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Special Education in NYC: A Landscape Analysis

NYC's Special Education Landscape

About 200,000 NYC children enrolled in public schools have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)—a written document that outlines the plan for educating a student with special needs. These students are served in a variety of settings, including schools that exclusively serve students with disabilities, as well as other City schools, in both self-contained classrooms and classrooms in which students with special needs are integrated with other students.

As the City continues working to improve access to quality education and services in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities, much remains to be learned about where and how these students are served; how outcomes vary for students with different disabilities and background characteristics; and the relationship between services, placements, and student outcomes.

About Our Project

The Research Alliance is conducting a landscape analysis of the state of special education in New York City. The landscape analysis will provide a system-wide picture of how and where students with disabilities are served, and their outcomes. Our goals are to inform both policy and practice aimed at supporting students with disabilities and to raise questions for an ongoing research agenda that addresses questions that matter to policymakers and educators. 

Drawing on interviews with special education experts at the NYC DOE and other NYC organizations, as well as the analysis of administrative data, this study will:

  • Describe the current landscape of special education in NYC in terms of the background characteristics of students with disabilities, their specific disability, how and where they are served, their outcomes, and as much as possible, the relationship between these factors; and
  • Provide recommendations for future studies and work that can inform and advance instructional improvements for students with disabilities.

This project will fill important gaps in our knowledge about how students with disabilities are being served; help identify where NYC has made progress, including successful models that may be worth replicating; and lay the foundation for future research.

Supported through the New York Community Trust.

Related Publications

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Special Education in New York City

Nearly one in five New York City public school children is diagnosed with a disability, making them eligible to receive special education services. Historically, students with disabilities have had less access to learning opportunities and lower academic outcomes than their general education peers. This brief presents a snapshot of the landscape of special education in New York City, exploring the background characteristics of students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), the settings in which they are served, and their engagement with school. (2019)