Noteworthy special education: middle schools

These programs were recommended by special education advocates, parents’ groups, university researchers and Insideschools staffers. We looked for schools that have high academic standards (often reflected by better-than-average test scores); that treat all children kindly; and that serve a substantial number of special needs students. This list is not exhaustive and we welcome additional suggestions.

Manhattan

PS/MS 276 (Battery Park City): Rather than segregate students with IEPs into self-contained classes, or even into team-teaching classes, small numbers of students with the same learning problems are grouped within a regular class and given targeted help. "A student might need extra help in ELA but not in math," the principal told Insideschools. "It doesn’t make sense to give him [team teaching] in everything."

East Side Community School (East Village): This combined middle and high school has a high percentage of students with IEPs, a very high percentage of whom graduate with regular diplomas (rather than IEP diplomas, which are basically a certificate of attendance.)

School of the Future (Gramercy Park): Special education students in this combined middle and high school are accommodated in a "way that is not stigmatizing," Insideschools found in a 2011 visit. Students are assigned to regular classes but can get help from a special education teacher, who will work with the subject teacher to modify lessons to meet the student's needs and abilities. Special education students have registered exceptional gains, according to the Department of Education. • NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Education (Chelsea) The school is a pioneer in the inclusion model of special education. Two of the six homeroom sections on each grade are team-taught classes that mix special needs and general ed students and that have two teachers.

Clinton School for Writers and Artists (Chelsea): All children, including those with disabilities, receive arts instruction and participate in activities like the school musical and ballroom dancing. The school gets high marks from the city for reducing the achievement gap between special ed students and other students. The school no longer has “self-contained” or segregated classes. Those who were classified as needing a self-contained class have been successfully placed in mixed classes (called ICT or integrated co-teaching) with two teachers, one of whom is special education certified.

NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies (Chelsea): This school is a pioneer in the inclusion model of special education. Nearly half of its classes use the Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) model.  The school typically enrolls 80 - 90 students with special needs who are screened for strong academic ability.

Quest to Learn (Chelsea): This new but promising combined middle and high welcomes special needs children. About a quarter of kids here have IEPs. The school offers team-taught (ICT classes) in which a teacher trained in special education works alongside a teacher certified in a particular subject, like math or English.

Mott Hall II (Upper West Side): Parents say the school has high expectations for special needs children and provides them with the help they need. In addition to team teaching classes, it has one self-contained class serving about 12 students. The school gets high marks from the city for reducing the achievement gap between special ed students and other students.

Community Action School (Upper West Side): The school has a nice atmosphere and a history of inclusion.

Esperanza Prep (East Harlem): This dual language (English-Spanish) school welcomes students with special needs. About a third of students have IEPs, and in some tests, they have outperformed the general population. The school has self-contained and team-teaching (CTT) classes for all grades and offers physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy and counselors.

Brooklyn

New Voices School of Academic and Creative Arts (Park Slope): This art-oriented school offers collaborative team teaching. "The school strives to provide support services in the classroom rather than pulling out students." New Voices gets high marks from the city for reducing the achievement gap between special ed students and other students.

Math and Science Exploratory School (Cobble Hill): The school has a NEST program serving a small group of children with autism spectrum disorder. All students with special needs, including those in NEST, are fully integrated into team-teaching classes. The students with autism spectrum disorder have their own special education teacher who travels with them from class to class. The school gets high marks on its school report card for reducing the achievement gap between special ed students and other students.

Brooklyn Studio Secondary School (Bensonhurst): The inclusion of special education students in general education classes has been a hallmark of the 6 through 12 school since its founding. The school also seeks to make it clear that all students have different needs and those with disabilities are not the only ones requiring extra attentions. As part of that paraprofessionals assigned to special ed help teachers with all students.

Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies (Carroll Gardens): This combined middle and high school offers a range of special education services and one-quarter of the students have IEPS. The school shows unusually high academic gains among students with IEPS, according to the Department of Education.

New Horizons (Carroll Gardens): The inclusion of special education students with the general population is at the core of New Horizon's missions. All classes at the school are co-taught, and the principal takes particular care in pairing teachers who work well together. (Test scores for special ed students, though, tend to be low.)

Queens

IS 227 Louis Armstrong (Elmhurst): The barrier-free building has an adaptive physical education room filled with mats and equipment and many of its students participate in a Special Olympics. The school offers the gamut of special ed options: team teaching, SETSS and self-contained classes for every grade. The city has given Louis Armstrong high marks for reducing the achievement gap between special ed students and other students.

Village Academy (Far Rockaway): The principal comes with a background -- and success -- in special education, and the school has team teaching classes on every grade. (Test scores for special ed students, though, tend to be low.)

Bronx

Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science (South Bronx): This combined middle and high school has an extra guidance counselor to help special needs students, in addition to the licensed special education teacher on each grade. Children who need special help are often placed in smaller classes with strong teachers, rather than in larger team-taught classes.