Educators have heard many gripes from parents, teachers, and advocates who want to see change in special education.
But a new survey suggests parents of special education students tend to be satisfied with the services.
Sixty- seven percent of the parents of special education students interviewed rated their schools as “good” or “excellent” at providing special education.
That finding emerged from the survey released last week by Public Agenda, a nonprofit, New York City-based opinion-research group, in a report titled “When It’s Your Own Child: A Report on Special Education From the Families Who Use It.”
The survey, based on 510 phone interviews of parents around the country conducted in April and May, was sponsored jointly by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and the 21st Century Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, a coalition with philosophical leanings across the spectrum.
Most parents disagreed with the notion that special education is a “dumping ground” for difficult students, the report says. Instead, they were more likely to say they had to struggle to get their children the services they needed. Only 11 percent said they felt their schools had been in a rush to find a problem with their children. More than half the parents said their schools took the right approach.
Nearly 69 percent said they believe early intervention could have kept many students out of special education. But they didn’t place the blame squarely on educators’ shoulders. About 70 percent said some children were losing out on special education because their parents were unaware of services available.
About half the parents rated their schools as “good” or “excellent” at providing enough resources for special education. A third of parents said their schools needed improvement. And 10 percent said their schools were “failing” to provide adequate resources.
Another finding suggests the stigma of being in special education could be receding: About 69 percent of parents polled think there is less of a negative association with special education than in years past.
One special education advocate said she was delighted at some of the findings.
“It’s heartening,” said Lynda Van Kuren, a spokeswoman for the Council for Exceptional Children, based in Arlington, Va. “We have been saying for years that special education is doing a good job. The survey bears this out.”
—Lisa Fine firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 2002 edition of Education Week