On Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Alexa Posny, who oversees special education, answered questions via Twitter as part of the Council for Exceptional Children's annual convention. (Howdy from Denver!) Here's some of what they had to say:
There were several questions about a recent letter discussing school districts' spending obligations on students with disabilities.
"DOE recently reversed MOE guidance. This remains a concern for many districts - Can we expect further info from DOE on MOE [maintenance of effort]?" asked @CECAdvocacy.
"Absolutely," Duncan tweeted back. "Focus on results w/ input from stakeholders over the next few months."
In response to a related question about how the feds would ensure that districts maintain the integrity of special education in a time of constricting budgets, Posny said "The bottom line is: All districts ensure FAPE [free, appropriate public education] in LRE [least-restrictive environment] and ED [the education department] will hold states accountable for FAPE."
The pair were also asked about the use of so called "2 percent" tests—tests used to measure the progress of some students with disabilities that are modified in comparison with tests for students without disabilities, and, according to some, misused.
"We are committed to moving away from the 2% policy & we are considering options," Duncan said.
He also encouraged schools to spend less on textbooks and more on educational technology that could be used to help students with disabilities access the curriculum as easily as their peers. They also reacted to questions about bills that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which includes provisions about employing people with disabilities. Some adults with disabilities work in so-called "sheltered workshops" where they interact little with adults who do not have disabilities and are paid less than minimum wage.
"We are highly engaged in the WIA dialogue & looking at competitive & integrated employment," Posny tweeted.
Here's a complete transcript of the Twitter town hall meeting.