Implications for Policy and Practice for Educational Leaders

Implications for Policy and Practice for Educational Leaders

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2069-7.ch009

Abstract

This chapter provides insight into the complex nature of a study that serves as the foundation upon which this book is based. The chapter's conclusion articulates years of study yielding data, analyses, and conclusions reached by the primary investigator that offer the potential for bringing much needed changes to school policy, thereby confirming the critical nature of this work. The chapter emphasizes the need for the involvement of all stakeholders in becoming a part of the solution in bringing about such change and the role of the school's leadership in guiding the process of such collaboration, which requires the need for the school community to strengthen its cultural competency, including its motivation and willingness to embrace and respect the diversity among the populations it serves.
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Introduction To The Chapter

Per the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017–18, the number of students ages 3–21 who received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was 7.0 million, or 14 percent of all public school students (NCES, 2019). There are many progressive laws and policies that apply to those students. IDEA provides for free public appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The LRE law states that students must be educated in the general curriculum and/or participate in activities with non-disabled students to the maximum extent that is appropriate. Any necessary accommodations, modifications, and/or supports need to involve students in the general education curriculum and are outlined in students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Per Federal statute Public Law 94–142, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and three other federal laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Amendments of 1973), the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) of 1974, discrimination against students is prohibited, and requires school districts to take action to overcome barriers to students’ equal participation. The Rehabilitation Act (1973) holds educational institutions accountable: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Similarly, the ADA Title II covers nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services and applies to public entities. “No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” The Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) of 1974 “prohibits discrimination against faculty, staff, and students, including racial segregation of students, and requires school districts to take action to overcome barriers to students’ equal participation.” Disability laws are incredibly intricate but understanding them, including their purpose and mandates, is necessary. School officials and other responsible educators have a responsibility to be in compliance with them, to become a voice for school reform, and to advocate for their students in school. However, despite these legal mandates, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires equal opportunity to students of all abilities, our school systems still struggle with issues of equity in education. Educational scholars and activists, such as Kozol (2012) and Ravitch (2010), have been critical of the failure of reform efforts. According to these advocates, in spite of most reform initiatives, there has been limited success in bringing about change, and the trend of serving some, rather than all students, continues.

This chapter deals with policy, change, and reform as an essential part of being a leader in any position within school system. Ravitch (2010) indicates that understanding the complexities of reform in education requires a major shift in emphasis. This shift begins with school leaders identifying equal education for all to become a top priority. They must act on that priority by committing the time, attention, and resources necessary to achieve the success this endeavor deserves. This includes listening to families of students with disabilities to learn about their voices on their children’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Effective two-way communication between school and family is critical here. School professionals, including the principal, specialists, and classroom teachers, must carry on meaningful conversations with these parents and carry on meaningful discussions with them rather than simply talking to them. CLD and MENASWA families report that they don’t just want a good education for their children; they also want them to be given the opportunity to socialize with their peers in the regular classroom setting and feel included.

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