Let me know what you think! Help spread the word about rebuilding (not just tweaking) special education and education for all students.
With the new education administration in Washington, I believe the need to rebuild special education is ever more urgent. Continuing its dysfunction helps feed the push for charters, choice, and vouchers.
My new book, SPECIAL EDUCATION 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law, breaks out of the special-education reform mold and invites us to start an honest national conversation without the many taboos that have thwarted innovation.
The book is nonpartisan and nonpolitical. Its endorsers come from many corners of our nation’s opinions. For example, John Merrow, the former Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour, and founding President, Learning Matters, Inc., wrote, “This little book packs a hell of a punch. I predict that readers will be alternately amazed, slack-jawed, angry, and optimistic about the future of public education–if we are smart enough to take the advice of a real expert, Miriam Freedman, and work together to make education special for all students. Special Education 2.0 is common sense thinking at its best.” And Michael J.Petrilli, President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote, “No one will agree with every idea in this courageous, taboo-shattering book. But as a conversation-starter, it’s exactly what we need: a call to re-imagine special education and general education from top to bottom, rather than remain boxed-in by the past. Let the debate begin!”
Instead of merely recommending fixes and tweaks of the current 40+ year-old law—that have been tried without success and that Congress will undoubtedly try again in its reauthorization, the book dares to propose an innovative, second generation law for all students, general and special education. Its five Directions offer a dynamic blueprint for a new, inclusive, and optimistic law for all.
A bit of history. SPECIAL ED 2.0 begins with the nation’s 1975 special-education law that succeeded in its mission–providing access to education for all students with disabilities. We now educate more than six million students (13–14 percent of US students).
Yet, despite its success, that law—let’s call it Special Education 1.0—has become dysfunctional in many damaging ways. It is too focused on compliance and paperwork, not outcomes. Teachers spend far too much time trying to “do it right,” instead of “doing the right thing” for their students. Its onerous procedural requirements impede schools, educators, parents, and students every day. Sadly, its “wait to fail” model often provides children with services too late. And, its adversarial system pits parents against educators, creating warring stakeholders even inside our public schools! We cannot allow this to continue!
A better way. SPECIAL ED 2.0 puts a laser focus on improving general-education outcomes for all students (from the neediest strugglers to the most advanced). Why? We know that better general education means we need less special education. Here are its five Directions.
Direction 1—Focuses on equity and excellence for all students with challenging standards and timely interventions that apply objective research-based methods. For example, it balances mainstreaming with the education needs of all students. With equitable funding for and focus on all students, SPECIAL ED 2.0 frees teachers to teach, parents to parent, and all students to learn.
Direction 2— Boldly reflects the modern needs and realities of students with disabilities. Since 1975, the needs of the students served by special education have changed radically. No longer centered on those with significant and profound needs (just 10–20 percent of today’s cohort), 80–90 percent of those served by special ed have mild and moderate needs. We need to respond to this reality smartly.
Direction 3— Defines and requires positive participation by educators, students, and parents. Each has a vital role to play in this partnership.
Direction 4— In focusing on the 80-90% of students described above, it creates a trust-building, collaborative governance approach for all students, without an individual entitlement for any.
Direction 5— Builds a new law for all students on Special Ed 1.0’s success.
The book invites readers to join in, think BIG, and dream aloud. Together, let us ask—WHAT IF? It is high time, as we should not continue to feed this broken system.
LET’S REBUILD IT, NOT TWEAK IT!
You can get your very own copy on Amazon! Let me know what you think.
Here’s a piece that caught my attention.
I’m especially interested in the numbers cited.
After 25 years of movement, passion, and effort, we now educate some 3 million students in charter schools. Whether these schools are good or bad or great or so-so, that is around 5-6% of students. How does this “movement” ever scale to meet the needs of all students—some 50 million? As a passionate supporter of public education— the necessary backbone for our nation—I find this question concerning.
We educate around the same percentage (5-6%) of students who are called “gifted and talented.” Where are the movement, passion, and efforts to improve their long-bypassed education opportunities?
And, in my area of concern–special education. We educate far more than either of the above groups–some 13-14% of all students (about 6 and a half million!) under that system. Where are the passion, commitment, and movement to finally reform that system—considered broken by many of us?
In short, with all the attention given to charter schools, let us honestly ask: can they ever scale for the millions of students cited in this piece? If not, why not work to fix other areas of our public school system—two of which are cited here—that need a passionate and robust movement?
Or will we simply leave many children behind–or seeking their way out of their schools? Or –do you have other questions?
A few thoughts about the Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County, especially in light of the one-sided reporting about this case; namely, that the student “won” (and by implication, the school district lost). See, for example,
In today’s headline blare, the perspective of schools and history are often missing. Were they also highlighted, the headlines would be more muted and accurate.
The bottom line for me is that as a school attorney, I can say that the decision was reasonable and workable—for schools and parents alike. Not exactly the description of a loss!
So here are my thoughts today.
First, let’s remember that the Supreme Court took this dispute to resolve differences among the Circuit Courts of Appeals about what standard of benefit or progress the law requires a school to provide a student with a disability. Many states, such as Massachusetts where I practiced law for many years, already had a ‘meaningful benefit’ standard for a free appropriate public education. Some states, as described in the decision about a Colorado school district had a lower ‘merely more than de minimis’ standard. The Supreme Court struck down that standard and defined the requirement for schools that a program for a child needs to be ‘reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.’ Sounds quite a lot like a meaningful standard!
Second, this decision is not about most of the 6 1/2 million students who receive special education. For most students with disabilities who work on general education standards, Rowley v. Bd. of Ed. (1982) still applies. That decision held that these students are entitled to a program that provides some benefit. The current decision focused on students like Endrew F., a student with autism, whose progress was not being measured by grade level or similar benchmarks.
Indeed, notably the Court did NOT overrule Rowley to create a higher standard, as plaintiffs sought.
As I read this decision, it clarified (and did not raise) the standard for a different segment of students than Amy Rowley. The Court highlighted the fact that Rowley still applies and that Congress, even after more than 30 years of implementation and history, has not amended or raised it.
Third, the Court gave great deference to the expertise of school personnel. I see this as vital–since unfortunately and undoubtedly this decision will not end the matter. I’m amazed to see how different groups are spinning this decision. Sadly and undoubtedly, we’ll have endless disputes and lawsuits about the Court’s words. Having great deference where it belongs–in school personnel expertise—is welcome.
Fourth, the Court rejected the parents’ high standard of an ideal, maximizing, or equal program. In short, it followed Rowley and clarified it for a subset of students with disabilities.
Much more can be said about this decision, but I’ll stop here. As I see it, the decision was reasonable and workable for schools and parents alike. I did not read it as a one-sided parent victory, as many reporters and news outlets have spun it.
How did you read it?
Jacobs reviews the Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County and asks what will change. It’s a good and brief discussion, well worth reading!
In her discussion, I was happy to see that Jacobs cites my views, including my belief that the decision seems both workable and reasonable for schools and parents alike and my hope that it’ll help get us back to teaching and learning, not litigating and arguing.
On that point, I would add that the Supreme Court gave deference to school authorities in their “the application of expertise and the exercise of judgment by school authorities.” The Court highlights the on-going school responsibility to involve parents in decision-making and to explain its rationale for the child’s program. And I would add in bold big letters IN PLAIN LANGUAGE!
Jacobs also cites my book, Special Education 2.0!, that calls for true systemic reform of a system where much is broken.
Here again is the URL for the blog. It’s worth checking out!
Indeed, as Jacobs posits, the question for all of us is–NOW WHAT?
And again, as far too often in our public education system, it’s all about that pendulum swing—from one extreme to another.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s Endrew F v. Douglas County decision yesterday will bring us back to center. The case is about how much benefit or progress a school needs to provide to a child with a disability.
The Supreme Court overturned the 10th circuit decision that required too little—a program that is “merely more than de minimis.” Now, the Court requires a program that is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances.” As I read it, the progress requirement is reasonable—not ideal, not maximizing and not merely more than de minimis. In the center. Where it should be.
Let’s hope the pendulum stays centered so we can all get back to teaching and learning, not litigating and continued disputes. My new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law, should help us get that discussion going.
My new book, Special Education 2.0–Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law is still #1 in NEW Releases in Disability Law and # 4 in Sales!
I hope you’ll take a look at it, especially as it is now available as a paperback and on Kindle. Amazon carries both! If you’re looking for bulk orders–to get that long overdue conversation going–please check out the discounts on this website. In fact, if you order more than 35 copies, shipping is FREE.
Again, I am grateful for your support and interest in exploring better education for ALL students. I am working to make a difference in how we educate ALL students, including students with disabilities.
Special Education 2.0–Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law– is # 1 in HOT NEW RELEASES in Disability Law on Amazon… and # 6 in sales today.
Thank you all for your continued support.
Now, I’d also appreciate your writing a review. So far, there is one excellent review. It would be awesome to have more.
In gratitude, Miriam
I just came back from a successful speaking engagement at the AASA (American Association of School Administrators) Conference in New Orleans.
My conclusion? I think the times they are achanging… One administrator wrote to me, “I do think we are moving to a new level of discussion around special education.”
My talk, Building a NEW general and special education system for ALL students, was visionary and thought provoking, yet also practical and fun. It challenged school leaders— general and special educators—to think anew to build programs that work for all students. And while I thought perhaps the audience would be outraged (how dare we touch the current system) and proverbially throw tomatoes, that did NOT happen. People were engaged. Interested. Excited even, I would say. We spoke about:
• What if we designed schools that are truly focused on equitable and effective/excellent teaching and learning for all students? What steps toward that end can we take tomorrow?
• What if we focus on big what ifs…not little tweaks of the current system… by challenging both general and special educators to dream big?
Well, it turns out that the times are achanging and we can begin to consider new approaches. Out of the box. Courageous. How about generation two– Special Education 2.0.
I attended the AASA (American Association of School Administrators) Conference in New Orleans this week. Alas, it was right after Mardi Gras! Fun city! That the annual conference of superintendents of schools. I believe there were about 2000 attendees.
Why was I invited? After all, I’m a lawyer, not a superintendent. I was invited to speak about my new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law. My session went well (more on that later).
This blog is about something else. It’s about the calls—heard from the main stage— that we need to “defend public education.” Why? “Public education is under attack.”
As I listened to this call–repeated by speakers — I was uncomfortable and question this approach. I wonder if we shouldn’t go more positive. I love public education and want it to succeed. But, I’m not into taking a defensive position.
Instead, as I see it, we need to tell a positive story. How about a different slogan: “Public education is better!” How so? For starters. It’s owned by the community. It builds democracy. It gives children the opportunity to learn with all of their peers in their generation. With improved personalized and proficiency based education, it fosters excellence and equity. For many, it cherishes the community and promotes schooling close to home. For example, students with disabilities who are learning activities of daily living (ADL) skills, can practice near home—on local streets, in local stores, with their neighbors. Students can participate in town sports and other activities. Public education is the backbone of our nation. Let’s tout that reality!
Thus, I was happy to hear the welcoming remarks by Gail Pletnick, the new President of AASA. She seems to agree that we need to go positive.. Please visit http://nce.aasa.org/incoming-aasa-president/. She is the superintendent of the Dystert Unified School District in Arizona. Her 15 minute talk led with a positive, success-oriented message. She showed a wonderful video of successful learning going on in her district. I loved that.
She believes that the positive stories of successes in public schools—need to be told. “Investing in public education is investing in our communities and our country.”
I agree and wish her, and our country, much success.