Advocates Raise Concerns About Remote Learning Plan For Special Ed Students

New York City public school classroom
Photo credit Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — There are some concerns about how special education students in the city will be learning remotely this fall.

New guidance from the city says there will be three teachers handling blended learning in classrooms with special and general education students.

"It's going to be two teachers for the students when they are in person and then a third teacher working with them when they are just doing the remote part of their learning," Maggie Moroff, with Advocates for Children of New York, said.

In normal times, the city has what's called "integrated co-teaching" that involves special education students with a special education teacher and general education students with a general education teacher in the same classroom. 

Moroff said it's the Department of Education's go-to model for inclusive education. She said, "When it works well, it brings the best of both worlds."

But Moroff tells WCBS 880's Mack Rosenberg that there are new concern with that third teacher being added to the mix to handle the remote side of blended learning.

"The three teachers in that trio are gonna be working together to plan, which is interesting and it's a novel approach I think. If it works well, that's really interesting and encouraging. If it doesn't, that's problematic," Moroff said. "If you have teachers that work well together then it could definitely be successful. If you have teachers that are new to each other and are feeling pressed for time, planning and coordinating their efforts, I could see it being really problematic."

Especially since that third teacher may or may not have special ed certification, even though they will be teaching some special ed kids. That leads to the prospect of special ed students not getting the proper teaching.

"They use the knowledge that they have, and the training that they have, and the skills that they have, to take the general education curriculum and figure out how to make that accessible to the students with disabilities in their class," Moroff said.

The Department of Education said the on-site teachers will be responsible for planning and assigning work to students, administering and evaluating assessments of student performance, coordinating instruction and working with the remote teacher to communicate, prepare and coordinate asynchronous schedules. 

The role of that third teacher will be to co-plan with the in-person teachers, engage students in small group or individualized instruction occurring live, and provide students with a daily combination of synchronous or asynchronous instruction daily.  

Students will also have daily access to their in-person teachers on blended days.

The department is also encouraging a special ed teacher to fill the roll in those remote settings, but due to staffing issues, it may not always happen.

The department said in a statement, “Our students with disabilities remain a top priority as we gear up for the fall, and we are following the law and offering ICT consistent with all regular requirements by having an in-person co-teaching pair primarily responsible for our students, as well as a blended remote teacher who is consulting with the in-person teaching pair providing specially designed, high-quality instruction when students are remote. The on-site blended ICT teachers are responsible for planning and assigning work, as well as evaluating assessments of student performance. Students will have small group instruction during their remote days and all three teachers will be coordinating to ensure the needs of our students with disabilities are met.”

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