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School administrators need to adapt to rising numbers of autism cases, despite reports from the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association that show educators have been overwhelmed and unable to provide for all the affected students for years.

Superintendent Gary P. Richards (center) meets with Jane Anderson, human resources director, and Andrew Colati, social studies instructor at Wilton High School, where the district’s administrative offices are located.

According to Wilton (Conn.) School District Superintendent Gary G. Richards, most people who move to Wilton do so for its high-quality schools, which has struck a successful balance between educating its most advanced learners and ones who need more help.

The accidental deaths of two special needs students from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla. this year are shedding light on the need for comprehensive, mandatory emergency preparedness training for paraeducators.

Nathan Levenson, author of “Boosting the Quality and Efficiency of Special Education.”More special education funding in a district does not necessarily result in greater student achievement—in fact, it can lead to less, says a first-of-its-kind report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

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.


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.

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.