Special Education Reform

Generic elementary classroom

Special education reform was rolled out in nearly all 1,700 schools in September 2012. As part of this reform, nearly all incoming elementary, middle and high school students with disabilities are now attending the same schools they would attend if they did not have IEPs. DOE expectations are that: 

  1. Students will be welcomed into their community schools;
  2. Students’ needs will be met in accordance with their IEPs.
  3. Schools will be responsible for configuring resources to meet the needs of their students with disabiitiets, which may include creating a fuller continuum of services.
  4. Families will participate as meaningful partners in making educational decisions regarding their children.

It is clear that the reform is changing the roles and schedules of teachers, related service providers and paraprofessionals. Some of our concerns are laid out here.

To help you stay informed about the reform, we will post links to DOE publications as well as information, tools and resources that we have developed to assist you, your students and families. One document you may want to take a look at is DOE’s Guidelines for Implementation of the Special Education Reform. The FAQ which appears on pages 7-10 addresses some of the more vexing problems schools are experiencing with the reform such as what happens when a school does not have enough students for a full class, or has only one student with a particular program recommendation or lacks resources to support a particular program or help prepare teachers or other school staff.

What IEP teams/school staff should do

  • DO NOT SUPPORT recommendations that are driven by budget, programming, staffing and other factors unrelated to the individual needs of the child (the least restrictive environment appropriate for that child/student). Ask for any directives to be put in writing.
  • ASK FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT if you are having difficulty in your current role or if you are going to be working in a different role, such as serving as the co-teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching class, providing indirect services or working with students with challenging behavior.
  • ENGAGE PARENTS in all decisions regarding their children and make sure they are fully apprised of and understand their rights. Involve the school social worker and provide a copy of the DOE’s Parent Guide and the UFT’s Parent Fact Sheet.

Report issues to UFT

Let us know how the reform measures are playing out at your school. File a special education complaint immediately if your principal says self-contained classes have been eliminated, directs you to change IEPs to recommend or terminate a particular service, or tells you that you can recommend only services that are available in your building. If you receive written directives, email them to Carmen Alvarez at calvarez@uft.org or fax them to 212-254-5579.

Program Preference and Special Ed

Special education teacher programs may look different in some schools based on the DOE Flexible Program Guide. Please note that the contractual language covering teacher programs has not changed. For a review of the contractual language as it pertains to preference sheets, visit the Program Preference and Special Ed page.

Resources for Special Ed Reform

UFT Parent Fact Sheet on special education

DOE Resources on special ed reform for parents

US Department of Education guidance on issues driving city's special education reform

DOE Parent's Guide to Special Education Services for School-Age Children

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