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Our picks for special education programs

A boy practices walking at Manhattan School for Children. A boy practices walking at Manhattan School for Children. Photo by Eliana Mascio

The staff of Insideschools has identified 59 schools that we believe do a particularly good job helping children with special needs reach their potential.

We’ve produced a series of videos that we hope will help parents evaluate their neighborhood schools and learn what special education services may be available. We also have tips on what to do if you have trouble getting the services you need.

We’ve posted three lists, for elementary, middle and high schools. We’ve visited most of these schools and plan to visit all of them in the coming months. These aren’t exhaustive lists and we invite parents, principals and teachers to nominate other programs not included here.

Most of these noteworthy programs are ordinary neighborhood schools that integrate children with disabilities in regular academic classes. Some have two teachers in a class, one of whom is certified in special education. Others have a special education teacher work with children individually or in small groups for part of the day. Some schools accommodate children with limited mobility or physical disabilities; others cater to children who have autism, or dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.

Some of the schools listed here only admit children who live in their attendance zones, but others accept children from across a district or even a whole borough.

Under reforms being instituted by the Department of Education, every school is supposed to serve all but the most disabled children. In reality some schools are more accommodating than others.

If you’re looking for a new school for your child, this is a place to start. If your child is already enrolled, you can use these examples to lobby for better programs in your own school.

Insideschools used several criteria to compile these lists. We consulted with experts who offered their thoughts on outstanding programs. We relied on what we saw in our visits to schools. And we looked at the numbers: percent of students with Individual Education Plans, their test scores and graduation rates. We looked for principals who have a commitment to addressing the needs of all students, notably those with disabilities, and for a depth of services, programs for the hearing-impaired, say, or bilingual classes.

In general, the schools we selected had a substantial percentage of students with special needs, achievement figures at or above the city average for special education programs, and good word of mouth. Not all schools, though, meet all criteria. In addition, we also sought out schools that meet needs other schools neglect. For example, the Lab School and Millennium take high achieving children with special needs that other screened schools shun.

Insideschools' list of noteworthy special education programs does not include every good program in the city. We welcome suggestions for other good programs (tweet @insideschools or email and add your comments below.) The list alone cannot tell you whether the school is right for your child. For that, you will need to visit the school yourself and ask questions.

Special thanks to Mellen O’Keefe,Gail Robinson, Dorothy Siegel and Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE) for compiling this list.


Last modified on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 11:02

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