Jan 21

2020 In Review

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.

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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.

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Working to Ensure Equity During the Pandemic

In June, the Center’s Equity Coalition published the Principles of Equitable Schools in the Context of COVID-19, a set of guidelines for educators working to put equity at the forefront of decision-making. This fall, we caught up with three schools that are working hard to embody these principles: Digital Pioneers Academy in Washington, D.C.; Animo Legacy Charter Middle School in Los Angeles, CA; and Audeo Charter School in San Diego, CA.

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.

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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.

Text reading: Disproportionate Discipline and COVID-19: A Call for Change

Addressing Inequitable Discipline

With NCLD, we published a white paper highlighting the long-running crisis of disproportionate school discipline and the implications of COVID-19.

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.

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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

In addition to COVID-19 related reports, we continued to publish new analyses and resources and work with districts and states around the country to build capacity.

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.

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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.

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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.

A Good School Is Good for Students of All Abilities

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.

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We Need a Cooperative Approach to Improve Education for 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.

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As Schools Impose Mask Rules to Slow Pandemic’s Spread, Disability-Rights Advocates Caution Against Strict Enforcement

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.

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Blackness, Disability, and Policing in American Schools

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.

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Outrageous N.J. School Contracts Make Parents Promise Not To Sue

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.

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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.