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Is Special Ed In Need of Reform?

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As a parent, I have found that a surprising amount of special ed teachers’ and therapists’ time is spent filling out paperwork that is beyond writing up lesson plans. Students’ progress has to be carefully charted on numerous forms by every single teacher and therapist. IEPs are long documents that have to spell out everything, from transportation arrangements to numbers of occupational therapy sessions to interventions in crisis situations, along with the specifics of a student’s academic programs. All this paperwork is important and the more so, as I know, as my son Charlie has very minimal speech and can’t tell us if he is not getting taught such and such.

IDEA does create headaches for school districts and their lawyers, but parents and students rely on the law to ensure that students with disabilities get educated in ways that actually teach them.

Freedman’s proposals are not unproblematic. While obtaining a medical diagnosis to determine a child’s eligibility for services does take time and can mean a gap between identifying a student as needing services and actually providing them, it is important to have outside, independent specialists evaluate children, rather than simply leaving it to school districts.

In addition, Freedman’s proposal to improve education for all students is appealing. Nirvi Shah, writing in Education Week, discusses a similar point in the form of universal design for learning (UDL), “an instructional method that involves creating lessons and classroom materials flexible enough to accommodate different learning styles.” Some examples of UDL are using closed-captioning in a noisy gym and having students show their knowledge of, for instance, vocabulary words not only by taking a test but by “using journals, doing some kind of project, or carrying out a computer activity.”

UDL is an attractive concept. My own son (who definitely has a medical diagnosis of autism and attends an out-of-district school for autistic students) does needs to be taught in ways far more specialized than UDL could address. Innovations that improve education for “typical” students wil not necessarily be best suited for students with a range of learning disabilities, who can require not only different means of being evaluated and showing what they know, but different teaching strategies, period.

Does special ed cost school districts too much? Are not the costs worth it, to provides students with disabilities with the academic programs that actually helps them learn?

Related Care2 Coverage

Why Are Parents Putting Wires On Special Ed Students?

Struggle Over How to Evaluate Special Ed Teachers

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12:55PM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

Improving Regular Education for all students is a great idea, but the only way it will work is to get rid of NCLB & high stakes testing. Then teachers will be able to teach again.

Yes, Special Education does need to be reformed. Mentally handicapped & autistic students are in special classes where they get all of the help they need. Learning Disabled students are included in the regular classrooms where they are expected to do the same work in the same amount of time as the other students. Funding has been cut so much that most schools don't have the money to hire teacher's assistants to help with the included students, so many times the regular classroom teacher begins to feel overwhelmed.

Our government (Federal, State & Local) need to increase, not cut funding for education. Our students deserve better than what they're getting from the politicians.

6:23PM PDT on May 17, 2012

Thank-You, for this article

10:04AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Grazie per l'articolo.

10:04AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Grazie per l'articolo.

4:15PM PDT on May 5, 2012


2:11PM PDT on May 4, 2012

Special Educational reform should be in the hands of the teaching profession!

1:08PM PDT on May 4, 2012

I can think of many changes that need to be made to the whole Special Education process. 1). Special Education teachers should be given the authority to advocate for the children in their class with protection from retribution from the school district. 2). If a parent ask that their child be tested for educational deficiencies the teesting should be done with-in 4 weeks. 3). The Office of Civil Rights need to be the protecters that they are meant to be and that means to actually punish school districts that are blantely ignoring Federal mandates involving Special Education. You are not mediators you are there to protect and enforce the law. Every school in the country should have a program for Autistic children. They children need an adquate program and sticking your head in the sand in not going to make these children go away. Children with disruption behavior should not be punished but you should take the time to find out why the child is being disruptive. Duh their is a problem and putting them in juvinile detention is not going to make the childs problem go away. I could go on and on.

9:20AM PDT on May 4, 2012

Thank you for the article...

6:57AM PDT on May 4, 2012

We throw so many resources toward educating those with little to no hope of ever really becoming educated, and so few resources toward fast-tracking those on the other end of the spectrum who show great potential. It is a travesty that intelligent students are so rarely allowed to skip ahead and graduate early so they can move forward to higher education, and that resources that could be used to accelerate their growth and provide more geniuses for our society are so frequently denied to them.
So yes, we need to reform this stuff!

6:43AM PDT on May 4, 2012

Today we have dozens of diagnostic tests to reveal many alleged disabilities, conditions, handicaps etc. Once diagnosed, nothing much is done for the student other than separate and stigmatize. Many school boards spend up to one-third of their budgets on special education. It's such a waste. Special education doesn't work. If it did, there would be a steady stream of students successfully re-integrating back into the mainstream.

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