LETTERS: To improve special education in CPS, collaborate with parents
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The Chicago Public Schools’ 2016 overhaul of special education was a historic debacle. But the disgrace that is special education in Chicago is not new.
The Illinois State Board of Education’s investigation of special education in CPS — as we welcome a new CEO — provides a critical opportunity.
As CPS struggles with budgets, special education will always be looked at for efficiencies. Special education is expensive, particularly when it’s ineffective. Where can we improve quality while limiting expense?
The answer is to tap into the most underutilized resource of all: parents.
I have worked on behalf of CPS students for 25 years as a teacher, a Local School Council member and a paid consultant to organizations working with Chicago youth. My most demanding role, however, has been advocating for my now-graduated daughter with special needs, and many other families in similar situations.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act identifies parents as a requisite part of the team charged with developing a students’ Individualized Education Program.
However, this involvement is not well described or supported. Borrowing from the Family Centered Care Model in medicine — designed in part to reduce health care costs — CPS can acknowledge the expertise of parents in helping understand the needs, resources and abilities of each child. Applying the four key elements of this model to education (Dignity and Respect, Information Sharing, Participation and Collaboration) provides a simple outline for developing a program to guide and train both educators and parents.
This work will be challenging and will require time, resources and strategy. Providing access for ALL families will be a critical hurdle. But by identifying stories of success under new leadership, together we can build a model for the future that positions CPS as a leader in special education.
Lara Pruitt, North Center
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