The nation’s top special education official is setting a new agenda for the U.S. Department of Education as it works to address the needs of students with disabilities.

A framework released Thursday details a commitment from the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to “rethink anything and everything” in a quest to meet the office’s mission “to improve early childhood, educational and employment outcomes and raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities and the nation.”

Specifically, the two-page document pledges to support states while ensuring flexibility and partnering with parents, individuals with disabilities and other stakeholders.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“‘Rethink’ means everyone questions everything to ensure nothing limits any student from being prepared for what comes next,” wrote Johnny Collett, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, in a posting about the framework.

At the heart of the department’s new approach is a mindset favoring local decision-making over federal mandates, said Collett, a former high school special education teacher and state special education director.

“This commitment means acknowledging that states, school districts and parents know the needs of their students better than we do,” he wrote. “Our goal is to provide them with as much flexibility and support as possible so that they can ensure their students’ needs are being met.”

The federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, meanwhile, should act as a support system for states, the document indicates, ensuring that government policies and systems do not impede individuals with disabilities.

“This will require an unwavering commitment to address barriers that stand in the way of improving opportunities and outcomes for each person with a disability and to make needed changes at the federal, state and local levels,” Collett said.

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.