The Least Restrictive Environment

The NYSED recently released a field advisory entitled, School Districts’ Responsibility to Provide Students with Disabilities Specially Designed Instruction and Related Services in the Least Restrictive Environment. The advisory provides reminders for Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Federal and State requirements and serves to help raise the awareness of parents and districts to maximize the participation of students with disabilities. It also identifies components of quality inclusive programming and provides a draft policy proposal that identifies, among other things, changes in reporting requirements.

As per the field advisory and in preparation for proposed policy that includes both preschool and school-aged programs, the Department recommends that districts:

  • engage in a district and school data review and analysis relating to LRE;
  • ensure that full continuum of special education programs and services are available for all students with disabilities; and
  • assess and address the extent to which each of their schools provides “high-quality inclusive settings” as defined in this memorandum.

The Department has also identified 5 components of high quality inclusive settings for districts to measures themselves. These are:

  • Instruction and configuration of classrooms and activities include both students with and without disabilities;
  • Students with disabilities are held to high expectations for achievement;
  • Special education and general education teachers intentionally plan teaching lessons to promote the participation and progress of students with disabilities in learning and social activities;
  • Individualized accommodations, supports and specially-designed instruction are provided to students with disabilities to participate and progress in regular education classes and activities; and
  • Evidence-based services and supports are used to foster the cognitive, communication, physical, behavioral and social-emotional development of students with disabilities.

This advisory marks a renewed on the focus of the LRE Implementation Policy of the Board of Regents to ensure that “all students with disabilities have equal access to high-quality programs based on their individual needs and abilities and designed to enable them to achieve the desired learning results established for all students”. The field should be aware that much more is to come on this topic in the coming months.

To read the entire advisory and proposed policy click here.

The field advisory pairs with the NYS Blueprint for improved Results for Students with Disabilities, which states as one of its underlying principles, that we are all teachers of students with disabilities.

Payette_Janel_150pxJanel Payette
Coordinator, Mid-State RSE TASC

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