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Our Mission

Cooke Center envisions a world in which all people with special needs are included as valued members of their communities, leading independent and purposeful lives. To realize this vision, our school educates students with diverse developmental disabilities and backgrounds, from early childhood through young adulthood. Through innovative programming and intensive, experiential instruction, designed to foster student independence, we integrate academic, social and life skills to prepare our students to discover and fulfill their life goals. We also strive to promote the world we envision by cultivating community partners and sharing our knowledge.



  • Embrace and value the whole child in a joyful, inclusive environment where meaningful progress towards independence is realized.  At Cooke, instruction is guided by students’ strengths and interests, not just their deficits. Programming is designed with an explicit focus on developing social/emotional and adaptive skills, as well as intensive academics. Clinical services are seamlessly integrated into classroom lessons and school-wide planning, as well as provided through individual and small group sessions.  School activities are designed to ensure that every student can meaningfully participate so that each child is included, each makes a contribution, and everyone shines. In this setting, friendships flourish and peer-to-peer learning thrives.


  • Enhance learning by carefully selecting a well-blended mix of students with diverse learning profiles and cultural origins.  Our school brings together students with a range of strengths and challenges, selected so they blend well socially and academically.  We welcome families of all income levels and our policies ensure that the cost of tuition is not a barrier to enrollment.  Cooke’s educational model is, thus, aligned with its longstanding commitment to equal educational opportunity.


  • Innovate and adapt to meet the evolving needs of our students, parents and consulting partners.   Cooke has a proud history of adapting to changes in the special education environment to address a broader range of student disabilities and evolving parent interests.  We draw from a variety of empirically grounded methods and develop new instructional techniques that succeed with our unique mix of students.   We encourage families to be partners in their children’s education and growth towards independence and welcome their input on program offerings.  We innovate by incorporating experiential learning within and outside classroom walls, multi-disciplinary programming, alternative interventions, and transition-to-life planning and programming.  


  • Incorporate real world settings in student education as a way to provide authentic learning environments and inspire public acceptance and accommodation of people with disabilities.  Generalizing classroom lessons in real world settings is the linchpin of student progress towards independence.  Our partners provide settings in which our students can apply and practice what they learn at school in authentic community and work settings.  For this purpose, Cooke administrators forge alliances with a wide variety of businesses, non-profits and cultural institutions that support our mission.  In this way, we seek to transform attitudes and practices in workplace and community settings so they become more welcoming and accommodating of people with disabilities.


  • Share our knowledge with other educators and advocates to improve the educational experience for all children.    Cooke always has sought to extend its reach beyond its school by sharing its knowledge and expertise with others.    The Cooke Center Institute works to improve the educational experience of thousands of students in underserved neighborhoods by consulting with general education schools and teachers.  Cooke is also an active participant in advocacy efforts to reform special education in the NYC public schools.  

View Cooke Center's 
2016-2019 Strategic Plan here! 

Learn how Cooke Center plans to further our vision of a world in which all people with special needs are included as valued members of their communities, leading independent, purposeful lives.  

This far, our efforts have resulted in:

  • 87% of Cooke alumni achieving independence through meaningful engagement in their communities.
  • 53% of Cooke alumni actively employed versus a 17% national average for adults with special needs. (


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