State officials considering changes in special-education

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State education officials are considering lifting restrictions on class size for Rhode Island's special-education students.

Classrooms under current regulations must contain 10 or fewer special-education students. But education officials are considering doing away with that requirement despite objections from teachers who say larger classes would be less effective.

The Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education was meeting Thursday to discuss the class-size requirement. Other changes under consideration include lifting the restriction on caseloads for special-education directors and reducing services to hundreds of students with disabilities who attend private school.

Teacher unions and groups representing students with disabilities have criticized the proposals.

States must adopt new federal requirements by June 30, 2008 as part of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Kenneth Swanson, director of special populations for the state education department, said the proposed changes would make schools more accountable for student performance.

"I think there has been a false sense of security given that just because a child is in a class of six or ten students that something good is going on there," Swanson said. "Our achievement data would suggest otherwise."

Public hearings will be scheduled for November if the Board of Regents approves the changes, followed by a 60-day review period ahead of a formal vote.

The state education department recently approved a request by Providence superintendent Donnie Evans to expand special-education class sizes. The teachers union then sued the city and the state.


Information from: The Providence Journal,

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