You are here

Articles: Special Ed

Improving special education teacher training is a priority in many U.S. districts, especially considering shrinking school budgets. This fall, 22 states received a total of $24 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to invest in the teachers who have the biggest effect on the outcomes of students with disabilities.

A 2012 graduate of the Memphis City Schools works a few hours in the nearby University of Memphis’ library, as part of the College Campus Transition Program.

Special education occupies a large part of the mission—and budget—of many school districts. With learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia each estimated to affect more than 10 percent of the school-age population, special education teachers have their hands full helping those students navigate increasingly rigorous, state-mandated curricula.

According to new research from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), U.S. schools will need broadband speeds of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students by the 2014-2015 school year to meet increasing demand for Web-based lessons and the growing number of mobile devices used in the classroom. –Source: SETDA (2012)

 

PresenceLearning

There is a shortage across the nation of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in schools, which has caused some districts to choose virtual speech therapy, which, according to current research from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a professional association for SLPs, can be as effective as traditional speech therapy.

Student Success Act

When H.R. 3989, the Student Success Act, reached the House floor in late February, the controversy surrounding it followed. The Student Success Act is a bill sponsored by Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, that would revamp No Child Left Behind. The bill was approved in the education committee on a party line vote by Republicans on March 6.

Since the launch of the Apple iPad, educators have touted the tool’s ability to engage special education students with autism spectrum disorder through unique, customizable applications and stimulating touchscreen technology. Many still feel, however, that although touchscreen tablets work well as personalized tools, they cannot be a replacement for interactive whiteboards, which help autistic students with social learning in a group setting.

Whiteboards began making headway in the K12 arena in 2006, and their presence in classrooms has increased exponentially ever since.

Rather than outsourcing special education services, districts such as the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Unified School District and the Simsbury (Conn.) Public Schools have been scrutinizing the scope and duration of the services they provide.

An old saying goes, “When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, something has to give.” That adage is taking on new urgency for school districts as they grapple with the burgeoning costs of their special education programs.

Almost all of the 15 percent of Florida’s public school students identified as having learning disabilities are not exempt from the state’s push for rigor. Up until now, these students were eligible for classes using standard curriculum “with modifications,” which, according to the Florida Department of Education, were adapted to individual learning disabled students, and were usually less complex than general education courses.

Since 2006, Lisa Gatti and her staff at Pal-O-mine have reached out to schools across Long Island, N.Y. to help at-risk students through their Equine Assisted Learning (EA L) program. Gatti, a former teacher for at-risk students and lifelong equestrian, saw early on the benefits of EAL for students who can't succeed in a nontraditional setting. Pal-O-Mine, a nonprofit organization, was originally founded in 1995 and is affiliated with EAGALA, the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

Most educators are at least superficially familiar with the term "Response-to-Intervention," or "RTI." Since the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), which prohibits states from requiring school districts to use IQ-achievement discrepancy criteria in the identification of students with specific learning disabilities and encourages the use of Response-to-Intervention, a scientific, research-based approach (Mandlawitz, 2007), "doing RTI" has become a veritable catchphrase in schools and classrooms throughout the country.

Special education used to be a place—sometimes a separate school, more often a classroom down the hall where students labeled as such disappeared for hours at a time, out of sight and out of mind for the typical classroom teacher. That's still sometimes the case, but increasingly, special education is front and center in the regular education classroom, and the population of students with individualized education plans has shifted away from those considered learning disabled.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a plea for special education students at a March 15 conference of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). He asked that they not only be included in the general education environment, but that their schools be held accountable for their performance. He said, "We can no longer celebrate the success of students if another group of students is still struggling.

Forty one states, to date, have jumped on the Common Core State Standards bandwagon, adopting common curriculum benchmarks for general education courses in language arts and mathematics. The standards, created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are raising the bar for special education students as well. According to the standards, students with disabilities— defined as students eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ) "must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum."

After the release of the iPad, 3 million of which were sold in just 80 days, Apple received an unanticipated reaction from the autistic community. Unknowingly, the company may have stumbled upon a revolutionary framework to change the future of special education technology.

Pages