What One Maryland Mother Did To Usher Change In Its Special Needs Education System

Katherine Spurlock, a mom of a child with dyslexia and a former public school teacher, has helped pave the way for Maryland's legislators to do something about special needs education. Following a discovery she has made with her daughter's Individualized Education Program (IEP), Spurlock has tapped the help of Sen. Joan Carter Conway and Del. Marc Korman to correct an oversight in the system and potentially set an accountability.

Under the law -- specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act -- special needs children should have a document mapping out his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP). It should contain the particulars of the learning needs of a child provided by the school, which should also help measure progress.

Everything in the IEP is stored and accessible in the state's database. Spurlock learned, however, that there is no data to show IEP budget spending. There is also no updated reports on how effective the programs for special needs children have become.

According to the Washington Post, the data is important because it will help school districts, communities and parents develop more sustainable programs and make use of government funds better once the special needs children are older. Interventions put emphasis on the early years of learning, or early intervention, at least until the third grade.

After that, the children could be referred to other schools and that's when the learning gap begins to emerge. "There's not much to say when there's no data you can point to that shows how much intervention is going on, how is it benefiting children," the mom said.

To help solve this problem, Spurlock got in touch with Maryland legislators to look into what she has discovered. Conway and Korman have been sympathetic to her cause and have passed separate legislation requiring Maryland's Department of Education and the General Assembly to present annual data of IEPs.

The U.S. Department of Education also mandated school districts in December to identify "disproportionality." This way, federal special education funds could be diverted to more IEPs.

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