Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Duncan Breaks Silence on Special Ed

Well, it took seven months, but yesterday Education Secretary Arne Duncan actually talked about special education. As I reported when President Obama first nominated Duncan, many disability advocates criticized him not for doing bad things in special ed when he oversaw education in Chicago, but for simply overlooking it as a priority. Over the past seven months, he's done little to reassure the disability community. His official bio doesn't mention special ed, and the issue has been absent from every major speech and interview he has given.

So yesterday was our first chance to hear how Secretary Duncan thinks special education may fit into his broader vision for education reform. Addressing a group of state special education officials in Washington, he asked for their support in developing state standards to make sure the needs of students with disabilities are met.

Since more than half of students with disabilities spend most of their time in general classrooms, Duncan asked, "How how do we make sure not just special education teachers, but every single teacher, can be a teacher of children with special needs?" He said he and his staff are seeking ideas from parents, teachers, and state officials. View video of his remarks.

Did he say anything that demonstrates innovative thinking or a commitment to making special ed a top priority? No. But I've been critical of Duncan for not addressing the topic at all, so I'll give him credit for meeting with this group and acknowledging the 6 million-plus students under his watch who have special needs.
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