DOE to Increase Regulations on School Special Needs Programs

By: Mary C. Tillotson | Posted: July 7, 2014 3:55 AM
Hartvigsen School for Special Needs

The U.S. Department of Education is strengthening regulations for educational programs focused on students with special needs.

Instead of only regulating the procedures states must follow, the department will also keep an eye on the educational results special needs students achieve.

“The vast majority of students with disabilities do not have significant cognitive disabilities that inhibit their ability to learn rigorous academic content, but rather they have speech or learning disabilities or only physical disabilities,” Arne Duncan, secretary of education, said on a conference call.

“Research continues to show that most students with disabilities can achieve a high academic standard with the proper instruction and support.”

Duncan noted that less than 10 percent of eighth-graders with learning disabilities are proficient in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the “Nation’s Report Card.”

Bill Mattox, resident fellow at the James Madison Institute and guest on Reform School, said Florida’s approach to serving students with special needs has been more effective than he would expect of a federal regulation.

“While I commend the spirit of what Arne Duncan is proposing, I would point him to the most recent NAEP scores that he was referring to and ask him to consider which state has the top performing special needs students in the country,” Mattox said. “That state is the state of Florida, and then the question is, why? It so happens that about … 15 years ago or so we created a, dare I say, voucher program for special needs kids, so that students could escape bad public schools that weren’t serving their needs and go instead to private schools.”

Mattox and Choice Media also discussed further education reforms in Florida, a congressional hearing about student privacy, the veto of a Missouri school transfer bill, disciplinary changes in Chicago, merit pay for Indiana principals, and students using iPads.

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Contact Mary C. Tillotson at

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