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Special Education in the Music City

Wrapping up what has become Inclusion Week here at On Special Education, here's news on an advisory council, created by the Mayor of Nashville, that released a report (pdf) on the problems it sees with special education in the 75,000-student Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The committee's abridged recommendations:

*Inclusive practices should be adopted comprehensively across MNPS.

*Support of students receiving special education services must become a concern of leadership of the district, not the responsibility of just those in the special education department.

*Communication between educators, administrators, and families must improve for positive change to occur within MNPS.

*Professional development and training must be appropriate, sufficiently comprehensive, and accessible for all MNPS personnel for the successful conversion of MNPS to an inclusive practices model.

*All students must have access to the general curriculum.

*Effective reading instruction must be available to all MNPS students.

*Consistent disciplinary procedures that incorporate Positive Behavior Support (PBS) strategies should be adopted by MNPS.

*Transition services should be developed immediately to ensure that all high school students are prepared to fully participate in the community with the appropriate supports after exiting MNPS.

*Data collection and data-based decision making should be implemented across MNPS.

*Transportation to and from school should convert to an inclusive model, mirroring the efforts made in classrooms.

The panel's recommendations seem to go to the very foundation of what a good special education system should be. But the panel also noted that another task force came up with the same recommendations a decade ago, and nothing changed. The members wrote:

The message coming from our community – from students, from families, from educators, and from advocates – is strong and clear. We can no longer afford to be a district that does not provide the necessary supports and services for the success of ALL students. For too long, our students with disabilities have had too little and too late. And, with great resources in this city, we know we can do better.

The Nashville Tennessean newspaper weighed in on the report, as well as the Nashville City Paper in this article. Apparently, a state evaluation of special education services in the city deemed them "horrifying."

My somewhat-unrelated question, when I first heard about this task force: why would the mayor create an advisory council to examine educational practices in Nashville, as opposed to school leadership? Turns out that Mayor Karl Dean may be interested in taking a much more active role in the running of the school system. Does that mean these recommendations will actually be implemented? This will be interesting to watch.

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