I wondered, were the school reformers going to do the following:
- Return or ramp-up the old model of resource and self-contained classes within the traditional public school system?
- Pull together counselors, school psychologists, special ed. teachers, regular ed. teachers, district SPED staffing specialists, and other specialists, all who understand and have studied and earned degrees in those areas, to guide decisions to assist individual children with special needs?
- Renew the importance of the IEP, bypassing Common Core State Standards?
- Give parents inclusion as an option on a continuum of services?
No! Just kidding! This isn’t about that at all!
There are no plans anywhere to revitalize special education in America’s public schools. Quite the contrary, for the last 30 years the quest has been to get rid of public schools and special education.
But the reformists have a problem with all their quasi-private charter schools. Kids with disabilities have not been allowed in—no inclusion. But they have been pushing inclusion in traditional public schools for years. The reality, however, is if the charter schools were to pull together all the professionals I noted above, it would be costly. It would dip into their profits.
So they are opening cheap special education charter schools. In the Ed Week example it is one run by a parent (a well-meaning parent). They will throw in some behavior specialists in these schools, probably to guide all the Teach for America types, to show they care about the students who aren’t allowed into the elite charters.
And so now you hear a phony argument about the pros and cons of inclusion, by, just what we need, another nonprofit group. It is called the National Center for Special Education In Charter Schools, and it is designed to start up special ed. charters. It has also taken them twenty years to do this they freely admit. That’s how much the ed. reformers care about kids with disabilities. They are an afterthought.
Here are the backers: of the nonprofit:
• Oak Foundation, based in Geneva
• National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
• National Association of Charter School Authorizers
• Walton Family Foundation
• Academic Development Institute
• U.S. Department of Education (SURPRISE!)
But let’s step back and take a journey down memory lane, shall we?
Since the re-authorization of PL 94-142 to IDEA, the “all or nothing” inclusion mission has successfully been used to destroy special education services in regular schools.
Not only that, teachers, who have students with diverse disabilities included in their regular ed. classes (often large class sizes), who cannot get their SPED students up to grade level, are cast as failures. Some have lost their jobs, and many have watched their schools shuttered (low test scores) to make way for the bright new charter schools, most of which have never been better than traditional public schools.
Recently, Arne Duncan reiterated that if the teachers, the ones who are left, don’t get students with disabilities functioning on the top of the scale, using the NAEP, the federal government will withdraw even more funds from special education. HERE. He is going to use students with disabilities to end special education altogether and help to shutter public schools.
So where will all the students with disabilities go?
Parents and students, I am sorry to tell you this (like you don’t already know) but your children have been used. IDEA used them by pushing the message that it is not alright to have your student, with their special needs, in a special class. They called it a civil rights issue—segregation.
To a certain extent special education is a civil rights issue, and students with disabilities have not been served right for many years! But everything IDEA stood for was about watering down services and cutting special education costs. And parents were led to believe it was all about helping their children fit in better.
Laurence Lieberman, former special education teacher and at the time, learning-disabilities coordinator for the U.S. Office of Education and chairman of the special education doctoral program at Boston College, said this about IDEA 97: “Parents have been duped into thinking that their children will be better off with group process than with individual attention to their needs.”
This was a very honest and to-the-point statement. For years, many special ed. teachers helplessly sat on the sidelines watching sadly as SPED resource and self-contained classes were demonized as segregated bastions of wasteful spending. We held our tongues when outsiders deceived parents into thinking their children with disabilities would benefit and be better suited with other “more normal” students than getting individualized attention, even though the definition of normal escapes most of us.
The word “special” suddenly became a dirty word.
As an aside, I especially love how, with all the data being collected on families, raising all kinds of serious privacy issues, Ed Week can’t tell us how many of these special education charter schools exist!
Oh. But they’re coming. I’m guessing, and it looks like I am right by the Ed Week article, that many parents will run to these special ed. charter schools, maybe even embrace them, not because they are good, but because they are something, anything, to flee the sinking cash-strapped ship called the public school system.
Many parents today might not remember, if they ever knew, what special ed. used to be. And yes I know it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than what parents have now, and it could have improved.
But with their children stuck in overcrowded inclusionary classrooms, all plugging away to reach Common Core State Standards and taking hundreds of high-stakes standardized tests, parents will do anything to help their kids with disabilities escape!
And inclusion, used to dismantle public schools and special ed., well I hope parents didn’t get used to it. I think it has left the room.
I know it’s confusing.
Just remember, as you walk into that new charter school, when the TFA type runs to hug your child, it isn’t what it should be. It doesn’t follow what the old special education planners wanted for your children. It isn’t even close. You have been tricked and I am sorry.
Lieberman, Laurence M. 2001. “The Death of Special Education.” Education Week. 20 (18): 60m 40-41.