New York City is behind only Washington, D.C. for the worst record in the United States regarding integrating special needs students in mainstream classrooms. The city plans to align NYC with other school districts by including more special ed students in these classrooms.
Most of New York City’s special ed students are currently in specialized classrooms or special schools, and a dismal average of five percent of those students graduate. Starting in September, mainstream schools will have to start integrating these students in classrooms, despite protests from teachers, parents, and advocates.
These protestors insist that the plans are being made too hastily, and they say the plan might do more harm than good. They feel too few school administrators are truly prepared to handle the needs of special ed students.
In response to these protests, the deputy chancellor for special education Laura Rodriguez says the Department of Education has spent time and money to train educators by holding workshops and hiring coaches.
A pilot program of 260 schools showed more students were mainstreamed into classrooms for at least part of the day, but it is still unclear if special ed students made academic progress because of the integration.
Still, protestors say parents of both general and special ed students are not well-informed about what is happening, and the schools are not ready for such a drastic change. Even from the pilot program, a study of discipline and behavior was not fully investigated before expanding the program to all 1,700 NYC schools.
What the Department of Education and protestors can agree on is that special ed students are being failed by the education system. The results of the changes is yet to be seen.