In 2005, several families were looking for an elementary school for their young children. Like so many parents in New York City, they sought a school that would provide a strong academic foundation in a nurturing, supportive environment, which recognized their children’s many strengths while helping them to overcome challenges, develop their sense of character, community and social responsibility, and celebrate their unique identities. These families believed that their children would flourish with the small class sizes, individualized attention, and commitment to the arts that are the hallmarks of independent schools.
Although their sons and daughters were quite different from one another, they shared one characteristic in common—each child had Down syndrome. As a result, the independent schools were not available to their children.
Thus, the idea for a truly diverse and inclusive independent school with differentiated and individualized instruction to meet the needs and support the identities of all types of learners emerged.
The founding families partnered with educators committed to creating a school that teaches and reaches children of all backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, races, genders, cultures, sexual orientations, and religions, as well as a broad range of learning styles, readiness levels, and abilities. The IDEAL School of Manhattan is built on this philosophy of inclusion and is committed to extending the definition of diversity in education to include all learners.
The founders recognized that it would not be enough simply to bring students with a wide array of backgrounds, abilities, interests, and readiness levels together. For their model of true inclusion to succeed, additional precedents were essential:
- Support each learner’s unique learning profile with individual goals and personalized instruction that includes the proper scaffolding or enrichment;
- Provide highly skilled faculty, trained in both general and special education, who teach together, in teams, and are comfortable teaching both heterogeneous and homogenous groups of learners;
- Ensure small class sizes and flexibility in instruction;
- Equally emphasize the arts and athletics in the curriculum in order to recognize multiple intelligences;
- Provide related services for students who need this extra layer of support and ensure that students are not removed from whole class instruction to receive these services;
- To ensure that no one leaves their identity at the door, incorporate a multicultural and anti-bias curriculum that celebrates each student’s differences and positive identity;
- Foster empathy and emotional intelligence through a unique diversity curriculum.
The IDEAL School opened its doors in 2006 with 20 students in kindergarten to second grade. More than ten years later, the founders’ vision of a school that is as diverse and dynamic as New York City itself is a reality. As IDEAL has grown from elementary school, to middle school, and now to high school, these goals and desired outcomes have not changed - indeed, they are built into our name and acronym: Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence, Acceptance, and Leadership. These guiding principles constitute the foundation of our school mission and are at the core of The IDEAL School of Manhattan.