Special Education

Around the Web

By Christina A. Samuels — January 05, 2009 1 min read

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m taking a reporting trip this week that will have me posting lightly until Jan. 12 (teaser: it involves RTI!) But you won’t have to go without special education reading. Here’s some blog posts I have picked up in the past few days:

Jay P. Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, slices and dices numbers in a blog post that rebuts the idea that special education costs are to blame for rising per-pupil costs.

School officials — people who should know better — play upon this popular prejudice to rationalize their failures. They would never dare blame the programs that have been created or expanded in the last three decades for the education of poor and minority students. Those programs also cost quite a lot of money. No, school officials choose to blame special ed because it seems like blaming fate.

Andrea Hermitt, a blogger for the Examiner New York (part of a group of city-based news portals, suggests that family affluence may play a role in how parents see special education. An excerpt:

As I see it, affluent people want more services for children labeled Special Ed. Meanwhile, lower income, and minorities who feel that children are being unfairly labeled don’t want to end up in the system at all where they won’t get the help even if they need it.

Interesting thought, and worth reading the whole post, as well as an early one by the same writer on “the rush to label children.” I noted that Ms. Hermitt makes an assumption that I have also made, which is thinking of special education as a “place” and not a set of services that are designed to, as Harvard prof Thomas Hehir puts it, “minimize the impact of disability and maximize the opportunities for participation.” Sometimes that may mean taking students out of mainstream education. But special education should not be synonymous with separate placement.

Disability Scoop, a new blog, has a Q&A with a parent attorney about individualized education programs. Marcy Tiffany, the attorney, offers her top three tips for parents:

Try to avoid becoming adversarial. You want to focus on what the child’s needs are, not simply complain about what’s not happening. Once an IEP meeting becomes adversarial, it’s usually not going to be very productive. Many parents bring food, which helps to relax the environment. Another mistake is lack of preparation. You must know what it is that you want to focus on and don’t rely on the school district to set the agenda.

For the third tip, read the entire entry on the Disability Scoop website. Funny -- this is the second time I’ve heard about bringing food to IEP meetings. Is this really the key to friendly meetings? Could due process hearings be warded off with freshly-baked cookies? Someone needs to get to the bottom of this.

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