By Levi B Cavener
“We all know that we aren’t yet providing a world-class education for every child with a disability. And we won’t rest until we do that,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2010 while celebrating the anniversary of the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA).
Indeed, there is good reason for Duncan to acknowledge that despite achieving such incredible victories for special education students our nation still has many hurdles to overcome with educating students with special needs. This is particularly true when ensuring that a “highly qualified” educator — not just on paper, but in practice — is leading the head of every special education classroom; such is my concern with an organization inaptly named, Teach For America (TFA).
At a December 10, 2013, Vallivue School Board meeting I listened to Nicole Brisbane, Idaho’s TFA point person, pitch her product. (The Albertson Foundation, a heavy donor to the district, had called them to see if they would meet with Ms. Brisbane.) During the presentation board members inquired about TFA’s ability to provide staffing for “hard-to-fill” positions, particularly special education. Brisbane was clear: TFA can provide “highly qualified” special education instructors. Continue reading