Tisch Speaks on Spec. Ed.
Pola Rosen, Ed.D.
Merryl Tisch is on target and concise. As Chair of the Board of
Regents Committee on Vocational and Education Services for Individuals
with Disabilities (VESID), her area of expertise is special education,
a hotbed of controversy among politicians, educators, and parent
groups. In a recent interview she expanded on the historical background
of the problems in special education, the variety of solutions
and the future for children.
Seven to eight years ago, New York State started the movement
toward standards. It was decided that special education students
would be included. The raison d’etre, according to Regent Tisch,
was that many special education students were in isolated or restrictive
settings. With a wide range of needs, it was considered especially
important that these students have as many opportunities available
as possible. When special needs advocates vociferously insisted
that passing regents exams would doom children to failure, a safety
net was created. The students having difficulty could take a modified
Regents Competency Test.
Additional problems facing special education is the shortage of
certified teachers trained in the curriculum and the transitional
services that move children from school out into life in the community.
These services should start at middle school instead of at the
end of high school, emphasized Tisch.
Tisch underscored that as special education students progress
successfully through the system, we must ensure that higher education
How does the Board of Regents accomplish its goals? Tisch explained
how a task force comprised of all the players had just finished
coming up with recommendations for higher education. To ensure
implementation, the chancellors of CUNY and SUNY and NYS Commissioner
of Education Richard Mills were on the committee. Conversations
with all involved individuals included legislators; school visits
were also included before decisions were made.
Even when the budget is cut, as it was recently, “the greater
issue is how to best use the resources you have,” said Tisch.
need a community focus on special education needs. Our policies
should be less law driven and focused on academic outcomes in
a safe environment that provide for the emotional well-being of
our children.” #
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