Following in the footsteps of one of the dumbest initiatives to come out of the US Department of Education, Washington state has arrived at some destructive fact-free findings regarding the education of students with special needs.
The Governor's Office of the Education Ombuds has created and released a report that...well, I will let the conclusion speak for itself:
The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes,
but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and
false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how
much they can achieve in their lifetime.
So there you have it-- as previously suggested by the federal Department of Education, the disabilities that students claim to possess do not actually exist in any meaningful way. Any limitations that they appear to have are simply the result of the system's (i.e. teachers) low expectations:
But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects
as general education students if they get the proper support, so those
low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.
You might think that link takes you to some research that supports this rather startling assertion. It doesn't. It takes you to the US ED statement on the subject, and that is supported by-- nothing. I addressed this before ("Quite Possibly the Stupidest Thing To Come Out of the US DOE"), but it hasn't gotten any less bizarre since last June.
I'm not sure which reading is more bizarre-- do they mean that schools take perfectly normal students and arbitrarily turn them into special needs students, or that schools could completely cure students of their disabilities if we just tried harder and expected more? I'm a big believer in expectations, but no matter how hard I expect my hair to grow back, it doesn't happen. Expecting a student to do the best she can is good teacher behavior; expecting a student to do what she cannot is just mean.
Nancy Bailey has written a fiery and pointed reaction to this "news," and sees it as one step in the abolition of special ed programs entirely. After all, the one size fits all nature of Common Core and the Core testing regimen will work so much more smoothly once we make every student the same, and the easiest and fastest way to do that is to just say it's so. This certainly fits in with the philosophy that the way to get all students to read at grade level is to just, you know, make them do it. Insist real hard. If we believe that we can get a student with a second grade reading skill read at the fifth grade level by just somehow making him do it, why can't we make a dyslexic student or student with other processing difficulties read at level by just expecting her to? "Stop pretending you're blind, Jimmy, and read this book right now!"
The report also concludes that special ed programs are too expensive and don't produce enough magical results, plus they have too much procedure and regulation as well as putting parents in adversarial positions (and, boy, isn't that a whole chapter of a book).
Bailey thinks Seattle is clearing the ground to cut special ed as a budget savings for the state. I can see one other impetus for removing special ed rules-- charters. Charters don't like students with special needs because they bring extra costs, and they bring special costs because of regulations that mandate services for them. But remove the mandated services and replace them with something cheap, like High Expectations, and a whole new market sector opens up.
Washington is concerned about the long term effects of this lack of magical high expectations. The report says that the failure of schools to erase all effects of the disabilities results in lives of "unemployment, poverty and dependence."
Good news!! I totally know how to fix this!
After all-- these students are probably not getting hired for jobs like store manager or nuclear plant engineer or government ombudsperson because the employers don't expect they'll be able to do the job. Low expectations!
So we just mandate that employers must hire the first people who show up for a job. After all, if education results are just the product of randomly applied low and high expectations of the school system, then employment results are just the product of randomly applied low and high expectations of employers. If I can get all students to be awesome in my classroom just by expecting it, then an employer can get awesome results from any and all employees just by expecting them!
So all Washington (either one) has to say is, "Employers, you must hire blindly. Take whoever you get and make it work with the power of high expectations!" And excellence will rain down like manna from heaven. You're welcome.