Committee on Special Education review teams: How they reach their decisions on sensory-impaired students

Pearl Fisk, Fordham University


Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act passed in 1975, sought to ensure that all children receive a fair and equitable education. This law required educators to assess children with special needs and place them in the least restrictive environment. The law was quite specific in stating that the evaluation was to be conducted by a multidisciplinary team knowledgeable in the area of the suspected disability. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the limited research on New York City Committee on Special Education review teams that deal with hearing/visually impaired students. The study explored factors that influence the decision-making process of two Committee on Special Education review teams from the Hearing-Handicapped/Visually Impaired Unit of the New York City Board of Education. The study examined how leadership styles, communication patterns, decision-making strategies, parental/school involvement, member satisfaction, and team member relationships with administration affect the outcome of CSE reviews. The study used the principles of qualitative research. Interviewing, observation, and document analysis were the methods utilized. This study supported the theories that teams need to identify common goals, leadership needs to be assigned and mutually agreed upon; communication must be jargon free; parents and school representatives must be engaged in the decision-making process, made to feel valuable and welcome; personal satisfaction is relevant; and teams look for and want administrative support, understanding, and commitment to teamwork. The study recommended that: staff development programs be designed to meet the needs of all clinical staff, specific programs are necessary on team building; and administrators learn how to become team players and leaders of teams. In addition, the study recommended that clinical staff be included in future reorganizational plans to maximize their expertise. Staff want to be involved with HHVI-CSE decision making, not just team decision making on sensory-impaired students. The results of this research indicate that collective decision making is a more productive process than individual decision making. Some benefits of team decision making are: new and different ideas emerge, increased learning and personal growth occur, and greater unity among team members occurs as there are no winners or losers. The study also supported that: Successful teams have strong upper management support demonstrated by its leaders' commitment to the team process and expressed confidence that success is achievable. As educators, administrators, and supervisors with vision, it is our responsibility to ensure that we develop teams of professionals that share common goals, to integrate their knowledge and skills, to enhance the quality of education and lives of the special children we serve.

Subject Area

School administration|Special education

Recommended Citation

Fisk, Pearl, "Committee on Special Education review teams: How they reach their decisions on sensory-impaired students" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9530946.