Image by Brandy Shaul via FlickrWhy are administrators required at case conferences? Simple. They commit funds and services. The end.
Administrators are the final authority on what can and cannot be implemented. Now, does the law say cost is not to be considered? Yes, it does, but the unspoken truth is that it is considered and will always be. That's why you have to have the admin present. Though the teacher is widely considered the primary representative, his or her boss is the heavyweight.
And while parents hold directors of special education responsible for results in the classroom, school boards and superintendents squeeze them in the pocketbook more often than not. So what if we took the administration out of the picture? What would parents and teachers do if left to their own devices? Imagine a case conference with no politics involved.
Probably, teachers would do exactly what they wanted to do all along; write the perfect program for the student before them. What are they doing with an administrator's oversight? They are considering how best to meet the student's needs on the budget understood from the get-go. We all see the practical side. You have to know how much something costs, right? You can't dream big on a budget.
Besides the obvious benefits of early intervention, there is a cost effectiveness to early investment in disabled children. Most development will happen during the school years, and the potential for development is the foundation for independence later in life. Clipping special education funding now will lead to larger bills in the future. It's the difference between 24 hour hospital care or assisted living with minimal assistance.
How do we get school districts on board?
We could do what we do now, and trust administrators to do the right thing. We could pass even more laws that we will weakly enforce. We could take a different road altogether, since what we're doing isn't working. How bout we take the administrator out of the conference till the end? And then his job is to get the desired services on his budget or broker some sort of solution with the family to keep impact on the child minimal.
We could put a premium on the parent/teacher relationship by removing external pressures to ensure that all recommendations are made in good faith and by the two or three most appropriate people in the child's life. Goal centered education should consider all the possibilities, and then break down the logistics. It's corny but true, that old saying; Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you land among the stars. Why not let our teachers shoot the moon?