Special Education

Get to Know Alexa Posny, Head of OSERS, Part 3

January 26, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

We wanted readers to get a chance to know Alexa Posny, who has held the role of assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services since the Senate confirmed her in October.

So Education Week submitted questions to Posny, the former Kansas education commissioner, and she sent back written responses, which we will print in this column in a few installments.

President Obama nominated Posny to the key federal post in July. The job has meant a return to Washington for Posny, who was director of the Education Department’s office of special education in 2006-07. She had been the Kansas commissioner of education since June 2007.

For part one of the interview click here. For part two of the interview click here.

Q. What did you learn last time about how Washington works, that you think will make your second time here different?

A. Washington is a remarkable venue within which to work. The focus is on legislative priorities that the majority of people perceive as important and game-changing. This is very similar to the work at a state level.

With that in mind, the most important thing I learned last time about how Washington works, is that making changes in policy leading to more effective practice takes time and patience. The outcomes and benefits are well worth the tremendous effort making effective policy changes take.

I also learned to never give up. If what we are trying to accomplish is truly important and the right avenue to take, then helping others understand why the change is needed and what benefits will be accrued is essential.

To move ideas forward then, you must have data, evidence, credibility, and a relentless focus on doing what’s best for the students.

Q. What issues should the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act reauthorization address?

A. The IDEA reauthorization should address the same issues that will soon be addressed in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization process. These issues also form the crux of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded reforms. They are:

  • A focus on high standards and rigorous assessments for every child.
  • Involving the most effective teachers and administrators in the system.
  • Providing intensive support for every school that struggles at any point in time.
  • Linking data systems to instruction and accountability systems.

Addressing these should not compromise IDEA’s overarching goals to:

  • Meet the unique needs of every child who might be in need of special education services.
  • Enhance effectiveness of what is provided throughout the system.
  • Empower parents to be partners of their children’s education.
  • Stressed the need for intervening early.
  • Accountability for results.

I don’t have any magical answers to how these will all be addressed in reauthorization or what the revised legislation might look like, but I’m looking forward to involving as many people as possible in that conversation--just as I’m glad to be part of the current conversations about ESEA reauthorization.

Photo of Alexa Posny, Director of The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the Department of Education, laughs during a staff meeting on Dec. 21, 2006, in Washington. Christopher Powers/Education Week-File

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


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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

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 Can AI Help With Special Ed.? There's Promise—and Reason to Be Cautious
Some special education professionals are experimenting with the technology.
3 min read
Photo collage of woman using tablet computer and AI icon.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Special Education Many Students Can Get Special Ed. Until Age 22. What Districts Should Do
School districts' responsibilities under federal special education law aren't always clear-cut.
4 min read
Instructor working with adult special needs student.
Special Education How a Mindset Shift Can Help Solve Special Education Misidentification
Many educators face the problem of misidentification of special education students. Here are strategies educators are using to fix it.
3 min read
Timothy Allison, a collaborative special education teacher in Birmingham, Ala., works with a student at Sun Valley Elementary School on Sept. 8, 2022.
Timothy Allison, a collaborative special education teacher in Birmingham, Ala., works with a student at Sun Valley Elementary School on Sept. 8, 2022.
Jay Reeves/AP
Special Education Impact of Missed Special Ed. Evaluations Could Echo for Years
The onset of COVID-19 slowed special education identification. Four years later, a new study hints at the massive scale of the impact.
6 min read
Blank puzzle pieces in a bunch with a person icon tile standing alone to the side.
Liz Yap/Education Week with iStock/Getty