Roots, Reality, Reboot: Transforming (Special) Education to Advance Equity and Learning

Special Ed. Historical Roots (I)

**Peterson, J. (2007, July). A timeline of special education history. Available at

This timeline presents the history of special education legislation from 1965 through the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004. The author briefly describes each historic event, along with the impact on public school districts.

**Office of Special Education Programs. (2012, April). Results-driven accountability in special education summary. Washington, D.C.: Author. Available at rda-summary.pdf

This document, developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), summarizes their recent shift from a compliance-oriented accountability system to one focused on student outcomes. OSEP’s new vision of accountability will align key components within an outcomes-based framework. These include the Annual Performance Report, state status determinations, and monitoring and technical assistance activities. Moving forward, OSEP is focused on creating and implementing a communications plan, developing processes for engaging stakeholders effectively, and redesigning the department to better support school improvement efforts.

Gartner, A., & Lipsky, D. (1987). Beyond special education: Toward a quality system for all students. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 367-395. Available at

This article, written in 1987, examines what is wrong with special education practices and argues the benefits of a more integrated education system. Emphasizing that special education policies grew out of the Civil Rights movement, the author summarizes legislative developments leading up to and following the implementation of PL 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which states that all students with disabilities are to be educated in the least restrictive environment. The piece also addresses issues of equity around special education referral and assessment procedures, placement options, and parental participation. The author also argues that assumptions and stereotypes individuals hold about students with disabilities impede an inclusive educational system, a viewpoint that is still relevant in 2013. The article concludes by emphasizing that the ultimate rationale for integrating students with disabilities into high quality general education programs is not only based on the law, but on our morals and the type of society we strive to create.

Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. (2002). A new era: Revitalizing special education for children and their families. Washington, DC: US Department of Education. (Executive summary and pp. 21-27). Available at revitalizing_special_education.pdf

Created by President George W. Bush in 2001, the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education gathered public comments about special education through meetings with parents, teachers, school administrators, education leaders, and other members of the public nationwide. Included in the briefing binder are two sections of the report—the Executive Summary and Section Two. The executive summary identifies concerns including an emphasis on compliance over student outcomes, the view of special education referral as an educational end point rather than a passage to effective support, and the lack of parent involvement and empowerment. In response to these findings, the Commission proposed three major recommendations: 1) focus on results, not on process; 2) embrace a model of prevention, not a model of failure; and 3) consider children with disabilities as general education children first. Section Two focuses on assessment and identification of students with disabilities. The commission makes four recommendations to improve the special education eligibility determination process in the reauthorization of IDEA: 1) use research-based early intervention programs for struggling students, 2) implement Response to Intervention models during the identification process but also to assess progress of children receiving special educations services, 3) simplify and clarify the IDEA eligibility determination process, and 4) incorporate concepts of universal design into assessments and tools used for accountability purposes.  

**This document is considered a priority reading.