To the Editor:
“Special Education’s Future,” one of Education Week‘s 10 Big Ideas (January 9, 2019), suggests that the broken special education system is flawed in many ways, including issues with “child find,” eligibility labels, response to intervention, funding, and more. I hope the article spurs a national conversation and true systemic change for all students—disabled and not.
The article raises questions that Congress needs to answer, including one about the cost of special education, which is spot on. We need to know the real costs of general and special education for these students. However, the question raised about inequalities in due process doesn’t go far enough, as it assumes that a more-equitable due process is the path forward.
Of course, schools need equity, but it’s time to remove litigation from classrooms and rebuild effective schooling for all. The current one-size-fits-all legal system no longer works well, especially as students fall into two groups identified in the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District: those with severe/profound needs and the vast majority with mild/moderate needs who are mostly in general education classrooms. It’s time to create alternatives to due process for the latter.
In terms of inclusion, do policies help or hurt? To answer this, we must focus on all students—general and special education—especially as data are often incomplete, invalid, or misleading. Why do we continue to label students when it often impedes good teaching? Consider “wait to fail,” whereby students aren’t served until after they fall far behind and get labeled. This contradicts solid early-intervention research.
I agree that a revival of activism could fix what’s broken. Let’s get going!
Attorney and Author
A version of this article appeared in the March 20, 2019 edition of Education Week as Let’s Have a National Discussion