The Special Education Reform as addressed by the New York City Department of Education intended to align process and policy more closely by emphasizing the core principle of the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) and asserting that every student with an IEP would receive instruction, to the extent possible, with their peers who do not have an IEP (see Part 1 here). Furthermore, the NYC Department of Education emphasized a policy that would consider strong academic standards and scores. At face value, this sounds like the right approach. Who wouldn’t want all children to be able to learn together and with the highest standards, right?
The problem with this approach is that as I mentioned many times before, the NYC Department of Education targeted equality, but not equity. What does equity mean, as opposed to equality? Placing two students, one with an IEP that calls for a self-contained class, and another one without an IEP, in the same 25-student class, is equality, but it is certainly not equity. Too many adjustments would have to be made in order to serve this student’s needs, and even then, it may not work. The appearance of equality does not support the reality of what students actually need.
This is exactly what is happening in many public schools in New York City. I am sure that this is also happening throughout the nation. The rush to make the “reform” a place where ALL students get the SAME education on the account of equality has resulted in extreme lack of services and desired outcomes for students with disabilities. When I was still working with the NYC Department of Education, I saw cases like this almost daily. I was told by the powers-that-be that my role was not to place students in specific classes or even provide information regarding the school’s classroom provisions.
Once, I was told that giving information to a parent with a child with special needs, who happened to be actively seeking information, was unacceptable. “That information should have never left your mouth,” my immediate supervisor admonished. My supervisors’ supervisor (the person who managed all field enrollment in the city), once toyed with the idea of banning access to the special education system to all employees, so that we could not “see” what kinds of services the students needed. It was not our job, she said, to deal with the family’s need to have their child placed correctly from day one. This was the school’s “problem,” not ours. Therefore, why would enrollment personnel have access to this information? She concluded.
Many children with IEP recommendation go without their recommended services and their recommended placements. The approach of treating every student the same does not translate into treating every student with equity, with the supports that each individual student needs in order to succeed. Children deserve to have these services in place from the first day of school. Letting schools “figure out” how they will service the students robs them of months, if not years, of a proper education.
If you have a child with an IEP and you feel that your child is not making progress, you are probably in this situation.
Stay tuned for more information coming soon!