Is Special Education Improving? Case Evidence From New York City

Leanna Stiefel, Michael Gottfried, Menbere Shiferaw, Amy Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we assess changes in the education of students with disabilities (SWDs) in the nation’s largest school district, New York City (NYC), over the decade 2005–2015. Specifically, we examine progress toward the twin legislative goals of both the federal Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) and NYC district goals of (a) including SWDs in general education settings and (b) improving their academic performance. We find that the inclusion of SWDs with their general education peers (GENs) has increased in elementary and middle schools, but decreased in high school. Furthermore, although more SWDs are completing high school, their graduation rate remains considerably below that of GENs (50% vs. 80%). In assessing these patterns, we provide empirical evidence of the changing context of education in NYC before, during, and after policy changes that affected special education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Disability Policy Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • policy
  • school reform/restructuring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Law


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