Special Education

A Special Case

March 01, 2004 3 min read

“A Special Case”

Stories in this series include ...

Not Separate, but Equal:
James Russell Lowell Elementary has shut down all of its special ed classrooms.

Tandem Teaching:
A cooperative approach at Clark Middle School asks special ed teachers to master new subjects.

Supplemental Success:
With a study-skills class, Cabrillo High School helps students with disabilities learn how to learn.

The notion that all children can—and should—meet challenging achievement standards has become the mantra of standards-based reform. Both in the individual school microcosm and in the larger academic universe, those standards boil down to numbers. And the numbers are telling.

Consider Byng Elementary School in Oklahoma, where 17 of the school’s 38 5th graders receive special education services. After 14 of those children scored below the “proficient” reading level on the state’s reading test during the 2002-03 school year, Byng missed its achievement target and failed to make “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

It’s a precursor of what’s to come: Within the next decade, federal law will require that all students—including the roughly 6 million now categorized as having some sort of disability—perform at the proficient level on state exams. The effects could be as striking as the laws that mandated full access to public schools in the mid-1970s; nearly 96 percent of students with disabilities are now served in regular school buildings. Today, thanks in part to the standards drive, more and more of those students—and their teachers—are joining their counterparts in mainstream classrooms.

Proponents argue that testing requirements will prompt schools to focus less on following legal procedures involving students with disabilities and more on their academic performance. Yet critics wonder whether those students will ever be able to meet the same stringent academic standards as their peers.

For its annual Quality Counts report, Teacher Magazine‘s sister publication, Education Week, commissioned a nationwide survey of 800 special and general education teachers and found that the majority share these concerns. While almost 60 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” disagree that their students with individualized education plans are unable to learn the material they’re supposed to, more than eight in 10 believe that special ed students should be expected to meet a separate set of academic standards. (See the accompanying stories for additional survey results, and visit www.edweek.org/sreports/qc04/ for state-by-state analyses as well as stories examining key trends and programs).

So far, the statistics about the performance of special ed students on such tests, widely available for the first time, seem to reflect teachers’ concerns. Of the 39 states reporting complete data to Education Week in the wake of NCLB, 30 reported achievement gaps of 30 percent or more between special and general education students scoring at or above the “proficient” level in 4th grade reading tests. At the high school level, 32 of 36 states reported similar disparities.

Along with such disparities, new federal requirements that special ed teachers be “highly qualified” in every subject they teach have encouraged more of these teachers, particularly at the secondary level, to present academic content in collaborative or team-teaching settings with their general education colleagues. Even at younger grade levels, resource rooms and self-contained classrooms are gradually disappearing. More than three in four of all public school teachers now teach some special ed students. In the stories that follow, we look at three different approaches at three grade levels.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Student Well-Being Online Summit Student Mental Health
Attend this summit to learn what the data tells us about student mental health, what schools can do, and best practices to support students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education What the Research Says Most Students With Disabilities Still Attend Remotely. Teachers Say They're Falling Behind
A new survey finds that students with disabilities are struggling in virtual classes, even with added support from teachers.
3 min read
Image shows a young femal student working on a computer from phone, interfacing with an adult female.
Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Special Education Whitepaper
A Comprehensive Guide to the IEP Process
Download this guide to learn strategies for bringing together all stakeholders to plan an IEP that addresses the whole child; using relia...
Content provided by n2y
Special Education What Biden's Pick for Ed. Secretary Discussed With Disability Rights Advocates
Advocates for students with disabilities want Biden to address discipline and the effects of COVID-19 on special education.
2 min read
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, as Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, look on.
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 23, 2020, as Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, left, look on.
Carolyn Kaster/AP
Special Education Schools Struggled to Serve Students With Disabilities, English-Learners During Shutdowns
The needs of students with IEPs and English-language learners were not often met after the pandemic struck, says a federal report.
3 min read
Young boy wearing a mask shown sheltering at home looking out a window with a stuffed animal.
Getty