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The System Fails NYC Special Needs Students

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Have we gone from, “No Child Left Behind” to leaving our Special Needs students behind? Reading the article posted in the New York Times, “Thousands of New York City Students Deprived of Special Education” by Kate Taylor, brings up the worst nightmare for any special need parent. You attend all the PPT meetings and set up an IEP (Individualized Education Pan) where you are assured that certain services will be in place for your child. Yet, there is no check to know if the services are actually delivered.   Typically, there is a yearly meeting to review the IEP goals and objectives and see whether they have been met. Often there is no specific system in place to know if students are getting the services they need or even if they are getting services that are addressing the goals of the individual child.

At a recent parent advocate conference, parents questioned how much they need to understand and know the laws if their child is to get the services they require.  As one parent said, “Some of you can ask your child if they saw Mrs. Raymond for speech today.  But I have a nonverbal child and I have to trust the system.” Now we learn after reading Taylor’s article that  because of a computer ’glitch’ some 5% or  9,000 students in NYC never received services and another 35% or more than 60,000 were only getting some of the services recommended for them.

In December 2015, The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced No Child Left Behind. The new law eliminates the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, which hadn’t been updated since Congress passed it in 2001. The Every Student Succeeds Act limits the role of the federal government. This new law allows states to create their own accountability systems, their own teacher evaluation systems, and gives them new flexibility in deciding how to fix failing schools and close achievement gaps. There were initially concerns that the bill would not provide enough guardrails to ensure the most underserved populations – poor students, racial minorities, students with disabilities and those still learning English – are keeping pace.

Well, if “Every Student Succeeds Act” is meant to  keep in place the most important aspects of No Child Left Behind, then we have to make sure that the New York public school system  has just that, a “system” to make sure that ‘every student succeeds,’ especially our special needs students who can’t advocate for themselves. While the federal government is trying to fix a failing program and give more accountability to states and city governments, who is assuring the parents that their children are getting the required services that they need and deserve?

Laurel Peterson

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