Here’s an excellent piece by my friend, Mike Petrilli. He’s right to be concerned. It’s been picked up by Diane Ravitch’s blog. I urge you to read both.

I agree with the concerns expressed by both Mike and Diane. To which I’d like to add the following.

My question is about the motives we have and those of providers of computers. Why are we pushing for so-called “personalized” learning?
As for high tech companies–the huge education market and competition among them for a share of that market, I get that.

But why are schools buying into it? Has it ever been proven to be the best way to teach and learn? I haven’t seen that evidence.
I am concerned that we are pushing “personalized” learning as a way to make today’s classroom focused on inclusion work–that is, to have all sorts of learners in the same classrooms with teachers “differentiating” among all students at all performance levels in today’s classrooms. An overwhelming and often impossible task.

Voila–computers offer the way!

But, do they really? And don’t they ignore evidence we have for what actually works–for example, LIN–least intervention necessary; not LRE–Least restrictive environment. That is, we need to focus on the students–and their current performance and interests, not on their location, location, location– a standard that works in real estate but not here.

Bottom line, The motive for this push may not be what’s best for our students. Rather, it may be what authorities believe will make our current notions and fads of equity and all-in-together-now “work.” But will it? Will it be real education? Will it enhance lives?

Watch the back door of vouchers and choice on this one.

I share Mike’s and Diane’s concerns. And you?

If you want to know more about my new book, Special Education 2.0, here is Dr. Green’s very detailed review. It helps his readers decide whether they want to go out and get the book.

It’s great to see Dr. Green’s positive review. I appreciate it very much, especially as he was a school principal for many years and knows what is happening in schools and where of he speaks.

If you missed the event at Fordham Institute in Washington on May 4, it’s not too late! You can now watch it on line.

The event went well. Many questions and answers and still-to-be determined answers. We had a large audience–both at Fordham and streaming live.

It’s on Twitter at #specialed2pt0. Join the conversation! And let’s hope events like this get us talking and rebuilding the law.

This is the unanimous Supreme Court decision about what standard for services schools need to provide to students with disabilities under the federal law, the IDEA.

Here are some of my musings…..

First, many headlines about this decision seemed to highlight a “win” for students with disabilities. For example,

I’m not so sure. As a school attorney, I did not see it that way. I saw it as a workable restatement of current practice. That practice—defining a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities—was determined more than 30 years ago by the Supremes in Rowley v. Board of Education (1982). In short, a student’s program needs to “be reasonably calculated to provide educational benefits.” Here, the Court upheld that standard. In fact, the Court highlighted the fact that Rowley applies and that Congress, even after more than 30 years, has not amended or raised it.

Second, this decision was NOT about the 6 1/2 million students who receive special education under federal law, the IDEA. By far, most of these students study the general education standards. For them, Rowley applies. Indeed, while plaintiffs sought a higher standard, it’s important to note that the Court did NOT overrule Rowley and did not change the standard. This decision focused on students like Endrew F. whose progress is not being measured by grade level or similar standardized benchmarks.

Third, let’s remember that the Supreme Court took this dispute in an effort to resolve differences among the Circuit Courts of Appeals in the nation. Because many states, such as Massachusetts where I practiced law, already have a higher ‘meaningful benefit’ standard for a FAPE, it’s hard to see how this decision will make a difference and many of my fellow school attorneys don’t believe it will. Some states, as described in the 10th Circuit decision about a Colorado school district had a lower ‘de minimis’ standard. The Supreme Court struck down that standard. For students like Endrew F., a school’s program needs to be “reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.”

Fourth, the Court gave great deference to the expertise of school personnel. I see this as vital–since undoubtedly this decision will not settle the matter. Various groups are now reading what they want into it—like a Rorschach test! Unfortunately, we’ll have disputes and lawsuits about all the words the Court used for years to come. Having great deference where it belongs–in school personnel expertise—is a plus and should help resolve disputes.

Fifth, 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, not a one-sided parent victory, as so many media reports seemed to imply.

In upcoming next blog I will explore two fascinating issues that I see in this decision. First, whether it’s time, finally, to divide the community of students served by this law into two groups—those served under the Rowley standard and those under Endrew F.

And second, let’s explore if, in emphasizing that a student like Endrew F’s progress needs to be based on his circumstances, does this decision lead us to question standardized testing and accountability (with all the imperfections of those tests and administration, including complex accommodation policies) for these students.

Stay tuned!

It’ll be a conversation between Chester Finn and myself about my book, opening the long-overdue national conversation, dreaming big, and building a new second-generation special education law. Here’s the notice!

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.



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.

Some comparisons.

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?