Thanks for focusing on gifted kids.  Long overdue!  It’s too bad, however, that this is the label we use–as the retort is that everyone is gifted in something, that it is elitist, and that the so-called ‘gifted’ will take care of themselves. Clearly, this article tells us, that they need our focus for their sake and, I would add, for our country’s.

I have always believed that we can get more traction to focus on these students if we use a more attractive ‘label’ for them. Words have meaning and convey message.  How about ‘future leaders?’ or ‘America’s promise kids?’ or ‘potential reachers?’ or  ‘A-Z students?’  or  ‘Achievers’? or ??????  None of these suggestions is the final good choice, but we do need a new label that focuses on the outcomes we wish for these students, rather than the potential they bring to education and our future.

I read this article with great anticipation. Alas, it provided no answers.   It just called for more studies and some handwringing.

In my view, in order to ‘find efficiences’ in special ed, we need to first make special ed work for students. StudentsFirst, to quote Michelle Rhee’s new group.  It should not be designed to work for adults, bureaucrats, lawyers, and others, adding ever more requirements and procedures.  We don’t even know how much is spent in classrooms and how much in hearing and courtrooms, and departments of education. Let’s start there.

An informal study by a special ed director in Massachusetts several years ago found that special education teachers get to spend just 19% of their time actually teaching. The rest of the time is taken up with activities which do NOT improve results.

It makes no sense to ‘save’ money if we don’t first fix this broken system. There are far better ways to focus on educating students with disabilities and we need to work to implement them. Sure, it’s a long road ahead, but we must start.

Alas, my aching back did not permit me to attend the conference and present the 12 step agenda for fixing special education.  I believe it would have been a thought-and-discussion-and action provoking session. It’s really too bad. 

Hopefully, with the meds I’m taking and the physical therapy (I’m sure many of you know the drill), I should improve quickly. Here’s to next year!  I always love the ACSA meeting in Monterey. 

So, here is a link to the presentation.  Let me know your thoughts!  It’s time to fix the special education system!


David Brooks writes that our national debate should not be about the size of government–it should be about the effectiveness of government. Will it achieve our goals? Will it spur achievement and investment by Americans.

 Hmmmmm, sounds to me a lot like education, and especially, special education.   In special education, we argue endlessly about how much time, how many services, how often, etc. The inputs.  The size of programs. The costs. etc.

We don’t focus nearly enough attenion on the outputs. Does the program work? Is it achieving the goals?  In short, does it help the child learn more?

As Mr. Brooks  writes in the broader context, the debate should be about the quality and effectiveness of serivdes, not the quantity of them. Hear hear!

Happy New Year! 

In 2011, every month, we’ll post a STEP on the way to FIX special education–one month at a time.  There are 12 steps. By December, our transformation of the system should be well underway!

Please  share your comments and let us know what steps you are taking to fix special education. 

Happy new year! Happy transformation!

Step ONE:  January 2011—Step one to bring about climate change in our schools

 End litigation of a student’s special education services (FAPE).  Although lawsuits may have been appropriate in an earlier era, they no longer are. The system has become dysfunctional. Lawyers, judges, and outside ‘experts’ should not be selecting reading programs or deciding how to teach a child with autism. We need to let educators do that!

To end this rampant litigation, we need to define a free appropriate public education (FAPE) once and for all. Just tell us what the law requires! After 35 years of arguing about a FAPE, it’s time for Congress to define terms so teachers can teach (and not worry constantly about paperwork and threats of litigation) and students can learn.  Pedagogy (‘good teaching’ practices) should drive education—not legalism.

Getting practical, one approach is SpedEx–an innovative way for parents and schools to resolve a disputed IEP with the help of a mutually-chosen outside consultant–fully funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education!   SpedEx is quick! It’s child-centered! It builds relationships and trust among school personnel and parents!  It works!

SpedEx evolved from discussions at Special Education Day.   SpedEx is now successfully launched!  For more information, please visit

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 February’s STEP!