Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blindspot

In early 2011 The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is in the news for broad opinions about reauthorization.  Poor achievement has been a nagging complaint but deep within the problem is a hidden problem.  The chief area of reform needing identification and clarification is the population of  “struggling children,” children who encompass a wide range of sub-populations (clinical, ethnic, atypical) and who pull down overall school performance.  Confusion over who these children are and how to help them holds back education. 

Within the The U. S. Department of Education there are projects within ESEA (Title programs) providing remedial support working parallel to special education programs that are chock full of children who do not belong there.  In the meantime, we have Response to Intervention, overlapping both ESEA and IDEA programs.   The Department of Education directs all three — ESEA, IDEA and RTI — through guidelines and regulations.  Right now, Congress is concerned with ESEA renewal and will not address overlap with IDEA.  It will turn around and address IDEA at reauthorization, again without true regard for ESEA. 

Gray skies in Paris

Special Education and General Education duplicate one another in part.

At the same time, as we have written here, the terminology flies around as though we all know what population we are talking about.  Now we talk about “struggling students.”

In the context of ESEA renewal, there will not be any hot discussion of  disproportionality and special education over-identification.

Talking about RTI, we will be obliged to stumble along without learning what “Tier 3” is really about.  Is it yesterday’s special ed?  Who are the children in Tier 3?  Minorities, misdiagnosed pupils, disabled?

We need one continuum of performing children as suggested by Universal Design of Learning with many fewer of these children finding their way into special education.

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