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Nathan Levenson, a former school superintendent, has consulted with hundreds of districts about ways to improve special education. But in March of 2020, the challenges surrounding special education became magnified by COVID-19.

“Despite heroic efforts, by teachers and districts, kids with disabilities really did not thrive in any way shape or form and the gaps got bigger,” says Levenson.

Pandemic or not, Levenson believes that if educators are going to serve kids with disabilities well, general education has to be lead.

“When we’re in person, the goal is to have general ed teachers providing the vast majority of high-quality instruction to students.”

Admittedly, Levenson says that doesn’t always happen, but when the pandemic came the split became even greater.

“Everyone turned to the special education department and said what are you going to do for kids with special needs? And many of the things they do, don’t translate at all to a remote setting.”

Levenson recently released a new book, Six Shifts to Improve Special Education and Other Interventions”

In it, Levenson explains why the vast majority of students in special education needs to be in the general education classroom most of the day.

“The research is really clear,” says Levenson. “The quality of the teacher is central, and if you’re going to teach grade level material, kids have to be in the classroom to be taught that material.”

Levenson says studies show that students who struggle often get less instruction from a classroom teacher then if they didn’t struggle.

“I want to be really clear on this,” says Levenson. “Imagine a second grader who struggles to read. They get less reading instruction from a certified reading teacher or a classroom teacher than a student who doesn’t struggle.”

Levenson says we can’t be shocked if the student falls behind.

To learn more about Levenson’s six shifts to improve special education, listen to Episode 159 of the Class Dismissed Podcast on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.

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