Reflections on the Special Education Snapshot

I imagine it will be anti-climatic when the bureaucratic button is finally pushed to close Part I of this year's biggest data drama. The Special Education Snapshot is - or will soon be - done.

For those of you who will not start watching until Season Two, the special education snapshot - or the annual count of all New York State students who receive special education services as of the first school day in December - was reported this year, not through aggregate counts, but via individual student records in the data warehouse.

What must those who had the authority to nix this crazy idea be thinking? Personally, I am glad we moved forward.

We have completed the logistics necessary for the full inclusion of students with disabilities. If all students should have access to the same programs and the same quality of instruction, if they are to be held to the same rigorous and relevant standards, then why shouldn't the oversight of their programs be driven by the same data source? Full inclusion means full participation in the same, if somewhat dysfunctional, system.

This crazy idea forced - sometimes abruptly, sometimes without enough support - those who report the data, those who guide the curriculum and instruction, those who coordinate the special services, and those who worry about the money, to collaborate and cooperate, learn each other's language, and, yes, feel each other's pain. Full inclusiveness should apply to school personnel as well as students.

Finally, this crazy idea will allow the data to get better - eventually, if not today. VESID is wisely not pushing too hard to determine the causes of those 10% year-to-year discrepancies. Although the data was not, and will never be, perfect, forcing aggregate counts to be driven up from individual student records will produce better data, oversight, and (hopefully) outcomes. I have spoken with many on the special education side of the house who are privately grateful for the December Snapshot / Spring cleaning.

Yes, I am tired. Yes, much of this was made up as we went along. Yes, we are not finished. But we can - and should - reflect on the good we have done.

This entry is also posted in the Data Group at Please post your comments in the Data Group so others can follow the discussion!

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