When it comes to special education, what’s working and what isn’t? Chalkbeat and THE CITY want to know.

Mrs. Cecarelli’s second grade class at Wesley Elementary School in Middletown, CT, October 5, 2020.

Since the pandemic upended New York City’s public school system in March, thousands of students have not received legally mandated special education services like counseling, physical therapy and learning accommodations. 

THE CITY and Chalkbeat New York have reported on many of the challenges parents and teachers are experiencing as they try to navigate a school system that’s reached a new level of crisis.

Our coverage has been driven by hearing from many of the parents, teachers, administrators and advocates working within this system as best they can. We want to better understand not just the issues, but how the community is dealing with unprecedented challenges.

In our most recent questionnaire, more than 140 parents, teachers, service providers and specialists in all five boroughs weighed in on changes they’d like to see for special education in the city. They also described the ways they are coping amid the uncertainty, confusion and frustration surrounding special education. 

Based on this feedback, we’re holding two virtual Open Newsroom events at the end of this month. Join us on:

The feedback we’ve received from the survey will help guide the topics we’ll explore.

We’ll bring parents, teachers, advocates and anyone else interested together for a conversation about what’s working and what isn’t for those involved with special education in New York City. 

We’ll also assemble a handful of experts from organizations across the city to answer questions, share resources and shed some light on how to navigate special education challenges and discuss potential solutions. We’ll post that lineup once we get closer to the events.

What to expect

The Special Education Open Newsroom will meet on Zoom, and we’ll start with a question-and-answer session with our panel of experts, who will talk about issues they’re seeing in the special education system. They’ll also address the topics parents, teachers and service providers have told us are top of mind.

After the panel, we’ll move into smaller breakout rooms to dive deeper into these topics and hear about personal experiences. These conversations will be led by you with some assistance from folks at THE CITY and Chalkbeat. 

Sign up and we’ll send you the Zoom link to the Special Education Open Newsroom the day of the event.

Many of you have told us that when the city Department of Education fails to provide adequate resources, you turn to advocate groups and community organizations. We also know that many of you have gotten creative and stayed resilient while helping students with disabilities thrive during a pandemic. We hope this event will highlight common struggles and successes, and help others deal with similar situations. 

Are you an expert?

At The Open Newsroom, we know that exploring solutions starts with those who tackle challenges daily. So if you’re affiliated with the special education community in any way, please join us. 

Have you worked with the special education community and have experiences or advice to share? We want to talk. We don’t want to limit ourselves to established groups and organizations.

Help us find community experts to talk about special education in the city. If you or someone you know has something to share — whether they’ve created something unique or have been particularly helpful — tell us here. We’ll reach out and see if they’re a good fit for the panel.

A note about technology: If you’re a little uneasy about how the technology works, we can help! We’ll send all the info you need about how to set up Zoom as well as troubleshoot with you if you’re having any problems. If you can’t video chat, there will be an option to phone in.

Hope to see you there — and feel free to send this link to a friend!

The Open Newsroom is an initiative between THE CITY and Brooklyn Public Library to make local news a collaborative process with neighborhood residents. We’ve held 10 meetings at three library branches in different Brooklyn neighborhoods and nine Virtual Open Newsrooms.

The Latest

The turmoil unfolded on Nov. 20, when hundreds of students filled the halls of the Queens school in protest of a social media photo of a teacher holding an “I Stand With Israel” sign

In order to maintain some of the academic strategies and programs supported by expiring pandemic relief funds, the district may reexamine how its schools are run.

Homeless children have certain rights aimed at maintaining stability for them at school, including the ability to stay at the school they’ve been attending.

The district is encouraging families to ‘Choose Your IPS’ in a bid to keep and attract more students.

Teacher training is critical to the success of NYC’s literacy mandate. Some teachers say they haven’t gotten enough support.

Luna won a unanimous vote to fill the vacant seat on the school board in October, but the board didn't swear him in during its November meeting.