Government Report Details Special Education Struggles During Pandemic

December 07, 2020

Delivering Related Services to Students at Home Proved Extremely Difficult 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report fulfilling their monitoring and oversight responsibilities under last March’s CARES Act. In this report, the GAO examined challenges and experience gained during last spring’s distance learning due to COVID-19. The research team studied two vulnerable student populations: English learners and students with disabilities. Lack of necessary technology, language barriers and the demands of meeting basic family needs were large obstacles for English learners according to the report. The GAO investigators disclosed that students in special education faced different challenges. These pupils’ educational needs were often difficult to meet due to the wide variety of needs that students with disabilities demonstrate and the lack of school staffing available last spring to meet those needs. Additionally, the report showed that some parents and caregivers did not have the skills, training or time to assist teachers and service providers to deliver remote general education lessons.  Also detailed by the GAO were difficulties experienced while attempting to provide related services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech therapy remotely for students with very complex needs. The report concluded that school districts addressed some of these special education challenges by modifying instruction, holding virtual meetings with parents and encouraging collaboration between general and special education teachers. The GAO also disclosed that some districts altered students’ goals and services under temporary distance learning plans.

GAO Report

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