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Teacher Complaints Follow N.Y.C. Special Education Overhaul

The 1 million-student New York City school system is in the process of revamping its special education system so that more students with disabilities can be served at their neighborhood schools. But such changes do not always go smoothly, as cataloged in this story from the education news website Chalkbeat NY. The United Federation of Teachers, the union that represents educators in the city, received 151 complaints between September and December 2013, which represents a 60 percent increase over the same time period in 2012, Chalkbeat reports. From the story: 

At P.S. Q811 in Queens last year, several students with severe disabilities went without their full-time aides during lunch, fire drills, and certain classes, according to complaints filed with the teachers union. Because some of those students suffered from multiple daily seizures, leaving them without aides "may be a danger to the students," the union reported to the city.

At the Unity Center for Urban Technologies, a small Manhattan high school, 20 juniors and seniors with disabilities were supposed to be in special classes last year led by two teachers, according to the union complaints. The problem was, the school didn't offer co-taught classes in those grades, the complaints said.

And at P.S. 44 on Staten Island, the school modified the personal learning plans of some special-needs students last year so that they would be moved into general-education classes, the complaints said. This led to general-education classes where 19 out of 32 students had disabilities, leaving the teachers "overwhelmed" and unable to meet their needs, according to the complaints.

The effort, called A Shared Path, was launched in fall 2012. That year, students with disabilities who were entering kindergarten, 6th, and 9th grades and students new to New York City schools were able to enroll in the same schools they would attend if they did not have an individualized education program, or IEP.

However, the complaints suggest that not all schools and teachers were ready for the change. Teachers have said that too many students in special education have been placed in a single classroom, or that students have not been getting the additional services called for in their IEPs, such as speech therapy. 

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