The New York City (NYC) Department of Education (DOE) recently shared a wide-ranging plan to improve special education in the nation’s largest school system. DOE School’s Chancellor David Banks has pledged to make a $205 million dollar investment to expand several programs for students with disabilities, including autism, intensive sensory needs, and emotional disabilities. The Chancellor’s plan includes sustaining and scaling innovative programs that have proven successful at serving students with disabilities. One of the valued programs that will be expanded is the “Path” program.
Based on the NYU Metro Center’s ASD Nest Support Project model, the Path program is a NYC DOE Specialized Program that strives to disrupt the historical segregation of Black and Brown students in restrictive special education settings and promote the inclusion of students with emotional disabilities within community schools. Core elements of the program include a small class size, two full-time classroom teachers, in-class and out-of-class support from a social worker and occupational therapist, and collaborative partnership among families and school staff. Path classrooms are grounded in principles of culturally responsive and strengths-based education and evidence-informed practices including positive behavior and self-regulation support, social-emotional learning, and trauma-informed care. Dr. Elise Cappella, Vice Dean for Research and Principal Investigator of the Path Program, said,
The Path Program is motivated toward the goal of equitable education opportunities and outcomes for all children in need of emotional and behavioral support in NYC schools. The program and teams at each school do this by fostering strong, positive relationships and high expectations. We’re thrilled by the progress we’ve seen at this early stage and look forward to capturing the program’s impact as it evolves.
The Path Program Support team at New York University advises and assists in the development and implementation of inclusive strategies for students with emotional disabilities through training, professional development, on-site consultation, and program evaluation. Researchers and practitioners from NYU Steinhardt and Institute of Human Development and Social Change (IHDSC), in partnership with NYU’s Metro Center, work with NYCDOE school staff, families, and students to build and strengthen the Path program to reach a greater number of vulnerable youth. This year, the program is expanding from one to seven classrooms in six New York City schools across four boroughs.
The Path Program Support Team is thrilled by the new commitment expressed in the DOE’s plan to augment the educational experience and promote wellness for students with disabilities. Dedicated to contributing to a “path toward success” for students who could benefit from emotional and behavioral support to access the school curriculum, the Path Program Support Team envisions further expansion of the program in DOE schools as a means toward reducing the disproportionality and prevalence of NYC DOE’s emotional disability classification and promoting the academic success and emotional wellbeing of all young people.