Students With Disabilities Can Succeed! How the Baltimore City Public Schools Are Transforming Special Education

This report by Kalman “Buzzy” Hettleman reviews the One Year Plus policy currently being implemented in Baltimore City schools—a program built on the premise that high expectations will lead to strong outcomes in special education, just as they would in traditional education. The report is divided into five parts, with the first three explaining the theory and premise behind the program, the fourth discussing implementation, and the fifth describing the difficulties of special-education reform. The One Year Plus program requires that all students on a diploma track (i.e., those who are not severely cognitively disabled) see at least twelve months of academic progress in twelve months of instruction. Students behind grade level are expected to catch up. While some might find these goals overly ambitious (“Isn't the point of special education to help children with difficulty learning?”), skeptics are generally driven by a misunderstanding of the breadth of disabilities covered by IDEA and special education. Indeed, many of these students would have never needed special-education services in the first place had they received the right supports early on. By pairing high expectations with research-based interventions and supports (as well as extensive training and a revamped monitoring system), the program is an unprecedented overhaul of special education in an urban setting. Note, however, that this report represents more of a description and argument for the program than an evaluation, as the program is too young for a scientific analysis. The first significant sample of outcome data will be available in mid to late 2014.

SOURCE: Kalman R. Hettleman, Students with Disabilities Can Succeed! How the Baltimore City Public Schools Are Transforming Special Education (Baltimore, MD: The Abell Foundation, October 2013).

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