Kirwan Member Op-Ed: Most Special Ed Kids “Mis-Labeled”

A longtime special education advocate criticizes public school treatment of, and services for, struggling learners.

Kalman “Buzzy” Hettleman, an outspoken member of Maryland’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (the Kirwan Commission) has filed an opinion letter in the Baltimore Sun, suggesting that some two thirds of students in MD public schools classified as “special education” students have been miscast in that role. From his letter:

In Maryland as many as 65,000 public school students are illegally classified as disabled and placed in special education, where they suffer unnecessary harm.

Even if such struggling learners met some indicators of a true disability, laws require that they should not be found eligible for special education unless they received adequate prior instruction in general education. But they don’t receive it. General education teachers aren’t given the tools to provide struggling readers with the extra assistance — the evidence-based instructional interventions and the small teacher-to-pupil ratios — that they need.

The letter follows on arguments he made previously, via a column in the Washington Post, in 2018.

Read the full letter from former Baltimore School Board member Hettleman on the Baltimore Sun website.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties