Special Education Students

Most if not all of the odds-beating schools credit inclusion of special education students in regular classes and collaboration between special educators and core teachers as critical to the success of their special education population.

Those themes run throughout the case studies at every level -- elementary, middle, and high school.

A variety of strategies are employed to help make inclusion work. For example,

  • Niagara Middle School establishes routines and rituals for all students and pays special attention to helping students know how to transition between activities –- e.g., from a book discussion to Sustained Silent Reading.
  • When Queensbury Middle School decided to move to an inclusion model, it prepared teachers with advance planning and preparation, including visits to conferences and other schools. Its curriculum map now includes suggestions for differentiating instruction for each unit.
  • Cambridge used data to convince teachers that special education students would perform better in an inclusion rather than a pull-out model.
  • Several high schools (e.g., Batavia, Honeoye Falls- Lima, and So. Kortright) include special education teachers in during- or after school-study or tutoring sessions for students needing additional help, whether classified or not.
  • Gotham Avenue Elementary School requires lesson plans to include differentiation.
  • Westbury includes special educators on the team that serves its most at-risk students.
  • Huntington provides especially full profiles of classified students so that teachers can get a rich understanding of their incoming students.
  • Educators at some schools express particular pride in how inclusion means genuine acceptance of and valuing of students with special needs. This includes being proud that they retain all but their most severely impaired students in district.
    • Binghamton includes its commitment to its handicapped students in its education philosophy.
    • Honeoye Falls-Lima High School reports a low dropout rate for classified students and a high Regents diploma rate (90%).
    • Saunders Trades & Technical High School arranges college visits for its special education population.
    • MacArthur High School in Levittown offers severely disabled students a self-contained classroom and a modified program that allows them more than four years to earn a diploma.
    • Greene High School is piloting a Work Study program for disabled students.
  • Schedules and structures support special-regular educator collaboration, and many regular educators voice how much they learn from and value the knowledge and skills of their special education colleagues (e.g., in Port Chester Middle School). In general, the odds-beating schools see themselves as a unified system striving to fit their program to the needs of individual students.
    • Special education teachers are included in committees that make decisions about curriculum and instruction. For example, in Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, they take part in the teams that define the essentials that every student must know and be able to do. In Greene, they sit on the Curriculum Council. In Honeoye Falls-Lima, they meet with the content area departments.
    • Cambridge Jr.-Sr. High School’s weekly meetings to focus on at-risk students include special education students, who generally account for about a third of the 50 or so students brought up each week.
    • Niagara Middle School’s schedule builds in time for special educators to meet with other teachers to plan.
    • Webster Elementary School special educators work with colleagues to help ensure that their students see the connections across subjects and grades.