2020 was a year like no other—and this January we’re pausing to reflect upon the past year and assess the urgent work ahead.
Each of the year’s challenges, from COVID-19 to our overdue reckoning with systemic racism, has disproportionately impacted students with disabilities. Alongside our partners in the disability advocacy and education communities, the Center has met these obstacles head-on by providing support to school and district leaders and working with policymakers to protect the rights of students with disabilities.
With a new administration and a vaccine on the way, there is hope on the horizon in 2021—but the essential work of addressing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and systemic racism is just beginning.
Students with disabilities have faced significant challenges in accessing the supports and services they are owed by law, and the full ramifications of learning loss from school closures and remote learning have yet to be seen. In 2021, we look forward to working alongside a diverse range of partners to address the impacts of COVID-19 and prepare for the new “normal.”
Our Response to COVID-19
As soon as schools shut down last March, we pivoted to provide resources to help school leaders and teachers cope with the pandemic. We’ve compiled a few below—be sure to visit our COVID-19 page to see them all.
FAPE in the Virtual Environment
During COVID-19, educators are facing the challenge of adapting IEPs to a remote environment. Created in partnership with the Diverse Learners Cooperative, this guide offers a decision-making model that aims to balance individual student needs within a virtual learning context, as well as a range of exemplars showing how this model can be applied.
Working to Ensure Equity During the Pandemic
The Educating All Learners Alliance
The Center is a proud founding member of the Educating All Learners Alliance, which since March has grown to include over 70 organizations from the disability advocacy, parent, special education, civil rights, and K-12 worlds.
Advocating for Policies that Protect Students
Throughout 2020, the Center worked with legislators and policymakers to protect and promote civil rights and address inequities—both those created by the pandemic and those that existed long before. As we prepare for a new administration, we continue to advocate for policies that put the rights of students with disabilities at the fore.
The Center’s Statement on Law Enforcement in Schools
Students with disabilities and students of color are disproportionately impacted by referrals to law enforcement and arrest—that’s why we’re calling on schools to end the use of police in schools.
Key Policy Priorities for the Biden Administration
The Center provided a set of key education policy recommendations to the Biden transition team, urging them to provide additional support during COVID; focus on equity; promote accountability in all schools; and invest in quality data reporting.
Reports and Resources
Enrollment of Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools and Traditional Public Schools
This brief focuses on 2015-16 CRDC enrollment data of students with disabilities and the underlying factors that influence their access to charter schools.
Developing and Sustaining High-Quality Special Education Infrastructures
This report features actionable suggestions for how special education infrastructures can help fill resource gaps in charter schools to ensure a high-quality education for all students.
Educating Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools in the State of Connecticut
This analysis identified the key challenges of educating students with disabilities in Connecticut charter schools and proposed actionable recommendations for change.
The Center in the News
Throughout the year, the Center wrote and published opinion pieces, spoke to the media, and served as expert sources. Here are a few of our favorite pieces from 2020—many more are available on our press page.
Phi Delta Kappan’s November issue, themed “What Makes a Good School?” featured a piece by Lauren Morando Rhim, arguing that a school cannot be good unless it is good for all students, including students with disabilities.
Writing for Education Post in November, Local Policy Manager Jennifer Coco described the implications of the New Orleans special education case, P.B. v. White, ten years later.
In an October 7 piece, The 74 Million shared Senior Policy Director Wendy Tucker’s concerns about disproportionate discipline of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, RealClear Education published an op-ed by the Center’s Policy Specialist, Simone Hall, on the intersection of Blackness, disability, and policing in the public education system.
In April, Paul O’Neill published an op-ed in the New Jersey Star-Ledger to call attention to the illegal and outrageous actions of school administrators asking parents of students with disabilities to sign away their rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you for standing alongside us as we work to ensure all students with disabilities have equitable access to a high-quality education at the public school of their choice. We hope you’ll stay in touch throughout 2021.