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Special Education Public Policy a Focus at the CEC Convention

The Re-authorization of ESEA, Compensation, Charter Schools and Pre-School

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Special Education Public Policy a Focus at the CEC Convention

Lindsay Jones, Esquire, the Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Council on Exceptional Children

Jerry Webster

Lindsay Jones, the Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Council on Exceptional Children laid out the priorities of the CEC for the coming legislative season at the 2010 Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

First among the priorities is having input into the reauthorization of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act.) Jones noted the special relationship that the CEC has developed with specific legislators, George Miller, Democratic Representative from California, and Senator Christopher Dodd. The two principal concerns are the full funding of the act, and alignment with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA.) Much of the concern about alignment does fall in the area of assessment, as the majority of students receiving special education services do take their states assessment with accommodations.

Another major area of interest are the national standards proposed by the Council of Chief State Education Officers. Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council, presented the rationale and background of the standards, emphasizing the simplification of standards that will make them easier to apply to instruction and streamline evaluation.

Wilhoit shared that the Council has commitments from 41 of the 50 states to have the standards adopted as replacements for state standards by the end of the summer.

A third concern is the under-representation of disabilities in Charter Schools. The Obama administration continues to tout the value of Charter Schools despite a real lack of evidence that they actually do improve student performance or outcomes. These schools are drawing off financial resources and in many cases higher performing students with fewer behavioral challenges, leaving the lower performing behavioral challenges for the public schools to deal with. Charter Schools are only a solution so long as they help deal with all students, not just those who have higher skills. The CEC wants Charter Schools to lay out a plan for how they will identify and serve special education students before their charters are granted by the authorizing agency. The CEC also wants Charter Schools to be monitored for compliance, and to insure that they provide FAPE (a free and appropriate public education.)

Differentiated Compensation is a major concern. Known as both “merit pay” or “pay for performance” it has raised serious concern because it would link compensation to test scores. Matthew Springer, assistant professor of research in public policy at Vanderbilt University, shared his research in differentiated compensation, especially the model for Vanderbilt’s study of differentiated compensation in the Metropolitan Nashville Schools.

The CEC’s concerns include integrating the needs of special education teachers in any compensation model, involving the CEC in discussion and development of any differentiated compensation plans, and being sure that evaluation methods and personnel understand what special education teachers do. One common complaint the CEC is hearing about teacher evaluation is that the evaluator does not understand special education and the evaluations does not provide “feedback for what I need and what I do.”

Another area of concern is Restraint and Seclusion. This is of two fold concern; special education teachers are often the ones who are put at risk when serious disruptive or violent behaviors occur among students, especially high school children. At the same time, restraint and seclusion have lead to the death of students. The CEC is concerned that restraint and seclusion provide safety to both students and teachers.

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