Panel: How to improve special ed

“The notion of inclusion, introducing these special kids to the mainstream, is important. They need to humanize these children; they need to realize we’re all part of the human civilization,” he said of educators. But inclusion probably works best in the elementary grades, he added, and it might not work as well in high school, where special-needs students often are marginalized or bullied.

“What we need is to broaden the concept of LRE, find the programs that work, and find a way where they become scalable and where you can incorporate them into the public school system,” Jacobs said.

Posny spoke of the importance of setting real goals for students with disabilities in order to prepare them for more independence.

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“Students with disabilities are truly a part of, not separate from, the diversity of American public schools. As such, the upcoming reauthorization of ESEA must continue to account for the needs of students with disabilities, and IDEA programs should provide the extra support to help students with disabilities achieve challenging standards,” said Posny.

Friend, as well as the other panelists, emphasized that well-trained educators were a huge factor in special-ed success.

“We really must continue to focus on the quality of instruction delivered both by special educators and general educators. We have to ensure that educational leaders, especially principals, have adequate knowledge and sufficient skills to translate federal and state policy into sustainable practices in every school in this country and hold them accountable for doing so,” she said.

The panel, entitled “Building on IDEA: Policy Solutions to Improve U.S. Special Education,” was presented at the Brookings Institution.

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