Turning the ‘DIAL’: Adams admin announces educational programs targeting students with disabilities, low math scores

Mayor Eric Adams announces the Department of Education is launching a new division for students with disabilities and multilaunguage learners and rolling out a new math curriculum. Monday, June 24, 2024.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

With NYC public schools wrapping up for the summer this week, the Adams administration announced two new educational initiatives on Monday — including one devoted to students with disabilities and multilanguage learners.

The city Department of Education will launch the Division of Inclusive and Accessible Learning (DIAL), which will have a $750 million annual budget and approximately 1,300 staffers, according to City Hall. It will be led by DOE’s longtime special education chief Christina Foti, who is being promoted to deputy chancellor to head the new division.

Additionally, the DOE is also rolling out a new math curriculum across the public school system aimed at improving lagging math proficiency among the city’s public school students.

Mayor Eric Adams, during a June 24 press conference at Samara Community School in the Bronx, said the DIAL is designed to prepare students with disabilities and those who do not speak English as a first language for careers and economic stability. He said the move is “personal,” citing his own struggles with learning to read caused by his dyslexia.

“It’s personal to many of us that have gone through the feeling that you don’t belong, you don’t have a future and that there’s no opportunity for you,” Adams said. “We can turn this around and that’s the facts that we are fighting for.”

The division will both grow already existing inclusion programs — like those for students with autism or who are bilingual, “steamline” the process for getting students the services they need and train educators on how to provide better instruction to the covered populations, according to City Hall. 

The DIAL’s staff previously reported to the Division of Teaching and LAearning, which Schools Chancelor David Banks disbanded in March, according to a published report. Following that move, the division’s leader, former Deputy Commissioner Carolyne Quintana, announced she was leaving the agency by the end of the school year.

“This is a historic day as we bring together offices of special education and multilanguage learners under a vision that is going to elevate both of them to heights unknown,” Banks said during the Monday news conference.

‘Illustrative Math’

In September, the Adams-led DOE will introduce the new math curriculum, “NYC Solves,” not even a year after overhauling how reading is taught in city schools with a program called “NYC Reads.”

The so-called “Illustrative Math” model will be implemented at 93 middle schools across 8 districts and 420 high schools citywide, Banks said.

“With NYC Solves, our classrooms will be focussed on deepy understanding math concepts, connecting these concepts to each other and applying these concepts to the real world,” Banks said. “In other words, students must understand the fundamentals and the concepts behind them.”

Banks emphasized the curriculum’s focus on showing students how math could be used outside of the classroom setting — such as in the supermarket, at the bank or in any number of jobs.

Furthermore, Banks said, the new curriculum will standardize how math is taught across the city’s schools. Currently, the way the subject is taught can vary from school to school, Banks said.

“Schools all over the city, even on math, were just kind of doing their own thing, people were creating their own math curriculum, that’s no way to run a system,” the chancellor said. “If this is a system, than we need to have more of a framework of how everyone should be moving … It is in fact correctable and that’s what NYC Solves represents.”