Duncan Candid About Special Education Shortcomings, Promises Change
Many children with disabilities don’t get the schooling they’re entitled to, but Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday he’s committed to changing the status quo.
In a speech to hundreds of parents and educators attending a national special education conference, Duncan acknowledged the lengths that many parents must go to ensure that their children with disabilities get an appropriate education.
“Too many children with disabilities are not getting a world-class education. My message today is that I want to change that,” Duncan told attendees at a Department of Education sponsored conference in Arlington, Va. “Through a combination of policy, enforcement, technical assistance and, yes, investing in the power of parents, we are going to make good on the promise of a free, appropriate public education and ensure that all children are getting a world-class education.”
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Duncan pointed to the administration’s efforts to integrate the needs of students with disabilities in their recent proposal for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. And, he said the department is working to align the updated education law with a forthcoming reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
What’s more, Duncan highlighted department efforts to establish new assessment tools to measure academic progress among students with cognitive disabilities for whom traditional fill-in-the-bubble tests may not offer an accurate reflection of skills.
Duncan acknowledged that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “has not been as vigilant as it should have been in protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities” in the last decade. But he said his staff has opened nine compliance reviews related to special education since March and is working with school districts to help them better understand their obligations.