Synopsis: Improvement of educational success for people with disabilities and their talents and gifts.
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the biggest international professional organization that is dedicated to the improvement of educational success for people with disabilities and their talents and gifts. The CEC is an advocate for appropriate government policies; they provide professional development while setting professional standards. The CEC advocates for people with exceptionalities while assisting professionals to obtain the resources and conditions they require for effective professional practice.
The CEC serves an audience that includes students, parents, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and support service providers. They serve all aspects of education and development of students with disabilities and those who are gifted. The CEC has seventeen divisions of specialized information, providing services for professional development opportunity and resources. The organization presents both newsletters and journals on classroom practices that work, new research findings, as well as federal legislation and policies. The CEC also presents special education publications, conferences, and conventions.
The Council for Exceptional Children and IDEA
Currently, the CEC has a focus on the Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act, which reforms the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There are two areas of the bill that the CEC finds to be disappointing. One of these are the mandates for highly qualified teachers, another is the lack of full-funding provisions. The bill was signed into law on December 3rd, 2004. Regulations that were proposed were released the following spring, with final regulations the following year.
IDEA furthered a number of trends that appeared in education in prior years, to include increased accountability for students with disabilities, making sure that there are highly-qualified instructors in classrooms, expansion of the types of methods being used to identify students who experience learning disabilities, as well as a reduction in litigation. At the same time the law, for the first time, addressed the immense amount of paperwork associated with special education, putting a number of measures into place which streamline IEP's and additional paperwork that is required. Other forms of paperwork from prior legislation include increasing the age at which transition plans are required to the age of sixteen years, institution of measure that will make is easier for schools to discipline students with disabilities, establishment of a requirement that schools implement measures to reduce over-presentation of students from diverse backgrounds in regards to special education, as well as moving special education research to the Institute of Education Sciences.
On the down side, the new form of IDEA's financial provision present very little relief in relation to the costs associated with special education. Instead of mandating full-funding for special education, the new IDEA continues to maintain the current form of funding system. It continues to provide a type of, 'glide path,' through which the federal government would pay approximately forty-percent of the excess cost of the education of students with disabilities by the year 2010. The legislation also includes provisions that could end up redirecting special education funding to other programs.
On the whole, the law does have more positive aspects than negative ones for children with disabilities and special educators, and the Council for Exceptional Children is pleased that a number of its recommendations have been enacted. Among the changes in law that the CEC advocated for include:
Ensuring students with disabilities are included in accountability systems.
Providing funding for professional development for special educators.
Ensuring the discipline provisions for students with disabilities continue to protect the rights of these students to a free, appropriate public education.
Establishment of methods to reduce the number of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are inappropriately placed in special education.
Reduction of the special education paperwork burden by deleting short-term objectives and benchmarks from IEPs (except for students who take alternate assessments), initiating a 15-state paperwork demonstration project, piloting the multi-year IEP, and reducing the number of times the procedural safeguards notice is given to parents annually.
The Council for Exceptional Children's Step-By-Step Program
The CEC's Step-By-Step program offers a comprehensive, innovative approach to international institutional reform of early childhood educational systems. The organization's program accomplishes their goals through several means:
Creation of national associations for advocacy
Promotion of cooperative relations with local ministries
Establishment of an international forum (ISSA) for parents and teachers
Provision of professional development at the early childhood, preschool, primary, middle school, and university levels
Development of in-country expert capacity in child-centered, parent-focused approaches to early childhood development
The Council for Exceptional Children's Step-By-Step program is child-centered. The program is also based on methods of teaching that are adapted to fit each country's educational needs and standards. The Step-By-Step program provides special provisions for the education of children who are unable to benefit from traditional educational systems, to include children who cannot attend more formal types of preschool and children with disabilities. The Council for Exceptional Children has joined with the Open Society Institute (OSI) in order to provide training and technical assistance that is vital to inclusive education for children with disabilities through Step-By-Step programs in all of the countries that are participating.
The Council for Exceptional Children and Yes I Can! Awards
The CEC's Yes I Can! Awards were established in order to honor both children and youth who experience disabilities that have excelled. Greater than thirty-thousand children and youth have been recognized through the program since its inception in the year 1982. Every year, the CEC selects around twenty-seven winners because of their outstanding achievements in one of nine different categories, which include:
Independent Living Skills