Unlike many other school districts in our area, Rochester City School District has its own team of eight evaluators. In one week alone, News10NBC learned there were 100 recommendations for special education services in the city school district.
The evaluators are swamped with cases. If a district does not have its own team, they contract the service out through another entity also dealing with hundreds of cases.
Since there are so many cases, sometimes a teacher could recommend a student for special education in pre-kindergarten but they might not get evaluated until kindergarten. This is a state-wide issue, but in our area the need became greater when Stepping Stones Learning Center closed last June.
Overall, fewer medical professionals are becoming speech or physical therapists in the education field because the medical field pays more. To fix it, Director of Early Childhood Education at RCSD Robyn Hooper says lawmakers must invest more resources into hiring evaluators.
“To me, it’s a no brainer that we should be investing in early childhood programs and particularly looking to evaluate children for delays when they’re very young and address those delays,” Hooper says “It’s probably one of the best things we can do to help change our graduation rate.”
Hooper says this change would not happen overnight, however taking a closer look at evaluating children sooner would give way for the students with delays to improve them before reaching secondary education.
News10NBC reached out to the State Department of Education for comment and have yet to hear back.
Hooper and other advocates will continue pushing for more resources in Albany. You can help by reaching out to your local lawmakers.