Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman

Part 3: Special Education 2.0 – Built on five new bedrock directions

  • Miriam’s directions for her proposed IDEA 2.0 include a focus on all students, using only research-based methods, responsibility and clear roles for educators, students, and parents, new school governance, and maintaining what is good about the original IDEA law. What follows are details on each of these directions.

1. Equity and Excellence for All Students

  • First we need programs that send parent educators into homes shortly after children are born. The focus here is to teach parents how to engage children with language so they don’t show up at school with a significant language deficit. Programs already under way are listed in this chapter. Rather than wait until kids show up to preschool, we need to directly involve parents from the beginning. Preschool does not deal with or prevent the language gap.
  • The new law should set educators free rather than micromanage them and pile on paperwork and meetings. New teachers need mentors, interventions should happen as soon as possible without labeling, assessments should be valid and reliable data and serve a purpose for the sake of the student, a growth mindset should be promoted, and positive behavioral approaches should be featured. Standards should only be adapted when necessary and all parties should understand when this happens. We should do a systematic study of other countries to see what we can learn as we let people know the real cost of educating students with disabilities.

2. Research-Based Instruction for Students with Disabilities

  • Miriam proposes separating students with disabilities into a group of severe and profoundly disabled, which is about 1-2% of the population and the rest. The neediest would be served by its own delivery system and be funded separately. The rest would be served along with the general population where the focus would be providing the help each student needs when they need it in a flexible manner. This would do away with labels, which are not neutral, create stigmas, and affect students’ belief systems. The emphasis on growth mindsets is essential.
  • Another big shift would be away from the
  • least restrictive environment
  • (LRE) and towards the least intervention necessary

    (LIN). Students need to be educated according to their current performance and needs. Students with higher needs will be educated as part of the mix of all students rather than as the main focus of attention along with a focus on student strengths. There should also be a recognition that no student has the right to disrupt the learning of others. As it is, labeled disruptive students negatively impact others due to their right to a LRE. This ends with the example of how many autistic students are now being employed by using their strengths.

3. Shared responsibility and clear roles for educators, students, and parents

  • Teachers’ jobs are at school educating all students. They also need to communicate clearly with parents and to give them guidance, tips, and support. Parents need to get children ready for school. This means seeing that they work with a lot of language from birth. There is a list of existing programs that focus on this. Parents are also responsible for reasonable bedtimes and proper nutrition. Students should know that it’s their job to be ready to learn both at home and at school. Students should not become overly dependent on adults so as to avoid learned helplessness.

4. New school governance structure and collaboration with no individual entitlement

  • Now we have a two silo system. One for children who somehow get tagged (classified) for special education service and those who do not. Classified students have legal rights that general students do not. All students should have access to administrative remedies. Who gets classified can be somewhat arbitrary and favors parents with means. The disabled side of the system is highly controlled by the federal government while the general side is much less so due to recent changes in NCLB called ESSA. A great deal of money is spent on evaluators, placement experts, lawyers, state and federal officials, and judges.

5. Celebrating IDEA and reframing our efforts to create Special Ed 2.0

  • Miriam believes that IDEA succeeded and that now we need to improve it. She hopes that this book will help start a national conversation to do just that. The ESSA model as it eases federal control over general education. As we move, on the goal is to be sure that the focus is on improved outcomes for all students.
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