Special education began as a movement to protect the civil rights of children with disabilities. Ensuring that they had access to educational opportunities was the key issue. The 1975 legislation thus mandated that disabled children were to be provided a “free appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment.” Over time, a complex set of regulations and case law have come to prescribe the procedures school districts must follow in identifying and serving disabled students. This guaranteed, for the most part, that disabled students would be given a variety of instructional supports. Now, however, there is a growing call for guaranteeing not only access but also academic results. The question is how to design a streamlined system that focuses educators more on outcomes than procedures.

Patrick J. Wolf in “Sisyphean Tasks” proposes an overhaul.

Rud & Ann P. Turnbull in “Reaching the Ideal” reaffirm the six principles of special ed.

Last updated July 14, 2006