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Policy Post – Finding What Works

April 2, 2010

Court’s Kids will periodically provide some background information on special education policy from the federal level down to individual school programs.

Special education is an ongoing effort at finding what works. Parents and teachers do this with every student using Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to draw-up individual solutions. Naturally most of our attention is focused here as it should be, but what about the larger picture? How are we improving special education as a whole?

It’s been a long path to get here but its woven in the endless pursuit of better methods.  Many consider special education’s beginnings (as least as we know it today) to have come from the same people that shaped and influenced the American revolution. While John Locke had a profound influence on Thomas Jefferson in his writing of the Declaration of Independence, Locke’s ideas on education and the individual influenced a lesser known doctor in France named  Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard. Itard would be the first to popularize the idea that educational intervention can improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. His ideas and those that came after may seem crude and even ignorant by our standards today, but a movement was sparked from them. Specialized schools began to pop up not long afterward and little by little, decade by decade, special education was born.

Just like this country though, special education is an ongoing experiment. It’s essential for ideas and experiences to be shared.  In that spirit, the Department of Education recently launched a new “What Works Clearinghouse” for students with learning disabilities. It’s purpose is to:

“Evaluate research on curricula and instructional strategies for students with learning disabilities in grades K–12 (generally ages 5–18) that are intended to improve academic achievement. Outcome areas include reading, math, writing, science, social studies, and progressing in school.”

We encourage to take a look at this resource if you haven’t already and let us know what you think.

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