Special Education Practices In Vermont

Assessing the Cost and Performance Efficacy of Current Programs
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1516-11
Friday, May 20, 2016

We have been tasked by the Education Committee of the Vermont House of Representatives, chaired by Representative David Sharpe, to examine the efficacy of the current special education system in the state of Vermont. We begin by examining the legislative context of special education policy, focusing on the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Vermont state guidelines. Next, we examine current special education practices in Vermont relating to the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT) and paraprofessionals. Subsequently, our report discusses empirically-based special education best practices, utilizing interviews of experts in child development and special education to solidify the understanding of which practices are the most effective at enhancing educational outcomes for disabled students. The next component of this report is an analysis of Vermont’s special education funding system in order to determine how funding influences special education service delivery. The last section of the report outlines policy options and potential barriers to improving the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of special education in Vermont. Proposed policy options, such as implementing proactive service delivery models, creating a census-based funding model, monitoring the use of paraprofessionals, and reducing the bureaucratic burden placed on special educators, aim to address the concerns of legislators and establish opportunities to provide an effective education for all of Vermont’s students.