How Can Schools Do Better By Special Education Students?

Special ed advocate says parents don’t know where to go or who to turn to.


A couple weeks ago on Detroit Today we talked about the achievement gaps suffered in suburban school districts between white and black students. Even the most affluent districts struggle to narrow the achievement gap that students of color face. Brian O’ Connor is a Detroit News columnist, as well as a parent of a special education student attending Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield. He tells Detroit Today that schools are making “no efforts at all,” to address achievement gaps among special education students.

Marcie Lipsitt, founder of Michigan Alliance for Special Education agrees. “Parents don’t know where to go, they don’t know where to turn,” she says. Lipsitt notes that only 57 percent of children with individualized education programs (IEPs) graduate from high school, “and that doesn’t even tell the whole story because the quality of those diplomas is lacking.”

“In 2010, Michigan created a new criteria to determine if a child has a learning disability and it is the most regressive restricted criteria in the U.S. and Michigan’s numbers of children are plummeting. The children left in special ed with learning disabilities are absolutely being under-educated, under-served, not ready for post-secondary, not receiving evidence based instruction…” says Lipsitt.

“Overhauling our teacher preparation program so that teachers are trained to work with children who think differently, learn differently, communicate differently. That is the single most important fix,” she says.

Click on the audio player above to hear the entire conversation.