The federally mandated education teams that are supposed to ensure special education students get individualized instruction are failing those students in Baltimore, a recent study involving the city’s school district concludes.
The individualized-education-plan teams at each school in the 95,000-student district are supposed to create programs that ensure rigorous instruction in the least restrictive environment for special education students. Yet the iep teams are not trained in the most effective educational programs, nor are they able to tailor plans to pupils’ needs, according to the study distributed by the Baltimore-based Abell Foundation, which allocates grants to human-services organizations in the city.
The result, said the report’s author, Kalman R. Hettleman, is that students are failing to meet their potential and teachers are overwhelmed by the system. “My impression is that this is par for the course nationally,” said Mr. Hettleman, an educational consultant and a former Baltimore school board member.
Mr. Hettleman based his report in part on his firsthand experience as a lawyer for more than 25 children in over 60 IEP hearings. The school system has made strides in improving its instruction for general education students, Mr. Hettleman said. But in his view, a 20-year-old special education lawsuit, which has focused on ensuring that federal procedures are followed, has not worked as well in improving the quality of schooling for students needing special education.
Gayle Amos, the student-support-services officer for the Baltimore district, said that Mr. Hettleman has an adversarial relationship with the district.
“He’s just really misinformed,” she said.
She agreed, though, that the IEP teams at each school need to do a better job integrating Baltimore’s 14,600 special education children into the general population.
“I think we do need to do a lot of work in training and developing quality IEPs,” Ms. Amos said. “[The teams are] the people who need to be the link between regular and special education,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2005 edition of Education Week