Saturday, June 8, 2013

Statistical Analysis Shows Out of District Placements in Hoboken City Schools Under Kids First/Carter/Toback Leadership is Much Higher Than Years Before

Click to Enlarge 
New Jersey’s standing as the nation’s leader in the number of students with disabilities who are sent to out-of-district schools continues to generate debate over the costs and benefitsHowever, the point is not to pit out-of-district against in-district programs. New Jersey provides a lot of services, and that is what is needed, getting the services to the children when they need them.

However, the arguments over in-district and out-of-district placements is not going away in New Jersey, especially considering that New Jersey has the highest rate in the country, with close to 8 percent of all students classified with disabilities in outside placements. 
Research shows that, for most students, being educated in the regular classroom with students who do not have disabilities has the best academic and social outcomes. Indeed, numerous studies indicate that students with disabilities who are educated in classes with their typical peers are more successful than those educated in non-inclusive settings.

Furthermore, students in these placements spend many hours being transported to and from their out-of-district placement and have little or no opportunity to interact with students who do not have disabilities. They also do not learn how to navigate their home community and do not develop friendships or relationships that will allow them to have a meaningful, productive employment and social life after high school. For student with disabilities as well as typical students, the benefits of inclusion include gains in social competence, increased tolerance, acceptance, and respect for diversity. Finally, integrated classes are also more cost effective. 

While it appears that research shows that the private special-ed schools are at least working for the students they serve, the costs are especially high. Which brings us to the case of Hoboken...
A look at the graph will show the steady increase in out-of-district placements that have occurred in Hoboken even as the district has created in district autism center and student population has certainly not increased proportionally. What is more interesting is that the rise coincides with the leadership of the Kids First political group (see picture).

Some of the members of the political group known as "Kids First" who have been in control of the Hoboken City Schools for the past 4 years and have overseen an unprecedented decline in quality of education (objectively measured by the State of New Jersey and the Federal Government) as well as an increase in district costs from $59.1 million to $64 million. 
At a yearly rate of $30,000-$100,000+ per student, it would be informative to know what exactly is going on. Why is the school district unable to provide fair and equitable education for these students? With almost 30 out of district placements, would it not be cost effective to provide services in district? Are ALL these cases beyond the expertise of district resources and expertise? (if so fine, but its worth an explanation). Are these placements permanent out-of-district placements or temporary placements? Are the families being granted out of district placements representative of the school district population? Or are placements being over-represented by certain sub groups? Has there been a change in district policy concerning out of district placements? 

Is this increase in out-of-district placements occurring by chance? One way to determine whether this is occurring by chance is to do a statistical test. In this instance, I ran a fairly standard Student's t-test making the proper assumptions of the two samples

Here are the results: 

P value and statistical significance:
  The two-tailed P value equals 0.0003
  By conventional criteria, this difference is considered to be extremely statistically significant.

Confidence interval:
  The mean of Prior to Kids First minus Kids First equals -13.00
  95% confidence interval of this difference: From -17.35 to -8.65

Intermediate values used in calculations:
  t = 7.3054
  df = 6
  standard error of difference = 1.780 
  Group  Prior to Kids First    Kids First  

The data shows there is a statistically significant difference between private placements under Kids First and that there is less than a 1/1000 chance that this difference is due to randomness. 

Clearly, there are situations and circumstances where the decision for out-of-district placement is correct and appropriate. But this sharp increase over the past 4 years is not occurring due to chance and at least warrants a discussion and explanation for what is actually going on concerning out-of-district placements. 

Correlations do not necessarily mean causation and there are certainly multiple factors at play. Nonetheless, there has been little to no discussion on the circumstances leading to the relatively rapid rise of out of district placements and possible policies or circumstances underlying the increase.