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Hometown Disability Advocacy Group Offers Goals for Duncan

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Arne Duncan couldn't have had a smoother path to his confirmation today: he was lauded by Republicans and Democrats alike for his school reform efforts.

But a disability advocacy group in Chicago, the district he led for 7 years, has a different view of Duncan's legacy in that city. The group also has some suggestions to offer the new secretary of education as he starts in his new role.

Access Living, which represents people with disabilities of all types across the age spectrum, has had tough words for the Chicago Public Schools' efforts with children in special education. This recent report (pdf) from the group on the district's school budget suggests that the district has made reductions in staff, to the detriment of students with disabilities. Generally, students with disabilities in the system have results that lag far behind their typically-developing peers, the group says.

In a statement (pdf), Access Living would like to see a commitment to "school abuse" like aversive and electroshock therapies, the integration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education act with No Child Left Behind, and improved transition services for people with disabilities.

Advocacy groups are also saying that the next heads of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and the Office of Special Education Programs are vitally important. Feel free to drop any names that you may be hearing...

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I am excited and delighted to read Access Living's perspectives on RtI in their FY '09 CPS budget review (see Christina's link above), especially the points quoted below:

"...But we are completely opposed to an RtI process that has no time limits and can go on indefinitely without moving to a full individualized evaluation of students as is required by IDEA. One reason it can go on indefinitely is because urban teachers with numerous low performing students in front of them will not have the time to implement effective interventions for these students and will not have the time to properly document those interventions. ..."


"There is much talk of “inclusion” and “differentiated instruction” in special education circles that does not focus on improved academic skills for students with disabilities. In this literature it is expected that a regular education teacher will be able [to]differentiate instruction for students with disabilities without understanding the ramifications of these students’ disabilities on their learning process. The heart of the problem is the separation between special education and regular education teachers’ knowledge base.”

The entire report is a powerful advocacy piece for those with disabilities, their families, and their teachers. It provides viable solutions, and tells it like it is. I will be sharing this with many colleagues.

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