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School Reformers Who Blame Public Schools for Eliminating Special Education

Ohanian Comment: "Small classes" in the same standardized material is not the answer for many students with ;earning disabilities. They need real IEPs that mandate material suited to their needs. For some, this can be regular courses with help. For others, it means different courses. Different. An 11th grader reading on a 4th grade level has special needs--and can make good progress if these needs are addressed. Some kids need different academics, academics that allow success.

Nancy Bailey makes a good point that this problem is exacerbated both by federal policy and by parents who insist on full inclusion.

Can anything be more absurd than requiring everybody to take Algebra II?

My article P. L. 94-142: Mainstream or Quicksand? was published in Phi Delta Kappan Through anecdotes of individual students I describe the real-life impact of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. I argue that mainstreaming is not necessarily in the best interest of children with special needs. Even the primary purposes of mainstreaming--better socialization and enhanced self-esteem--are rarely achieved. Proclaiming equality, legislating equality and even funding equality cannot guarantee equality for all students. We need to provide meaningful alternatives for those who do not flourish in the mainstream--and stop beating up on teachers who aren't able to teach Algebra II to everybody.

I would add that professors of special education wrote letters to PDK, denouncing my article. One said if I'd taken his course, I would better understand the issues.

by Nancy Bailey

I see Washington Post Columnist Jay Matthews as someone who usually cheerleads for privatization of public schools. I take issue with his Sunday Washington Post article How can a special education student fail finals yet pass? Sadly, it's easy.

Oh help! Is this not a case of the right hand not being able to find the left hand of reform?

Matthews laments over a father's issues with not being able to get realistic services for his daughter, who has learning disabilities at the well-respected Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Oliver Hirschfeld's daughter is a senior, and while she got the special education services she needed in ninth and 10th grade, she didn't get self-contained classes in 11th and 12th grade.

I have a tough time learning the material, she said in reference to the large regular class sizes.

Now she is being passed through classes without getting the skills that would help her get into community college, and Mr. Hirchfeld and Matthews are critical of the school pushing the student through and not giving her a smaller self-contained class placement.

Well join the club! Many students are now disengaged from meaningful IEPs. It is more about the reform agenda than it is the students. Some parents now homeschool their students because special education is being eliminated!

Why is Matthews especially surprised by this?

Where was he when the U.S. Dept. of Ed. told New York that all students with disabilities need the regular test? Has he not heard of the push to get rid of special education called "segregated" self-contained classes?

Has he not kept up with the cuts to special education in the Chicago Public Schools?

Special education has been driven out of public schools by Arne Duncan and parents who subscribed to the idea that inclusion is the only way to go!

But it hasn't just been Duncan. There has been a concerted effort to get rid of special education for years!

Now that special education is going, going, gone, including well-qualified special education teachers, due to watered down university programs and Teach for America types, parents are unhappy to see the result—students with disabilities who can't pass the tests without self-contained and resource classes!

Maybe students with special needs should get vouchers to KIPP! We all know how well they do special ed!

And what should Whitman High or any other school do? If the classes have been cut they do what they've been told is my guess. So they pass students without the skills.

You can't be on board for privatization reforms that cut budgets for services and than complain about the cuts and the lost services. It makes no sense. Although I'll be the first to say that today's educational reforms don't make sense!

Mr. Hirschfeld and Mr. Matthews need a history lesson and then they need to advocate for special education, both self-contained and resource classes, inclusion and inclusion support too, that will help students achieve realistic goals.

The reality is, if they don't gather their friends and fight for special education services, there will continue to an erosion of decent assistance for students like Mr. Hirchfeld's deserving daughter.

There will be no more special education whatsoever--anywhere.

— Nancy Bailey
Nancy Bailey's Education Website





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