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Oversight Hearing on Teacher Preparation and Training

June 25, 2019

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Committees on Education and Higher Education for holding this important oversight hearing on teacher preparation and training. 

We testify today to highlight the need for the city to better address the gaps in teacher education programs and provide on-going training and support to all teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitutes so they are adequately prepared to educate and assist the nearly 300,000 students with disabilities in New York City (NYC). We believe there is a direct relationship between the lack of formal teacher education and continuing disability and special education professional development with the inferior proficiency and graduation rates of students with disabilities. Additionally, robust teacher preparation and ongoing training would allow for the integration of students with disabilities with their general education peers, supporting the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for all students.

INCLUDEnyc (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs) has worked with hundreds of thousands of individuals since our founding 36 years ago, helping them navigate the complex special education service and support systems, so that young people with disabilities can be included in all aspects of New York City life.

According to the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall percentage of people with disabilities in the United States in 2016 was 12.8%. Yet over 20% of the 1.1 million students in NYC public schools are classified as students with disabilities. We believe general education teachers may over refer students for evaluation for special education supports and services because teacher preparation programs lack sufficient education on identifying the basic characteristics of learning, behavioral, and cognitive disabilities and on how distinguishing students who may be falling behind for other reasons, such as limited English-language skills.

As a result of the city’s “special education reform” initiative launched in 2012 to increase the time students with disabilities spend in general education classroom, more students with disabilities than ever before are being educated in Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms in NYC. While we applaud this integration, in addition to adequate teacher preparation, general education teachers also need ongoing professional development on how to meet the academic and environmental needs of students with diverse learning styles so they are able to support all students in their classrooms. This should include all professionals working with our students, including paraprofessionals and substitute teachers.

Although ICT school placements have grown, 57,000 students with disabilities in NYC still spend more than 40% of their school day in self-contained classrooms (2017-18).  We believe more students with disabilities could be educated in less restrictive environments (LRE) if teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitutes were better prepared with additional curriculum and behavioral training and support. 

We recommend that the NYC Department of Education require annual professional development and ongoing school-based support on:

  • Basic characteristics of disabilities, especially learning, emotional, intellectual, physical, ADHD, and sensory processing disorders 
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Behavioral supports, interventions, and strategies
  • Effective co-teaching
  • Value of inclusion and creating an inclusive school and classroom environment 
  • How to partner with parents in their child’s education

These trainings should be required for teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitutes.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important matters. We look forward to working with you to improve equity and access for all students with disabilities in New York City. 


Barbara A. Glassman

Executive Director