Opinion
Special Education Opinion

A Commentary by Betsy DeVos: ‘Tolerating Low Expectations for Children With Disabilities Must End’

By Betsy DeVos — December 08, 2017 2 min read
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pauses while speaking with the media on July 13, 2017, in Washington.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision. The justices ruled 8-0 in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that Endrew, a child with autism, was entitled to an educational program that required more than the “de minimis"—or minimum—progress set by his assigned school.

This landmark decision was rightly hailed as a victory for the millions of children with disabilities and their families in America today. Too often, the families of disabled children have felt that their children are not being adequately challenged academically or given the support needed to grow and thrive.

Unfortunately, stories like the one in this case are not uncommon. Too many parents of children with disabilities see their son or daughter’s individualized education program, or IEP, little changed from year to year. To these parents, it often seems as if the school district is content with simply passing their child along, rather than focusing on helping him or her progress and grow academically. They recognize that the de minimis standard isn’t working for their child, but, sadly, they often do not have the opportunity to access something better.

When it comes to educating students with disabilities, failure is not acceptable. De minimis isn’t either.

When it comes to educating students with disabilities, failure is not acceptable."

That’s why this week the U.S. Department of Education released a Q&A document to inform families, educators, and administrators of the impact of the court’s decision on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, and the scope of the free, appropriate public education, or FAPE, requirements under the law.

The court’s decision gave legal weight to what so many parents and educators already knew to be true: In order to excel, each child must have an education program that is appropriately ambitious in light of his or her circumstances. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s opinion emphasized the individualized decision-making required in the IEP process and the need to ensure that every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.

No two children are the same. Each has his or her own unique abilities and needs. Personalized, student-centered education can help all children thrive, especially children with disabilities. Their education should embrace their diverse traits and aspirations, rather than limiting them with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Student success requires we put each child at the center of everything we do. Low standards and de minimis expectations tell our students that we don’t have hope for them. That we don’t believe in them. But we do. Tolerating low-expectations for children with disabilities must end. Challenging children with disabilities empowers them, and doing so gives them the hope of living successful, independent lives.

Every student should be loved and respected, and with our help, they can gain the tools to grow and become everything they want to be.

Every family should have the ability to choose the learning environment that is right for their child. They shouldn’t have to sue their way to the U.S. Supreme Court to get it. Thanks to the Court’s landmark unanimous decision, other families won’t have to.

Follow the Education Week Commentary section on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up to get the latest Education Week Commentaries in your email inbox.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

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.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
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.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

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 3 Reasons Why Being a Special Education Teacher Is Even Harder During the Pandemic
Special education teachers were often left to navigate the pandemic on their own, a new survey shows.
6 min read
Paraprofessional Jessica Wein helps Josh Nazzaro answer questions from his teacher while attending class virtually from his home in Wharton, N.J.
Paraprofessional Jessica Wein helps Josh Nazzaro answer questions from his teacher while attending class virtually from his home in Wharton, N.J.
Seth Wenig/AP
Special Education Opinion Inclusive Teachers Must Be 'Asset-Based Believers'
Four veteran educators share tips on supporting students with learning differences as they return to classrooms during this pandemic year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education Opinion 20 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences This Year
Embed student voices and perspectives into the classroom is one piece of advice educators offer in this third pandemic-affected school year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education Schools Must Identify Students With Disabilities Despite Pandemic Hurdles, Ed. Dept. Says
Guidance stresses schools' responsibilities to those with disabilities, while noting that federal COVID aid can be used to address backlogs.
2 min read
School children in classroom with teacher, wearing face masks and raised hands
DigitalVision/Vectors/Getty