How to Better Serve Special Education Students with Less Money

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 14, 2011

In today's tight economic climate, school system administrators have found themselves perplexed by the unique financial challenges of special education, a field hamstrung by federal statutes, court rulings, and fraught politics that have left many districts disinclined to seek out more effective and efficient practices.

In his newly published Something Has Got to Change: Rethinking Special Education (a practical primer published by AEI's Future of American Education Project), Nathan Levenson, a former superintendent of public schools in Arlington, Massachusetts, offers practical solutions to tame out-of-control special education spending while serving special-needs students better.

Because of the excess of special education litigation done today, school districts are cautious in even considering costs when designing student special education plans. As a result, there has been a steady increase in special education spending along with remarkably little attention paid to effectiveness or efficiency. In this new paper, Levenson demonstrates that districts can improve in four key areas with:

  • better integration of special education with general education classrooms;
  • smarter deployment of support staff;
  • more sophisticated metrics to gauge effectiveness; and
  • more strategic management structures.

"Given the high stakes of doing better on this score, I am pleased that AEI's Future of American Education Project is able to offer the Levenson study," said AEI director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess. "Levenson, the managing director of the District Management Council and a seasoned special education expert, draws on his years of experience as a superintendent and special education consultant to offer field-tested practices for shrinking out-of-control special education spending while improving student services."

Nathan Levenson, who can be reached at nlevenson@dmcouncil.org, will be explaining his findings during a conference call on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. EST. To join the call, please contact Jesse Blumenthal at jesse.blumenthal@aei.org or 202.862.4871. For more information on AEI's Future of American Education Project, please visit www.aei.org/futureofeducation or contact Jenna Schuette at jenna.schuette@aei.org.

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