by Sandy Alperstein, OurChildrenLeftBehind.com, December
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Lukers revived their earlier call to "Let It B." Consider this
"Let It B: Take 2." Same song, different verse.
The Lukers advised us to keep telling our children's stories. As
we well should. However, while this reauthorization is
supposedly intended to benefit children, it is also supposedly
intended to "align" the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Lukers
told us how the proposed bills in Congress fail to accomplish
the first goal; I will tell you how these bills fail to
accomplish the second.
Some policymakers have been asking us for "evidence" to support
our arguments. They have been telling us that anecdotal evidence
(such as a parent's personal story) is all well and good, but
where is the "real" evidence to support what we are saying?
While this sounds like a fair question, it really isn't. If you
think about it, developing "real" evidence (such as a research
study) requires money and other resources that parents typically
lack. Institutional players (like the federal government) are
the ones who typically are able to fund and implement research
studies, not parents. And their employees are also more likely
to be aware of what research is out there than parents are.
Moreover, school lobbies have been using anecdotal evidence to
make their case to Congress all along. They have been sharing
supposed "horror stories" with our legislators - stories of
overwhelming paperwork, overly litigious parents, and dangerous,
out of control children. Why have they not been presenting
"real" evidence to Congress? Isn't there any?
Well, actually there is. Problem is, their evidence supports us!
So we (and Congress) don't hear much about it. That needs to
change, and it needs to change now! So when you communicate with
your legislators, along with sharing your personal stories with
them, please consider sharing some of the following as well:
Short Term Objectives (STOs): Did you know that in a
study funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of
Special Education Programs (OSEP), teachers rated STOs as the
second most helpful part of an IEP? Only documenting current
performance ranked higher. A hefty 27% of teachers surveyed
found STOs to be the most helpful part of a student's IEP. Yet
both the Senate and House bills eliminate STOs, supposedly to
help reduce the paperwork burden on teachers. But the "real"
evidence demonstrates that teachers do not consider STOs to be
unnecessary paperwork! In fact, they consider STOs very
Actually, this study determined that teachers spent too much
time doing Medicaid paperwork and that teachers with
insufficient computer access had heavier paperwork burdens. Yet
neither of these problems is even mentioned in the current IDEA
Discipline: Did you know that the Government Accounting
Office (GAO) found that the current discipline provisions of
IDEA '97 not only allow school administrators the flexibility to
maintain safe schools, but also work to protect students with
disabilities? (Report #GAO-01-210, posted at
http://www.gao.gov/) So the
"real" evidence points to the effectiveness of the current
discipline provisions, yet both bills drastically change these
Attorney Fee Caps: Did you know that according to data
provided by NASDSE (National Association of State Directors of
Special Education), in a recent school year only 1 out of 1,844
IDEA-eligible students proceeded to due process? That amounts to
approximately 0.054% of such students, hardly a staggering
number! Moreover, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary,
the "real" evidence demonstrates that schools are NOT spending
inordinate amounts on IDEA litigation. In fact, in a report
funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special
Education Programs (OSEP), it was found that special education
mediation, due process, and litigation expenses account for only
0.3% of total special education expenditures!
If you didn't know all this, I'll bet your legislators don't
either. (Because, let's face it, how likely is it that the
school lobbies are publicizing this information when it hurts
rather than helps their case?)
Remember, NCLB is all about data. Yet the data indicates that
the problems Congress is supposedly trying to remedy with their
proposed IDEA bills just do not exist. Solutions in search of a
problem; hardly an "alignment" of IDEA with NCLB.
Tell your legislators to stop looking for trouble. Stop wasting
taxpayer dollars and educators' time trying to fix something
that isn't broken. Stop using NCLB as an excuse for these
proposed changes. Tell them to just "Let It B!"
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