Guidance for Operating Preschool Special Class in an Integrated Setting (SCIS) Classrooms in New York City Department of Education (DOE) District Schools and Pre-K Centers
In SCIS classes (sometimes called pre-K integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes), preschool students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) can learn and play alongside their nondisabled peers. Preschool students with IEPs that recommend SCIS are placed in SCIS classes by their local Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE). SCIS classes include preschool children with and without disabilities and have both a general education teacher and a special education teacher. The teachers work together throughout the day to adapt and modify instruction and ensure the entire class has access to the general education curriculum.
Preschool students recommended for SCIS may also receive related services, assistive technology, paraprofessional services, or other supplementary aids and services as recommended on their IEPs.
Least Restrictive Environment
IEPs are targeted to provide the least restrictive environment (LRE) that is appropriate to meet a child’s needs. This means that preschool children with disabilities receive programs and services in a setting with nondisabled peers to the greatest extent appropriate. The CPSE team will first consider if a child’s needs can be met in a general education setting. Other settings, such as a special class, are considered only if the child would not be able to make meaningful progress in a general education class, even with the help of supports and services. LRE also considers the intensity of support provided with related services and paraprofessional recommendations.
For additional information, please refer to “School Districts’ Responsibilities to Provide Students with Disabilities with Specially-Designed Instruction and Related Services in the Least Restrictive Environment” Special Education Field Advisory issued by the New York State Education Department in December 2015
Benefits of Inclusion in Early Childhood
Research shows that both young children with and without disabilities benefit from inclusive settings.
- Children with disabilities, including those with the highest needs, can make significant developmental and learning gains in inclusive settings.
- In inclusive classrooms, children with disabilities can experience greater cognitive and language development than those in more restrictive, separate settings.
- High-quality inclusion that begins early and continues into school can have positive long-term outcomes. Students with IEPs who spend more time in general education tend to have fewer absences, higher test scores, stronger social-emotional skills, and a better probability of employment and higher earnings than those who spend less time in general education.
- Children with disabilities in inclusive settings demonstrate more social interactions with typically developing peers, have a larger network of friends, and are more socially competent compared to children in separate settings.
- In inclusive early childhood programs, children without disabilities can benefit from teachers’ advanced understanding and capacity for individualized learning and appropriate developmental supports, which are best for all learners.
- Students without disabilities in inclusive environments can show greater compassion and empathy, develop a better understanding of diversity, and have a more positive perception of people with disabilities.
For additional information, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs
Regulations Governing Preschool SCIS Classes
In New York State, preschool special education programs, including SCIS classes, are approved by the New York State Education Department (SED) pursuant to Section 4410 of the Education Law. Preschool SCIS programs are subject to SED regulations and guidance.
While DOE district schools and pre-K centers sometimes refer to integrated classrooms as Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT), SED uses the term Special Class in an Integrated Setting (SCIS) for authorized preschool integrated programs.
According to SED guidance, SCIS should be considered before a setting with only children with disabilities. Placement in a setting that does not include age-appropriate peers without disabilities should be considered only when the nature and severity of the child's disability is such that education in a less restrictive environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Approval to Operate
District schools and pre-K centers must submit interest to open a SCIS class to the DOE Central Office. email Rebecca Burke. A submission of interest is not an approval to operate a SCIS class. The DOE Central Office will review the request, analyze need in the area, gather documents, submit an application to SED, and receive authorization prior to a SCIS class opening. The DOE Central Office will work directly with schools to gather necessary documentation and offer appropriate supports. All schools will receive official notification upon approval by SED.
In accordance with SED regulations, preschool SCIS classes must be available to children with IEPs ages 3 and 4; this includes students with IEPs transitioning to Kindergarten or going through the “Turning 5” process. Because SCIS is a state-approved preschool special education program that serves children age 3 and 4, the age requirement set out by Chancellor's Regulation A-101 does not apply to students who are placed in a DOE-operated SCIS class by the CPSE. Therefore, all district schools and pre-K centers must welcome all students placed in SCIS classes with an IEP recommendation for SCIS, including 3 year-olds.
Classroom Ratios and Requirements
Guidelines for SCIS classes regarding student-teacher-paraprofessional special education classroom ratios are as follows:
- District schools and pre-K centers are approved to operate classes of 18 students with up to six or eight students with IEPs. The DOE Central Office can provide more information about a school’s approved classroom ratio(s) email Rebecca Burke.
- Only preschool students with disabilities with an IEP recommendation for SCIS should be placed in a SCIS class.
- An IEP recommending this setting should state “Special Class in an Integrated Setting” as the recommended program.
- SCIS is not the least restrictive environment for children whose IEPs recommend Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) and/or Related Services in a general education program.
- Students with IEPs that recommend Special Class or Residential Placement require a more restrictive setting than SCIS.
- The DOE requires that SCIS classes in district schools and pre-K centers include a special education teacher, general education teacher, and two classroom paraprofessionals.
- SCIS classroom ratios must be maintained during all instructional periods of the school day.
Placement and Enrollment
SCIS classes have both special education and general education seats. These two types of seats are filled through separate processes.
- Special education seats are reserved solely for preschool students with IEPs that recommend SCIS.
- The Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) is responsible for placement of these children. The CPSE will reach out to a district school or pre-K center to make placement arrangements. There is no screening process by the district school or pre-K center.
- After a student with an IEP is placed by the CPSE in a SCIS program, the school should enroll the student on the school’s register in ATS using the grade code 359.
- The CPSE needs to be aware when the ATS process at a pre-K center is underway. In response, the CPSE will authorize the student in the CPSE system, which is needed in order for transportation to be arranged.
- The preschool special education process is rolling. At no point during the school year should empty special education seats in a SCIS class be opened up to or filled with general education students. Special education seats must only be filled by students with IEPs that recommend SCIS.
- General education seats are filled through the DOE’s pre-K admission process.
- The number of offers made to a class will equal the number of general education seats in the class. For example, a SCIS class of 18, with 10 general education and 8 special education seats, will receive up to 10 offers—not 18.
- District schools and pre-K centers should follow the pre-registration/registration guidelines received from the Office of Student Enrollment. Students should be enrolled on the school’s register in ATS.
Children with IEPs that recommend SEIT and/or Related Services receive placement through the DOE’s pre-K admissions process. These students should be placed in general education-only classes, not SCIS classes. Schools should check SESIS to ensure general education students in a SCIS class are not recommended for SEIT and/or Related Services. Directions on how to view student IEPs are included in the next section. If a district school only has SCIS classes and needs additional guidance regarding placement for students recommended for SEIT and/or Related Services, allow the family to register the child and email ESEnrollment@schools.nyc.gov.
Children with IEPs that recommend Special Class or Residential Placement are recommended for a more restrictive setting than SCIS. The CPSE is responsible for placement of these students. If, however, a student recommended for Special Class or Residential Placement receives a general education seat through the DOE’s pre-K admission process, allow the family to register the child and email SpecialEdPreK@schools.nyc.gov.
SCIS classes cannot be overenrolled on either side (special or general education) unless granted special permission (email Rebecca Burke at).
Evaluations, IEPs, and Arrangement of Services
The CPSE is responsible for coordinating evaluations, determining eligibility, developing IEPs, and arranging preschool special education services that cannot be provided by district schools or pre-K centers. District schools and pre-K centers are expected to implement IEPs, oversee the delivery of services, notify the CPSE of any changes in a child’s services or needs, and participate in CPSE (IEP) meetings.
Schools should work with a child’s affiliated CPSE office as needed. CPSE offices serve families in their home district, regardless of where children attend preschool. CPSE contact information is available at the contact and resources page.
Related services for preschool students should be provided by DOE providers whenever possible. Both school based DOE providers and centrally based itinerant physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and speech providers may serve pre-k students.
For district schools, PT, OT, speech, counseling, and 1:1 paraprofessional mandates for both students enrolled in SCIS classes and general education-only classes should be assigned to providers at the school. If a district school does not have capacity to provide one or more of these related services to preschool students, the school should reach out immediately to their assigned OT, PT, and/or speech supervisor for support. If the supervisor determines that there is no DOE provider available to serve, the school should contact the CPSE responsible for the child’s case (based on the student’s home district) and request that the CPSE identify a contract provider. All other related services, including orientation and mobility, hearing, vision, and nursing services, will be arranged directly by the CPSE. Ultimately, it is the district school’s responsibility to work with relevant DOE staff, including providers at the school, district supervisors, and CPSE staff, to ensure that related services are in place as required by the student’s IEP.
For pre-K centers, PT, OT, and speech therapy should be assigned to the pre-K related service itinerant team, whenever possible, whether children are enrolled in SCIS or general education-only classes. Additional related services, including counseling, orientation and mobility, hearing, vision, nursing services, and 1:1 paraprofessional mandates, are arranged by the CPSE. If a pre-K center (in partnership with the pre-K related service itinerate team) does not have capacity to provide OT, PT, and/or speech services to preschool students, the school should contact the CPSE responsible for the child’s case (based on the student’s home district) and request that the CPSE identify a contract provider. Ultimately, it is the pre-K center’s responsibility to work with relevant DOE staff, including the pre-K related service itinerant team and CPSE staff, to ensure that related services are in place as required by the student’s IEP.
Questions regarding preschool related services can be emailed to email@example.com.
For district schools to contact their OT, PT and/or speech supervisor and for pre-K centers to contact the pre-K related service itinerant team, please see the directory.
CPSE contact information is available at the contacts and resources page.
District schools and pre-K centers have access in SESIS to the IEPs of preschool students with disabilities registered at the school. Schools should ensure that all services indicated on each child’s IEP, whether arranged at the school or by the CPSE, begin and are monitored so that all children at the school are served in accordance with their IEPs. Schools should also ensure that students with IEPs that recommend SEIT and/or Related Services are placed in general education-only classes, not SCIS classes.
For step-by-step instruction in SESIS see “How to Search for Pre-K Students with IEPs Attending your Program.”
For additional information, please refer to “Pre-Kindergarten IEP Distribution and Best Practices.”
Hours of Operation and Instruction
Full-day preschool SCIS programs in district schools and pre-K centers should operate for no less than 6 hours and 20 minutes per day with a minimum of five hours of instruction. For SCIS classes, breakfast, lunch, snack, and rest/nap time are not considered instruction.
School Allocation Memoranda (SAMs) No. 22 and No. 29 provide resources to support the implementation of preschool programs at district schools and pre-K centers, respectively. According to these SAMs, SCIS classes support all of the elements of the preschool general education model, but also include a special education teacher (with prep period and absence coverage), an additional classroom paraprofessional (with absence coverage), attendance at professional development conferences, and other than personnel services. Beginning in FY 17, district schools and pre-K centers also received the following funding for both teachers and the classroom paraprofessionals:
- Absence coverage (8 days per teacher and classroom paraprofessional)
- Prep period coverage (0.2 of teacher position for each full-day class)
- Shared planning time for teachers and classroom paraprofessionals
District schools can refer to SAM No. 22 and pre-K centers can refer to SAM No. 29.
All preschool students with IEPs that recommend SCIS and attend a SED approved preschool special education program are provided transportation to and from the program. These children will appear in the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) pre-K rider system once placement is confirmed in the system by the CPSE. Schools should utilize their OPT issued username and password to access the pre-K rider system and enter the required session time for children. Once the session time has been entered and saved, the information is immediately sent electronically to the appropriate transportation provider. If a school requires assistance or guidance in accessing or utilizing the pre-K rider system, they may contact the OPT pre-K customer service hotline by calling 718-482-3800.
Preschool programs must assist all children in their varying stages of proficiency in toileting. Children cannot be denied entry to or removed from any pre-K program if they have not yet mastered all of their developmental milestones.
The paraprofessional is responsible for changing diapers and helping children after bathroom accidents as necessary. All paraprofessionals involved in diapering and helping children after accidents must receive Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogen Training and the Hepatitis B vaccine free of charge.
For additional guidance, see the Division of Early Childhood Education (DECE) “ Toileting Guidelines and Resources” page 22.
District schools and pre-K centers that operate SCIS classes must provide three (3) reports of progress per year for preschool students receiving 10 months special education services and four (4) reports of progress per year for preschool students receiving 12 month special education services as required under the terms of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Part 200, section 200.4(d)(2)(iii)(c). Progress reports should be distributed to the child’s parent and should contain, at a minimum:
- A review of the educational/related service(s) IEP goals and objectives and the student’s current levels of performance in achieving the goals;
- A review of the educational/related service(s) to which the report pertains, including a description of the student’s response to the service and/or current levels of performance;
- The extent to which progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the student to achieve the goals by the by the end of the IEP period; and
- Suggested modifications to the duration and frequency of educational/related service(s), if any, and recommended changes to goals and objectives, if any.
Progress reports can be used during annual reviews and requested reviews (IEP meetings) with the CPSE as well as transition to kindergarten (“turning 5”) meetings with school-age IEP teams.
For support in developing preschool progress reports, email Rebecca Burke at Rburke11@schools.nyc.gov.
Parent Counseling and Training
Parent counseling and training can be recommended as a related service on an IEP. Parent counseling and training means assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child, providing parents with information about child development, and helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP. Staff at the pre-K center, such as a special education teacher or related service provider, can implement parent counseling and training with the relevant parents in the school. Schools may also refer parents to parent workshops on topics such as autism, behavior, and communication.
For more information, please refer to the DOE’s “Parent Counseling and Training for Students with a Classification of Autism.”
The DOE is committed to creating truly inclusive preschool classrooms that enable all children to enter Kindergarten with a solid foundation for future success. The following resources are available to deepen best practices for supporting students with IEPs in preschool classrooms:
- Family engagement and preschool special education
- Using IEP goals in the pre-K classroom
- Collaborating with preschool special education providers
- Accommodations and modifications for preschool children
- Creating an inclusive school for principals
- Creating an inclusive classroom for teachers
If your school requires support in using best practices in your SCIS class, contact the DOE Central Office email Rebecca Burke at Rburke11@schools.nyc.gov.