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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday! As befits the season, I'm spinning interesting bits of news here and there into a blog post. I wouldn't call these "leftovers," though...more like yummy tidbits:

J.G. Fabiano, a teacher in York Maine writing for the Portsmouth Herald, says that special education has morphed into an "800 pound gorilla:

I am by no means saying the special education laws protecting our real-special- students should be eliminated. For the past few decades, I have watched wonderful committed educators help children who could not have survived in any secondary environment. The problem I have is too many children are being coded into special education because the school and the parents do not want to take responsibility for the child.

Milwaukee Public Schools has entered the third phase of a class-action lawsuit that claims the district did not properly education students with special education needs:

The latest round in court was focused on what should be done for children who were in the school system from 2000 to 2005, the timeframe the suit addresses. MPS leaders fear that the "compensatory education" that could be ordered by a federal judge would cost additional millions.

Disability Rights Wisconsin, the organization whose attorneys represent the class, argues that MPS has done little to correct its flawed system since September 2007, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Aaron Goodstein found that the district had failed to meet the requirements of federal special education law related to identifying and evaluating students suspected to have disabilities.

A new center for family and child research at Chattanooga, Tenn.'s Siskin Children's Institute promises results for students with disabilities.

The Rhode Island School for the Deaf struggles to survive. (See my story on deaf education here.)

Maria Lourdes Angala, a special education teacher in Washington D.C., has a wealth of interesting posts and links on her blog, found here. Be sure to check out her posts describing her quest for national board certification.

1 Comment

I don't know that I agree that our 800 pound gorilla has grown due to an unwillingness of parents and schools to accept responsibility for students. But I am aware that other countries have different systems that identify fewer--and more profoundly disabled students, and appear to have a better grip on education across the board. In Japan the numbers are very, very small (about 1%) of their population who receive specialized services--roughly the population who qualify for IEP-based testing in this country. All others receive education with their peers, and without identification. As I understand it, the Japanese are deeply, deeply opposed to labelling systems--so that it is difficult to look at the impact of education on subpopulations (they don't keep data in that way)--but overall, they tend to do very well.

Finland has a much more successful tiered system. They have something of an intermediary category of "part-time" special education--aimed at remediation and return, and takes the form of pull outs or extra classes, all under the supervision of/coordination with the regular class teacher.

I think your guest last week, George Theoharis, said it very well. We tend to mystify special education and send kids all over the place looking for these mystical solutions, that might very well be provided in the classroom where they started, or that don't really exist after all. As long as we keep creating these special islands, we will keep finding kids to fill them.

This is not to excuse in any way what has happened in Milwaukee (or DC or NYC, or lots of other places). I just have a lot of doubts about the kinds of things that we tend to provide for the kids who don't warrant class action. In districts where we can document that all the kids got a smaller classroom and a certificated special education teacher, the court case would be much weaker. But is the education any stronger?

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