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.

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, DianeRavitch.net, and The Atlantic Monthly on line.

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