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Changes Ahead for Special Needs Students in New York City

May 25th, 2012

This fall, New York City schools are launching a program that will move special needs students into general education classrooms, limiting the use of “self-contained” classrooms that cater only to students with special education needs.  Education officials say that the move is intended to boost students’ performance by bringing them into closer contact with their peers, and also make life easier for families by bringing students closer to home.  For the first time, all New York City schools would be required to accept special needs students.

Critics of the move suggest that the real intent is to save money, since self-contained classrooms for special education students are smaller and require instructors with additional training.  Under the new plan, these self-contained classes would no longer have the guarantee of full funding.

In addition, these critics say, the change may not be in the interest of students, as two problems may arise: special needs students may not be able to have their particular educational needs met, and the change may cause disruption in general education classrooms, affecting the performance of all students.

Department of Education officials denied that the move was motivated by financial concerns, saying that it may end up costing more in the long run.  The goal, according to officials, is to offer better educational opportunities to special education students, fewer than 31% of whom graduate from high school in four years.  Officials said that special needs students who spend their entire school career in self-contained classrooms have only a 5% chance of earning a diploma.

Department of Education officials said that although the change is large-scale, it will be rolled out gradually.  In the 2012-13 school year, only children enrolling in kindergarten, or sixth or ninth grade would be affected.  Most special needs students would spend only part of their school day in general education classrooms.

For assistance with questions regarding your child’s special needs visit our website at http://www.specialneedsnewyork.com/.

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