End special ed

It’s time to end special education, writes Matt Richmond, co-author of Financing the Education of High-Need Students. The special ed model, developed in the 1970s to end the exclusion of “handicapped” students, is “broken,” he writes.

It assumes that only students diagnosed with a disability have needs that require attention and support. The student who reads poorly due to dyslexia gets special help. The student who reads poorly because his parents didn’t read to him – or his family moved three times when he was in first grade — is out of luck.

Monitor all students’ progress and help those who need it, without requiring them to fall into a disability category, argues Richmond. Response to Intervention is an effective model, ” but current laws limit its potential reach.”

Tearing down the divide between special education and general education would benefit everyone. The disability label is not necessary or helpful; it does not define the needs of a child or his potential — nor does the absence of a medical disability negate a child’s struggles or measure his advantage. Our laws and funding structures have created a line which is harshly demarcated but entirely meaningless. In reality, there are no special-ed kids or general-ed kids; there are simply children who need an education. Each one unique. Each one requiring special attention. And every one deserving it.

The special ed funding formula is badly out of date, writes Clare McCann on The Hill. Federal funds are based on old enrollment numbers: Districts with declining enrollment get more federal dollars per student than growing districts. In addition, small states get more than larger states.

Congress was supposed to reauthorize and revise the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) several years ago. 

Good teaching prevents learning disabilities

The learning disabilities epidemic may be waning, writes Mike Petrilli on Education Next.

In Rethinking Special Education for a New Century, Fordham and the Progressive Policy Institute argued that “most children with learning disabilities suffered from poor reading instruction, not an underlying neurological problem.” Good prevention programs could prevent children from being designated as learning disabled, they wrote.

This thinking found its way into the No Child Left Behind act via the Reading First program, and into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act via “Response to Intervention” strategies. In both cases, the focus was on identifying children at risk for reading problems early, and intervening quickly with research-based, rigorous, direct instruction.

The percentage of kids with learning disabilities, which was rising rapidly, has  dropped by 11 percent in five years, Petrilli writes. Why aren’t we talking about that? It’s not that often that something works in education.

Intervening with ELLs

Response to Intervention — extra help for kids who are starting to fall behind — works well for students who aren’t fluent in English, reports Education Week. RTI is designed to keep students from being designated as learning disabled by “catching them before they fall.”

In Chula Vista and across the country, response to intervention provides instructional triage with three “tiers.” All students receive Tier 1 instruction, in which teachers ideally take into account the individual needs of students in their regular instruction. In Tier 2, a subset of students who need additional help receives interventions in small groups, which in Chula Vista are provided by teachers in regular classrooms and while students are pulled out of class, such as for the reading clinic at Rice Elementary. Lastly, some students are identified for Tier 3; they receive even more intensive help, such as daily one-on-one instruction . . .

Teaching well in Tier 1 is critical.