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Tackling Virtual Spec. Ed. Issues

A couple months ago, I talked with Paula Burdette, the director of Project Forum for the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, or NASDSE, for a story I wrote about virtual special education. As I began delving into the topic, I was shocked at how little information existed about supporting students with disabilities in virtual school environments. At the time, Burdette was in the middle of putting together a document that would outline some of the major issues faced by virtual schools and the special education students they serve, culled from a forum of experts on the topic.

That document has now been released, and it is one of the most comprehensive that I've seen. It includes everything from the federal perspective to the state virtual school perspective, to rural schools as well as the parent's point of view.

In addition, the group broke down key issues into seven categories: personnel quality and preparation, accessibility for students with disabilities, accountability, IEP issues, roles and responsibilities, financial issues, and attitudes and expectations regarding virtual special education. Underneath each key issue is a list of recommendations for how to address it. And although there are many issues that need to be worked out as virtual special education moves forward, participants at the forum also discussed some of the benefits that online learning can provide students with disabilities, such as individualized instruction and pacing, lack of peer distractions and/or conflict, and a leveling of the academic and social playing field through new technologies, among others.

There's much to learn in this document for policymakers, online educators, and parents of special education students, and I highly recommend taking a second to peruse the findings. The document was produced with federal funding and is available for free to download at the Project Forum website.

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