According to the annual survey of class size conducted by the teachers’ union, there were 670 schools with overcrowded general education classes in the city in the first weeks of school, up from 660 last year. The number of overcrowded special education classes more than doubled.
The city’s brand new deputy chancellor for special education offers an update on the roll-out of changes in special education this year. All schools are expected to add the services necessary to accommodate students with disabilities who are eligible to attend.
A disabled student advocate wants to help his peers get along as they find themselves learning together more often under the new special education guidelines.
As the city expands its special education reforms across the city, the new policy has run into a few speed bumps. Families and schools are struggling to understand and meet the requirement that neighborhood schools serve almost all the students in its community even if that means adding staff and providing services the school has never provided before.
New York City is revamping how it teaches many of its special-needs students, who have learning disabilities or moderate behavioral problems. Although the national trend has been to mix more of these students into mainstream classrooms, the city has stuck to an old model of keeping special ed students separate. Until now.
Speaking on WNYC, the city’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said the city was opening its hot line this week for parents of special education students ahead of this fall’s overhaul of special education programs. Listen to the conversation, and share your comments.
In her latest blog about teaching in a Bronx middle school, Laura Klein writes: “There’s a lot to criticize about the way special education works in this enormous system. It is cloudy and incongruous, difficult to define, and difficult to find any universal truths when you talk about it.” The failures command more notice than the successes, she said. “What I have struggled with in the last few years is to define what aspects of it specifically fail the students — what is the problem that we aren’t solving.”
In September, most students with disabilities will be able to attend their neighborhood school. This means schools will have to follow the student’s individualized education program, or I.E.P. It’s a legally binding document that spells out the needs of the student and it’s not always easy to get the plan right.
A citywide special education plan that aims to put New York City more in step with other school districts around the country by including those students in general education classrooms is causing commotion here, with a growing chorus of parents, teachers and elected officials insisting it is being too hastily implemented with too little information.
Bryan Stromer is an eleventh grader at NYC Lab High School, a place where he is happy and thriving. But he wound up at Lab by default, after another school that interested him could not provide the special education services he needs. Now on the Citywide Council on Special Education, he writes about his hope that the city’s upcoming changes in special education will make more schools accessible, giving students more options when choosing a high school.
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