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"Radical IDEAs" on Special Education from the President's Commission

July 26, 2002

Special Ed Report

Federal mandates and funding for Special Ed are part of legislation called IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). IDEA is up for reauthorization this year in Congress, but many consider it unlikely to be completed this year.

An appointed "Presidential Commission" recently released recommendations for how Special Ed and its funding ought to be changed. As quoted below, the Commission calls its recommendations "radical." Legislators will be heavily influenced by this report. It will deeply affect school funding and policy in every school in the country, who and how many are identified as disabled and why.

We thought this report deserved careful review by the public, before it is passed into law. Dr. Effrem has itemized her concerns over the most significant recommendations.

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"Radical IDEAs" on Special Education from the President's Commission
Analysis by Karen R. Effrem, M.D.
Maple River Education Coalition Board of Directors

"The Commission concludes that innovative means of increasing education system accountability often require what some may argue to be radical changes. The recommendations outlined here may well be interpreted as such, and perhaps justly so."
- A NEW ERA: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and their Families, Presidential Commission report, p. 44,

The President's Commission on Special Education released their report on their concerns with the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA) on July 10th as that law is about to be reauthorized. That report contained nine major findings, three major recommendations and nearly three-dozen recommendations in seven different areas. The commission called some of their recommendation "radical".

What are these "radical" recommendations? There are many, but this alert will focus on those recommendations that promote and extend the federal system, namely the centralized, cradle-to-grave control of curriculum, workforce preparation and the economy. They are divided into two parts: Aligning Special Ed with other federal law, thereby centralizing control and authority, and early screening and identification for disabilities.

I. Aligning Special Ed with other federal laws:

A) Align IDEA with No Child Left Behind - "Consequently, IDEA should be revamped to require states to: (1) set ambitious goals for special education in alignment with the No Child Left Behind Act [HR 1]... we must insist that all students in special education make strides towards challenging and appropriate learning and developmental goals." (Emphasis in original - p. 37) Sadly, these "challenging and appropriate learning and developmental goals" have less to do with academics, and more to do with minimum competencies and job skills.

We have provided copious documentation that HR 1 is aligned with Goals 2000 (see HR1/S1 is a Continuation of Goals 2000/School-to-Work)and that the goals of Goals 2000 are related to attitudes, values, behaviors, and beliefs (see the Goals 2000 chapter of The Seamless Web Attitudes, values, behaviors and beliefs are not in the realm of traditional academics, but rather in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. It is the psychiatry and psychology of a state imposed belief system in federally controlled curriculum that is the hallmark of the new federal education system that permeates the required standards and assessments of No Child Left Behind.

According to the Commission report, 90% of students served under IDEA have "high incidence" disorders that have no physical symptoms or laboratory tests to verify them. This includes the mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, the most common of which is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The report also stated that there has been a 319% increase in the Other Health Impairment category, which includes ADD, over the last ten years. Both of these statistics make sense if one sees that the standards, curriculum, and assessments are not academic, but instead psychological. It makes perfect sense that children who are bored and frustrated, because they are not learning anything of substance, or anxious when taught something that violates the principles on which they have been raised, would lose focus or have behavioral problems.

The other "high incidence" disability is Specific Learning Disorder, about which the report says, "The lack of consistently applied diagnostic criteria for SLD makes it possible to diagnose almost any low- or under-achieving child as SLD depending on resources and other local considerations." A "low- or under-achieving child" presumably refers to academic achievement, but what if the concept of academic achievement has been perverted to mean minimum academic competencies with the major emphasis on attitudes, values, behaviors and beliefs as in Goals 2000, HR 6, and HR 1? It then makes perfect sense, then, that learning disabilities would be "high incidence" disabilities.

Beverly Eakman, in her recent article THE PERFECT CRIME: HOW PSYCHOLOGY AND HIGH-TECH MARKETING HAVE "DEFORMED" EDUCATION, quoted this list, typical of the federal curriculum, that she received from a teacher training session in North Carolina:

  • There is no right or wrong, only conditioned responses.
  • The collective good is more important than the individual.
  • Consensus is more important than principle.
  • Flexibility is more important than accomplishment.
  • Nothing is permanent except change.
  • All ethics are situational; there are no moral absolutes.
  • There are no perpetrators, only victims.
  • She goes on to say in that article, "Moreover, psychologized education is serving as a stealth method of transmitting whatever passes for politically correct propaganda..."

    With this background, one can easily understand that aligning IDEA with No Child Left Behind will not result in greater academic education for children with disabilities. Instead, that alignment will swell the rolls of special education, because every child who does not succeed and comply with that propaganda will be designated with a learning or emotional disorder. No child will be left behind from minimum competencies and brainwashing masquerading as high academic standards.

    B) Set up "adequate yearly progress" parameters for IDEA analogous to No Child Left Behind and have the federal government control special education in schools that do not meet those goals - For local districts that do not meet adequate yearly progress and do not respond to technical assistance or state corrective action, the Commission says. "In cases of consistent failure beyond the timeframe of state actions, IDEA should allow for direct federal intervention, including but not limited to the direction of federal special education spending at the discretion of the U.S. Secretary of Education." (p. 38) This is indeed a "radical" recommendation. Direct federal control of local schools, an obvious violation of the tenth amendment, has never been proposed before even in the massive federal takeover of education that is No Child Left Behind. The danger of this concept must be shouted from the rooftops and the concept itself, vigorously opposed. It is especially dangerous when considered in light of the next problem.

    C) Merge special education and general education - "Consider children with disabilities as general education children first... Special education should not be treated as a separate cost system, and evaluations of spending must be based on all of the expenditures for the child, including the funds from general education... Flexibility in the use of all educational funds, including those provided through IDEA, is essential." (Emphasis added - p. 8). There is that pesky word "all" again. It is the favorite of bureaucratic central planners, especially in education legislation like Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. Not only does the Commission not want to leave a child behind from government curriculum, it doesn't want to leave any of the local education dollars behind from federal control. The Commission then wants to link these merged and controlled funds to "improved results." "Once a threshold obligation of definable excess cost is established, incremental increases above the threshold must be linked to improved results for students receiving for special education." This is the "adequate yearly progress concept discussed in number 2 above. However, now that the federal curriculum is being imposed, "improved results" will not mean improved academic outcomes, but rather improved compliance with the required politically correct attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Obviously, this proposal must be rejected out of hand.

    D) The rules and regulations of "accountability" are to follow IDEA funds into charter, private and home schools - "As funding follows students, so should accountability. States should measure and report outcomes for all students benefiting from IDEA funds, regardless of what schools they choose to attend." (p. 40). A variation of this statement appeared at least three times throughout the Commission report. The Maple River Education Coalition believes that school choice and parental empowerment are very good concepts and very constitutional, but not when the federal government is involved. As the saying goes, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The tune the federal government is calling is control and imposition of a radical, non-academic curriculum. A far preferable way for parents to exercise their freedom to choose their child's education is to cut taxes and eliminate unnecessary and invasive federal programs. Parents would then have more money to purchase the services needed for their own family.

    E) Align IDEA with the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) - As if the federal government did not already have enough control over education and workforce preparation, the Commission says, "An example of inadequate federal agency coordination that adversely affects improved outcomes for students with disabilities is the ongoing lack of coordination between the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs, which is responsible for administration of IDEA, and its Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), which is responsible for administration of the adult education sections of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA)." (p. The WIA created a nationwide network of workforce boards, made up of "government-appointed representatives," a constitutional oxymoron, from business, education, and government, who work to implement and manage the system through local "one-stop" centers. The WIA requires a "unified plan" in every state that consolidates all federal education and workforce programs and funding into an aligned funding stream. The WIA "unified plan" threatens all federal education and workforce money if the state is non-compliant. Students with disabilities definitely do NOT want more federal control and coordination. Anything that makes the WIA less efficient at centrally planning workforce preparation is a good thing.

    F) Expand early childhood programs - "The Commission recommends that IDEA ensure a seamless system for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, birth through 21 drawing the most effective aspects of Part C (infants and toddlers), section 619 (pre-school) and Part B (school-age). State educational agencies must be appropriately resourced, flexibly enabled, and charged to ensure effective results." (p. 19) "Seamless" is used almost as often by central planners as the word "all." Certainly everyone would agree with the concept of wanting to help young children with any disorder. To the extent that this "seamless system" is for verifiable disorders such as deafness, blindness, orthopedic problems, etc, the Maple River Education Coalition has no problem with this concept. But, for mental and emotional disorders and especially in young children, this has many problems. Most of the standard and some of the proposed early childhood programs have a mental health and or a home visiting component. Please see our previous alerts to understand how invasive, intrusive, and ineffective most government early childhood programs are: Baby Ed Government Curriculum "Let our mothers go!"). Mental health diagnosis is extremely inaccurate in the preschool group and the there are no long term studies to show what happens to these children's developing brains after exposure to the drugs used to treat behavioral and emotional disorders in them.

    2. Early screening and intervention in academic and behavioral problems:

    The Commission wishes to "implement research-based, early identification and intervention programs to better serve children with learning and behavioral difficulties at an earlier age." (p.20) There is absolutely nothing wrong with early academic screening to diagnose correctable learning problems that will prevent misidentification for special education. As a pediatrician, I strongly support this idea. One pediatrician even saw that when his patients who came to him labeled ADHD were taught to read properly using phonics, their behavior problems disappeared. (See http://www.nrrf.org/article_campbell.htm)

    The problem lies in mass and early behavioral screening and behavioral intervention. The process is inaccurate with too many false positives. The diagnosis triggers psychological and social work intervention for both the child and the family, which follows a child for life in their electronic portfolio, and far too often results in the child being drugged into complacency with powerful and dangerous medications like Ritalin. That class of medication can cause a whole host of extremely serious side effects, such as sleeplessness, weight loss, heart damage, atrophy of the brain, psychosis, and violence. Paul Johnston of West Virginia began kindergarten as an exuberant and very normal five year old until the teacher began pressuring his parents to have him evaluated for ADHD. The parents were coerced into starting him on Ritalin, and he was eventually "treated" with a total of sixteen different psychotropic medications and experienced seven hellish years of drug-induced psychosis. He was finally released from an institution after a court battle and was carefully withdrawn from the medication by Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, author and expert on the dangers of these medications. (See http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2002/june02/drug-induced.shtml)

    In his excellent columndated July 16, 2002, Armstrong Williams lists exactly what I and other concerned professionals would urge instead of the Commission's plan for mass behavioral screening: "Against this backdrop, it is imperative that we pass legislation prohibiting teachers and other unqualified school personnel from making mental health diagnoses. Lawmakers also need to ensure that children receive thorough medical examinations to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms associated with ADHD. Equally important is that parents receive full disclosure of the dangerous side effects of the psychotropic drugs being prescribed to their children." These recommendations are the goal of amendments to IDEA that the Maple River Education Coalition strongly supports as well, with the addition of prohibiting coercion of parents into drugging their children.

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