Michelle Rhee tackles special education
Within days of each other last summer, the two most troubled school systems in the region -- Baltimore and Washington -- hired dynamic new leaders and charged them with shaking things up. And for both Andres Alonso and Michelle Rhee, one of the biggest problems on an overflowing plate is special education. Both of their school systems are under federal court orders involving their special ed programs.
So I was fascinated by this article in The Post yesterday about a controversial idea that Rhee wants to try in one D.C. elementary school, for possible replication districtwide. A private special education company will be hired to run the school, West Elementary in Northwest Washington. Within each classroom, The Post reports, there will be instruction customized for special education students, regular students and gifted students. Every child will have the equivalent of an IEP, taking the concepts of inclusion and differentiated instruction to a whole new level.
Not surprisingly, the proposal has been greeted with skepticism in D.C., and critics fear it will make special education, which is already enormously expensive, even more costly.
In Baltimore, no major changes in special ed can be made without the court's consent. But in principle, how do you think such a classroom structure would play out? I often hear special educators here complaining about the astronomical amount of paperwork they're responsible for, and I'm guessing that -- regardless of potential merits -- a structure like this would create more.