Winter Reading Series: Special Education

While it's easy to focus on how much special education costs the state -- some $4 billion a year -- it's critical to assess the quality of education that funding supports

Special education is the not-so-hidden giant in nearly every discussion and debate about public education in New Jersey. Nearly one in five students is classified with a disability, and nearly one in 10 of those are educated in settings outside their local school. Both rates are among the highest in the nation. An estimated one in fewer than 100 New Jersey children is diagnosed with autism, also the nation’s highest rate. And while much of the focus is on how much this all costs — an estimated $4 billion a year — many wonder how much it would cost not to educate these students. The following readings and reports speak to the quality of special education, more than the cost.

A New Era: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and Their Families
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act dictates much of what happens in special education. Here’s a national report that set the tone for the latest reauthorization of the act, a few years old, but no less relevant.

The Right to Special Education in New Jersey
The parents’ role in advocating for their child’s education is often the critical linchpin to that child’s success. It can also be a contentious battleground for a school. From one of New Jersey’s preeminent advocacy groups, here’s a resource to help families navigate.

A School District That Takes the Isolation Out of Autism
The challenges of educating children with autism in a general education setting are as daunting as any faced by New Jersey schools. Although it takes place elsewhere, this story from The New York Times this year details one school that has made great strides.

When Special Education Goes Too Easy on Students
It’s the flip side of the challenges faced by a child with disabilities, when schools make it too easy. Yet a Wall Street Journal article shows how it’s all too frequent for schools facing their own pressures to pass and graduate these students.

Improving Student Outcomes: Data-Driven Instruction and Fidelity of implementation in Response To Intervention (RTI) Model
It’s an academic report, but a notable one from a Rowan University professor about a South Jersey school district that found success in intervening early and aggressively to help children before they reach a point when they need to be classified.