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ERIC Number: ED505856
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Mar
Pages: 40
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The Road to Nowhere: The Illusion and Broken Promises of Special Education Instruction in the Baltimore City Public Schools and Elsewhere
Hettleman, Kalman
Abell Foundation
Special education instruction in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) for students with learning difficulties is shamefully ineffective. These students, usually classified as having a "Specific Learning Disability" or "Speech and language impairment," comprise more than half of all children receiving special education services. Most of them have the cognitive ability to meet high academic standards or to achieve at higher levels than they do. Yet their test scores are abysmally low and far behind their non-disabled peers. The fault doesn't lie with front-line special educators. They and their students alike are set up for failure by a system that does not give teachers and other service providers the training and resources to get the job done. Worse, the special education system conceals its shortcomings. It fails to recognize the huge gap between the academic performance of students and their academic potential. It gives the false impression that it is providing research-based instruction. It exaggerates student progress. And it buries the poor academic performance of students under a mountain of excessive bureaucratic paperwork. This report traces these flaws to BCPSS practices that violate or undermine federal and state laws intended to enable students with learning difficulties to succeed academically. Most tellingly, special education is defined under federal law as "specially designed instruction" to meet the child's unique needs. Yet special educators lack knowledge of research-based instructional practices and, because of staffing shortages and procedural burdens, lack time to individualize the design of instruction in Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for students. The context of this report must be clearly understood. First, BCPSS's dismal academic results and inappropriate or unlawful practices are similar in many respects to national patterns. The report, therefore, is intended not only to spur BCPSS reform but also to inform the emerging national debate over the quality of special education instruction. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), special education students must generally meet the same high academic standards and show the same "adequate yearly progress" as all other students. These new, tough requirements will force school districts across the country to pay attention at long last to the shame and sham of special education instruction. (Contains 119 endnotes.)
Abell Foundation. 111 South Calvert Street Suite 2300, Baltimore, MD 21202. Tel: 410-545-1300; Fax: 410-539-6579; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Abell Foundation
Identifiers - Location: Maryland
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001