Friday, January 30, 2009

An Invitation to Hold the District to Their Promises

Danny K mentioned at the end of another thread that it is "time to hold the district to their promises." And I agree.

Here's my proposal. I'm inviting parents whose children are being displaced by the closures to become contributors to this blog for one year. I want a commitment of at least one post per month and the topic is: A year in the life of a child/children/family affected by school closures. You can focus on your child/family, other child(ren) at your school, or an overall picture of what is happening at your school. But I want it to be specific...I'm not looking for things like "The district is failing us as we expected."...but more like "We were supposed to get extra money for X by Y date and it hasn't happened."

I want to find out what promises these families receive from the district, which ones are kept and which ones aren't, what surprises if any they face along the way, and what they want the public, staff and Board members to know about the flesh-and-blood experience of being part of the closure process.

I'm concerned that as media attention, and staff/Board attention turns to other things, the families affected in this process won't get what they deserve. And the best way I can think of to fight that is to make sure a spotlight continues to shine on the affected families throughout the next year.

Stephanie, MGR and Charlie...as permanent contributors already, does this interest any of you? Or do you have recommendations of people at your schools who would be good choices for this?

Danny K, Sabia, dj...any of you interested? As temporary contributors who have already joined this blog during the closure process, all you need to do is let me know you want to commit to the plan I've described above.

West Seattle Steve...are you interested in writing at least one a month on the Cooper experience? I've been impressed by your comment posts and would love to have you join as a contributor. As a Pathfinder parent, I'm particularly interested in making sure the experience of the Cooper community gets enough publicity to push the district to keep their promises to you about making sure your kids get the educational experience they deserve.

Autism Mom...we need to make sure the impact on kids in special education programs get enough attention. In addition to the schools where entire programs are closing, there are other locations where special education programs/students are being moved out. Can you either commit to providing monthly special education coverage during the next year and/or help identify other families who can?

Anyone else interested? E-mail me with a short description of what today was like for your child/family/school. I want to get at least one contributor from each school anbd program, so please spread the word among your friends and neighbors.

I know this idea isn't by itself sufficient to ensure the district keeps their promises. But I believe it can help.

59 comments:

dj said...

I'd be happy to contribute.

AutismMom said...

Thank you Beth, I wouldn't have thought my posts were noticed as interesting to many. Special education has been treated pretty equitably by the closure process. The only problem I saw, which has been raised, was that of the EBD dispersal. Minor and Meany EBD students shouldn't have been dispersed. That seems unfair to a historically and grossly underserved population, overwhelmingly minority.

BUT!!!!!

I did attend the special education ptsa meeting Thursday night along with around 200 others. MGJ was there as a "guest speaker"... but said practically nothing. She simply pointed at people asking questions, selecting people for Fred Rowe to answer. Her child was there running around. While cute at first, many people thought her lack of ANY participation and the fact that she brought her child... represented a lack of serious attention to special education. Would she have done that at ANY other meeting?


The big bomb dropped here was that Fred said "NO SPED PROGRAMS starting next year". !!!! Wow. Next year? That is huge. In fact, you just use regular enrollment and sign up where ever you want. (or so they say) West Seattle autism parents wanted to know if their request for an inclusion middle school program had gone through? SPS says, "NO MORE PROGRAMS... get it? Go sign up at Madison, there's a self-contained program there now, it will be gone, and they will do it for you. We're now serving everyone from everywhere." Hmmm. How will a program and school dedicated to self-containment (and lack of service) suddenly be willing to provide service? It has never been able to do that before? Seems unlikely. In any case, general education should be expecting severely disabled students starting NEXT year. (high time in my opinion, but they are not ready)Also notable, was the blended K's weren't going to be able to kick out all their graduates. Good. High time the McGilvra's and the Bryant's started pulling their weights. (The district did say they might kick out some.. if they were too difficult. A bit of a contradiction if "everyone can be served everywhere" isn't it).


So now, nobody knows which way is up. Anybody can sign up for any school???... any school is supposed to serve you...but no guarantees... you could be arbitrarily sent anywhere. Where are there going to be sped teachers and aides? And how many? It seems more problematic now. In fact, parents have already tried to use the enrollment center for pre-registration... multiple times... only to be kicked out. "no you can't use it" "computer bombed" etc. So these families, with siblings, have NO working enrollment process.

As to the Lowell sped issue. Indeed there are people VERY dissastisfied with the exclusionary nature of the school. Very highly disabled Lowell students want significant inclusion... eg. 1/2 day or so.... but are offered nearly nothing. 20 minutes twice a week as a bone. And the "social inclusion" is also grossly inappropriate: "food prep" for kids using a feeding tube is meaningless. When you actually talk to the families, you understand what they need. Evidently, the district does have a valid point with LRE... BUT, these families also noted that the other options were actually less inclusive. This just shows how far we have to go.

So, the big promise? The promise is... "SPS will give disabled students the support they need, without participation in programs. The programs had provided a "critical mass". Now there will be no critical mass... so likely much more expense OR reduction in service. All students will be included in general education. Disabled students, currently self-contained, will have a better experience without a 'self-contained program', even if they get a lot of 1 on 1 and small group instruction." That's the promise.

Maureen said...

WOW! This deserves a thread! Is this announcement posted anywhere?

AutismMom said...

Nope. No written announcement anywhere I know of. I actually think, they don't want to add any NEW programs for people transitioning schools because they know they would need a whole lot of them... so, they simply won't put more programs in. Jane Addams???.. "Nope, we aren't putting programs there. Just sign up." Schools will just have to take who ever shows up. If your school has a program.... and it's full, then you'll get the same staff etc as you had before. BUT.. what happens if your school suddenly gets a big load of new students, you "former" program is full, and the new kids are nothing like the ones there already?

It isn't all bad. If you go look at any of these level 3 and 4 self-contained.... you'll see nothing good. Or, at least suboptimal. Students simply deserve WAY better. While lots of the staff are caring and well-meaning, you will see the true meaning of "a culture of low expectations". Actually, "no expectations". EG. Many students at Lowell attended the fabulous UW inclusive preschool... the Lowell program simply repeats that same program, with the same kids, for 5 or 6 more years. I think we can and should do way better. (and it isn't just Lowell of course)

Central Mom said...

To recap to be sure I understand...starting in the coming year, all sped programs, self-contained or not, will be ended and sped kids should attend either their reference school or the choice school that parents select. Is that correct? (Didn't they just say, for instance, that the autism inclusion program at Cooper would stay in the building?)That's a seismic shift in philosophy and operations, and I wonder why the District would be burying the news in the middle of the closure machinations. Is the communications department truly that dysfunctional, or would there be a reason to be lowkey publicly? (Still learning.)

Also, how many children will this potentially affect within our district? Seems as though it could be more than those affected by the closures.

Ben said...

What is behind the District's compulsion to do big things in a big hurry?

Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...

I would hope that I could continue, as well. Not only is my elder son, the main focus of my discussion, changing to NOVA next year, but we have to find another home for my younger son. He had major issues at Hamilton and ended up at Summit for the last half of this year. He only started on Monday. :-/

Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...

AutismMom: The IDP is considered self-contained, although the students participate in mainstream classes as much as possible, and has been a very effective level 4 program.

As far as I know the IDP is not being disbanded and is moving to NOVA.

AutismMom said...

Yes, this effects many more kids than effected by closures.

To clarify, they say aren't adding NEW programs, and the OLD programs aren't going to be considered programs. So, anybody can sign up for that building and be served if they are assigned... (presumably by the staff now teaching in the programs. EG. Presumably IDP will get different disabilities in... over time.). So, for those OLD programs in closed schools, the staff and students, they will indeed be moving as advertised. And as to Summit IDP, that's great they have a successful program... but other families have felt Summit was very exclusionary to other disabilities and was intransigent about adding other programs, and serving students inclusively. You're either an "inclusive" school or you're not... cherry picking indicates not.

And to clarify, NO people don't have to move out of their program.... in fact, they are guaranteed a spot in their school (without transportation) if their OLD program age range ends, at least for the blended K's. I'm not sure about the other dead-end programs, it wasn't mentioned. But, the blended K families have been very vocal and angry about getting booted out of schools they were forced into.

That's what Fred said, in any case. BUT, so far the enrollment center hasn't worked the way it is supposed to.(that is, people have been turned back, computer has dumped their request, etc) Nobody's actually been enrolled using the enrollment center, but they've gotten a word of mouth from and ed director that "Yes, you're enrolled" in some cases, but without paperwork confirming it.

Also, Fred did leave the district an out. He said, "We'll make sure you can be served at your assigned school IF WE CAN". Well, that's a pretty big hole. And IF THEY CAN'T, it would seem more problematic, because they haven't said where or how they would serve those others.

BTW. This could be great, it all depends on whether or not the services are really provided.

AutismMom said...

Ben says What is behind the District's compulsion to do big things in a big hurry?

IDEA is more than 30 years old. I wouldn't exactly say implementing it now is a big hurry. We have a very exclusionary system that isn't serving a lot of kids well, or legally. So, they really do need to do this.

Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...

AutismMom: While I understand why this is important and know that Seattle is far behind the times with Special Ed, this makes me very glad that my son is a high school student and that my younger son only needs minor accomodations. I fear that it will only become yet another way to One Size Fits All the student population.

Momma Snark said...

Wait...I'm confused. Will the autism inclusion program at John Hay "disappear" now, or will it continue as is, but without the designation of being a specific "program"? Isn't a program specificially designed to serve a specific group of students with specific needs a good thing? Honestly, I don't understand this. Am I missing something?

Ben said...

To AutismMom @ 6:12 —

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that this was a new problem. But is SPS actually set up to make this huge change next year? Once deciding you're going to enact something like this (even if you should have decided that long before), isn't a lot of planning necessary? Have they done the planning?

Dorothy said...

AutismMom, your comments and discussion are Highly Interesting. Sometimes it gets a little heated and I get uncomfortable with your tone and a few things you have said seem to be inaccurate, but that's also true of Charlie, Mel and anyone else here. Mostly I think your information has been very valuable and necessary. I'd love it if you contributed and gave us more education and insight.

I've always wished for a Special Ed voice here (as have others) but realize that it could be problematic for a parent or teacher in the system to post candidly.

AutismMom said...

No, the program (teachers, aides, and students) at John Hay will not end. But, anyone in the reference area can sign up for John Hay, and be served by the program. They will not be denied access. So, lots of new and different students may be showing up next year to John Hay.

Yes, the program was specifically designed as "autism inclusion", and now it is specifically being undesigned. This is not a bad thing, unless there isn't enough staff. Will there be?

Did you noticed no disabled students families have attended disability K tours? That is because preschools weren't told of the transition plans. Fred also mentioned that people should just go on regular tours to check out the schools. No special tours.

adhoc said...

Melissa liss Cain, I'm sure you are familiar with your Seattle options and I don't know if you live in NE or N Seattle but if you do I would give The Room 9 community school AKA The Journey Program, in Shoreline a call. They are a small k-8 alt and have some space for Seattle kids. They are on 185th near the freeway. You could also try Kellogg MS in Shoreline they are right over the Shoreline border (150th st at 25th ne). Kellogg is a traditional MS, but very small. All of the teachers know all of the kids. And my son has had some of the same teachers for 7th grade as he did for 8th grade which makes for great continuity. Academics are strong, and kids are very welcoming and friendly. Both of these schools are public schools by the way. Shoreline has no real enrollment process. You just go into the school, fill out paperwork and if they have space you are enrolled instantly. Room 9 school does mandate a tour because they are an alt school and want to make sure that you are comfortable with their philosophy.

I don't mean to direct families out of the district, but there really aren't much choices for the Summit kids who want an alt MS in the NE.

Melissa liss Cain, I'm sure you are familiar with your Seattle options and I don't know if you live in NE or N Seattle but if you do I would give The Room 9 community school AKA The Journey Program, in Shoreline a call. They are a small k-8 alt and have some space for Seattle kids. They are on 185th near the freeway. You could also try Kellogg MS in Shoreline they are right over the Shoreline border (150th st at 25th ne). Kellogg is a traditional MS, but very small. All of the teachers know all of the kids. And my son has had some of the same teachers for 7th grade as he did for 8th grade which makes for great continuity. Academics are strong, and kids are very welcoming and friendly. Both of these schools are public schools by the way. Shoreline has no real enrollment process. You just go into the school, fill out paperwork and if they have space you are enrolled instantly. Room 9 school does mandate a tour because they are an alt school and want to make sure that you are comfortable with their philosophy.

I don't mean to direct families out of the district, but there really aren't much choices for the Summit kids who want an alt MS in the NE.

Melissa liss Cain, I'm sure you are familiar with your Seattle options and I don't know if you live in NE or N Seattle but if you do I would give The Room 9 community school AKA The Journey Program, in Shoreline a call. They are a small k-8 alt and have some space for Seattle kids. They are on 185th near the freeway. You could also try Kellogg MS in Shoreline they are right over the Shoreline border (150th st at 25th ne). Kellogg is a traditional MS, but very small. All of the teachers know all of the kids. And my son has had some of the same teachers for 7th grade as he did for 8th grade which makes for great continuity. Academics are strong, and kids are very welcoming and friendly. Both of these schools are public schools by the way. Shoreline has no real enrollment process. You just go into the school, fill out paperwork and if they have space you are enrolled instantly. Room 9 school does mandate a tour because they are an alt school and want to make sure that you are comfortable with their philosophy.

I don't mean to direct families out of the district, but there really aren't much choices for the Summit kids who want an alt MS in the NE.

http://www.roomninecommunity
school.org/

uxolo said...

Where on earth does that leave the teachers of special education? Do they wait until September before they know who they will work with and what instruction they will provide? I must be missing something. This is most certainly newsworthy.

anon said...

And to add to Uxolo's question, where does it leave general education teachers and principals? Some are highly averse to having other than the narrowest range of children in their classrooms.

There is really very little knowledge of why inclusion works and how it works and that is because all the discussion of disabilities stays within the walls of special education in this district.

Teachermom said...

Well, they haven't told special education staff about any of this yet......if that's any indication. I have heard vague references about it indirectly from three non-special ed staff. I am still waiting for some kind of introduction to our "new" interim director.

There has also been no real training for special education teachers in the district for at least two years, other than an introduction to IEP writing and non-violent behavior intervention.

I would guess that rolling this out will require some excellent staff development for principals, classroom teachers, and specialists. We can use the extra money in the budget for that.

I agree that this is long overdue, Autismmom, but if it is not done planfully, it will not be good for kids.

Maybe there will be a design team miracle. We will also need additional special ed staff to carry this out, and there have consistently been 12-20 open special ed teacher positions throughout the school year for the 10 years I have been following SPS' career opportunities website. Additional aide support will be needed for the various levels of inclusion at each school as well.....

......and we may need a full-time special ed director.

Beth Bakeman said...

DJ and Melissa 'Liss' Cain, glad to have you on board with this project of keeping visibility on students displaced by closures.

AutismMom, THANK YOU, for the news. I'm starting a new thread using some of your comments as a starting point. Are you agreeing to becoming a contributor as well? We'd love to have you.

anon said...

Teachermom isn't the real issue here to train ALL teachers? The problem that I see is general ed teachers washing their hands of the children with disabilities as if they're from another universe. What is the district doing to such dispel stupid myths and fears? Until we get all educators on board our children with disabilities suffer a painful marginalization in this district, socially and intellectually. Believe me, our instructional leaders --too many of them-- are NOT on board and would willingly see the present system of redlining continue.

Teachermom said...

I addressed this in my post:

"I would guess that rolling this out will require some excellent staff development for principals, classroom teachers, and specialists."

steve in west seattle said...

To get back to the original topic...

I'd like to continue my focus on Cooper students.

Right now I need to step back a little. I've been consumed with the struggle to save Cooper for the last couple of months.

It would probably help if there were some milestones, or notification when other posts on the topic were posted.

Right now there is a lot of sadness and anger and not a lot of trust in the Cooper community. The district had told us 4 years ago that if we wanted to avoid being named in future closure plans we should increase test scores and enrollment. Cooper did that but was closed anyway.

I have heard a lot of discussion about leaving the district. Some who can are looking into private schools, and others are considering home-schooling.

I'm not sure what promises you think the district made to us. We were told the program was being closed and our children were being sent to less successful schools to help the district achieve long term goals, that our sacrifice was for the good of the community. There were assurances that the schools would be improved, but no methods or plans were given. That's typically a process of years not months.

Beth Bakeman said...

steve in West Seattle, thank you for your post.

The promises that I think have been made to the Cooper community and all other displaced communities are:

1) To have Design teams in place and working from February onwards to help ensure parents and staff have input on what happens in the schools where they are moving.

2) For the Design teams to continue working with families next fall in all the schools where large numbers of displaced students are assigned to make sure the educational programs meet the students' needs.

3) That families will get clear communication about their enrollment options, the meaning of the special priority and how that will work, and details about where displaced staff will be teaching as soon as possible.

4) To have additional resources (professional development, instructional aides, curriculum/materials) focused on the schools receiving large numbers of displaced students.

I'm paraphrasing, so I may not have this exactly right, but that is what I remember from what I have heard and read.

In terms of timeline or milestones, I don't want to set out a firm timeline. I'd like any contributors who sign up for this project to set their own timelines, but I'm happy to send prompts/reminders to any contributor who wishes.

For Cooper specifically, I will be following what happens to your principal since I have heard that the opinion of many in the Cooper community is that she should not be assigned as a principal at any other school.

I think the leadership and staffing decisions for all the schools involved in the closures is key. And it is one area parents have little or no influence over. But we can raise visibility on and our voices about decisions we think will be harmful.

If you need a break but want to join this blog as a contributor in a month or so, that's fine. Just let me know. And/or you can communicate this offer to others in the Cooper community.

Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...

adhoc: Thank you for the reminder about Shoreline. They won't take my elder son, because he needs major accomodations, but my younger son, now a sixth grader, doesn't. We are within walking distance of Kellogg and the alternative school isn't far, either. I don't plan to leave the district, but if what we have left doesn't work, we may have to do so. I don't see many ways that I can support him here in the north end.

Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...

Beth: Thanks for the opportunity here. I hope that I can contribute something meaningful.

AutismMom said...

ux says: Where on earth does that leave the teachers of special education? Do they wait until September before they know who they will work with and what instruction they will provide?

The needs of the students will know when after assignment has been done. And, if somebody can't be served (and of course we don't know what "can't be served" means), then they'll get a different placement (and of course we don't know that process either).

My best guess as to how it will work is as follows. Most people aren't graduating from their programs, so they will "stay put". Programs that are full or near-full will look pretty much the same as now. Transitioning parents "in the know" will look at schools with programs, and try to get into one of those they like. Schools that now have "programs" will probably still function the way they are accustomed to working. Un-informed parents will just sign up for their local school (because who ever heard of 25 different levels etc? nobody, certainly not newbies). Their kids will either be served and drive the change (over time) in those schools, or be assigned to nearby schools which used to have programs. The delineation between leveled programs and resource room will diminish (over time). Resource room will serve a wider variety of students.

seattle citizen said...

anon:
"The problem that [you] see is general ed teachers washing their hands of the children with disabilities as if they're from another universe."

Yikes. I know you don't mean all educators, but there are some who would rather NOT wash their hands, but either a) aren't perpared to deal with inclusion; b) have increasingly high-stakes tests to prepare children for; c) are the modern incarnation of decades of EXCLUSION in education (they know not what they are a part of)...There are many factors beyond an educator's knowledge or ability or charge...some educators would rather, yes, get rid of the children with disabilities (or the discipline issues or the differently-thinking...) but I would hope these are in the minority.

The Crush said...

I'll start by saying my comments here will not be popular. But I'm going to stick my neck out anyway. I'm not well educated about pros/cons of inclusion vs. exclusion. And I'm not sure if there exists some guidelines around level of disability which can be accommodated (or not) in a mainstream classroom. But here is my take on inclusion as related to my limited experience.

I have 3 children. None of them has a disability. They are in regular classrooms in the Seattle School District.

Last year my middle child had an autistic child in her classroom and now this year my oldest child has an autistic child half day in her room. My observation has been that the classroom teachers are being left without adequate support to help manage the extra work load that inclusion of these children brings. While this may sound harsh, I find these children to be a disruption in class as they have a difficult time following classroom norms and seem impulsive. This makes for a challenging learning environment for the other students and teachers. As a parent I worry that it decreases a teachers ability to attend to the larger group hence lessening the learning for everyone for the benefit of one child. This is not to mention all the "normally abled" kids who struggle with behavior issues which also suck up much of a teachers time and energy. I feel my child then gets the short end of the stick because they do not need special attention. My kids do not have learning or behavior issues so they fall to the end of the list. This ultimately is a disadvantage to them and all the other kids who go quietly through the day on task.

We also had the experience 2 months ago of my oldest being injured by the autistic child that attends class with her. Apparently my child was ask to help escort the other child from one part of the building to another. The child became agitated and pinched my child leaving behind welts and bruises on her upper arm. This is an example of lack of appropriate resources to help with this child's special needs. I felt that my child was not only put in an awkward situation that she is not trained to handle but also a situation that is physically harmful. When I reported it to the teachers the next day they say to me "oh...yes, she does grab and pinch people...she does it to me all the time". Well thank you very much, but do NOT leave my child alone with her.

In discussing these concerns with my in-laws who are all retired public educators (4 in-laws in total due to divorce and yes, they are all teachers) they had many good reasons why inclusion does not work. It is lovely in theory but the appropriate resources do not exist to do it right. And their take is that it is not cost effective. Granted, my in-laws are of a different teaching generation although 2 of the 4 I consider to be very forward thinking, extremely well educated and progressive. They are usually spot on with their thinking around these types of issues.

Anyway, my take home message from this very long post is I have yet to see inclusion as beneficial for the larger group. And in actuality it seems to be more of a liability.

AutismMom said...

Well, The Crush, if you don't like people with disabilities or any other minority group, what can we say? Public schools aren't for you. Every manner of disabilty and minority student, from every imaginable of culture (perhaps offensive to you as well) could definintely be encountered in your school. Unmanaged disruptive behavior, often very slight, has been grounds for very restrictive placement in SPS... and is permitted. Your story, without corroboration, or hearing the other side leaves many questions. Of course, adequate support is absolutely required... and nobody would say otherwise. You should request this support of your school if you feel it lacking.

As far as being impulsive and unable to follow rules. It IS a fine line, but impulsivity and rule following, on its own isn't a reason to deny somebody access. Especially if it is rule following for its own sake.

AutismMom said...

PS The Crush, did your really-forward-looking relatives consider the millions of dollars an uneducated or grossly undereducated, disabled adult costs the taxpayers when they did their "cost effectiveness" calculation? In a group home with no job? I doubt it. That's 100's of thousands per year starting at age 15 or so. And, ten thousand or so now will literally stave off assured millions later. And that is literally the choice. It's your tax dollars, even if you don't give a whit about the humanitarian costs or equity.

The Crush said...

AutismMom,

I realize that this is a very sensitive subject for you and you may not be able to be wholly objective about this as manifested by your accusation that I am somehow a racist (implied by your comment “if you don't like people with disabilities or any other minority group, what can we say? Public schools aren't for you. Every manner of disability and minority student, (perhaps offensive to you as well) could definitely be encountered in your school” blah,blah,blah). Nowhere in my post did I say that I don’t like people with disabilities or other minority groups. I am only questioning the benefits (or not) of inclusion for the majority of students in mainstream classrooms. Your counter post did nothing to educate me further of the benefits, to my children, of including children with significant disabilities in their classrooms. So go ahead, please educate me about the pros and cons of inclusion vs. exclusion. You must understand that just like you I am looking for the best possible educational experience for my children (which, BTW is why we are in public schools…because we value diversity, because we believe that the public system needs all the support it can get, because we believe in community and these things are not necessarily found in the private realm). I risk speaking out and questioning this because I am my children’s advocate as you are for yours.

I think you misunderstand my comment about “cost effectiveness”. I am referring to the cost of mainstreaming disabled children not the cost of educating them in general. I think there is no argument that all children, regardless of ability, has a right to quality education to reach their full potential. As you so correctly state, it cost to have uneducated people in our communities.

I would imagine, if inclusion is to work well, depending on level of disability, each child should have a 1:1 aid in class to help the head teacher manage that particular child’s additional needs. I know for a fact that is not currently happening and I cannot fathom where the money would come from to support that when we cannot even manage to keep schools open. In the “exclusionary” system that exists now there can be a few staff working with a classroom full of children, which cost less. Although, I am no financial wiz kid…maybe I am wrong. Years ago, in the early years of my career, I cared for a severely disabled boy (his issues were physical not cognitive). He was in a mainstream classroom. It worked well because I was his 1:1 provider for all of his medical care as well as helping him with some of his academics. He also had a part-time aid employed by SPS. It is utopian to expect all kids will get that level of service, as it is VERY costly. But wouldn’t it be grand! But AutismMom, where do we get the money for that?

I think this is what frustrated my in-laws. A school would spread out several disabled kids into several classrooms then budget for only one aid to be shared among these high needs kids. This amounted to very little daily assistance in the classroom.

So far, my real life experiences tell me that it is not beneficial. I’ve witnessed that teachers are less available when there are individual children with very high needs. Those are just the unfortunate facts.

SPSMom said...

AustismMom, Crush did not say he/she did not like people with special needs, he/she was poiting out, through personal experience that students with disabilities are being mainstreamed without the proper resources to be successful, something you have said time and again.

So my read is that you both actually agree.

Dorothy said...

I read Crush as saying that the problem is not enough support -- not that he didn't want to educate or mainstream kids.

I regularly read a blog by a woman with an autistic 11th grader in another state (Missouri). He is mainstreamed part of the day and in targeted classes the rest (social, life skills, etc and she says she sees real improvement, there's real curriculum) AND he has a full-time 1-1 aide. The aide sounds absolutely necessary for him to be in regular classes. If that could be the norm, all would be wonderful. Ah, money.

SPSMom said...

I would be very interested in hearing how Summit high school students do this coming year. I believe there are around 100 that have been displaced and would like to know if they do actually get priority seating as well as all the classes they need to stay on track for graduation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPS MOm, I addressed the Summit high school kids in another thread.

AutismMom said...

Well Crush, when you bring up the grand crime of "pinching" from a student who is already self-contained (are you at TC?)... you sort of skew the issue and reveal your bias. Is your child really left "alone" to tend the disabled kids? I simply don't believe you. Do other typical kids ever pinch? Or, my heavens, grab? At recess, or on the playground? Did your child provoke them? What about the typical kid at RBHS who raped a disabled student? Or bullied them? What aboout all the "typical" kids involved in shootings? The point here is that there is always aberrant behavior out in the world and at school. Guess what, we still have to educate it.

As to the cost of effectively educating students inclusively. Many people, like Crush, wonder about "inclusion". Does it work? If not, why bother? And there are lots of questions. BUT!!! The Crushes of world, never ever wonder about self-containment or the opposite. Does that work? Does it prepare our children for "work, life, and college?" The fact is, we know that it absolutely does NOT work, and has NOT worked. So instead of making the default be ineffective ultra self-containment (which we KNOW hasn't worked), how about we just follow the law, and provide the LRE which might work, and certainly won't be worse. There are never guarantees at the level anyone can achieve, no matter the setting.


I've seen many, many self-contained programs at this point. Basically, elementary programs are run as preschools, or maybe K-1, for a level 3. Middle school programs are run as K-1's. If middle school programs are essentially operating as glorified Kindergartens, (I realize others see them differently) then really.... this scheme isn't for the benefit of the students in them... it's for the benefit of you, Crush. Until you, and your pinched child, pay taxes to support them at heavy cost.. for life. Because, the provided K-1 skills won't be enough to surive at any job.

As to benefits of inclusion. A teacher capable of differentiation is a better teacher... pure and simple. Because, you never know when you might actually need that. She should be able to provide your child more or less, and in the way most effective for your child. Your child and others are exposed to disablity... a natural state, and one that they WILL face over their lifetime, perhaps sooner than you anticipate.

Yes it costs. And yes, schools try to do it "on the cheap", to the detriment to many, including the disabled student. But cost can not be used as an excuse to deny service.

Evan said...

AutismMom - just have to register an objection to the way you are responding to Crush - questioning his/her integrity ("i simply don't believe you" - wow) and making pretty huge suppositions about his intent, understanding ("the Crushes of the world never, ever wonder...") and situation - not to mention what surely sounds like sneering at his child's situation ("..the grand crime of pinching").

My guess is that you'd like to educate the readers here as well as blow off some steam about frustrations - but comments like the last couple of yours just make me skip to the next one when I see the commenter's name.

Sahila said...

We would, as a community, society and world, be better off if we had the humanitarian, political and economic will to deliver education (in its broadest possible sense/meaning) according to each child's unique makeup and needs - disabled, normal/average, advanced - whatever label we feel the need to apply...

I dont know why we cant accept and transact with difference as it exists, instead of applying the values of less than, neutral/normal or more than to human beings and situations to give us some sort of artificial criteria/baseline for how we should respond...

This child needs this to reach his/her fullest potential - s/he gets this..

This child needs that....s/he gets that etc...

If some kids can have individual learning and developmental plans, all kids can... ethically - if you come from a belief/philosophy that a certain portion of the population needs/deserves this as a basic human right, then by extension all portions of the population need/deserve the same, tailored to their unique needs/talents/skills/potential ...

This isnt pie-in-the-sky utopianism...its the practice of equity playing out to its logical conclusion...

Its about time we adjusted our perspective and moved from the factory model of education...our short-sighted focus on service-delivery costs stunts the growth and wellbeing of humanity as a species...

SPSMom said...

Melissa, I am curious how Summit HS students actually fair in 2009/10 school year. Do they actually get priority seating, or is that just a promise that the district fails to live up to?

Also, for high school students, it's not just getting a seat in a school, it's being able to get into all the classes they need/want, and transferring midstream could be an issue.

So, I would like to know how that all plays out for those students and hope there is a parent who steps forth and lets us know.

anon said...

Thank you to Autismmom for your forthrightness and clarity. I hope you keep posting.

There's double standard from some of the writers here. If a child of color were being excluded or marginalized in a classroom, if that child's needs were being mismanaged or ignored, if that child acted out as a result, would you blame the child or say "see, we need to rethink integration?"

But when it comes to disabilities, it's ok to bat back and forth whether inclusion is "ok." Not only that, the child gets blamed. Imagine if all these conversations substitued "Native American" or "African American" for "disabled." This is a sickening double standard.

adhoc said...

Autismmom I had the exact same experience with inclusion at Salmon Bay, as Crush had at his/her school. Sped kids were mainstreamed and in classes without any 1:1 support or an aide. The classroom teacher, with 30 students, was expected to handle the daily melt downs of the two autistic children in my sons class. The melt downs could occur from the simplest of situations such as the teacher asking the child for homework, or a student speaking out of turn, or just about anything else really. The melt downs ranged from a child sitting in the corner screaming and pulling his hair, to cursing out the teacher or other students, to throwing objects, and knocking over desks. The teacher had no choice but to stop class and calm the child which could take upwards of 20-30 minutes, while the rest of the class goofed off. It was not an appropriate setting, in my opinion, for the autistic children, the general ed children, or the overwhelmed teacher who was at her wits end. Nobody benefited. Handling the high needs of special ed kids that have huge breakdowns is not the definition of DIFFERENTIATION Autismom. Please stop referring to differentiation in that context.

To make matters worse inclusion without the necessary support and supervision is downright dangerous, and not the the less than adequately supervised autistic child, but to gen ed kids too. One of the autistic children in my sons class kicked my son, leaving a huge foot size bruise on his hip. When my son spoke to the assistant principal about the assault he was told "be understanding because that child's life was much harder than his". No consequence to the offending child. Sorry, that doesn't fly. No pass just because your autistic. If the child doesn't learn now, he will learn when he is older and gets arrested for such an act. No child should be able to pinch, kick or hurt another child, and if they do the situation should be dealt with seriously. BTW, that same child pulled a clump of my sons hair out on the playground later in the year without any consequences for that either. But as Autismom appears to be bitter and hateful toward typically developed children and their families, she's probably high fiving herself to hear this. Or perhaps she will just call me a liar, as she did Crush.

I feel as Crush feels, that if we are going to offer inclusion then we need to have the necessary support to make it work for EVERYONE. If there were an aide in the room, then the child could be removed when he had a melt down. If there were an aide on the playground the child would be monitored closer and not be able to assault other children.

And yes Autismom gen ed kids do pinch, kick and pull hair sometimes too, but they are dealt with, suspended and even expelled for the behavior. Kids are not, and should not be expected to just "understand" and take it. I wonder how you would handle it if a typically developed child pinched or kicked or hit your child?

None of the families that we knew at Salmon Bay were happy with the inclusion program without the necessary support to make it work. Nor should you be Autismom. Do you really want your child in that type of circumstance

anon said...

See ad hoc, there you go damning inclusion. Do you damn segregation when/if you see a child of color doing something s/he isn't supposed to be doing? Why not be an advocate for more/better support and training and staffing. Or do you just not think it's possible?

There are a lot of books out there too to tell you what a well run inclusive classroom looks like. Suprise gasp, even peer reviewed studies offer a lot of technical support, which is sounds was not reaching your classroom. Maybe your kids' principal never read this stuff and thought "oh well, it's just the way THEY are." A lot of people think that. There's a lot of ignorance out there.

AutismMom said...

Adhoc, we've gone around on this before. The fact is, I would be thrilled if my child was lucky enough to attended Salmon Bay. Sorrry, we ARE going to be there in your classrooms everywhere. If you don't like it, you'll at least need to get used to it. So, if it's really important to you, I hope you can direct your suggestions for extra support towards your school staff. And yes, my child has typical siblings and friends. They routinely pinch, bite, grab, chase, trick, cheat on, and "abuse" my autistic child in every possible way they can dream up. So no, I don't "hate" typical children, I am the parent to typical children. I know what they all do.

adhoc said...

Autismom you dance around issues, and point fingers, but surely, even you must acknowledge that more support is necessary to make an inclusion model work.

I didn't hear Crush say that he/she didn't want inclusion, only that the way it was being handled, unsupported in his school was not working. That is exactly how I feel. So hear me Autismom...I THINK INCLUSION IS A GOOD THING. I AM NOT AGAINST INCLUSION. Was that loud enough? I just think it should be supported so that it works for all students, and staff involved.

AutismMom said...

And in case it has been missed, dispurtive behavior has always been used (and often over-used) to put someone in a more restrictive setting. The law does allow for that. The district does do it, and will continue to. BUT, to continually focus on "that poorly behaved autistic student in my kid's classroom", we paint the picture that all austistic students are extremely disrputive. And this simply isn't the case. My child is the most mild mannered, fair minded, and generous person you will ever meet.

Typically, students with challenging behavior have a BIP (behavior intervnetion plan) that must be followed. These legal documents describe the support and actions required when challenging behaviors occur. Often, students don't get "punished" or given consequences... because their BIP's are simply not being followed. In fact, 1 child at my kid's school LOVES punishment. Punishing him would make him do more bad behavior because he loves punishment so much. If he were self-contained, he'd just be bad there too... and disrupt that classroom too. When schools neglect BIP implementation, the school can NOT do anything, because it hasn't done the things they agreed to. And whose fault would that be?

adhoc said...

Autismom can you agree with Crush and I that to make inclusion work effectively (and safely) for ALL involved there needs to be more support in the classroom? Instead of going into a tailspin again, can you pause to answer this simple question? Because I think we might agree on this.

seattle citizen said...

anon and Autism Mom,
I agree that disruptive students are often quickly booted to resource rooms (or are given IEPs, if Gen Ed, and therefore become elegible for a quick boot out of the gen ed classroom...I agree that there are books, there are ways to have an inclusive classroom.

But I don't think Ad Hoc and Crush are saying that we SHOULDN'T have inclusion, they are just saying that there needs to be support.

That support doesn't always have to be an IA or an IEP teacher, true...there are ways ONE teacher can teach that help alleviate "disruptions" (and ooh, that is such a dangerous word..."You! You're the child of democrats! I don't LIKE you!"....my point being that even the way a teacher feels politically can become and excuse, conscious or unconscious, to view or single out a child...don't get me started on race and class and other ways we're different: Difference, any difference, in that lens can be "disruptive" the cogs of the well-oiled ten-year old lesson plans that are formulaic and standardized...)

So to me it sounds like we are all in favor of inclusion, but want to make sure there are the proper staff, procedures, and differentions in place to support every child.

sps grad and mom said...

I think an important point here is to remember about privacy issues. When my child has been involved in an altercation or event with another child, I naturally know what the consequences were for my child. I am generally not allowed to know the consequences for the other child, particularly if that child has an IEP or other extenuating circumstances. I do have one child on an IEP, and they has ALWAYS had consequences when they had inappropriate behavior. I have only rarely known what the consequences were for the other child - if I have known it was because the other parent let me know. The school has to maintain confidentiality. The appropriate consequence for a child with special needs might not look the same as for a typically developing child, but if the school staff is functioning, there are well thought out consequences that have a teaching/learning goal.

And all three of my children have experienced slapping, hitting, biting, kicking, even being shot by a potato gun, at the hands of typically developing peers. These behaviors are in no way limited to children with special needs in inclusion classes.

Yes, teachers need appropriate support to effectively integrate all students in a classroom. This support is not always a full-time aide. A full-time aide can actually be more restrictive, depending on the needs of the child. And a full-time aide can become an excuse for a teacher to ignore responsibility for all the children in their classroom. A full-time aide is appropriate in certain cases, but not all of them.

AutismMom said...

First off, since it seems to be in question. My disabled child has always received great support, so I'm not sure why these other schools aren't supporting their kids. Also, I can't comment on every bad behavior that might have happened somewhere. Who could?

Of course we all want our children's programs to be adequately supported. That goes without saying doesn't it? But here's my point beyond that. When inclusion programs aren't adequately staffed, you can bet your bottom dollar that self-contained programs aren't adequatedly staffed either. If a kid needs more support than available in a particular inclusion program... moving them to a self-contained program doesn't help. Although there are less kids, the kids have MUCH higher needs... so the net is NO extra real support. A reduction in curriculum, a reduction in expectations, a reduction in enrichment, a reduction in anything that we would hope for in a school. IEP's and placement decision are for the benefit of the student... not for the school or anyone else.

And finally, there is a notion expressed here that inclusion is "idealistic" but impratical. Actually, it's exactly the other way around. Inclusion is how the world actually is, and prepares students for that ultimate placement, the real world in all its harshness. And, in reality, "self-containment" is something that ideally could be good. But this "idealistic notion" of quality self-containment just hasn't worked out to be quality. (I'm sure there are a few, very limited exceptions.) We have many years of data showing low expectations and low achievement from self-contained settings. We have a an audit that noted it. If you think your school doesn't have enough "accountability"... rest assured there is absolutely NO accountability for self-containment. Nobody takes the WASL or can compare a school on academic achievement. Nobody compares or monitors the school against another best practice. Nobody cares if kids have IEP's that maximize their potential, or that IEP's that are adequate. Nobody monitors very extreme punishments. ETC. This isn't being cynical, it's just reporting the reality. The elementary and middle school self-contained programs I've seen could almost be replaced by watching "Sesame Street", at least for the "academic part". None are even close to grade level, and this just isn't something many of us will accept for our kids.

Roy Smith said...

Is there any word yet about what sort of program the K-8 in Jane Addams is going to be, or who the principal or faculty is going to be?

adhoc said...

Harium posted on his blog that the principal for the k-8 will be announced this Friday. He also said that he favors a math and science school and will give his input, but says that staff decides what the program will look like.

That's it for now.

Meanwhile open enrollment begins in 3 1/2 weeks.

Sabia said...

Beth,
I'll do my best to post updates once a month...if you could send me a reminder if I've fallen behind, that'd be much appreciated. :)
Sabia

Beth Bakeman said...

Great. Thanks, Sabia.

Robin said...

I am wondering about the Montesorri program moving to Leschi and how they will keep stability for the kids in that classroom. Specifically in regards to the teachers in the classroom, does anyone know how the teachers will be moved around and to what school they are going to? I know the principals will be announced this week, but what about the teachers.

dj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danny K said...

I'd be happy to contribute, although I am not sure where my kid is going to be next year.

AutismMom: I totally agree that inclusion and mainstreaming is the expectation for all kids these days. But I also think it's easy to mess this up, and that a failed attempt at inclusion isn't good for either the kid at the center of it OR the kids around them.