Report Questions Cost Effectiveness of Newton, Mass.' Special Education Programs

Marion Herbert's picture
Monday, December 19, 2011

The Newton (Mass.) public schools have embraced inclusive classrooms for special education students, but a new report questions whether the district is getting the best results for the tens of millions of dollars it spends annually to educate children with learning disabilities.

The report questioned the high number of teacher aides in the classroom and the length of time it takes to develop education plans for students.

The $90,000 report by the District Management Council is the first comprehensive overview of the city’s special education programs in more than a decade. Commissioned by the School Committee, it was presented to the board last week and will be discussed with parents next month.

But already, some School Committee members are dismissing the report’s findings.

“It’s old information,’’ said School Committee member Jonathan Yeo. “It’s not nearly as important as what the superintendent is working on now.’’

Newton schools have added more reading specialists at the middle and high school levels, developed a program for autistic students at Newton South High School, and provided more teacher training.

Superintendent David Fleishman, who was hired after the report was commissioned, is already looking at adding more programs and monitoring expenses, Yeo said.

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