Charting the Course of Teaching and Learning in a Networked World
Graham Bell and Einstein are two brilliant minds of science who struggled due to learning disabilities. Learning disabilities don’t necessarily affect aptitude, yet how students are taught and directed impacts social and educational achievements. Today’s minds are the brilliant scientists, teachers, and mothers of the future. Proper schooling and social adjustment within warrants the attention of those doctoring and administering laws regarding the trajectory of special education.
Beginning of Special Education
Celebration of teaching those needing additional help, some with developmental and physical handicaps, began legislating in 1975, evolving over the years to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The act ensures students with disabilities and special needs are awarded equal opportunity, given the same tools and dedication provided to peers.
Disparity of Theory and Application
Like most ideologies, the noble gesture and sought ends deserve celebration, but for many professors and teachers, the evolution of special education is met with some frustration, clashing with the realities of implementation, warranting the need of modification and additional funding. To date, evolution of practices and legislation centers on a few overarching topics.
IEPs, or individualized education plans, facilitate student strengths and deemphasize weaknesses, much like tutoring, but devised specifically per student, involving teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and student input. Many people and resources are involved in the process, and some thought leaders believe standing IEPs (and approaches to forming and implementing them) are both outdated and ineffective, warranting better attention and funding.
Fordham authors observe, “"Special education, like general education, needs a makeover for the 21st century. Its service models, instructional strategies, funding, identification methods, disability definitions, [Individualized Education Program] protocols, and so on, no longer serve the needs of truly disabled youngsters.” (1)
IEPs are devised with several purposes and applications in mind; their successes depend on proper implementation, and proper implementation depends on the availability of devoted resources at hand, with many schools understaffed and under resourced for optimal IEP implementation. The Fordham study observed 129 special education teachers and aides for every 1,000 students. (1)
However, variations apply to actuation; New Hampshire exercises 320 special education teachers per 1,000 students, yet Mississippi only employs 38 teachers per 1,000 special education students, a drastic difference and disadvantage for some students and school systems.
IEPs, staffing, better assessment tools, standardized tests, and other present issues influence the future and evolution of special education instruction. Most theorized improvements demand additional funding from government sources, but US Secretary of Education, Ame Duncan warned education supporters that $900 million (devoted toward students with special needs) could be excluded from future funding propositions. (3)
The commitment to equal education and better assessment and achievements is present, with many schools offering on-campus and online Master’s degrees in special education classes. The passion for teaching is willing to meet the growing demands of special education students.
The Future of Special Education
Despite waning resources, outdated assessments, and needed funding, special education thrives and continues to evolve along with technology. One, Encino, CA classroom lets students operate iPad applications, aiding students with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and an array of special education needs. (4)
Many professors and instructors see such tools helping to bridge educational gaps, truly equalizing the learning plane for all students, despite learning disabilities and idiosyncrasies that may have hindered or put disabled students of the past at a disadvantage. The future and its educators hope for a special education system evolving for the better and regressing from the past.