Staten Island Families Call for Expansion of ACES Programs

A special education program prepares students with intellectual disabilities for the real world.

In April, I wrote to Chancellor Richard Carranza expressing frustration that the Academic, Career, and Essential Skills (ACES) special education program for students with intellectual or multiple disabilities was not offered in full on Staten Island. I also requested that the Chancellor reconsider expanding the program in time for the 2019 – 2020 school year.

ACES Programs provide an opportunity to learn academic, work, and independent living skills in one of New York City’s local community school districts (elementary, middle and high school).  The programs support students in learning daily living skills such as building relationships with peers and adults, grocery shopping, learning how to use a bank, etc.

The ACES student profile is identified by the following criteria:

  • Students with a mild to moderate intellectual disability,
  • Academic abilities and skills are significantly below grade level. Students may need additional support when working independently or in groups. Assistive technology devices may be used to support learning and interaction
  • Students may have mild to moderate behavior challenges, but no aggressive or self-injurious behaviors. Behavior challenges may interfere with learning and social opportunities. The student’s ability to carry out functional life skills such as grooming, dressing, eating, keeping safe, and socializing (known as adaptive behaviors) will be well below age expected levels. To assess independence and daily living skills, a student’s IEP Team uses an adaptive behavior test. Students with low adaptive behavior scores are often considered for the ACES program

Program Features

Class Structure: Students in the ACES program attend a District 1-32 school in a smaller class. The number of students in ACES special classes increase as students move from elementary school and middle school to high school.

In Kindergarten through eighth grade, most ACES Programs have up to 12 students in a special class, one special education teacher, and a classroom paraprofessional.

In high school, ACES Programs have up to 15 students and one special education teacher. The program emphasizes inclusive opportunities for students to join the school community and engage with peers who do not have IEPs.

Teachers and support staff are trained in specialized instructional strategies and assessments that support students in learning and applying work and independent living skills at home, in school, and in the community.

ACES Program classes follow the New York State Learning Standards. Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and essential skill building are a part of the program.

Chancellor’s Response

Chancellor Carranza’s office responded to my inquiry and expressed interest in expanding the ACES Program on Staten Island; however, part of this process requires the Department of Education to identify locations for the program, typically based on need, which is why I am asking parents interested in enrolling their child in the ACES Program to contact my office by phone at (718) 967-5194, or by email at [email protected] to obtain an application.

Alternatively, parents may visit www.schools.nyc.gov/special-education/school-settings/specialized-programs and select the option ‘Academics, Career, and Essential Skills Program’ to access the application.

I am grateful to Chancellor Carranza and his staff for their consideration on this matter, and for giving us a chance to show that there is, in fact, a need for this program on the elementary school level on Staten Island.

By Michael Reilly, NYS Assemblyman, former District 31 Community Education Council President and former NYPD Lieutenant.