Special Education Day on December 2nd marks the 41st anniversary of the passage of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
I have had the pleasure of working with this special-to-my-heart population since I was 12 years old! I taught swimming lessons to mentally challenged children on the military base where I lived in Korea, as well as taught English to Korean blind children in an orphanage near Seoul on weekends.
In honor of students with special needs, and the educators who are passionate about their educational and personal lives, let’s take a quick look at how the new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), affects five aspects related to special education students.
K-12 Education Funding
The ESSA allows for more flexibility in types of Curriculum Design for students with special needs. It provides (and wants) more state and localized control over how budgets are allocated based on each student’s specific learning needs.
While parents and guardians of children with special needs can opt their children out of statewide academic assessments, if permitted by state law, the number of severely cognitively impaired students using specialized assessments aligned to alternative education standards cannot exceed 1% of all students within the state. It will be interesting to see how this restriction will affect curriculum decisions made at for the state educational agency (SEA) and local education agency (LEA) levels.
According to the ESSA, key decisions about each special-needs student’s assessment, education, and social-emotional requirements are best made through the continued use of a multidisciplinary individualized education program (IEP) team. Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISPs) will still assist students with significant cognitive disabilities but can also be used for early intervention. Given my Special Education degree and experience through the years, having IEPs in place that are truly personalized to each student’s capabilities is a powerful tool to personalize learning relative to content, instruction, and assessment accommodations.
And speaking of assessment accommodations, schools must continue to provide special-needs students with access to personalized accommodations, including the use assistive instructional technology. It is important to note, that technology integration must also be considers, as with general education, to be used to enhance a students’ learning experience. Students with special needs equally enjoy interactions that are only capable through technology integration, such as virtual “live” interactions (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) and VR (virtual reality) experiences
Privacy and Student Information
Select data regarding student development must still be detailed to ensure students, particularly students with special education needs, obtain the support they need. Thankfully, privacy is still paramount.
If you need to make curriculum decisions related to regular or special education learning or teaching, contact me to assist you in your decision-making process.