I just received word from Bev Johns of the Illinois Special Education Coalition that the Chairman of the State Board of Education announced that the elimination of special education class size limits was pulled from the agenda and will NOT be voted on today.
Thanks to everyone for all your work on this. The emails and phone calls were overwhelming.
We are not done.
Here is what Johns would have said, in part. There would have been a two-minute limit on testimony.
This deregulation proposal will produce contradictory and inconsistent results. Some schools will have much larger special education classes which will make teaching and learning much more difficult for students with IEPs while REDUCING the incentives for true inclusion, some schools will move almost all students out of special ed classes and into SOME general ed classes, some schools will concentrate students with IEPs into SOME general ed classrooms but not be truly including students, and some schools will largely continue what they are now doing.
This deregulation proposal will NOT promote true inclusion. True inclusion would have a natural proportion of students with IEPs, less than 13% of a classroom. The current limit of 30% is more than twice the natural proportion, actually almost 3 times the natural proportion as some students are in special ed classrooms.
This deregulation proposal will allow all sorts of PRETEND inclusion as a class can have 50%, 60% or more of students with IEPs and still be a general education classroom.
This deregulation proposal would allow the concentration, the tracking of students with IEPs into SOME general ed classrooms, and not into others.
But the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is NOT about placing almost all students in the general education classroom. IDEA REQUIRES the “continuum of alternative placements” – Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment for an individual student along the Continuum of Alternative Placements.
Who benefits from larger special education classes? How do you provide truly individualized AND specialized instruction necessary to reach the Common Core standards in special ed classes that can be unlimited in size?
The IEP can’t do everything. For over 30 years I chaired over 400 IEP meetings each year in 22 school districts. Unless a parent is very well informed about the law and has the resources to enforce the law or a school staff member is prepared to be an active advocate for a student which is simply not allowed in many schools, the bottom line is that the IEP meeting makes decisions by majority rule and the vast majority in almost all IEP meetings are school administrators and staff.
Even though I was a supervisor, my professional standing allowed me to be a student advocate, although I had more than one school superintendent berate me personally when I had stated I would submit a minority report as part of an IEP.
Today these IEP decisions are far too influenced in too many schools by cost pressures, administrator influence, and the outcomes desired by informal school or school district dictates.
Without class size restrictions, IEP meetings in Illinois will NOT produce smaller special ed classes or natural inclusion.
Special ed class size limits are needed today even more than they were needed in the past.
On Monday the State Superintendent stated that other “protections” do a “better job” than special ed class size limitations. They have not done so in the past, and are highly unlikely to do so in the future. For many years the only criteria for “focused monitoring” has been the percentage of students in general education. ISBE doesn’t begin to have the resources to do “conflict resolution” on class size. “Local maintenance of effort” has nothing to do with class size but only the total amount of local money a school district spends on special education. More…