Thursday, January 15, 2009

Computing Power / NYCDoE Buys a $75 Million Special Education Data System

In New York State in 2007, 31% and 34% of special education students passed the English and Math Regents Examinations respectively. A Regents diploma is not a graduation requirement for students classified with learning disabilities, who can graduate by passing the Regents Competency Tests (RCT) or meeting the requirements of their individualized education plan (IEP).

I’m not an expert—or even knowledgeable at all—about how to set achievement benchmarks for special education students, but it’s obvious that a new $75+ million special education data system just purchased by the city will help get educators and advocates on the same page regarding student learning plans. I like to think that the transparency of a data system that allows for analysis of how well teachers, schools, and programs are doing with special education students will work to forestall a slippery slope of lower and lower expectations for students from whom less is already expected. The fear is that a greater focus on numbers will incentivise re-classifying under-achieving students downward on the special education scale rather than challenging them to achieve their best.


  1. It's kind of amazing that my school can be at 250% capacity, that I work in a filthy neglected trailer, that kids study in closets and bathrooms and Joel Klein finds 75 million for a computer system. Perhaps if he invested 200 bucks in a pair of glasses and took a close look at what kids in NYC were doing he'd reassess his priorities.

  2. Is $75 million a lot or not a lot? I did some checking around (ok, a quick google search) and found that ARIS cost $80 million to develop. In this context, a $54.9 million special education system supported by about $20 million in training costs is no basement bargain.

    The timing is terrible PR, as the DoE will be slashing school budgets and laying-off central staff while shipping $54.9 million to Virginia-based Maximus for the data system.

  3. 75 million could build a lot of school seats, if Mr. Klein had any inclination whatsoever to do so. Special education is not a luxury. Preposterous computer systems like those you mention are. And lets not forget that Mr. Klein got a lot more money from the CFE lawsuit, specifically earmarked to reduce class sizes, and that he not only failed, but now claims class sizes will increase. Actually, that's not possible, as the UFT contract specifically prohibits such destructive, short-sighted, bonehead maneuvers.