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Obama Administration To Increase Scrutiny Of Special Education


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Federal education officials say they’re looking to encourage better academic achievement among students with disabilities rather than simply ensuring schools follow the law.

In an announcement late last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said his agency’s special education division will be retooling its annual school reviews, which are designed to assess whether or not services are being provided to those with disabilities as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Officials say they’ve been successful at verifying that appropriate resources are in place for students with disabilities, but acknowledge that more needs to be done to improve outcomes.

“For too long we’ve been a compliance-driven bureaucracy when it comes to educating students with disabilities,” Duncan said. “We have to expect the very best from our students — and tell the truth about student performance — so that we can give all students the supports and services they need. The best way to do that is by focusing on results.”

Specifically, Education Department officials say they’re looking to find ways to spur increased academic performance and graduation rates.

Officials provided few details about how they hope to accomplish this, but said they will be halting the site-visit portion of their annual reviews for the coming school year so that a better review system can be devised that focuses on improving outcomes.

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Comments (11 Responses)

  1. sandy fultz says:

    I only have one question, What does this mean for the kids with severe disabilities. Meaning the ones that can not write, talk, or anything that is needed to evaluate what they know…..

  2. Nicole says:

    A very timely article. Tomorrow I will go to my daughter’s elementary school to sign a waiver for exemption from mandatory annual state assessments for my 10-year-old daughter on the autism spectrum. I am required to claim exemption based on religious exemption!! Not inappropriate testing material survey, time frame for administration, or an expectation of a cross-section of my daughter’s true abilities. We appropriately gather that information on a daily, weekly, and monthly data collection basis. She is flourishing. No thanks to state mandatory testing.

  3. Reid says:

    That’s great for the kids that are not severe and profound. Being a parent of two kids with severe and profound disabilities, I see where the bureaucracy gets in the way of the awesome teachers that want to spend quality hands on time with the kids instead of doing all the paper work involved in ” meeting goals ” that the Gov sets.

  4. Diane says:

    It would be great to finally have someone recognize the potential of students with “different abilities”, rather than just seeing their “disabilities”, to finally have some ground to stand on when parents are looking for the school systems to challenge their students rather than just accepting the status quo>

  5. Lori says:

    How does halting the site-visit portion of reviews help to devise a better review system? Sounds like they will be expanding on the bureaucracy as usual. But the more serious question is the one Reid posed: what does this mean for children with severe/profound disabilities? My own daughter falls into this catagory, do I need to be even more worried about her education now?

  6. Lori says:

    sorry, Sandy originally voiced that question

  7. Deefreddy says:

    I evaluate my students every day, and most do not write, speak, or read. An assessment can test results by eye gaze, assistive technology, or just pointing to a correct answer. Students with severe disabilities deserve a high quality education that not only focuses on life skills, but also gives them access to the state standards at their level (i.e. high school students learning 9th-12th grade standards, not Prek and K). It can be done, because I see many great teachers doing just that every day. I also visit classes where students languish and stim all day. In my opinion, the most severely disabled are often the most overlooked and disregarded. I agree with Nicole, though, if I relied on mandatory state assessments to paint a picture of my students’ abilities, it would be a very bleak picture. Hopefully Arne Duncan is educated on how the severely handicapped fit into the picture. We don’t need more paperwork, we need better teacher preparation.

  8. Susan says:

    My only concern is that the government didn’t do a very good job of making sure schools were compliant with the law, so how good of a job are they going to do in making sure students with disabilities are doing better academically?

  9. hdemic says:

    Many special ed schools don’t follow the law in the first place. I doubt if these same schools will do anything different.
    mother of disable child in montcam county michigan

  10. LRE Continuum says:

    This is not just concerning for students with severe needs. This is concerning for students in resource rooms, especially in Las Vegas, NV. The push here is more inclusion. Special Ed teachers are being told to rewrite Ieps to fit the school’s schedule or philosophy. Our county schools just unleashed a program where schools get additional points for having special Ed students included 80% or more in the regular classes. Our school district has seemed to have forgotten about the meaning of an Iep=INDIVIDUALIZED to the student. But, it’s about schools getting gold stars under the guise of “it’s all about the students.” Parents and parent advocacy groups should be screaming at the tops of their lungs about what is going on here in Las Vegas, NV. Alas, many parents are unaware of their Iep rights and there is a large number of non-English speaking parents, parents working 2 jobs to keep food on the table. Arne Duncan and his team should do an audit of how many kids Ieps in this district have been or soon will be rewritten to fit the school schedule or gold star model.

    There is no LRE continuum here in Clark county! It’s either full inclusion or self contained.
    -Parent of a child with a disability

  11. Deb MacFarlan says:

    This is nice to read, there still needs to be legal help for those teachers like myself, who were fired for advocating for her students- TO MANY secrets hidden in schools where Special Education funding is misused!
    Any one every looked into the $100,000 school districts get for hiring and training new teachers? Fire the third year teachers only to hire new teachers. Really $100,000 for training new hires? I have been those new hires and never saw where the money went. Hum

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