Some special education experts say that New York’s assessment tests, aligned with Common Core standards and intended to improve student achievement, are not producing good outcomes for students with disabilities.
Last year, throughout the state, there were 190 school districts in which no third-grade special education students were proficient on the language arts test. In New York City, only 12 percent of students with disabilities scored “proficient” or higher in math; in English it was 7 percent. Critics say that special education students should not have to take the same exams that are taken by students without disabilities. Last year, 20 percent of all New York students opted out of taking the exams.
On the other side of this debate are special education advocates who say that setting high standards for students with disabilities encourages them to achieve. These advocates say that with the right supports and services, special education students can score just as well on these exams as their peers without disabilities.
PS 172 in Brooklyn is one school that has improved the performance of its special education students on Common Core exams. At PS 172, 27.6 percent of the students have individualized education programs (IEPs), well above the 18 percent citywide average. The school prides itself on personalized instruction and integration of special education students with the general education classroom. The school uses “push-in” therapists and teachers who come to the general classroom to work with students who need their services, rather than removing the students from class. This helps reduce the stigma of special education and ensures that students do not miss out on the culture of the classroom.
The results at PS 172 speak for themselves. Of the 70 students from grades 3 to 5 tested last year, nearly all were proficient in math, and about 60 percent were proficient in language arts.