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.

https://edexcellence.net/events/more-than-overdue-special-ed-20-a-conversation-with-miriam-kurtzig-freedman

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, http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/03/22/521094752/the-supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-a-special-education-student https://www.bing.com/search?q=endrew%20f.%20v.%20douglas%20county%20decision%20washington%20post&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&pq=endrew%20f.%20v.%20douglas%20county%20decision%20washington%20post&sc=0-52&sk=&cvid=E7B3D93F12014A24B842955DCBBCD39E

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!

https://edexcellence.net/events/more-than-overdue-special-ed-20-a-conversation-with-miriam-kurtzig-freedman?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=1b180d3e70-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-1b180d3e70-71520013&mc_cid=1b180d3e70&mc_eid=c3cdf53c06

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!”

Indeed.

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.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/03/29/why-im-worried-about-the-future-of.html

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?

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,
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-scotus-schools-disabled-20170322-story.html; http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/03/22/521094752/the-supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-a-special-education-student

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.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/high-court-ruling-on-disabled-students-tied-to-trump-nominee-1490206461#livefyre-toggle-SB11947127629032933928704583038770043163186″