It's 2012.  Do You Know Who Your Special Education Director Is?

This weekend I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation by Melody Musgrove at the annual gathering of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) in Hartford, Connecticut.  Melody is the Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education.  Melody had flown up from Washington, DC for the speech, waking up at 3:00 a.m. on a Sunday to catch her flight.  Isn’t the life of a presidential appointee glamorous? 

Melody shared information with the audience about U.S. Department of Education activities, for example, new initiatives that will require states to focus more on raising student outcomes and less on simply reporting data.  Melody likened the process to the way in which a thermostat and thermometer work to heat or cool a house.  The thermometer reports the temperature.  The thermostat causes something to happen.  The new focus on outcomes should cause states to function more like thermostats than thermometers.     

Several months prior, Melody’s office hosted a focus group on deaf education, in which educators, parents, researchers, and others identified gaps and barriers in education and proposed solutions.  The proceedings from that meeting will help guide OSEP in its deaf education investments and target resources where they are needed.  Attendees made recommendations in the areas of coordination of services, progress monitoring, Least Restrictive Environment, professional preparation, data tracking, research, and others.

At the end of her presentation Melody left a lot of time for questions from the audience, and a productive dialogue followed.  Several of the comments and questions centered on ensuring that parents receive complete information about communication opportunities and educational settings.  Melody emphasized the importance of meeting each child’s needs and ensuring that each child has access to the appropriate educational setting.  She has issued guidance stating:

“Any setting that does not meet the communication and related needs of a child who is deaf does not allow for the provision of  [a Free Appropriate Public Education] and cannot be considered the [Least Restrictive Environment] for that child.  Just as the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] requires placement in the regular educational setting when it is appropriate for the unique needs of a child who is deaf, it also requires placement outside of the regular educational setting when the child’s needs cannot be met in that setting.”

She closed with sharing her e-mail address and phone number with the audience and encouraging folks to contact her.  I’ll do her the favor of passing that information on.  Her e-mail address is Melody.Musgrove@ed.gov, and phone number is 202/245-8020.  Anyone can contact her.  This means you!  Let her know about the successes your child has had in school, and let her know the challenges.  Tell your family’s story.  We need to work with policy makers like Melody to make sure our kids get what they need.  She can’t do the work without us. 

Successful outcomes for our children:  That’s worth getting up at 3:00 in the morning for.

Copyright 2012.  Do not reproduce without permission.

© Barbara Raimondo 2015