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Special Education and Distance Learning: Parent-Recommended Policy Ideas for State and District Leaders

• Patricia Levesque

Like so many parents across the nation, I am still adjusting to the “new normal” of working remotely full time and also helping my two children thrive in an online learning environment. Through the pandemic we have seen many school, district and state leaders tackle the challenge of distance learning head-on, bringing new innovative practices to the digital classroom.

We’ve made it a priority to amplify solutions and highlight best practices as an example for other leaders.

Despite some successes, our education system has also struggled to transition to remote learning and, sadly, some leaders have given up entirely. This inability to adapt has thrust one of our most vulnerable student groups into the national spotlight – students with special needs.

As the nation’s seven million students with disabilities, their families and their schools transition to distance learning, parents are deeply concerned about the educational progress of their children, and advocates are troubled by the lack of equity among students receiving special education services.

As a parent of a child with special needs and an education advocate, I wholeheartedly agree.

To better understand the challenges families and schools are facing during distance learning, ExcelinEd spoke to parents of students with special needs, teachers, disability-rights advocates and national organizations. We also looked at state and district-issued guidance on delivering services to students with disabilities during school closures.

Using their feedback, ExcelinEd created a Special Education and Distance Learning Resource Guide, which offers policy solutions and best practices for meeting the challenges faced by the special education community during the pandemic.

Please read the guide, share it with your local and state education leaders and tell us how we can improve special education in the future to meet the needs of each and every student.

About the author

Patricia Levesque @levesquepat

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at