Special Education

Head of Special Education, Rehabilitative Services Leaving Education Department

By Christina A. Samuels — April 06, 2016 2 min read
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Michael Yudin, the assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, is leaving the U.S. Department of Education April 30.

Yudin has been with the Education Department since 2010 in a variety of capacities. He
became acting secretary of the office of special education and rehabilitative Services, or OSERS, in August 2012, and was officially confirmed in that position in June 2015.

In an email to department colleagues Wednesday, Yudin did not give a reason for his departure or what his future plans entail. “It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to work on behalf” of President Barack Obama, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and current Secretary John B. King Jr., the email said.

The department will be led by Sue Swenson, currently the deputy assistant secretary. “While leaving OSERS and the department is challenging for me personally, I am comforted by the knowledge that our friend and my partner Sue will serve in this capacity,” Yudin wrote in his email.

The office of special education and rehabilitative services oversees the office of special
education programs, or OSEP, and the rehabilitation services administration. OSEP is also being led by an interim chief; former director Melody Musgrove stepped down last year.

During Yudin’s tenure, the office of special education programs shifted its state monitoring focus to what it called “results-driven accountability,” with the intent of boosting state attention to the academic performance of students with disabilities, rather than focusing primarily on adherence to the rules of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

During Yudin’s time as assistant secretary, the Education Department’s office for civil rights also increased its monitoring of discrimination complaints on the basis of student disability. He co-wrote several “Dear Colleague” guidance letters to state officials, including on dyslexia, aligning individualized education programs to state academic standards, and state requirements to meet the communication needs of students with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities under the IDEA, as well as under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Recently, the department rolled out a proposal that would require more districts to use federal special education money to support early-intervention programs for students with and without disabilities.

The department said that many school districts disproportionately identify minority students as needing special education services, and those minority students are also placed in separate educational settings or suspended or expelled more often than their white peers.

“We can’t begin this hard work unless we’re honest and forthright about the disparities that we see,” Yudin said when the proposed new rule was announced in February.

Prior to his work at OSERS, Yudin served as acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary of the office of elementary and secondary education. He also worked for nine years in the U.S. Senate—as legislative director for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, senior counsel to former Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and committee counsel to the late Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, all Democrats.

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