Friday, March 22, 2019

The New York Institute for Special Education

There is a hidden gem in New York City that has served children with visual and other impairments since 1832. The New York Institute for Special Education was founded as The New York Institution for the Blind and was located at several Manhattan locations, the most recent of which was at Ninth Avenue and 34th Street. When this land was needed to build a huge postal facility, arrangements were made to move the Institute to its current location on more than 17 landscaped acres on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, where it began operations under its current name in 1924.

Over the years, the Institute's mission has both expanded and contracted. Its original program, and still center of its mission, is the Schermerhorn Program for visually impaired or blind students from ages five through 21. The program is designed to provide students with the tools they need for independence and includes New York State exams and Regents exams for those who are able to work at that level. Those who are not at grade level receive remedial instruction as needed.  Related services, such  as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, orientation and mobility training, and counseling, as well as training in social skills and activities of daily living are provided as appropriate.  Students participate in pre-vocational and skills development and can earn college credit starting in their junior year as part of a partnership with area colleges. There are a variety of extra-curricular activities, including sports, student government, music, and art.

Another program at the Institute is its Readiness Program, a full-day program for Bronx children from ages three through five who have developmental delays and who are referred by their Committee on Preschool Special Education.

Still another program, Van Cleve Program, was established in the late 1980's to serve children with learning and emotional disabilities from ages four through 13. The goal of this program is to remediate the behavioral and learning deficits of these young students in a highly structured setting that includes counseling services for both students and families. At this time, however, the Van Cleve Program is not accepting new students.

The spacious facilities at The Institute include dormitories for students from the Van Cleve Program and those in the Schermerhorn Program who can benefit from the five-day residential program . Students return home on weekends and holidays and during the week receive homework help, learn independent living skills, and participate in numerous recreational activities.
Graduation 2018

The Institute is led by the amazingly knowledgeable and dedicated Bernadette M. Kappen, Ph.D. Dr. Kappen leads a team of dedicated educators and works with a Board of Managers that includes Dr. Yellin, who tries to attend graduation every year!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Advanced Placement for All

We recently had an interesting conversation with a New York City Department of Education (DOE) administrator, who shared his experiences with the DOE AP for All Program. The DOE has put extensive resources towards expanding access to Advanced Placement Exams, which measure college level competency and can reduce the number of courses required for graduation at some colleges.  At some NYC high schools, they are introducing AP classes for the first time, and at others they are expanding from two or three courses to eight or nine. Since this takes a lot of work from teachers and a lot of materials, the DOE provides funding to participating schools to encourage and support involvement. The DOE has stated that its goal is that by fall 2021, students at all high schools will have access to a full slate of at least five AP classes, thereby increasing college and career readiness for all students.

AP Exams are administered by the College Board, which charges $94 for each exam. NYC schools cover some or all of the cost of the exam for their students.

In addition to funding, the DOE provides ongoing training and curriculum to all partner schools. Week-long trainings in the summer, with workshops and updates throughout the year, help first-time and repeating AP class teachers to build the best curriculum. They also provide extra support to students at Saturday Study Sessions where students receive additional support to prepare for exams. This all comes together to provide access to a high-quality AP Course experience for students who may not have previously had the opportunity. The "For All" focus also means schools are pushed to allow access to those not traditionally scheduled for AP classes, like ENL (English as a New Language) students or students with disabilities.

Having all students take AP exams has had a mixed result in some states, as noted in a NY Times article from 2017. However, the College Board reported, that same year, that in New York City, "The number of students taking and scoring a 3 or higher increased in every borough, and across all ethnic groups." And 2018 data from the DOE shows gains in both numbers of students taking AP exams and passing them.

Computer Science for All, Algebra for All, and College Access for All are similar, full service type initiatives that provide funding to schools, materials to teachers, support for students, and training for all involved parties. These types of programs were previously limited only to specialized schools or to certain groups of students, but the ideal in the DOE now is that every student is deserving of these opportunities.