The implementation of mandated organizational change: A case study of special education in New York City public schools

Patricia Wolff Cook, Fordham University


On December 16, 1986, the Board of Education of the City of New York adopted a resolution which transferred the responsibility for instructional and related services for mildly/moderately handicapped children from the Central Board of Education to the community school districts. The purpose of decentralizing services was to provide those closest to the children with the opportunity to make decisions and judgments regarding educational and related services programs.^ The change was a mammoth undertaking because of its enormity and complexity, with all 32 school districts and more than 750 schools involved. The task was further complicated by the fact that the decentralization of special education services was opposed by many professional and community organizations and agencies, including the United Federation of Teachers (UFT); the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA); Advocates for Children; United Cerebral Palsy; and others. The adversarial groups coalesced, becoming plaintiffs, and threatened to seek an injunction to prevent the implementation of the Board resolution. The issue was resolved after intensive negotiations that resulted in a legal and binding stipulation of settlement which outlined the procedures to be followed in the decentralization process.^ The case study described and analyzed the process of implementing the mandated change from central authority of educational and related services programs to local control as required by legal stipulation. The approach involved a central office of monitoring and technical assistance working in collaboration with the districts and other central agencies in an effort to facilitate the process and to assure a smooth and effective transition. Information for this study was collected through interviews, questionnaires, direct observation, and archival reviews.^ The study indicated that mandated change can be implemented with great success. It was most notable, however, in demonstrating that even the most extreme resistance to change can be overcome, and that, in fact, those who are very much opposed can be converted to supporters by bringing them into the process. It was further demonstrated that people can become active participants after the decision to change has been made. ^

Subject Area

Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Cook, Patricia Wolff, "The implementation of mandated organizational change: A case study of special education in New York City public schools" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109251.