A Tale of One City: Special Education Reform in an Urban District

This presentation about the reform of special education services in one urban district directly aligns with the conference theme “Be the future.” This District has a very low graduation rate and poor outcomes for students with disability labels. Higher education faculty, district leaders, and teachers are reforming the delivery of special education services to children with disability labels in order to improve student outcomes. This session presents the work around special education reform in a large urban school district in a Northeastern State. This school district has the lowest graduation rate for students with disabilities in the state and school and post school outcomes for students with disabilities are poor. However, this district is committed to reforming the ways that special education services are provided to students with disabilities. The areas targeted for reform are: (1) an inclusive classroom model for students with ASD; (2) increasing the quality of collaboration in secondary co-taught classes; (3) reducing the segregation inherent in integrated co-taught classrooms and moving to a consultant teacher model; (4) integrating students with complex support needs into career and technical education classes with co-teaching instructional models; and (5) language enriched elementary classes, which will be co-taught with a general education teacher and a speech language pathologist. The presenters are working with the school district as independent monitors. In this capacity, they developed a monitoring tool, using Florida’s Best Practices for Inclusive Education (BPIE) as a model, are visiting classrooms at beginning, mid, and end points of the school year using the monitoring tool, consulting with teachers as they analyze the data, and meeting with the district parent/community advisory board to facilitate their presentations to the school board.

After this session, participants will be able to:

  1. 1. Describe the current status of special education and special education reform efforts taking place in a large urban school district
  2. 2. Identify best practices around co-teaching and consultant teacher models of special education service delivery
  3. 3. Summarize the collaboration between higher education and a school district around special education reform
  4. 4. Identify a model of empowering teachers, families, and community members to engage in data analysis and special education reform.

Julia White, Lynn Gatto, Dave Passero, Katrina Arndt, Susan Hildenbrand