What is “Special” about Special Education?

In a word…EVERYTHING!! This is a very exciting time in the world of Special Education!! Did you know that there are currently more high school exiting options available for students with disabilities than ever before?  This is a hot topic when considering that the graduation rate in 2014 for students with disabilities was 50% as compared to 81% for our general education students (nysed.gov).

Let’s take a look at some New York State diploma options:

  • Advanced regents
  • Regents
  • Local Diploma using the Low Pass Option
  • Local Diploma using the Compensatory Option
  • Local Diploma using the RCT Option (RCT option will no longer be available after June 2016)

Along with the above mentioned diploma options, students with disabilities (not assessed using the New York State Alternate Assessment) also have the option to earn the Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential. How, you ask? By completing the following requirements demonstrating readiness for entry level employment:

  • 216 hours of CTE coursework and/or Work Based Learning (54 hour minimum requirement for WBL)
  • Completing a commencement Level Career Plan starting in Grade 9 or anytime there after (updated annually)
  • Completing at least one Employability Profile
  • Demonstrating evidence of attainment at the commencement level of the Career Development and Occupational Studies Standards

But wait…there’s more!! All students in New York State, including students with disabilities have the option of choosing what is referred to as a multiple pathway. Under the new “4+1” pathway assessment option, students must take and pass four required Regents Exams or department approved alternative assessments and a comparably rigorous assessment for the fifth required exam to graduate (nysed.gov).

There are three important points to consider when thinking about these various options:

  1. As educators, it is our responsibility to help develop a mindset in our students by which they understand the importance of post-secondary planning. Our students must understand the who, what, why, when and how of the transition planning process and that they are an intricate part of that process.
  2. As educators, it is our responsibility to help foster the mindset in our students that their disability does not define them as a person. It is a small part of who they are, but is not the whole of who they are. Our students should not feel a stigma because they have an Individualized Education Program. Instead, they should see it as leveling the playing field. No matter who you are, everyone can benefit from a little extra help! As told by the great Winnie the Pooh, “life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”
  3. As educators, we need to instill the value of self-advocacy for our students and help them understand the importance it can play for their continued success both in school and in life in general. This is especially important, as our students must understand that while they are in the comfort of our environment, we are there to support them. However, after they leave us, they enter a world of eligibility. They must be able to advocate their needs to ensure success.

In closing, I’d like to take a look at some definitions according to Merriam-Webster:

  • Special (adjective)- better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual
    • Synonymsexceptional, noteworthy, remarkable, outstanding, unique
  • Education (noun)- the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university; the theory and practice of teaching
    • Synonymsteaching, instruction, guidance, enlightenment

What then is so special about special education? The remarkable, outstanding, enlightening options that are available for our students! I will admit that this can be overwhelming when trying to navigate, but never fear, the RSE TASC is here!! For more information about any of the above mentioned exiting options, please visit nysed.gov or email me at pordway-bennett@ocmboces.org  Together, we can!!!

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Patty Ordway-BennettPatty Ordway-Bennett
Transition Specialist, RSE TASC

3 thoughts on “What is “Special” about Special Education?

  1. Hi Patty- wonderfully thought out article and describes what is needed. I loved the Winnie the Pooh statement. The kids are fortunate to have you as their teacher. Placing a value on kids today – Wow…especially those with disabilities. Great write-up!

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