New Diploma Considered for Special Ed Students

Email a Friend

For the first time in 25 years, New York State is considering a new type of diploma for special education students who aren't able to earn a regular one. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: Students with serious learning or physical disabilities are allowed to earn an alternate diploma known as the IEP. This diploma merely states that the student has completed an individualized education program. But there are no basic math or literacy standards.

And even though the state estimates only 8 percent of special ed students should be eligible for an IEP diploma, about twice as many have been earning them in recent years - and more than 20 percent in New York City.

Joanne Lacrosse, the state's supervisor of special education policy, says studies show the IEP diploma is also its own handicap.

LACROSSE: We do find that our students with the IEP diploma, based on these studies are not nearly as engaged in post school employment or secondary education as our students earning other types of diplomas.

REPORTER: Lacrosse attended a hearing in Brooklyn yesterday where parents, teachers and non-profits that help the disabled brainstormed about alternatives. Carmen Alvarez, Vice President of the United Federation of Teachers and a grandmother of a student with learning disabilities, thought more special ed students could earn regular diplomas if they were encouraged to stay in school longer.

ALVAREZ: You could do it in four years, in five years, in six years, the outlier is 7 years. The state's education department allows you to take some of these exams over days.

REPORTER: Another idea is to offer a career education certificate to special ed students that's more demanding than the old vocational degrees - but not as rigorous as a Regents diploma. The state will hold three more hearings before recommendations are made to the board of Regents this spring. For WNYC I'm Beth Fertig.