Special Education

Alexa Posny to Step Down as Federal Special Education Chief

By Nirvi Shah — August 08, 2012 2 min read
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In a letter today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wished farewell to Alexa Posny, the head of the office of special education.

Posny’s last day as assistant secretary will be Friday.

Duncan said that after running the office since 2009, Posny will be returning to Madison, Wisc., “where she will continue her work in education as a senior vice president at Renaissance Learning, which sells screening programs, interventions, and progress-monitoring tools in mathematics and reading. For almost three years, Alexa has been a leader in [the office of special education and rehabilitative services], the department, and the administration on behalf of students with special needs,” he wrote in a letter to department staff today. “I hope you’ll join me in expressing my gratitude to Alexa for her service to our nation’s students.”

Michael Yudin, who most recently served as the deputy assistant secretary of the office for elementary and secondary education, will take over for Posny for now.

“He has done an exceptional job helping to lead the work on [NCLB waivers], and elevating the work of OESE in his role as acting assistant secretary,” Duncan wrote. “Michael is also no stranger to the disability community. Both as an advisor on the Hill, including work as a principal advisor on IDEA reauthorization in 2004, and before that as a director of employment for two leading national disability organizations, Michael has been a knowledgeable and tireless advocate for students with special needs.”

Could Posny’s departure mark the beginning of a flurry of appointees leaving the Obama administration? Perhaps.

Friday will mark the end of Posny’s second go-round at the department. In the Bush administration, she also served as director of the office of special education.

Posny indulged Education Week in a series of questions about how she came to work in special education and some of her goals for her latest stint at the department.

Before this gig, Posny served as commissioner of education in Kansas, deputy commissioner, and head of that state’s special education department.

As assistant secretary, Posny worked on preserving and expanding the inclusion of students with disabilities in various ways, but some disability advocates felt the department didn’t come down hard enough on reforming the restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities. In recent months, she has had to deal with a series of special education finance issues, including state-level and district-level spending requirements.

Prior to arriving at the Education Department, Posny served as the commissioner of education in Kansas. About two weeks ago, during a speech at an office of special education conference, Posny noted she’d had 23 jobs to date.

She did not allude to her departure but remarked on national progress made in educating students with disabilities.

“In 1975, we excluded 1.75 million students with disabilities,” Posny said at the meeting, noting the year that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed. Now, “we’re serving almost 7 million kids with disabilities.”

“We are now outpacing the rest of the world in terms of what’s good and what’s right,” Posny told the gathering, listing several “game-changers” for the disability education community to take hold of, including early-childhood education programs and better teacher training. “Our mission has not yet been accomplished.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.