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NYC Special Education Reform Looks Good…On Paper

NYC Special Education Reform Looks Good…On Paper

We have come a long way since Brown v. Board of Education desegregated schools in 1954. Fifty-eight years later, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) is rolling out a special education reform policy that seeks to integrate special education students into the general education classroom.

As a parent of a child with autism, I would love for Angel to learn with his mainstream peers. When I think of inclusion, I think of Angel in a mainstream classroom receiving a well-rounded education from well-trained teachers and related services from competent providers.

I think of him learning with peers who are sensitive to his disability and who will treat him with the respect and compassion that he deserves as a human being. I think of him in a school that is well-funded with adequate resources to meet his needs.

Based on what I have seen, our community schools are not fully prepared to provide this kind of inclusion environment to Angel and thousands of other special education students in our city. Maybe one day they will be but not now as Angel transitions into kindergarten this fall.

Last night, I attended a Citywide Council on Special Education meeting and came to the realization that the bureaucrats at the DOE have a long way to go before they can effectively roll out this reform.  When parents raised legitimate concerns at this meeting, it felt as if these officials were reading from a script. All we got were talking points. Most questions were answered with: “We are fully committed to the principles of this reform.” “There is a  commitment from the leadership.” and “Resources will be provided.”

During the meeting, a council member asked Corrine Rello-Anselmi about the surplus of money left over from unfulfilled Related Services Authorizations (RSAs). Rello-Anselmi is the incoming Deputy Chancellor for the Division of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. Neither she nor outgoing Deputy Chancellor Laura Rodriguez was able to give more information about this surplus. I am thinking surplus? Really? We have a surplus when some children are going weeks without receiving related services? Unbelievable!

One parent of a high school student asked for the DOE to help implement a parent-to-parent and student-to-student buddy system. She articulated how helpful this will be and thought it should be a part of the special education reform. She was advised to organize one at her child’s school. “You have to be the change.” This was the response she got from council member, Jaye Bea Smalley. DOE officials echoed a similar sentiment. This parent is looking for support from a department that is supposed to put structures in place to implement these kinds of programs and she is being told to do it on her own.

Later, a member of the council asked DOE officials if they knew how many children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) needed occupational, physical, and speech therapies city wide. The DOE officials  “didn’t have their paperwork on them,” so in other words they had no clue. The member who is also a parent of a special education student raised concerns about the shortage of providers and asked how the DOE is planning to make sure that students get the related services they need this fall. All she got was another talking point about  “resources being provided.”Other parents raised concerns about getting more information about the reform. They were told that a parent guide is being created.

Bryan Stromer, a special education student at NYC Lab High School also sits on the council. Stromer raised excellent points during the meeting. He shared his concerns about the need to teach general education students how to interact with special education students to prevent bullying. He also recommended a buddy system between special education and general education students.

He brought up the lack of resources in schools and shared the fact that he has received physical therapy (PT) on a stage.  Students in some schools get PT in the school hallway he added. What an embarrassment! With millions of dollars being thrown around, why are so many of our children receiving  services in less than ideal settings?

I left the meeting upset, I admit. Why? Because I feel like our general education community schools are not adequately prepared to serve special education students.  Yet, this reform is still being pushed. I left upset because this reform does not adequately address the lack of communication between departments within the DOE and between the DOE and parents. It has not adequately addressed how student’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) will be developed to better meet their needs in the classroom.

Parents it is time for us to step up and become empowered. It is essential that you visit the following links to learn more details about the DOE’s special education reform. Just as important is the ARISE Coalition’s response to this reform because they speak for so many parents.

We have to learn all we can about the issues that affect our children. Remember that while these DOE bureaucrats pat themselves on the back for a job well done, our children could be left holding the short end of the stick.

What has been your experience with the DOE’s special education reform roll out? If you live in another state, is your child in an inclusion program? How have inclusion initiatives worked out in your state?

I look forward to hearing from special education and general education parents on this issue.

Sincerely,

Miz Kp

 

 

 

 

 

Miz Kp
Written by Miz Kp

7 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    June 15, 2012

    It is unfortunate that the DOE is going forward with this special education reform without providing concrete proof that it will make a positive difference to the educational growth of our children. This reform was rolled out last year in several select schools – basically a test run. I have several questions for the DOE: Have we seen the progress reports for the children who participated last year? Did the children reach the goals specified in their IEPs – a legal contract by the way? Were the related services provided as per the IEP? How many children were able to continue in their current school placement and how many parents requested a change in the school placement because their children’s needs were not being met? For the DOE to hold a meeting and not be prepared to answer questions is appalling. You are absolutely correct – parents need to start advocating for their children.

    Thank you for another wonderful post.

    Reply

  2. Avatar
    June 15, 2012

    Thanks for sharing information from this important meeting. Now we need to channel our anger and frustration into supporting the movement for positive reform. A report on the results thus far of a trial run or initiation of research on these initiatives should be helpful for the reform process.

    Reply

  3. Avatar
    June 15, 2012

    I certainly believe that follow up is needed. Especially when the fall semester starts and we can get to see how the roll out is working out in our community schools. I intend to follow this development closely.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      July 29, 2012

      Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 that derelcad unconstitutional the racial segregation of public schools. Separate schools for black and white children are inherently unequal, Chief Justice Earl Warren said in an opinion that helped launch the civil-rights movement.LocalLinks State-enforced segregation laws are long gone, but for school officials today, a key question remains: Did the historic decision commit them to a policy of seeking integrated schools, or did it tell them not to assign students to a school based on their race?Today, lawyers in a pair of integration cases will debate whether school boards may use racial guidelines to assign students. Both sides will rely on the Brown decision to make their case. In Seattle, the school board adopted a policy, now suspended, that gave nonwhite students an edge if they sought to enroll in a popular, mostly white high school. In Jefferson County, Ky., which includes Louisville, the school district said black children should make up between 15 percent and 50 percent of the enrollment at each elementary school. In both cities, several white parents sued to have the plans derelcad unconstitutional after their children were barred from enrolling in the school of their choice because of their race. Although they lost in the lower courts, the Supreme Court voted in June to hear their appeals, leading many to predict the justices are poised to outlaw racial balancing in the public schools. At its core, the issue here is the promise made 52 years ago in Brown vs. Board of Education, said Theodore Shaw, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund, which won the ruling that struck down racial segregation in the South. Mandatory desegregation is now a thing of the past. All that’s left is voluntary desegregation, and now that is being challenged. Bush administration lawyers, who joined the case on the side of the parents, say the Brown decision sought to move the United States toward a color-blind policy. They say school officials may not open or close the door to particular students solely because of race. In short, race-based decisions are racial discrimination, even if the officials are pursuing a laudable goal, they say.

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  4. Avatar
    June 16, 2012

    I think you are right that parents need to take a stand and empower themselves. Parents need to fight what is right and wrong. If special ed. children are not ready for mainstreaming and pushing them into it can only harm them more. Some children with special ed. need so much attention that a regular ed. teacher cannot handle or have the time for. This is such idea can be good for some children but harmful to others.

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  5. Avatar
    November 14, 2012

    Thank you for your post. I believe that an integration of any sort should be done on a child by child bases. Some things that seem good on paper, aren’t practical in reality. I have several issues with the integration in its current form, ranging from the ratio of teachers in the classroom to the potential bullying. Everyone has to take a stand against this, not just the parents, because an injustice for one is an injustice for all. Are there any updates so far on the trial run?

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    • Avatar
      November 16, 2012

      The only update I have heard is that it has not gone as planned. Seems like the DOE was not fully prepared to deal with the unique needs of children with special needs in a gen ed classroom.

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