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Principals Group Releases IDEA Recommendations

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The National Association of Secondary School Principals today released a set of recommendations for how lawmakers should change the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act when it's up for reauthorization in 2010.

The group formed a task force, made up of 11 acting middle and high school principals and assistant principals and four representatives from higher education institutions, in 2007 to study IDEA and how to improve it. These are the task force's nine recommendations, which touch on topics like assessments, paperwork, teacher shortages, and other issues that plague special education.

For more information on the following recommendations, check out the group's Web site .

NASSP said the new IDEA should:

*Assist states and districts in effectively recruiting and retaining highly qualified special education teachers.

*Expand professional development opportunities and technical assistance that aids teachers, school leaders, and support personnel to more effectively provide instructional and other services to all students with disabilities.

*Begin transition planning that includes measurable postsecondary goals and transition services by the time a student reaches the age of 14 or by eighth grade.

*Research and develop exemplary models in the areas of instructional and intervention strategies, assessment tools, development of individualized education programs (IEPs), and transition planning in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

*Ensure a linkage between states' data systems to streamline paperwork and increase consistent and appropriate access to services for students with disabilities who transfer between schools, districts, and states.

*Develop an assessment and accountability system for the purpose of calculating adequate yearly progress that allows for students with disabilities to be assessed at their current instructional level, as determined by the students' IEP teams.

*Provide incentives for highly qualified teachers to acquire dual certification in special education and general education.

*Create a common set of standards of care and assessments for each of the disabilities enumerated in IDEA.

*Fully fund IDEA.

What do you think the new IDEA should address? Please comment below.

8 Comments

They've got it wrong. IDEA reauthorization should include the following:

1. Serious enforcement of IDEA, via separation of enforcement and proactive programs via removal of enforcement from OSEP. 2. Requirement that the special education industry become thoroughly trained in research-validated methods and programs of instruction and remediation for kids with disabilities. 3. Elimination of abuse of children with disabilities, which is endemic. 4. Ending the artificial walls the education and special education industry have erected between schools and research from psychology, psychiatry and the like. 5. Requirement that school special ed staff and IEP Teams accept findings and recommendations from qualified outside treating medical and psychological professionals. 6. Institution of real accountability via easing requirements for parents to secure reimbursement for effective non-school remediation.

The overall data shows clearly that while there are many highly effective programs for teaching and remediating students with disabilities, the speducation and education industry do not know, nor use them. They are high level and require substantial professional training, an element which is sorely lacking in these industries.

I think these are very long over-due changes to the IDEA and am very pleased to see that they are being advocated by general education administrators. A particularly welcomed change is that of consistency between states with due process paperwork so that professionals in the field can efficiently procure appropriate services for students moving from another state.

Fully funding the IDEA is something that has been promised since the initial enactment of the act but one that the Congress has never delivered on. That we might see at least an increase in the percentage of full funding would perhaps be a more likely occurrence, though I am skeptical given the state of the country's economy. Nevertheless, in the long term interest of the nation's economic well being, it certainly makes sense that we make the effort to provide an excellent education to the most vulnerable segment of the population of America's school children. There is certainly no dearth of data that tell us what the consequences are for underserving the most at-risk students.

Dee Alpert wrote:

"5. Requirement that school special ed staff and IEP Teams accept findings and recommendations from qualified outside treating medical and psychological professionals. 6. Institution of real accountability via easing requirements for parents to secure reimbursement for effective non-school remediation."

No school or district should be forced to accept psychological assessment from outside professional. Quite often many of these outside professionals are not familiar with the IDEA criteria for assessment or for diagnosis and make inappropriate recommendations for school purposes. All outside reports should be reviewed by professionals who are trained in that area of assessment, understand the law, and understand how to connect assessment findings to evidence-based interventions in school settings.

Great another task force. All listed recommendations have been around forever. This is nothing new. How much money was spent on this?
Dee, you're spot on as usual.
It would be nice if school officials had the expertise and experience to be equal participates when discussing outside evals. They don't, not even close. Doctors' diagnoses and instructions are based on what's best for the child, not how to follow some government rule or decide if they can support a child based on funding.

Physicians are not the expert on how to teach students. So often, parents go to a physician tell them what to prescribe and then make the educational agency responsible. I have seem my share of physician's reports that show a student's ability level in the average range and yet they continue to recommend the development of an IEP without asking the school for any grades, teachers recommendations and/or state wide assessment scores. The physician solely indicates what the child needs based on the parental report. Meanwhile the school seeks information from a variety of sources which include parental information, medical statements, grades, file reviews, state test scores etc. It seems to me that information should be from a variety of sources not one as Dee suggests.

Parents and educational agencies should co-collaborate and share equal responsibility of educating our youth. So often, I see a parent fill out a developmental history that indicates the student watches 2.5 hours of TV each night and plays video games in the same amount of time. How can schools compete with this? And why do schools take the majority of the blame for not educating children.

What about the drug and alcohol effected students who would not have a disability if it weren't for parent choices. Why is the school now responsible to 'fix' what it did not create?

As for the task force? Fully funding IDEA would be a first step.

Seeking a way to reduce paperwork another. What parents may not realize is that the average resource room teacher spends 4 hours each day in meetings, overseeing their paraprofessionals, contacting parents, consulting with specialists, and general education and completing paperwork. This schedule leaves less than 4 hours a day to directly teach students.

Further, assessing students for their individual growth (growth rate) would be more individualized than the current law of NCLB which indicates that 100% students with disabilities will be at grade level by 2014. All students can learn and will learn but some learn at their own rate and speed no matter the interventions, strategies, instructional level and/or researched based strategies that are used.

In closing, the educational system is taking a very hard hit right now. I agree students with and without disabilities deserve a quality education however I do not believe that teachers or schools should be the scapegoat to ourloss of core educational values our country has come to accept in the last 40 years.

It would be nice if IDEA can somehow foster more effective and honest cooperation between schools and families. Currently schools are given the decision power and families a bunch of procedural safeguards, and the results are the two parties are pitted against each other fighting for things that are often irrelevant to education. True cooperation should benefit everyone, and as a first step you have to get rid of the mistrust that seems to loom around every meeting and conversation. But how? Can IDEA help?

Fully fund the RTI process. We are providing special education services pre- placement with too little funding! Sometimes this requires intervention for an entire year along with the bookeeping that comes with it, and little professional training to boot!

I worked as a special education teacher for 18 years and am now serving as a consultant in the field. I find it very disturbing that there are no special educators on this task force. A business practice, popular in the 90’s, Total Quality Management, suggests that if you want to improve a process, management must take into account the experiences and knowledge of those working in the area or process needing improvement. Why would it not make sense to use this thinking for the improvement of Special Education though legislation?
I also find it disturbing that working conditions for special educators is not being addressed equitably across the country or in discussion forums such as this. I believe all who enter special education go into it believing they can and wanting to help kids succeed. Some special educators have caseloads of 20 students with LD and are given the resources necessary to realize that dream. Others have caseloads of between 30 and 40 and lack adequate resources. Often, the best teachers become burnt out and perform “adequately” or leave Special Education all together. Federal legislation should address these working conditions if they want to retain good teachers in the field.

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