When I was in kindergarten, my neighborhood friends and I waved goodbye to our families and set off for our first day of school. All except one. My friend with down syndrome didn’t board the bus with us that day. I didn’t know why she wasn’t allowed to come, but I did know that it wasn’t fair or right.
A lot has changed since then. On Monday, Arne and I visited Beers Elementary in D.C., one example of the thousands of American schools where students with disabilities participate in general education classrooms and are expected to learn as much as every other student in the room. The next day, I went to Delaware, where I talked with a group of over 600 people who believe in the power of inclusion and the positive difference it makes for students with and without disabilities.
We know that children are more alike than different. We know that given the right supports, every child can thrive. That’s why we want to make sure that ESEA includes all children, including those with disabilities, and that Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services provide the supports — expert teachers and highly trained related services personnel, proven practices, effective models, deft technologies, among others — to help students with disabilities achieve challenging standards.
I truly believe that we are all in this together and that we must collaborate to create a system that can meet the needs of each of our nation’s 50 million students, including the six million students with disabilities attending our schools.
Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services