29. Causes: IEP Teams

Among school special education personnel, support staff and involved parents in the nation’s 100,000 schools, it is hard to discern WHO actually decides to misplace at-risk children in special education programs.

Those who have worked in schools know there is a hustle-bustle to the day. Everything has to be done pronto, or literally the system will fall apart. Or so it is thought! “There is so little time to think.”

The remarkable thing about special education IEP teams is that they seem to know what to do but they do not understand false identification.

IEP teams have a profound trust in the notion that somebody knows what’s right. After all, they have the paperwork to fill out. Yet we know local, state and federal specialists, experts and lawmakers feel powerless! Everyone else is causing problems.

Almost everyone says there isn’t enough money to make education right. “If only we had enough money!”

So we can say that decisions to misplace children in special education programs arise from hundreds of programmatic, financial and regulatory defaults overriding the good judgment of smart people in fine communities. We are left with the “culture of compliance.”

Defaults are not exclusive to education, however.

We stress the work of Jack Wennberg. In the 1970s “…he had compiled data about health care practices in cities all over the state of Maine, including data showing that in the city of Lewiston, an unusually large number of women were having hysterectomies. He projected that if the rate of surgeries continued in Lewiston, 70 percent of its women would have a hysterectomy by age 70” (NPR Health). Well educated medical doctors can drift far away from their foundations when they practice in ordinary communities.

By the time knowledge trickles down to the local level, it is folded into social structures that distort that knowledge, sometimes to the point where there almost no knowledge left to counteract local beliefs and conveniences.

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