Thursday, December 18, 2008

Arne Duncan, Education Secretary -- What Does It Mean for Special Ed?

On Tuesday, President-elect Obama announced he will appoint Arne Duncan as head of the Department of Education. As the head of Chicago Public Schools since 2001, Duncan has earned a reputation as a tough reformer who's not willing to enforce high standards, but also sees education as a civil right for all students. But his views on special education have not been widely reported.

One source I often turn to is Christina Samuels, who writes the special education blog for Education Week. But her only item about Duncan is titled "So What Do We Know About Arne Duncan?" In researching his positions on special education, she writes, "I've been scouring the web and have come up empty" -- and she's invited readers to post comments about what they know. So far, no one has. Over at Autism Vox, Kristina Chew asked the same thing, and got just this one response: "Chicago Public Schools does have an autism program, but I don’t know any more information beyond the fact that it exists. I also know that cotaught classrooms, where special ed and regular ed students learn in a room with one regular ed teacher and one special ed teacher, are becoming very popular in Chicago Public Schools. CPS was a mess in the early '90s - he really did help turn it around, although they definitely have a ways to go." That's hardly a rousing endorsement.

Who can enlighten me, Christina, Kristina, and all the parents of special needs children who will be affected by this appointment? If special ed just isn't his thing, needs to appoint a real leader to the Office of Special Education Programs and even consider elevating that position.
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