Special Education in New York City


Every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, social status, and disability, has the right to receive an education. Special education is a term used to describe the set of instructions that have been specially developed to meet the educational needs of children with disabilities. Individualized Education Program (IEP) defines the necessary services and supports for children with unique needs. The government guarantees access to special education for all children with disabilities. In the following paper, the primary federal laws reflecting special education will be examined as well as the special education process in New York City.

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Important Laws Regarding Special Education in the United States

The new age of American education commenced during the presidency of George Bush. President Bush was deeply concerned about the condition of education in the whole country. The educational reforms were aimed at enhancing the academic skills and achievements of all students. In 2001, Congress reauthorized the law that is currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. According to Gargiulo (2014), the Act served as the example of Bush’s commitment to educational issues. However, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) reflected the concerns in the sphere of special education only to some extent. The principal law that addresses this problem is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. This law predetermines the new roles and opportunities for parents and children with disabilities (Gargiulo, 2014).

The No Child Left Behind Act

The primary goal of the NCLB was to provide every child in America with equal opportunities concerning education. The other objective of the Act presupposed the increase in the quality of studying and academic expectations of both teachers and students. The core principle of the NCLB is the accountability of all schools. Before that time, schools and teachers were not obliged to report the test scores of students. On the one hand, this initiative was positive. It assisted the government to evaluate the effectiveness of studying of all children, including the pupils with disabilities properly. However, there is the adverse side of the Act too. According to Gensler (2006), the government aimed at spreading the idea of impartiality concerning quality expectations.

Thus, officials emphasized that they believed all children could meet the same standards. Such a direction became rather a challenge for both teachers and children with disabilities. There are cases when the child cannot meet the standard requirement because of problems with development. The lack of knowledge or inability may frustrate pupils. Teachers can also be blamed for ineffective teaching. That is the primary concern relating to the NCLB. Gensler (2006) suggests a way out stating that “Possible solutions for how to improve how NCLB affects special education would include creating reachable standards for special education students” (p. 13).

The Individuals with Disabilities Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was initially passed in 1990. The principal goal of the IDEA is to provide all students with disabilities with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). IDEA is the primary law that protects the rights of students with disabilities. IDEA defines the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), which means that students with disabilities should be educated with pupils without disabilities. Such an approach should provide an adequate education. IDEA also predetermines the necessity to provide every student with the Individualized Education Program. In 2004, the IDEA was reauthorized, and it included a new notion — Response to Intervention. According to Graves (2012), schools should identify children with disabilities as soon as possible to provide timely intervention and, in such a way, enhance future educational prospects.

The IDEA promotes special education by authorizing various grants. Before the reauthorization in 2004, the government increased funding. Thus, overall funding raised almost by forty percent in 2002 since 2000 (Jones, Apling, & Smole, 2004). The peak of special education services was in 2004-2005 when more than six million pupils with disabilities received necessary assistance (Graves, 2012).

Both IDEA and the NCLB have increased the level of assistance for children with special educational needs. Although there are particular flaws, the overall outcomes are positive and give hope for equal educational opportunities for all children.

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The Current Referral, Evaluation, and Classification Process in the New York City

The New York City Department of Education has developed the “Family Guide to Special Education Services for School-Age Children” for parents to be aware of the special education process.

According to Advocates for Children in New York (2013), the first step in the process is the referral. The right to refer has the parent or legal guardian of the child as well as chairperson of the Committee of Special Education. Besides, a school psychologist, licensed doctor, or other authorized school personnel can request the evaluation of the child’s abilities. The primary reason for referral is the observation of the poor performance of the child. After the referral, parents have to give written consent for the child’s evaluation.

The second step in the process is an individual assessment. The individual evaluation includes psychological and physical evaluation. Besides, the behavior of the child in natural educational settings is to be observed (New York City Department of Education, n.d.). The evaluation should be conducted by the Department of Education of New York City within sixty days after the consent is given (Advocates for Children in New York, 2013).

The classification step has two possible outcomes: the child is recognized as eligible or ineligible for special education. If the child is ineligible, the Committee has to provide reasons. Parents may request a new hearing in the case of doubt. If the child is eligible, the Individualized Education Program will be developed according to the individual needs.

Despite the regulations provided by IDEA, students with disabilities have been studying in separate classes from those who have no disabilities. The New York City Department of Education commenced the new initiative known as “New York City’s Special Education Reform.” The goal of this reform is to provide almost 200 000 students with disabilities from this area with opportunities to study with pupils who do not have unique needs (New York City Department of Education, 2012). Besides, it can be useful for parents and teachers to become familiar with special education programs and services. All necessary information can be accessed on the official website of the NYC DOE.


The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Act are two major laws that protect the right of students with disabilities and provide them with equal learning opportunities. The current special education process in the New York City comprises of the four steps. They are the referral, the individual evaluation, the eligibility or illegibility for special education, and, finally, the creation of the Individualized Education Program.


Advocates for Children in New York. (2013). Special Education. Web.

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Gargiulo, R. (2014). Special Education in Contemporary Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Gensler, R. (2006). Effects on No Child Left Behind Act of Special Education Regarding Standardized Testing. Law and Disorder, 1(1), 10-15.

Graves, S. (2012). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its Impact. Web.

Jones, N., Apling, R., & Smole, D. (2004). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). New York City, NY: Nova Publisher.

New York City Department of Education. (2012). New York City’s Special Education Reform. Web.

New York City Department of Education. (n.d.). Family Guide to Special Education Services for School-Age Children. Web.

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