a decade ago. The state average is 12 percent.

Suozzi said the district’s efforts to give students the level of help needed to enable them to return to regular classroom instruction have allowed more students to declassify out of special education programs. More than 200 students receive either in-district or out-of-district help, but 20 students have been declassified this year.

“We’ve found that some don’t need to continue the service,” Suozzi said. “Our aim is to get them declassified.”

While progress is being made, Suozzi reminded boardmembers that the district cannot control the number of students coming in each year who will have to be in specialized classrooms for their entire school careers.

Boardmembers said the figures are not due to denying students of needed assistance, but by focusing on the right level of help for each student. Special education teachers, counselors and staff will soon begin to discuss an annual review for each student. The intention is to talk about how students have done in their placements and set them up for success in the next year.

“It’s a whole team looking into what’s best for the child,” Board President Carol Heiligenthaler said.

“We’re very fortunate that people had paid attention to (special education),” Boardmember Virginia Nicholson said. Nicholson noted that she’s seen students, identified only by numbers in board-reviewed documents, need to use reduced levels of service.

“I’ve seen progress over the years,” Nicholson said. “It’s good because the students are improving and we’re not spending as much.”

Suozzi provided an overview of student participation and an update on the district’s action plan to school board Tuesday. The district is progressing towards the goals set in this year’s action plan, like adding more information on parent resources and post-graduation programs on the district webpage. 

In the classroom, Suozzi said students and teachers are working towards the goal of increasing K-5 math scores by 10 percent, with reviews of student performance every ten weeks. That comes as Medina integrates the more challenging enVisions Common Core math series.

“The kids are learning that it’s more rigorous and working towards doing well,” Suozzi said.