The No Child Left Behind Act has to offer a way for general education teachers to receive professional development so they can teach students with special needs effectively, said three researchers that I interviewed as part of a story on a study by the National Council on Disability, “The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Progress Report.”
Considering all the information that the presidential advisory council compiled for its report, I found it interesting that this issue came up repeatedly.
“When it comes down to the school level, that’s the challenge. They’re the ones who have to make it happen,” said Watson Scott Swail, the president of the Eductional Policy Institute in Virginia Beach, Va. His organization, along with the American Youth Policy Forum, conducted the study for the council.
Betsy Brand, the director of AYPF, said this becomes more important as larger numbers of students with disabilities are included in general education classes. Special education teachers get specific training on how to present instruction in a variety of ways, but the general education teachers need those skills too. “I don’t think that most of our general education training comes from that perspective,” she told me.
Martin Gould, the director of research and technology for the council, believes the issue may have been obscured in some of the early conversations about reauthorizing NCLB. Elementary teachers seem to fare a little better in their ability to present information to different types of learners, but all teachers need to have the skill, he said.
What do teachers think? Do general education teachers feel prepared to meet the needs of all the different types of students they may see in their classrooms? Is there a way to incorporate this kind of professional development into NCLB? Check out the report, especially the parts that focus on “capacity building,” and let me know what you think.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.