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Education Policy Center


Beyond Shame and Blame in the Classroom

Tue, 16 Feb 2016 16:24:42 +0000

On February 12, a New York Times story linked to a video of a teacher in a well-known New York City charter school losing her temper and humiliating a first grader. Reactions were swift and varied. Don’t coddle kids. Some kids are tough to teach. This is just one moment in a teacher’s work. The school is good—look at its test scores. This video itself, and some reactions to it, reveal a faulty understanding of the kind of educational experiences students—especially the most vulnerable—need to succeed in school, career, and civic life and of the role the adults play in creating those experiences. Social and emotional conditions help students learn Student learning is significantly compromised when students don’t feel emotionally and intellectually safe. Our research points to the importance of students experiencing social and emotional as well as academic support from teachers. Other scholars’ studies, including evidence-based CLASS assessments of the quality of instruction, are consistent with this finding. One positive real-world example: In Anchorage, Alaska, How to Teach Math as a Social Activity builds on social and emotional learning and student-developed learning norms among a community of learners (and we should note that the program in Anchorage is one of the eight districts in the Collaborating Districts Initiative, which AIR is evaluating). Our soon-to-be-published research on the first four years of research of this systematic effort found that in Anchorage, attendance was significantly higher in the first, third, and fourth years of implementation in elementary school and in the second and third years in middle school. Both middle and high school GPAs were significantly higher in all four years after the district-wide focus on social and emotional learning was adopted. Learning is more than test scores Learning is more than what test performance measures, particularly learning that prepares young people to succeed in college, career, and civic life.  Although test performance is often a proxy for learning, learning is also about developing such skills as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and self-management. Social and emotional learning, research shows, is key to acquiring these skills as well as to mastering and applying academic subject matter. A teacher publically berating a student and tearing up her work does not tee-up future deeper learning. The sensibilities critical to deeper learning become easier to develop when students individually and collectively own their learning, respect diverse perspectives, and feel safe taking academic risks. Teaching is complex and more than what students’ test scores reveal Developing students’ social and emotional competence and their ability to master and apply academic knowledge depends on effective curricula and sound pedagogical practices. In turn, these practices depend both on teacher technical skills and their own social and emotional competence—the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to manage their emotions, be aware of their behavior’s effects on others, and learn from student’s behavior.   Teaching is stressful, to be sure. But socially and emotionally competent teachers can prevent that stress from harming their students—critically important since adults with authority and power who lose their temper and punish a student model the very bullying and lack of self-control that we want students to avoid. What was captured on the video may well have been a momentary lapse. But the consequences of such lapses can linger. And preventing them requires 100 percent reliability—the same standards surgeons and air traffic controllers strive to meet in their high-stress occupations, even though unnerving surprises happen in the operating room and the skies aren’t always calm and clear. A hard truth here is that teaching is a demanding job that not everyone can do well. Many teachers and principals simply aren’t well-prepared for the emotional challenges of working with students who may experience prejudice, struggl[...]

Are Schools Ready to Assess Social and Emotional Development?

Fri, 29 Jan 2016 16:58:29 +0000

How is Olivia doing in math? Check her math tests. How is Jayden doing in English? Check his writing grades. How are Olivia and Jayden getting along with others? Are they engaged, optimistic, empathetic, and self-aware? Can they cooperate with others, make decisions, and resolve conflict? Are they good listeners? Do they respect others? That’s a lot more complicated. There’s a growing consensus that students must master social and emotional skills—along with “the three Rs”— to succeed in college, careers, and life. In fact, mounting evidence shows that these skills may be more predictive than test scores of student success in English language arts and math. And the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the basic federal framework for education policy, states that “school climate” and “student engagement” are valid indicators of school quality or student success. So how can states and districts build systems to support and properly assess these social and emotional skills and competencies? Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia already have SEL standards independent of their academic content standards. And most states’ current standards for, say, the Common Core or college and career readiness, include some components of social and emotional learning.   But more difficult, teachers, principals, district and state policymakers, and education researchers have to find valid and reliable ways to properly evaluate students’ social and emotional skills and competencies. Validity, reliability, efficiency, and purpose all matter critically when considering assessment of social and emotional skills and competencies. Some of the roadblocks to valid assessments have been pointed out by Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and David Yeager of the University of Texas.  So let’s see what can happen in the case of Olivia and Jayden. Olivia’s teacher may fill out a questionnaire about Olivia’s current collaboration and leadership skills with answers that reflect initial impressions from the beginning of the school year. Or Olivia may behave very differently in one teacher’s class or at home. In each case, the results of Olivia’s assessment aren’t an accurate measurement of her social and emotional skills. At Jayden’s school, SEL practices have been in place for years. Jayden and his teachers have developed a critical eye for social and emotional skills and competencies. Jayden may get higher ratings than Olivia because he and his teachers are more experienced in assessing social and emotional skills, they have a shared language about skill building, and they’ve developed more critical judgments.    Most current social and emotional skills assessments were developed in research settings to collectively evaluate large numbers of youth – not individuals. That means that controlling for these factors takes significantly more training and effort than schools and districts typically provide. Then, too, there is no single gold standard for assessing social and emotional development. That means that repeatedly implementing individual student assessments may overburden districts without the resources that this kind of rigorous assessment requires. It might not even be fair or ethical to subject students, teachers, and parents to a burdensome regimen of assessment. For these reasons, some educators may opt to assess the overall school climate to gauge its effects on social and emotional learning. Done properly—taking into account current standards of teacher practice, student engagement, social and emotional supports, and the school’s physical environment—this simpler approach can still highlight the conditions for social and emotional learning and identify areas for improvement. That said, assessing students’ social and emotional skills can yield critical information about each child’s development. And that information can help teachers and parents discover the best in each child, and improvement in traditional subjects and test scores. T[...]

The State of Our Union Hinges on The State of Our Classrooms

Thu, 21 Jan 2016 20:10:57 +0000

In 2008, Barack Obama was a meteor across the political firmament offering hope and change. Seven years later and battle-tested, he gave the country his last State of the Union address. According to The Washington Post, his speech lasted nearly 59 minutes; 15 minutes were devoted to foreign policy, almost 12 to politics, more than eight to the economy, and three and a half to climate change. Education accounted for roughly two minutes on helping students learn computer coding, bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind, pre-kindergarten for all, computer science and math classes that make students job-ready, recruiting and supporting great teachers, making college affordable, and offering community college at no cost.  Two minutes doesn’t seem like much since education undergirds just about every aim the President mentioned. The foundation of the state of our union is really the state of our classrooms. “We live in a time of extraordinary change,” President Obama said. “… and whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.”  The Education Policy Center at AIR shared our evidence- and data-based blogs, briefs, and infographics during President Obama’s final State of the Union address. Find all of what we shared from #SOTU16 on our Storify.  Martin Ford, the Silicon Valley software developer and author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, agrees. He says three trend lines are converging: a technology revolution based on big data and artificial intelligence, climate change, and dramatic and growing inequality. All these trends converge on education.  Remaking this nation to deal with that change will happen college-by-college, school-by-school, and classroom-by-classroom because in the emerging knowledge economy, deep and lasting learning is the currency of mobility and prosperity.   But this kind of change does not happen by magical or wishful thinking. Instead, let's: Strengthen the teaching profession. We need more teachers of color and we need to cultivate professional learning that supports teachers in the classrooms. Today’s digital learners require less “talk and chalk” and more mentoring and coaching. Promote personalized learning. We know that students learn best when they can explore ideas and customize their own learning. Classrooms based on inquiry and experiential learning allow students to grow intellectually and emotionally—according to their curiosity and at their own pace.   Infuse technology into 21st century curriculum. We need to align technology to enhance teaching and learning, because today’s and tomorrow’s students must be part of the knowledge revolution. Artificial intelligence can enhance deeper learning. For example, at the School of One, a middle school in New York City, math students get an individually customized course of study based on each student’s learning strengths and needs. At the Carpe Diem Collegiate High School in Yuma, Arizona, an online computerized assistant coach guides students through difficult content with immediate, on-the-spot assistance. Recruit prepared and inspired leaders. It’s said that no school is better than its teachers, but it’s also true that no school is better than its principal. A new generation of school leaders must come from diverse backgrounds, must understand organizational and social change, and must be committed to student learning without reservation.  Rebuild our educational infrastructure. Many schools attended by our poor and working class students are relics from the past. We need a national campaign to rebuild schools in underprivileged neighborhoods as a down payment on our pledge that equality of opportunity is more than a sentiment, it’s real. Ensure that all students have the resources they need for success. The disparities in funding between rich, middle class, and poor school districts is a national scandal. Adequate and equal funding is the bedrock of equal educati[...]

A Teacher Workforce Snapshot in Infographics

Thu, 14 Jan 2016 17:15:03 +0000


Published Date: 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

How much experience do U.S. public school teachers have? And how often do they move between schools or leave the profession? Using the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), we answer those questions and more. 

And read our companion blog, “It’s 2016: Do You Know Where the Teachers Are?





College Finance Report: Most Have Weathered the Recession

Mon, 11 Jan 2016 19:28:01 +0000

The 2008-09 recession struck hard at college and university finances. Turbulence in state budgets and financial markets, combined with huge enrollment increases, strained revenues for both public and private colleges. And that created difficult spending choices for many postsecondary institutions. By 2011, declines in state funding per student had slowed at public colleges and universities. Average revenues per student—which draw from such sources as tuition, state and local appropriations, and income from endowments and investment—largely held steady or increased. And spending declines had stabilized. A report released today by the Delta Cost Project at AIR continues to track the rebound. According to Trends in College Spending: 2003-2013, colleges and universities continued to show signs of fiscal recovery in 2013, but underneath these encouraging trends, some worrying shifts remain, particularly for public higher education. Financially, 2013 was a positive year for most colleges and universities. Public research and private research and master’s institutions experienced the strongest resurgence in both revenues and spending. Between 2008 and 2013, average revenues per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student grew at all levels: up more than 6 percent at private master’s institutions up nearly 5 percent at private research universities up almost 2 percent at public research universities In the same period, educational spending per student returned to near-peak pre-recession levels, with spending rising by nearly 7 percent at private master’s institutions (to $18,800) and by about 2 to 3 percent at public ($17,300) and private research ($37,800) institutions. Community colleges, hardest hit financially by the recession, also saw their financial positions improve significantly in 2013. But they were still far below their pre-recession levels—and for less-than-reassuring reasons. Sharp declines in enrollment (down 4 percent from 2012 to 2013), rather than dramatic increases in funding support (up 3 percent from 2012 to 2013), drove average total revenues per FTE student up for the first time since 2008 (3 percent from 2012 to 2013). Revenues per student were still 9 percent lower than at the recession’s start in 2008. Educational spending per FTE student also rose substantially—growing by 5 percent (to $10,800) and rising for the second consecutive year since the 2008 recession. Promising signs of fiscal recovery in higher education in 2013 do come with two significant and disheartening caveats, particularly for public colleges and universities: Funding per student remains well below pre-recession levels—on average, 20 to 30 percent lower than in 2008—in all types of public institutions, reflecting half a decade of state disinvestment in higher education that is unlikely to be restored soon. Driven at least partly by the erosion in public support, students in public institutions pay a higher share of their educational costs. Since 2008, the share of educational spending at these schools supported by student tuition has risen 10 percentage points, which has led to net tuition increases averaging $2,200 at public research universities; $1,300 at public master’s schools; $1,100 at public bachelor’s schools; and $650 at community colleges. Although encouraging to see that the tuition share of educational costs at public four-year colleges and universities didn’t rise in 2013, student tuitions still paid for most educational spending at public four-year institutions: 62 percent at public research universities, 57 percent at public master’s institutions, and about 50 percent at public bachelor’s schools. And, at community colleges, while student tuitions financed a slightly smaller share of education costs compared to the year before, declining from 39 to 38 percent, the share was still up from 30 percent in 2008. Recent work by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association suggests t[...]

AIR’s EdCast: Speaking of Equity #1 - A Better Education Workforce

Wed, 06 Jan 2016 20:10:13 +0000

Published Date: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> This podcast is best played in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari. Episode One: A Better Education Workforce AIR’s Peter Cookson talks with Education Policy Center and Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) Director Angela Minnici about the importance of providing all students with access to effective teachers and school leaders. The GTL Center is currently working closely with states to design and implement State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access, including identifying the root causes of inequitable access to effective educators in each state’s context. Guests: Peter W. Cookson, Jr., is a principal researcher and director of The Equity Project at AIR. His knowledge of schools and education comes from a lifetime of teaching, researching, and working to improve the quality of education for all children. Dr. Cookson teaches courses in educational policy, inequality, and social innovation in the Department of Sociology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He blogs regularly for AIR and contributes to popular and scholarly journals and publications. His most recent research focuses on the effects of positive school cultures on students’ educational mobility.   Angela Minnici is director of the Education Policy Center at AIR. As a managing researcher at AIR, Dr. Minnici coordinates, supports, and leads project teams in the development and implementation of tools and processes designed to improve educator effectiveness, particularly those focused on educator evaluation. She is also the director of the federally funded Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at AIR, a federally funded comprehensive center dedicated to advancing state efforts to grow, respect and retain great teachers and leaders.    Related AIR Work on Improving the Educator Workforce Blog: New Year’s Resolution for Policymakers: End Zero Tolerance by Peter W. Cookson, Jr. One New Years’ resolution for education policymakers? Data shows the zero tolerance policies aren’t working and should end.  Blog: How Can We Hire and Keep High Quality Teachers in Struggling Schools? By Kelly Hallberg and Glenance Green Is an alternate approach to preparing and supporting new teachers just what the doctor ordered? Tools: Equitable Access Toolkit and Implementation Playbook by the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders helps state education agencies to develop and implement State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access. Report: A Million New Teachers Are Coming: Will They Be Read to Teach? by Jenny DeMonte For decades, critics of current teacher preparation practices have been calling for change. With an estimated 1.5 million new teachers entering schools over the next decade, what can policymakers do to ensure the next generation of teachers is ready to teach on day one? AIR’s Jenny DeMonte offers four evidence-based options for a start-to-finish look at improving teacher preparation, such as increasing selectivity, building consensus on common knowledge and competencies, expanding mentoring and clinical experience,  and raising the level of rigor in assessments used for certification and licensure. Project: The Equity Project at AIR. Educational opportunity is a cherished part of the American story of upward mobility and social justice. There is mounting evidence that equity and opportunity are inseparable for a just, well-ordered economy and society. The Equity Project at AIR is committed to building an inclusive and vibrant future through education. The project’s mission is to use the breadth and depth of AIR’s education research, policy, and pra[...]

New Year's Resolution for Policymakers: End Zero Tolerance

Wed, 23 Dec 2015 17:35:32 +0000

Poor education policies are like comets—briefly lighting up the public policy sky in a glittery blaze before disappearing into the void, leaving only a long tail of dust and gas. What looked like a good idea turns out to be an illusion, sometimes a destructive one. Take, for instance, zero tolerance discipline policies, which became widespread after 1994 when federal legislation required states to expel any student who brought a firearm to school for one year, or lose federal funding. New discipline policies allowed school administrators to suspend students for offenses ranging from the serious (carrying a weapon in school) to the subjective (talking back).  Zero tolerance policies were born out of fear and even desperation. After the 1999 school shootings in Colorado, some educators and public figures adopted a tough law-and-order stance. Call it the “broken window” approach to school safety—punish even the smallest infraction to stop the bigger ones. Only it didn’t turn out that way. Instead of deterrence, we got what can only be called a discipline regime of mass suspensions. According to The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, nearly 3.5 million public school students were suspended from school at least once in 2011-2012. That is more than one student suspended for every public school teacher in America. The Civil Rights Project estimates that one in three students will be suspended at some point between kindergarten and 12th grade. Not only is this rate of suspension counter-productive to educational progress, it also violates civil rights law. In their December 21st blog, my AIR colleagues Jeffrey Poirier and David Osher wrote about the damage the school-to-prison pipeline does to many young people and offered some positive solutions. Mass suspensions weren’t among them. Socially toxic, they single out for punishment far too many minority students and other students outside of the mainstream. In a 2014 Dear Colleague letter, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights found that African-American students—about 15 percent of the Offices’ student database—account for 35 percent of the students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended twice, and 36 percent of those expelled. More than half of the students involved in school-related arrests or who are referred to police are Hispanic or African American. But if this policy comet’s tail is long, maybe it’s not endless. The Los Angeles Unified School District—and many other districts—are doing away with zero tolerance. In the two years since LA Unified banned suspensions for such offences as “willful defiance,” suspensions have dropped by 53 percent and graduation rates have risen 12 percent. More good news: sound guidance for backing out of or avoiding discriminatory discipline policies is available. The appendix of the Office of Civil Rights’ Dear Colleague letter, for instance, offers alternatives to zero tolerance polices based on positive behavioral interventions and supports. Some of the specific recommendations include: Creating a safe, inclusive, and positive school environment Training and professional development for all school personnel Using law enforcement appropriately Setting clear and consistent expectations and consequences Emphasizing positive interventions when removing students from school My AIR colleagues Greta Colombi and David Osher have made similar suggestions. In their report, Advancing School Discipline Reform, they identify school districts across the nation that are revising or dropping altogether ineffective zero tolerance policies. Colombi and Osher’s recommendations include such innovations as family group conferences, fostering healthy relationships among students and adults, and creating a sense of community. For me, seeing is believing. On a recent research trip to the Midwest, my AIR colleagues and I saw first-hand how school discipline policies that em[...]

Zero Tolerance and Bias Reinforce the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Mon, 21 Dec 2015 21:50:58 +0000

In the name of making our schools safe havens, districts have adopted zero-tolerance policies, increased school policing, and driven some of our most vulnerable students out of school and into a judicial system often built for punishment rather than support: the school-to-prison pipeline. Zero-tolerance policies make it more likely that students will be arrested, suspended, or expelled for behavior that does not threaten school safety. Add to that biases and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, and at-risk young people can end up alienated from their schools, in trouble with the police and juvenile courts, and in danger of long-term economic and social dysfunction. Consider three recent cases: In a highly publicized case, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was arrested at his Texas school when security staff mistook his homemade clock for a bomb. His parents pulled him out of the school and moved to Qatar. Jewlyes Gutierrez, a transgender California student, experienced years of bullying because of her gender identity. After fighting back with four students in her school, Jewlyes was charged with battery while the students who bullied her received school suspensions.  A Black high school student in South Carolina who refused to leave her classroom was violently thrown from her seat and restrained by a school police officer who has since been suspended. The disproportionate impact of this school-to-prison pipeline on youth of color is well-documented. Data show that Black students are suspended from school at a rate three times that of White students. While Black students represent about 16 percent of student enrollment, they account for 27 percent of students referred to law enforcement and 31 percent of students who experience a school-related arrest. As a recent GSA Network report notes, researchers have also found that youth of color who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTQ) report experiencing harsh school discipline, biased application of school policy, and increased targeting for surveillance and policing by school staff. Many also report being blamed for their own victimization. Schools bring in law enforcement to keep students safe and improve the school environment, but a 2013 report written by AIR explores how this response is ineffective and how it can worsen disciplinary and school safety issues. Other research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that incarcerating juveniles does not make communities safer. Students who are arrested and expelled or suspended from school are often left unsupervised and engage in negative behaviors. Juvenile detention involvement can lead to decreased odds of graduating from high school and to increased odds of suffering abuse and additional trauma, reoffending as adults, and being sexually exploited. How do we eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline? The Supportive School Discipline Initiative, launched in 2011 by the Department of Education and the Justice Department, is a start. It aims to make school discipline more equitable in three ways, by: Fostering school climates that engage all students in learning by preventing problem behaviors. Keeping expectations and consequences clear and appropriate. Ensuring equity and continuous improvement in disciplinary policies and practices. The initiative’s school discipline guidance package, released in 2014, recommends that states, districts, and schools coordinate their efforts to address the school-to-prison pipeline for LGBTQ youth and youth of color. Recommended practices include: Training staff, engaging families and community partners, and deploying resources to help students develop the social, emotional, and conflict-resolution skills needed to avoid and de-escalate problems. Holding students accountable [...]

Meet Three Charter Schools Successfully Serving Students with Disabilities

Tue, 15 Dec 2015 17:39:16 +0000

Charter schools were created to give parents more options for their children. Although they have been around since 1992 and their numbers continue to expand (to about 6,700 today), charter schools remain under the radar for many parents of children with disabilities. While 43 states have charter schools, a higher percentage of students with disabilities enroll in traditional public schools (12 percent) than in charter schools (10 percent). With greater freedom to innovate than traditional public school classrooms, some charter schools may hold particular promise for students with disabilities, who by law are entitled to receive an education tailor-made to their needs. Their promise can be seen in three charter schools where students with disabilities exceeded district achievement averages for reading and math. Though the schools do not specialize in serving students with disabilities, at least 20 percent of students have disabilities in two of the schools. All three emphasize inclusiveness, while addressing the individual needs of students with disabilities. All students take classes together. And all three schools mainly enroll students of color. Videos produced in 2014 and 2015 for the Education Department's National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) by AIR and Safal Partners highlight some of the practices that school staff, parents, and students say contribute to their schools’ success. Two Rivers Public Charter School, founded by a group of parents in Washington, D.C., opened its doors in 2004 and was serving 516 students a decade later in prekindergarten through eighth grade. Students were 63 percent Black, 26 percent White, 9 percent Hispanic/Latino, and 1 percent Asian. About 22 percent receive special education services and almost half of all students were economically disadvantaged. That year, Two Rivers’ students scored at or above proficiency in reading on state standardized tests—at a higher rate than all D.C. students in reading (68 percent vs. 50 percent) and in math (70 percent vs. 54 percent). As early as the first grade, students at Two Rivers are encouraged to participate in the development of their Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs. This document, updated annually, outlines each student’s learning needs, educational goals, and supports, services, and accommodations the school will provide. At most schools only secondary school students are invited to help shape IEPs, but Two Rivers found younger students to be quite adept at advocating for themselves. “Students are much more comfortable in discussing their needs and what’s working for them and what’s not working for them,” one special education coordinator said. Afya Public Charter Middle School, which opened in Baltimore in 2007, serves grades six through eight. In 2013-14, 98 percent of its students were Black, and 20 percent were students with disabilities. That year, Afya had one of the lowest suspension rates (27 percent) and highest attendance rates (97 percent daily) in Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS). On state standardized tests in 2014-15, 67 percent of Afya students scored proficient or above in reading (five points higher than all BCPS students) and 51 percent scored proficient or above in math (nine points higher than all BCPS students). Afya offers individualized instruction to all its students, and all take part in curriculum and activities tied to the school's signature focus—lifelong healthy living habits. And all spend 65 minutes a day in physical activities. “It’s a great way,” one administrator said, “to build relationships with people that we might not normally work with.” Brooke Roslindale Charter School in Boston opened in 2002 and now serves 485 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Most are Black (69 percent); 24 percent are Hispanic. In reading, 96 percent [...]

Forty Years Later, IDEA Still Seeks Success for Students with Disabilities

Fri, 11 Dec 2015 15:58:43 +0000

Before 1975, only one in five children with disabilities attended public school. Many states specifically excluded students who were deaf, blind, or those with intellectual or emotional disabilities from their public schools. Pediatricians routinely advised parents to place toddlers with intellectual disabilities in institutions. And several hundred thousand children with a wide array of disabilities grew up away from their families, often in deplorable conditions, and with little or no access to education. Some parents kept their children home, but received little support to meet their children’s complex needs. Students with learning disabilities often attended school, but went undiagnosed and received no specialized services. Forty years ago this week, all that began to change when President Gerald Ford signed the Education of All Handicapped Children’s Act, now known as IDEA: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Three waves of legislative reform since then have continued to strengthen access and emphasize academic success for all students. From IDEA’s start, schools could no longer deny education to students with disabilities. States and schools had to identify and serve all children with disabilities, develop and implement an individualized education program (IEP) for each child, and educate each to the maximum extent appropriate alongside their non-disabled peers. Important provisions in the law protected students’ rights, involved parents in decision-making, and allowed parents to challenge schools’ decisions about their children’s educations. Quickly, children with disabilities were removed from residential institutions. Less than one percent of children with disabilities are served in those settings today. Instead, most students with intellectual disabilities are served in their local schools, a practice that would have been unheard of in 1975. A second wave of reform began during the 1990s, when educators and policymakers started pushing for higher standards and greater accountability in the nation’s schools. Many special education advocates and policymakers were concerned that overall school improvement planning didn't take into account the needs of students with disabilities. At the same time, it became clear that while the 1975 Act offered access to education, there was little data on what and how well these children were learning. This gap prompted important changes in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which measures math and reading achievement in schools across the country. First, accommodation could be made for students with special needs. For example, some students might need more time to finish their NAEP tests. Others might need to answer on computers rather than with pens or pencils. Second NAEP results for students with special needs would be reported on a national level. But that was just the beginning. Amendments in 1997 required that test scores of students with disabilities be included in state assessments. And in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act required states, districts, and schools to monitor these students as a subgroup. Forty years after IDEA: watch author Louis Danielson discuss the law's evolution and its continued commitment to greater educational accountability, inclusion, and quality for all students. Advocates and policymakers believed these changes would help the field better understand how students with disabilities were achieving and, more important, drive their inclusion in school reform efforts. Today we realize the limits of these reforms. NAEP results show negligible improvements in reading and math for students with disabilities. As a result, the U.S. Office of Special Education (OSEP) recently announced a third wave of reform: the Results Driven Accountability initiative, which is desi[...]