Earlier this month, CEC members took to Capitol Hill with a clear message: invest in education and reject nearly $1 Billion in proposed cuts to special education programs (read about “sequestration” here).
While these cuts would surely exacerbate already shrinking school district budgets, for special education research, these proposed cuts would result in an additional $4 million decrease, on top of the 30% -- or $20 million – cut received last year, dealing a potentially devastating blow to the program.
So, CEC and its members decided it was time to intensify its advocacy efforts and educate policymakers and their staff about the important role of special education research by hosting a briefing on Capitol Hill titled Innovation, Improving Outcomes: Special Education Research Raises Expectations for Individuals with Disabilities. CEC President, Dr. Margaret McLaughlin; Dr. George Sugai, University of Connecticut; Dr. Erik Carter, Vanderbilt University; and CEC 2012 Teacher of the Year, Hannah Ehrli discussed how special education research has contributed to improved academic, behavioral and transition outcomes for children and youth with disabilities (and even children without disabilities). (Presentations and videos found here).
The presenters wove a detailed story, sharing how research has guided improvements in areas such as:
- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports: Dr. Sugai shared how his work with the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports has been implemented in over 40 states and 17,000 schools resulting in decreased discipline referrals, decreased special education referrals, improved attendance rates, and increased academic performance;
- Transition to Work: Dr. Carter shared how his research has focused on improving transition outcomes for youth with severe disabilities by developing a set of effective strategies school can use to connect students with severe disabilities to early work and community experiences in high school. Through his work, Dr. Carter found that youth exposed to such experiences are 2.3 times more likely to be working after high school.
- Connecting Research to Practice: Ms. Ehrli, a preschool teacher of children who have autism and a mother of a child who has a disability, explained how she depends on research-based interventions to use with her students to get them ready to enter into kindergarten.
Before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was signed into law in 1975, expectations were low for children with disabilities, especially in the area of developmental and academic outcomes, not to mention transition to post-secondary education and careers.
Now, with more than six million children and youth receiving special education and related services through IDEA’s infants and toddlers program, preschool program, and program for school-aged students, we can point to significant improvements in the areas of intervening early with children and their families, integrating children with disabilities into their local schools, and increasing numbers of youth with disabilities graduating from high school and pursuing postsecondary opportunities.
While there are numerous factors that have been instrumental in creating this change, at the heart of this improvement has been an investment in high-quality special education research and the development of strategies, techniques, and interventions such research has yielded.
Yet, despite these improvements, there continues to be significant challenges in closing achievement gaps between students with and without disabilities. Many research questions remain unanswered that will help guide educators’ in better understanding how to effectively teach children and youth with disabilities and prepare them for a lifetime of success.
The proven track-record of special education research coupled with the many unanswered questions, these accomplishments, makes the 30% cut suffered last year all the more devastating to children, families, and educators.
On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to increase funding for special education research by $10 Million, a significant step in the right direction. Next, a more fiscally conservative House of Representatives Appropriations Committee is poised to consider education funding levels. Stay tuned to this blog for opportunities for advocacy.
CEC invites you to join with us to advocate against cuts to special education research and share your story about how research has benefited your practice and the children you serve by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org