Fixing Special Education–ONE MONTH AT A TIME

It’s time for STEP Three!  As you know, every month in 2011, we’ll post a STEP  to FIX special education.  There are 12 steps. By December, our systemic transformation should be well underway! Please share your comments and let us know the steps you are taking to fix special education. 

 March 2011—Step Three to bring about climate change in our schools

 Reduce the bureaucratic morass. Paperwork is NOT education. Documents DON”T teach.  

 Most folks agree that bureaucracy gets in the way of education. We have NO evidence that more paperwork advances student outcomes.   The challenge is real:  back in 2002, this law fostered 814 provisions for compliance by public agencies (school districts, charter schools, and states).

 The truth, of course, is that no school or state can comply with all the requirements. It’s a minefield. So, in a futile attempt to do so, they focus attention on regulations and bureaucracy—not teaching and learning.  One state director testified before Congress, “The paperwork burden is fundamentally detracting from the education of students with disabilities.”

Need we say more?  But how to fix it?

 For starters, let us analyze every piece of paper (including those over-the-top 30-page IEPs), every meeting, and every process: Does it advance student learning? If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t end it.  With such a review, I expect many procedures to end.

 Recall President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech:   “The question we ask is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works…. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”

 One successful approach is Procedures Lite. This is the innovation sparked at Special Education Day. Through it, parents and schools who are working well together can voluntarily agree in writing to bypass regulations and meetings and, instead, jointly work for the benefit of the child. At all times, the parties know that they can stop the Procedures Lite approach and revert to following the procedural requirements.

 The feedback from schools and parents who are using Procedures Lite is extremely positive. For more information, please email me at

 Creative open-minded problem solvers—we need you now!


These steps are taken from Fixing Special Education—12 Steps to Transform a Broken SystemThe book is available at School Law Pro: and at 

Park Place Publications at

 Stay tuned for April’s STEP!

About Miriam

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA—an expert in public education, focused on special education law— is a lawyer, author, speaker, consultant, and reformer. For more than 35 years, Miriam worked with educators, parents, policy makers, and citizens to translate complex legalese into plain English and focus on good practices for children. Now, she focuses her passion on reforming special education, with her new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law. Presentations include those at the AASA Conference, Orange County (CA), Boston College (MA), CADRE (OR), and the Fordham Institute (DC). Her writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, Education Next, Hoover Digest, The University of Chicago Law Review on line,, and The Atlantic Monthly on line.

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