I've never had a request for a post before. So here goes - my feeling on the end of the Vaughn G Consent Decree.
I've spent six + years as a parent of a Special Ed student in City Schools. I can say without hesitation that services and organization have gotten better in those years. If the point of the Vaughn G Consent Decree was punishment for being disorganized and removal of the Consent Decree is a reward for no longer losing track of services and students, I can agree with the current turn of events.
As a parent of a special needs student, I have slightly higher standards. I'm shooting for a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). When that's happening for every special needs student in City Schools I think some sort of victory can be declared.
Who can honestly say that all students in City Schools have an "appropriate" education? I think violence in the school makes it impossible for anyone to have an appropriate education, much less special needs kids who are the most likely to be harassed in school (there's a good government bulletin on the subject here). And when schools are lacking the supplies and staff that they need to educate their students, is it possible to get an "appropriate" education? I know that these things aren't true for all schools or students in City Schools, but I think that for special needs students, especially those without strong advocates, violence, lack of resources and lack of trained staff is more the rule than the exception.
Without properly trained staff it's impossible to put a student in the Least Restrictive Environment that he/she is able to be successful in. School staff needs the time and training to adapt an environment. Supports need to be designed and purchased. This can't happen in a school that is chronically under-funded. When special needs students are put into the general population all of the teachers, staff and students need training to understand these students. It's understandable for an over-burdened teacher to resent this new demand on their workload, but what student can be successful when their teacher resents their presence? If their fellow students don't understand the special needs student the environment will naturally turn hostile and who can learn in that setting? In these cases the special needs student is being cheated of an education. In the end, if the student has someone standing up for them, inclusion is deemed as a failure and a more restrictive environment is where they end up.
So while I applaud the hard work that has moved City Schools this far, I'm not ready to declare victory.