Calley calls for improved special ed programs

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Capital News Service
LANSING—Schools should provide what children need and not expect children to conform to old structures, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said in a report to the state Board of Education, asking it to increase access, scope and quality of special education.
Calley wrote, “I have been traveling the state, holding informal town halls with parents and educators who face the challenges and triumphs of working every day with students in need of special education services. ”
Calley said several hundred people were at some of these events. He also hosted an online survey that had around 2,000 responses.

Based on the feedback he received, Calley presented the most often cited issues and concerns in five categories. One is improved access to and the scope and quality of service.
According to the report, there are still problems that the Board of Education should fix.
“Many parents reported that there is an expectation that children fit into the school’s structure, rather than the school providing what the child needs. School should have services that are better tailored to the specific needs of the child, ” he said.
“To help facilitate better and more successful Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), more effective staff training will be required, tailored to the needs of the child with whom they are working. For example, schools need to be prepared to implement best practices for teaching kids with dyslexia to read, or even identify when a child has dyslexia in the first place.
This would be quite different from helping a child who is simply behind on reading comprehension skills,” he said.
Jennifer Smith, director of government relations at the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the state board is aware that special education students need different approaches than the general population.
An example is how the board would exempt special education students from a pending requirement that a third grade student’s promotion to grade four be based on reading proficiency. Parents or legal guardians of special education students can request the exemption.
The principal and IEP team then determine whether to submit the recommendation to school superintendent. The superintendent or charter school chief administrator would notify the parent or legal guardian of the final determination.
“We want to make sure that those students who have individual plans still advance in their plan and are not held back because they didn’t meet the third-grade reading proficiency law. We want to make sure that the third grade reading bill doesn’t harm students that are already getting their individual attention for the disabilities they face,” Smith said.
“We are trying to mainstream a lot of those students, allow them to have more time at regular classrooms and not just at special education classroom. The IEPs has just been a way to address them more individually,” Smith said.
A task force of 16 people, including Calley, has been appointed to review the suggested improvements to special education programs, according to Mary Bouwense, president of the Grand Rapids Education Association, who is also a member of the task force.

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