Trends in Special Education: Accountability, Progress Monitoring and Data Management Pose Challenges and Opportunity
How is the landscape of special education changing?
For 20 years, we've fought for access to the general education curriculum, getting kids included. And now with IDEA 2004 and particularly with NCLB, we've turned from access to accountability. Our kids count now. So we have a renewed emphasis on the general education curriculum and a new impetus to make sure that our students have more rigor in their program. That's a good thing, because the research shows that if you have higher expectations, the kids have higher outcomes.
Accountability and progress for special education students--is this what RTI, Response to Intervention, is all about?
RTI is huge because it showed up in the special education law, in IDEA 2004. RTI is an intervention process by which you use research-based scientifically proven interventions that work with certain kinds of kids in particular academic areas by monitoring progress and adjusting interventions accordingly. But this is an intervention model for all struggling learners, and not just for special education.
Is the rise in autism and other disabilities a concern to you?
The trend is to focus on children's needs and not labels. It's no longer, "You have autism so you're going to go here." What I'm seeing across the country is a shift to addressing the child's needs because children are very different. One child with autism compared to another child with autism, those two children can be very different.
What's happening with development and training?
Special education is all about data. Whether we're talking about progress monitoring or adequate yearly progress or referrals to special needs programs of any sort, data is always the key. So staff development needs to be around data, how to collect meaningful data, how to chart meaningful data, how to interpret it, how to use it to monitor the progress of students.
Do you worry that data management tasks eat into teachers' instructional time? …