Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where Does Education's Role End and a Parent's Begins?

I read Jerry Large's recent column in the Times and came away feeling confused and unsure of what I thought I just read.   Maybe it's just ignorance on my part (and I'm willing to hear that if that's what you think). 
Mr. Large was writing about a PBS special on Tuesday called "Too Important to Fail" with broadcaster Tavis Smiley.  It was about the issue of black students and education.  From the column:

The problem is bad, but it is not hopeless, it can be fixed, and we already know a lot about how to do that.


One of the educators Smiley interviewed laid out some of the statistics: a high-school dropout rate above 50 percent, and 85 percent don't read or do math at grade level in fourth-grade. He said that if white children faced those numbers, all hell would break loose.

Those two paragraphs confuse me because if we know how to solve the problem - to any degree - why are the stats so bad? 

He then goes on to ask a series of questions that lead me to more confusion:

The question of whether this was something black people could do on our own came up. It always does. The answer is no. Can we afford to abandon public schools? No. But can we afford to watch the same behaviors lead to the same results while we wait for the institution to evolve? Definitely not.


Black involvement and leadership alone are not enough, but that involvement is critical as we address issues that carry over from home to the schoolhouse.

So I have a series of questions:

- is he saying that the expectation is that black people should be able to solve the problems they see within their community?  Because if that were true, then it would seem that the problem comes from their community and we all know the problems are larger than any one community.  I'm confused here.


- He makes this statement:  What teachers bring to the classroom matters, too. Students learn best when teachers understand each student's background and are prepared and willing to deal with the baggage they bring to class.  I have no problem with the first statement.  It's the second one that I have difficulty deciding if I think that is possible.  Maybe in elementary school, a teacher might be able to  know each student's background.  It's not like parents/guardians fill out an information sheet for each child for each teacher "things you should know about my child."

Teachers, you tell me - do you ask your students a lot of personal questions if you feel something is impeding their learning?  Go to a Family Support Worker?

I'm also just not getting how this would happen for middle and high school?   With multiple teachers?   Is knowing a child's background the same as cultural competency?

Also, what does "deal with the baggage they bring to class."  Does that mean accepting behavior you wouldn't accept from another child who has a more stable life?  Does that mean trying to give them more support?  I don't know what he means for teachers to do.

The column goes on to say:

Early in the Tavis Smiley program, one educator said 83 percent of the country's teachers are white women. About 1 percent are black men.

If a teacher has to be black to educate black boys, we are lost.

Fortunately, cultural competency can be taught. Of course not all teachers are willing to put in the effort to examine themselves and learn how to be more effective. Schools need the flexibility to assign teachers with the tools and willingness to engage black boys to schools where those skills are most needed.

Has anyone asked why more black adults don't become teachers? 

Also, how does a district know, for sure, which teachers have "the tools" and the willingness "to engage black boys"? Is that based on a principal assessment?  I honestly don't know.

When teachers' approach to black and Latino boys is based on punishment (suspensions, detention) failure is almost a given.

He's right here as study after study shows (as well as that Latino and African-American boys are disproportionately disciplined).

But then he says this:

Schools adapted to work well for black boys would work better for Latino boys, too, and indeed for all boys. Boys in general are slower than girls to gain the reading skills that are critical to education — and to get into trouble when they don't thrive in school.

Is he advocating for schools just for boys?  Schools just for minority boys?

I feel his helplessness  and "something has got to change" but what?  He doesn't really say. 
Mr. Large raises too many questions with answers that aren't clear or understandable in their execution.

This is part of an even larger picture for all of our society:
  • do we value education in this country?  In the higher achieving countries like Finland and South Korea, education is at the top of values and teachers are revered.  Can we say that here?
  • education CANNOT solve all problems.  Not by a long shot.  A good school with caring teachers and staff can absolutely make a difference in the life of child.  It may even save some children.  But each and every day, students walk out of school and go home.  They see billboards and watch tv and go on computers.  They interact with family.  There is nothing that a school can do about any of that and yet it impacts the learning that takes place at school. 
  • When we, as a society, have shows like Jackass and Teen Mom which promote stupid behavior, it doesn't help promote education.  When we have a president who makes jokes about being a C student and still becoming president, it doesn't help.  When nearly every profile of Bill Gates at some point uses the word, "geek", it doesn't help.
  • When is being smart going to be valued?   Everyone wants a great doctor, hopes that the bridge they are on was designed by fantastic engineers and hopes some scientist is creating the cure for cancer and yet who are the best paid people (and most popular)?  Rap stars, movie stars, professional athletes.  These are not bad people but why don't we give more focus to those who make a real difference in our country?
Schools can do little about the larger society but they can elevate academic excellence above all else including athletic and/or arts achievement.  The latter are great and there are exceptional students who should be recognized but school is about academics and too often that gets forgotten.

The goal should be good academic outcomes for all and not well, some kids are bright and others are great athletes and artists.  If we take that stance, we give up on some kids and their learning.  We can't afford to do that.

I just know two things.  Education cannot solve all the problems in a child's life and our country, our society is going to have to take a good long look in the mirror and ask if maybe we are our own worst enemy when it comes to educating our children.

134 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw the PBS Special and found it to be very thoughtful and felt it did a good job outlining what can be done with a very intense effort. I'm surprised Jerry Large's column was so befuddled.

Smiley made a lot of the points we all know...individual attention, small class sizes, schools focused on helping kids (only boys in this report) with serious problems at home or their neighborhoods. The kid needs to WANT to succeed; the family needs to be supportive. There were lots of very focused charters, etc. that poured LOTS of money into creating an environment where at-risk boys could succeed, including support services, etc.

Smiley talked about a need to change the culture of the community, and, in some cases, society in general. He admitted that it wasn't cheap or easy. I wasn't taking notes so don't quote me here. But I came away from it with positive feelings.

His wrap-up was that boys of color (especially low-income) needed positive role models, mentors and an environment that would help them see there were more avenues to success besides sports or crime.

He talked about how there need to be more books for early-readers that feature kids of color (so the boys can "see themselves" in what they're reading). As for the white, women teachers...that was less about "cultural competency" and more about role models and mentors...again giving the boys the opportunity to "see themselves" and their community.

WV: "potionis" boys of color don't see themselves in Harry Potter
SolvayGirl

Anonymous said...

Oh boy Melissa. I get what he is saying completely.

RE: Black leadership and involvement.

It takes family, community, schoolhouse, political leadership, and society as a whole to make a difference. For a vulnerable child, some of those parts matter even more for a positive outcome.

RE: teacher

I don't think he is asking a teacher with 150 kids to have a personal dossier on each child. But to have your radar on high for personal baggage when you are dealing with people. Shouldn't you have that anyway? If you ever have been a "minority" (and that can be any attribute, i.e. an American in China ) in a social or workplace setting, you better have your game on to avoid the quagmire. I know for me, the radar is on ALL the time so I'm good at it because I have lots of practice. Still it doesn't keep me from fall into a s***t pile every now and then.

RE: boys

The stats are out there about our minority male. Black and Latino women have a higher college graduation and employment rate than their male counterparts. If you were to ask our ES teachers, many will tell you (especially among 3-5th graders) that girls outperform boys academically and better behaved in GENERAL. If you want to make a difference, start with kids when they are very young, especially with the boys when they are so naturally curious and active and capture that quality and make every moment a teachable and learning moment for them. Persist through their growing years with lots of support and wrap around services at home and in the community, and you will see a different. (i.e. why is RB community center still closed?)

There is terrific article in NYT about character and kids worth reading.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/what-if-the-secret-to-success-is-failure.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=general&src=me

PS parent

Anonymous said...

It's not like parents/guardians fill out an information sheet for each child for each teacher "things you should know about my child."


Uh. What are you talking about? I just filled out that form for my middle schooler. It included questions like "Describe how your child learns best."

Does that mean accepting behavior you wouldn't accept from another child who has a more stable life? Does that mean trying to give them more support? I don't know what he means for teachers to do.

Of course it means exactly that. "Accepting behavior" means understanding its roots, putting in the effort, and addressing it. It means providing an environment that meets students social, behavioral, and academic needs. We have a suspension epidemic in our schools, especially for students with disabilities and for minority students. You can't suspend students into better behavior. And you can't teach them anything if they are not there. Schools are required to both teach behavior, model behavior, understand behavior. Instead we see the quick fix of suspension applied whimsically in schools. Nationwide the curriculum is school based and is called Positive Behavior Support.

-parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent, that is great a teacher asked for that info. That hasn't been my experience. Also, "learns best" is not the same "what issues about your child should I know about i.e. baggage?"

I think understanding why a child is behaving in a certain why is different from allowing it as an acceptable form of behavior. I mean if one child throws something and doesn't get corrected and another does the same thing and gets corrected, what lesson does the rest of the class draw from that?

When John Cummings was running for School Board, he had a lot to say about how suspension does NOT help kids and about positive discipline. But I didn't get to find out exactly how that works in a class and what options are open to teachers to help a student's behavior while keeping the class going.

NLM said...

Education's role ends at the point when parents are informed, empowered and encouraged (modeling and mentorship) to actively participate in their child's academic life. So long as there are some who lack information, power and encouragement (not to mention resources), you'll continue to see vastly diferent outcomes.

Anonymous said...

By the way, thanks Melissa for bringing this topic up on your blog. In our family, we discussed these issues with our kids in the hope that they can navigate their way and avoid being a negative stat.

PS parent

SST said...

"It's not like parents/guardians fill out an information sheet for each child for each teacher "things you should know about my child.""

I have filled out these forms at the beginning of the year from my boys teachers since elementary and they are now in MS and HS and I'm still filling them out. I even had a teacher give my child extra credit for allowing a home visit in 9th grade (at a comprehensive SPS HS)!

And, no Melissa MS and HS teachers can't possibly know about every child's baggage, however, when they see one of their students struggling academically, or acting out,they should take a closer look at what is going on with that individual child.

Troubled students are not just the product of low income, minority families, with unstable home lives. Kids of all colors and socio economic backgrounds deal with depression, anorexia, bullying, ill family members, drugs and alcohol, and so on. Hopefully, when these issues affect a child's performance or behavior at school a teacher will take a closer look and try to figure out what is going on.

That doesn't mean a teacher must deal with the students issues - they are not trained to do so. But once a teacher recognizes that there are issues present they can recommend support services, and deal with that child more appropriately. That doesn't mean that a teacher has to put up with poor behavior, but perhaps they can tailor their approach to how they deal with certain behaviors when appropriate.

dj said...

Parent, that hasn't typically been my experience. I met both of my SPS kids' teachers this year for about five minutes the day before class (five minutes is probably generous), and that was "hi, my name is __, I am __'s mom," without anything more personal. I had to fill out at least eight or nine forms for each kid the first week, but they were all medical release forms and permission slips.

When my oldest started kindergarten, her teacher came to our house for about a half-hour and talked to us about our kid and saw our kid's room. It really made a difference (I am under the impression she was paid to do the visits, not that she was going above and beyond).

SST said...

I should be specific about a teacher tailoring their approach to discipline for a struggling students.

If a struggling student is disrupting the class, instead of sending him to the office and causing him to lose more classroom time and fall further behind, a teacher could assign lunch duty, or get creative and ask the disruptive student to be a teachers aid for the day or week, or pull him aside privately after class and discuss the behavior and set up a reward system for better behavior moving forward. I'm not a teacher, but those are just a few thoughts that come to mind.

DeeBee said...

Melissa, it confuses you because as dialed in as you are to the district in general, you aren't all that competent when it comes to the largest portion of the district's student population-minorities. And that's ok. You're a well-off, North Seattle white woman, and I wouldn't expect you to be.

I didn't find Mr. Large's column all that confusing. I knew, like PS parent, exactly what he was talking about. But that's because I'm part of the community he was writing about.

You seem puzzled by the statement about teachers being aware of their students' baggage. While you say you've not seen that in upper grades, that is absolutely what I have seen in some south Seattle schools by good teachers who make an effort to get to know their students. No secret dossier is needed. All the teachers need to do is pay attention. The good ones learn which kids are struggling and will go as far as calling their homes to help get them on track. I have seen this time and time again. They work HARD to help the kids graduate.

It's a PART of cultural competency to do that, but also to know where, in general, your students are coming from. My child's Kindergarten class had children from at least 6 countries of origin, some who came in reading, some who didn't speak a word of English and couldn't read in their own native language, and so on. The teacher(black woman), believe it or not,managed to reach them all in a meaningful way. When she had them draw and write "what they wanted to be when they grew up" not one of them wanted to be a rap star or a basketball player. A few wanted to be teachers though!

But cultural competency is also being aware when the curriculum is Eurocentric, and commenting on that. It's being aware of the challenges kids face without assuming that automatically makes them poor students. I had my own experience with this: my then 3rd-grader did a sloppy job at the beginning of the year on a writing assignment and her teacher assumed she couldn't write well because of her background. Once we got that worked out, she was held to the high expectations we expected.

It's not, as I've heard one parent describe it, "taking down all the pictures of black people after February". It's not creating a skit about colonial life in which the only black characters are slaves...

It's an awareness of local resources and activities. It's knowing that church is often a huge part of black family life (where, incidentally, a lot of the support for young black males can be found). And so on.

Personal note to PS parent-the Rainier Beach Community CEnter is closed for remodeling, and will reopen in 2 years with even more services (assuming the city can fund it). For now, many of the programs are at Rainier Community Center. Many of the ones aimed at teens at risk are completely free.

mirmac1 said...

This is particularly relevant to this discussion:

Seattle "Blue-Ribbon school has only 6.6% FRL

And DeeBee, yes it is true that we can't expect everyone to be cognizant of all cultures. As an immigrant and the parent of a child with special-needs (there is a SpEd culture), I do like to educate others whenever the opportunity comes up. Thanks for your post.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, the term "allowing" is already a bit condenscending. What does it mean? The behavior is an event in the past. It already happened. It isn't a question of "allowing". The question is how do schools respond to maladaptive behaviors and how do they encourage positive ones. How do they figure out the cause of behavior? Are students given classrooms with adequate planning and preparation? Do they understand what they're supposed to be doing? Is it relevant to them? Are they having a problem at home? If schools continue to view behavior as something they have no hand in, and they simply suspend students (in-house or out of house), then we will continue to see failures and we will continue to hear about other people wanting to fix them (like TFA). The behavior problem in my kids' school occur in situations where teachers fail to prepare adequately, do not have things for all students to do (considering what each student can actually do and is motivated to do), do not include all students, don't have the materials ready, and often actually leaves the classroom. I have a bit of experience with this issue. (These are enrichment classes we're talking about.) These teachers aren't modeling adaptive behavior, or even good behavior. Why would we expect more from the kids than the teachers? Sure, their behavior might not be as immediately destrutive, but in the long run they're just as costly and destructive. In classes that have been well planned, surprise surprise, there just doesn't seem to be the behavior problems. The term "baggage" is also fraught with condescension, though I believe you were quoting it. Schools have to start with the students as they are, not as they wish them.

-parent

Anonymous said...

PS. When schools ask "How does you child learn best", the family has the opportunity to provide the information about what's going on at home, and what the school can do to help the child learn. Will the school actually use that information? I expect them to.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Wow. Here come the perfection-demanding apologists and finger-pointers. Yawn. WSDWG

SST said...

I agree with parent as far as teachers having a hand in the poor behavior of some students. Some teachers just don't have great classroom management skills, some are out many days during the year and leave their students to multiple subs, and some just don't communicate well (like when clear classroom behavior expectations are not put forth or enforced or when assignments are given without clear expectations, due dates, etc). Leads to poor classroom behavior and lower performance/learning.

When we look at the big picture, this should be taken into account too. Surely, that's part of what folks mean when they say we need great teachers in every classroom. It makes a huge difference.

Anonymous said...

How about just follow the simple principle, if somebody sends their kid to school, that the school actually step up and teach them all day? (Schools are obligated to teach everyone, right? "Everyone" includes lots of people others would like to forget about or dismiss: "don't want to learn" or "can't" or "too much baggage".) I don't think it's too much to ask. If the kid is having a problem at school, he's probably having having that problem at home too. Sending him home doesn't help the parents solve the problem either. Suspension should be used as a tool to benefit students, not a convenience for schools. If it works as a tool, and the punishment improves the student, then great. But when it doesn't, the school needs to take another course of action. There's plenty of evidence that suspension as a tool, heaped with great disproportionality on selected groups of students, isn't benefiting students. That isn't expecting perfection, it's just common sense.

-parent

DeeBee said...

Perfection demanding apologist? I don't think so WSDWG. "Competent" does not mean "perfection". Look it up. In fact, "competent" means "adequate but NOT exceptional" (emphasis mine), see dictionary.com.

All we're asking is for teachers, and those who work with/deal with children from minority communities be AWARE. How very sad that you feel it's a request to be ignored.

mirmac1 said...

Well, here is where RTI or what is now called Multi-Tiered System of Supports (or MTSS) comes into play. And no, suspension and expulsion is not a support. Central admin has been talking for years about providing this resource for schools and teachers, but it's been all talk. Cathy Thompson says MTSS IS coming. When and how?

Anonymous said...

I remember my daughter prepping her younger bother for school. She said. "School is easy if the teacher likes you. Teachers like me because I am still, quiet, considerate, follow the rules, and I say thank you to them for grading my work. If you want them to like you, you should act like a girl."

- turned out to be true

Salander said...

It always amuses me to read the arm chair quarterbacking that goes on here. Obviously many of you have never spent an hour in a real classroom versus your imaginary one.
Hello People! We have one of the largest class sizes in the nation. At the HS level I currently have 161 students.
The choice I have to make is how much time I spend on the one student who constantly disrupts the class while still having time for YOUR child.
Let's see. 50 minutes for class / 32 students = about 1.5 minutes for each student. You seem to want to change this equation so it fits your fantasy classroom. I am supposed to spend my minutes soothing the disruptive and still asnwer all your emails about why your student has a A- in my AP class instead of that A you think he deserves. WAKE UP!
I would LOVE to have time for every child's baggage to be sorted and handled but the classroom IS NOT the place that our community has set up to handle the numerous problems that students bring to school.

ArchStanton said...

I enjoy Jerry Large's columns and the perspective he brings, but I think of him as a poor man's/Seattle's Leonard Pitts Jr.

IMO his columns often lean towards stream-of-consciousness musings; providing answers or clear arguments aren't his strength so much as bringing an awareness of certain concerns to mainstream Seattleites.

Floor Pie said...

"When is being smart going to be valued?"

Probably when we as a society acknowledge that "smart" isn't synonymous with "well behaved" and "compliant." Or when teachers truly have the freedom to meet kids where they're at and teach to their strengths. Not holding my breath on either of those, though...

Charlie Mas said...

I really liked reading the comment by turned out to be true.

While there has been some effort at cultural competency around ethnic cultures, I have yet to see any around the differences between "boy" culture and "girl" culture.

The greatest disproportionality in discipline isn't between White and African-American students it is between boys and girls.

And it is essentially for the same reasons: the norms were set by one culture and don't match the norms of the other culture.

Anonymous said...

Amen Salander. Realism will always rule in school.

Try this: Ask not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school.

Or maybe: You get out of it what YOU put into it.

WSDWG

Melissa Westbrook said...

DeeBee, you said:

"You're a well-off, North Seattle white woman, and I wouldn't expect you to be"

So this is what I appear to be to you and yet you don't know for certain, do you? You're sure I'm white and you're sure that because my family is middle-class that it's always been that way in my life.

Beware of what you think you know about someone and their background.

Parent, I completely what you are saying. I'm saying what are some solutions for teachers. (I said "allow" because I figure teachers set expectations at the beginning for behavior and some things are not allowed.)

Yes, you are right - "baggage" was Jerry Large's word, not mine.

Agreed, Charlie but how do we change that? (My own personal beef is the constant teaching of Romeo and Juliet as though it was the only thing Shakespeare ever wrote. There is so much more that would appeal to boys AND girls and instead it's the boring Romeo and Juliet.)

DeeBee said...

Um, Melissa, you're on the news every so often. I know that you're white. And you had kids at Roosevelt, as you've often mentioned, so I know you live well up into north Seattle. You have a husband who's a professor at UW and you don't work-pretty much the definition of middle class, wouldn't you say?

It's entirely possible that you came from difficult circumstances, but you are not a minority, and you live in and had kids in school in a pretty homogenous part of this city. It's really hard to understand a situation unless you are around it day and and day out.

I've been in the schools people are talking about; I've had kids there. I know kids in them NOW. Just as Jerry Large could say (his son went to the same school at the same time as one of my kids).

I don't know what I'm talking about from hearsay or the occassional drop-in, I know from living it. There's a huge difference, which is why you're confused and asked us to help you out.

Melissa Westbrook said...

DeeBee, I'm not entirely white and I was raised in a largely lower-class minority community. So I may not have your experience and no, I don't live in south Seattle but don't think you know what my life experience might bring to this discussion. I won't make assumptions about you if you don't about me.

That said, yes, I'm asking about these issues because I found Mr. Large's column confusing. He doesn't explain what works (even though he says some things do which I assume are in the PBS special), he talks as if he believes boys and girls should be educated separately but doesn't explain how that would be done. That's my confusion.

Anonymous said...

Salander and WSDWG,
Now I know why there's a gap. No worries! Our kids get it and have stopped looking for tea and sympathy. Reality as you said it...cuts both ways....TFA, large class size, MAPs, teacher eval, more furlough days.

another parent

emeraldkity said...

I just filled out that form for my middle schooler. It included questions like "Describe how your child learns best."

Didn't experience that- even though my child had an IEP in grade/middle school. It's old news that her IEP goals were too low/weren't met anyway.

However- I was the parent of a white female- my impression was that the assumption was " she would be fine".
( actually- stated as such after failing benchmarks)

No- we weren't middle class & I didn't graduate high school let alone attend college.

But I did have higher expectations- of my child, the school & myself incidentally- than some.

Anonymous said...

So what do you say to a kid that comes into the classroom- "sorry for your baggage, but go back to your family if you want mor beyond the reading, writing and arithmetic". Hope those kids have someone at home for that, but not my problem.

Fact is all of us walk around with baggage which other people have to deal with all the time. Don't even get me started on the expectations people have in the "real" world. I see it at my job daily. The special treatment they asked for or expected, but not to pay for it or because they feel it's owed to them as taxpayers or because they have been here for generations. And we are talking about adults here. Just check out stories in the news, check out the rant and rave section.

But we expect more and better from kids don't we. They are our future, right? Should we invest in them? All of them? or just some of the worthy?

PS parent

SST said...
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SST said...
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SST said...

Salander, attitudes like yours are the reason so many parents (and organizations) are pushing for more accountability for teachers and evaluations tied to student progress. I understand how difficult it must be to have such large class sizes and not enough minutes in the day, but your leaving struggling students behind, bitterness, and lack of empathy are overwhelmingly sad to me. All I could think about while reading your comment was thank goodness my kids won't be in your class. Not all kids fit in a box, some go with the flow, and some need extra. A good teacher finds the time (and energy) to reach every child that they possibly can.

And thank god for parents that are emailing you and asking about their kids grades and progress - we need more of that not less. Sorry it irritates you.

Maybe it is time for you to look for a new profession.

SST said...
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SST said...

I should add, as anti TFA as I am, I'd much prefer a TFA recruit in my kids classroom than Salander. I'd take less experienced over bitter and cranky any day.

I may have to re-think my TFA position - and I suspect others would too if they got a dose of Salanders thoughts.

mirmac1 said...

My southend nephew went to Roosevelt so attendance does not mean income-level. I grew up with two hard-working parents in middle-class surroundings, but acquired my strong social justice, democratic leanings from them. DeeBee, I don't get why you would slam someone who's asking the question and opening the discussion. Cuz, unfortunately, it came across as a slam. Frankly I'm glad for all parents who want to protect public education for ALL. And as far as I'm concerned that won't be through charters. My kid will be first to be kicked to the curb.

seattle citizen said...

I don't want to sound cynical, but much as I appreciate this thread being put up, and much as I appreciate the thread on diversity, I fear that not a lot of action will be the result.

There is entrenchment on all sides, burn out, a sense that it's all been said before...

I am soooo glad to hear the variety of perspectives, and the articulate expression of problems and possible responses. I learn. I really do.

But what will come of it? With such staggering statistics, and with so many decades behind us wrestling with these issues, what will actually be done?

Some of you know me: Storm the gates, I say. But even here we are divided parent/educator, north/south, Black/White, rich/poor...Whyn aren't we all down in Olympia, or at 4th and Lander, screaming our heads off about this? Why are the people with the clipboards being allowed to turn the issue into an exercise in data-crunching, reducing children to quantifiable packets and then attempting to convince us that they are "addressing the achievement gap" thereby?

Why are teachers angry? Why are parents angry? Have THAT conversation, get THOSE answers, act decisively and as a united front of concern, and the answers for the students might follow.
Ach. I fear it won't happen: Parents might be blindered by the love they have for THEIR child; teachers might be blinded by the spotlight shown on them by the Broad Foundation, by TFA, by others who discredit them...

I vote for a meeting of the minds at the Coliseum, or Key Arena, or whatever they're calling it now, and then a march to Sodo, on to Olympia, thence to DC.

Anonymous said...

Actual teachers pushing back and then it's 'go find a new job'?

Seriously, if a child has 'some' baggage or mouthiness or energy...we deal with that every day.

If a kid is yelling, swearing, or in any way moderately to severly interrupting the lesson then that is the PARENTS problem.

They didn't raise that child right.

No matter what ethnicity or gender the teacher is there is NO culture in the world where that is acceptable or culturally normalized behavior. That's just bad parenting. Cultural Competency is not the new code word for 'dumbing down' or 'overlooking' curriculum or behavior. Is it being turned into an apologists catch all?

Teachers are not the parents of the children they teach. They are mentors and instructors who have a good deal of training and high levels of accountability...for what they are paid to do. Want more counselors? Pay for them. Social workers? Pay for those too. They can work wonders in the life of a struggling child. But fund them year over year because a rotating door doesn't help a kid.

Which is to say that teachers teach their subject and assist your child along the path to graduation and post-secondary education. You seem to expect more of your reading teacher than of the President!

Take the responsibility that if your child doesn't know how to act then that is a reflection on you.

If they need services then get the screened for an IEP or 504 plan. Then they must USE the services on their own with occasional reminders to bridge the gap between their disability and their potential.

IF they don't have a disability then they are just being jerks and are detracting from the education of all the other students in the room...some or many of whom DO have actual disabilities.

Coming from a bad parental background is challenging but it isn't a disability. So let us enact measures for some accountability from the Parents.

Your kids don't show up? Pay a fine.

Homework isn't done because you schedule them to watch kids or attend services during the week or whatever else gets in the way of nightly homework? That's on you too.

Latch-key kid with no supervision...on you too.

No materials? On you.

Wasn't read to as a child? On you.

No books in the home? On you.

You made horrible relationship choices? On you.

You choose corporal punishment over effective non-physical methods and therefore your child equates discipline with fear and violence? On you.

No home internet? On you.

No home computer? On you. (Please...you can get decent old computers for near scrap prices so slow down on saying people can't afford it)

There are PLENTY of similar evaulations and accountability factors for teachers. There are NONE for parents.

Don't treat teachers like a safety net for the bad choices and collective challenges for a whole community. The fact that anyone teaches in high risk areas show how many people give their lives to help as much as possible.

-Not parting water but is turning lemons into lemonade.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lemonade, you're an ignoramous.


If they need services then get the screened for an IEP or 504 plan. Then they must USE the services on their own with occasional reminders to bridge the gap between their disability and their potential.


Guess what's on an IEP (and a 504)? A behavior plan, a BIP. That's right. It's the plan for teaching kids "behavior". So, I guess the teacher is going to have to come up to speed on teaching behavior afterall. Also on IEPs, a "social and emotional" domain. So, yes, teachers DO have to teach that too. It's the law.

Guess what else? Nope, it's not "on" the students to use the [special education] services on their own. Those services ARE REQUIRED to be delivered to the student, in a prescribed amount, and delivered in the least restrictive environment.

So as much as teachers might like to punt behavior, behavior management, and instruction in behavior, that simply isn't how it works. They are required by law (IDEA) to instruct children who need it in the behavior domain. There are lots of students for whom behavior instruction is a mandatory part of what gets taught to them, and in the general education classroom.

So. Let's just own that. And if behavior can be taught to students with disabilities, then it can be taught to others as well. How about teach it to everybody? If strict discipline works, then it should be used. If not, use something else. If you're in doubt as to what might work, then you've got to follow the BIP (behavior intervention plan). If there is no BIP, how about read an existing one for ideas? Every school has kids on BIPs (related to and attached to IEPs).

a different other parent

Anonymous said...

Mr Lemonade,

Coming from a bad parental background is challenging but it isn't a disability. So let us enact measures for some accountability from the Parents.


By the way. Yes it is a disability. If parents are bad enough, then their kids may behave badly. And if it's bad enough(no matter the reason) the behavior will indeed qualify as a disability for the student. Ever hear of EBD? That's the category of special education: "Emotionally and Behaviorally Disordered"

Who do you think is mostly in the EBD category? Black boys. Guess you never heard of EBD.

-different other parent

Floor Pie said...

Right on, A Different Other Parent. And I'll just add that it's not exactly easy (or free) to get a kid an IEP/504 in the first place. The district is about as eager to provide services as a health insurance company is to pay for a hospital stay.

If we weren't able to afford an outside evaluation, if I didn't have time to attend all those meetings, if there were a big cultural divide between myself and the staff/teachers I had to work with to advocate for my kid...he would have suffered for it. Special ed is a class issue, too.

SST said...

How many Salanders and Mr. Lemonades are there out there? Is this how a majority of teachers think? If so, I can see why some are anti-union (don't want to see bad teachers protected), and some push for charters (where a principal has more say in the hiring of the teachers, and why yet others push for TFA (young, best and brightest). If Mr Lemonade and Salander represent the status quo, I can see why the community is ripe for reform.

NLM said...

Amen, Floor Pie. We discovered this spring/fall that our oldest has a processing, memory and/or attention deficit problem that dragged down her CogAT. The district only gave us aggregates, no strands so we had to fork over $400 for a private test (which showed DD is high intelligence) and are still undergoing evals to determine the exact source of the problem...and develop a treatment plan. You better believe all of that will be done, paid for by us if necessary, prior to saying BOO to the district! I'll also say that not one teacher EVER recommended screening for my little girl, even after the MAP and CogAT results wildly diverged. Maybe they assume 93/88th percentile on one and 50th on the other is good enough for little brown people? Higher than avg? Who knows but I have my suspicions. On new student day, my neighbor (new resident from spanish-speaking territory) was told her willingness to volunteer in the classroom was much appreciated...there was plenty of dusting to do...BY THE TEACHER! Blech. We have high expectations. We can't get others to raise theirs!

Anonymous said...

I think there are all kinds of teachers out there. I do think to work in a school full of challenging and at risk kids is hard on teachers and staff. I often feel they should get extra pay as incentives to stay. The burn out rate can be high. My sister in law worked in the DC and Alexandria school systems for many years before retiring. In her 35+ years, she taught at all levels and dealt with many kids some of you have described who lack much of the parental or adult presence in their lives. She tells me, to blame the adult is fair enough. You can get mad at the adults, but you still have the child. And most time you can't find the adult to get mad at. That child when s/he is in your classroom will be yours for the day or for 50 minutes. What you do with those kids or not do still matters. She tells me there are some incorrigibles and ones who are worth fighting for. The toughest case you often don't deal with because they are not at school anymore. They are already lost.

I don't know how my sister in law lasted as long as she did. She is pretty no nonsense and you won't catch her waxing about teaching as a noble profession. For her it was a job that provided for her family. Though I think she is quite noble. She is a person of deep faith and persistent optimism and I think it is those characteristics that kept her in teaching. Anyway, I think I am going to wrap it up here. I am grateful for those teachers and parents who do the best they can for our kids even if they are not all our kids.

PS parent

Anonymous said...

HO-LY COW! Mr. Lemonade really isn't a teacher, right? He/She is just trolling I hope?

Some else replied to the possible behavioral issues not related to bad parenting, and I want to address the lack of supplies, etc. that is "on the parents".

I just helped outfit a group of immigrant kids with school supplies and let me tell Mr. Lemonade that the idea of an internet connection or even a cheap computer being obtainable for some people is so far removed from reality it makes me wonder what world he lives in. These are people who can barely afford running water, and indeed sometimes they don't.

And before he starts on about poor choices like no books in the home, Sir/Madam, there are people who can't afford FOOD sometimes and books, even Goodwill priced books are a luxury they couldn't imagine. And being read to and reading to their kids? When you're busy running from guerilla fighters from one country to the next, that's a little difficult.

I can't tell you how angry your post makes me. I can only imagine the disdain you would have for these children, whose parents braved death to bring them here and who, with their older kids, are working hard at menial jobs to give them a leg up in life.

I know there's a real concern about TFA on this blog, but damn, who wouldn't want a TFA-er over someone who thinks kids like my immigrant friends deserve whatever crappy education He/She throws their way.

For what it's worth, they all have very caring competent teachers who have gone out of their way time and time again to help them, up to and including getting them the proper transportation to school, extra tutoring and into testing for special needs. THOSE teachers seem to know, from high school kids on down, how to work with the baggage their kids come in with.

--yet another other parent

Anonymous said...

I'll drink the lemonade any day. Parents need to take responsibility. If they don't, then foster the kids. No books? Library. My kid went to class with a kid who lived in a homeless shelter and, yes, the child was a little challenging, but he had family who cared enough to get him in the taxi every day and he learned his lessons and was treated fairly. Whereas local kid is freaking a terror with a parent who will not crack down and deal with this one. The kid is 10,000 times worse than the homeless one and gets whatever it needs at home.
Parents can do it, don't let them off the hook. It's not the teacher's job to do it all. And it's unfair to rest of society to have to clean up the mess that bad parents make.
lemonade and Salander are REAL teachers ( or sound like them). I like their attitude. The teachers I don't like are the ones who dis SPED kids and AL kids. That ain't the parents fault, that's biology.

Responsibility Starts at Home

Melissa Westbrook said...

"And if behavior can be taught to students with disabilities, then it can be taught to others as well. How about teach it to everybody? If strict discipline works, then it should be used."

I'm not sure that behavior taught is the issue for those with disabilities (which is a broad term in itself). It's teaching them how to learn.

But teaching behavior is a school's job? Do you mean how to behave in a classroom, a lunchroom or playground? And how can a school teach behavior that isn't reinforced at home? I'm mystified.

Absolutely on the Special Ed being part of a teacher's (and school's and district's) legislated duty.

Anonymous said...

According to the teachers who have posted here, it does come down to parents. Teachers don't have time to even teach academics adequately to the kids who do everything they areexpected to do. They certainly aren't reaching the kids who have disabilities, different cultures, problems at home, boys. Then family time is filled with ineffective hours of homework. If we want to our children to learn what they need to, parents have to teach it. Unfortunately many parents think that education is going to happen at school. And many parents don't have the time, understanding or resources to make up the difference.

If we want to educate all kids, we will really have to change the system.

-unhappy about the reality of school

Chris S. said...

So disruptive behavior can be at least partially remedied by teaching. As with many things, it's best to start early. Elementary counselors, anyone?

Then, how bout some tax reform?These arguments are as bad as the acronym-band-aids (TFA, MAP, ICS) we try to put on the problem.

SST said...

Well, yes, of course it is a parents duty to teach their children how to behave properly, set clear expectations, help them with homework, etc. And MOST parents do just that. However, not all children are lucky enough to be born to parents who are capable of doing that (for whatever reason, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, don't speak English, whatever). For those unlucky children I'd expect a teacher to have some compassion, and give them a little extra, and at the very least be understanding of their situation. As I said in an earlier post, no, it is not a teachers job to fix the kids problems - they can't possibly do that, and aren't trained to do that. But they CAN approach these children in a compassionate and try their very best to reach them. It is just not acceptable to ignore them and let them fall through the cracks. Good teachers recognize kids with challenges, and work with them as best they can.

Maureen said...

It's interesting to me that so many of us just don't believe it's reasonable to expect all HS age kids to just show up and behave themselves. We seem to have such low expectations. Regardless of how poor their home situation is and barring some diagnosible mental or physical illness, a 14 year old should be able to get to school and learn for five hours. I don't understand why our expectations for the kids in learning School Culture is so low. Kids are hardwired to learn. They can do it. I feel for the teachers who have to enforce school culture when parents and other community members think the kids aren't capable of behaving and reinforce misbehavior in the kids. Cultural Competency on the part of the teachers is important, but it's also important for the kids to recognize and conform to School Culture.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, you say,"Regardless of how poor their home situation is and barring some diagnosible mental or physical illness, a 14 year old should be able to get to school and learn for five hours."

I don't think it's that simple. If parents can't/don't model proper behavior, how is a kid supposed to know what proper "school culture" is?

How does an immigrant child know that one raises his hand to speak/go to the restroom, etc. if he's never seen a classroom? How does a kid from a violent home know that it's not ok to slug his seatmate when that's how he is treated? How does a kid who gets ignored unless she screams and cries know that this is unacceptable in school?

In a perfect world, even these kids would walk into school and be so magically transported by their love of learning that they become the models of good behavior. But the real world isn't like that. If teachers in the lower grades don't take the time to help reach them, they will get to high school without knowing how to act and to "get to school and learn".

The problem is actually low expectations of a different type than you're talking about. It's assuming such kids can't do any better and not bothering to show them.

Years ago when my husband and I toured schools for kindergarten, we looked at two classes in the same school. One teacher had zero control over her class-kids were talking out, running around, even climbing on desks. It was chaotic. The kids seemed to be a mix of immigrant, minority and white "alternative" types.

In the classroom next door, in a room so small there was barely room to turn around and the kids crammed into every available seat, there was silence as the children read. They raised their hands to ask questions, and as one boy began to act up, all it took was a look from the teacher to quiet him down. The students were the same mix of backgrounds.

If that didn't show that teachers can make all the difference, I don't know what would. I'll bet that as those little kids moved up in school the ones from that second class were better at "school culture" than those in the first.

--Mayberry doesn't exist

emeraldkity said...

If that didn't show that teachers can make all the difference, I don't know what would. I'll bet that as those little kids moved up in school the ones from that second class were better at "school culture" than those in the first.

I have seen the same thing in schools. Parents who are savvy, request teacher "A", parents who aren't as informed & involved don't realize that they can.

Anonymous said...

I want my kids in Salander's and Lemonade's classes now! I want my kids held accountable and I want to be held accountable too! Why? Because being a parent doesn't mean I'm done learning, can't take different approaches, or can't learn new things myself. The world changes rapidly. Yes, I support cultural competency. Who doesn't? Isn't that really just another avenue, or dare I say, "arrow in our quiver," for reaching and communicating with the kids in our schools? What teacher doesn't want to reach, communicate with, and teach a kid in their class? A bad teacher? Fine. Let's get rid of them.

But I want strict teachers who teach in the same real world we all live in. This "a good teacher can/should reach every kid" notion is altruistic and beautiful, but not realistic. Not all kids learn alike, and not all baggage can be removed. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try. It only means we have to have realistic expectations if we want favorable outcomes.

With all the "accountability" measures we hear about, there is less and less time in each day for teachers to actually teach. There are always new methods and insights, but it's never as if the teachers could just learn that one thing - the proverbial magic bullet - of cultural competency, and everything would be fixed and the achievement gap would disappear. It's one area for improvement. It's not a cure-all. Let's be realistic.

Strong teachers, parental involvement, embracing and upholding high standards for effort and behavior, and persistence are what count the most.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Mayberry...

Did you happen to inquire if the teacher in the chaotic class was relatively new? If the teacher in the "behaved" class was an old hand? Vice versa? I realize that new/seasoned teacher does not always correlate with disorderly/orderly classroom, but I can only guess that there must be SOME value to experience managing a classroom. (Though I will admit I've seen "seasoned" teachers who are not good at controlling their classes.)

I've noted before on this thread that a few years ago, I had the experience of "teaching" my daughter's 4/5 public school class on a classroom newsletter project (what I do for a living). Though the majority of the kids were clearly interested and I was well-prepared in so far as my curriculum and format, I had a difficult time "controlling" the class. Kids were excited about what we were doing; talked amongst themselves, talked out of turn, etc. Thank goodness I had their classroom teacher working with me, or I would have spent all my time trying to get the kids to focus and stay on task.

I think anyone who believes a teacher can magically and equally reach every kid in a classroom that has more than a few disruptive or needy kids is kidding themselves. I may have found Salander's words tacking to the bitter side, but I can certainly understand how the attitude could be instilled.

Larger and larger class sizes, tying test scores to teacher competency, and the general public malaise towards education will only make things worse. Demonizing teachers (or expecting them to be saints) will not serve anyone—especially the kids.

SG

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The kids seemed to be a mix of immigrant, minority and white "alternative" types."

And you knew all of this how? And what is a "white alternative" type?

Also, yes, it could have been a new teacher (and classroom management skills seem to be the number issue for TFA teachers when they discuss their work).

emeraldkity said...

Also, yes, it could have been a new teacher (and classroom management skills seem to be the number issue for TFA teachers when they discuss their work).

To be fair- many teachers in their first 5 years out of school have commented about how they wish there had been more practical application of classroom management techniques.

To my knowledge my public school daughter had only two student teachers in her 10 years in SPS, for what seemed to be the length of a qtr.

The UW now is promoting an Elementary TEP program that sounds like teachers will do one full year of fieldwork at the same school if not in the same classroom.

Salander said...

Believe it or notmany, many students like to be in my classes and choose to have me as their teacher. They know what they can expect from me, including stucture as well as flexibility. I listen compassionately to their life stories, compliment them. I Tell them often how great they art and how much I appreciate them.And they believe this is true as I show them each and every day. ALL students- no matter their challege or disability. What I don't do is allow disruptive behavior that robs the class community of the opportunity for the sense of enjoyment working together means.
If a parent or family has not taught a child to behave in the school culture by the time that child is 15 or 16 years old there is little I can do but offer the rewards of being part of something positive.
The school system is not set up to "teach" behavior. That is a family and parent responsibility.
Does this mean I am bitter or burned out? NO. It means that I expect parents to do their job and quit offering excuses and blaming others for their students' bad habits.

Anonymous said...

The out-of-control class WAS being taught by a younger teacher. She wasn't brand new, because the person giving us the tour mentioned the retention of teachers in the school. But the in-control class was definately being run by an older woman. But I would think even a brand-new-out-of-school teacher would be able to say, "Sit down now." and "Get off the desk, Billy."

Melissa, it was supposedly an alternative school-I think that's what it was called at the time, and the kids I'm referring to were wearing what in my youth I would have called "hippie clothes", you know, tie-dye, peasant skirts, mismatched tops and bottoms, boys with long hair before that came back into fasion, etc. It was REALLY obviously different from what I saw on a daily basis at my kid's preschool.

--Mayberry

StopTFA said...

The UW now is promoting an Elementary TEP program that sounds like teachers will do one full year of fieldwork at the same school if not in the same classroom.


Yeah, Emeraldkitty, they're doing that while they're pushing TFA neophytes out into classrooms. The UW frets whether they'll have any influence over these folks because TFA has it's OWN training.

I'm sure the TFA website has handy classroom management tips and tricks for new teachers. NOT!

seattle citizen said...

SST wrote that "it is not a teachers job to fix the kids problems - they can't possibly do that, and aren't trained to do that. But they CAN approach these children in a compassionate and try their very best to reach them. It is just not acceptable to ignore them and let them fall through the cracks. Good teachers recognize kids with challenges, and work with them as best they can."

I mostly agree. Tne one thing where I tink SST is wrong is the statement that teachers aren't trained to fix problems. This isn't true. Many teachers are trained - in COE programs before cert....little of which TFAers get...during professional development trainings, through ongoing study and use of "new" techniques, etcAnd this is just the behavior and culture areas of training: Their academic training, the teaching part, should also help, sometimes, with the bahavior part: An interested and connected student, who is being given instruction relevant to the student, will most likely be less, uh, rambunctious.

So teachers are trained. I concur with SST thata good teacher approaches students in a compassionate way, and does their best to reach the student. This is well put and exactly right. The problem (and perhaps the frustration I hear from teachers is rooted in this) is that time is short, academics are pressing, time is short, needs are great. Did I say time is short twice? I did...
The needs are great, particularly as a teacher "reaches out compassionately" to 30 students, each with a need or two (culture, language, race, special education, gender, poverty....Oh, and how does a teacher know what mix of those a student might be experiencing?).
Let's do some math: 30 students, two minutes per day to meet their needs, that's an hour. Younger kids have more needs (maybe...or at least they are less capable of "managing" without a of adult guidance) so they need more, stretch that to two hours.
So in a high school class of 30 make that 35 in some places this year, I hear) it takes a minute to address each student's needs (and they DO have them!), that's the whole period. Gone.

Unless academics proceeds, and somehow, through the magic of teaching, the teacher both addresses individual need AND teaches!

But that's a tough nut - some instruction is boring to some, exciting to others; some students might have a "need" pop up right in the middle of instruction anyway.

This is where the support system comes in - counselors (heck, one-on-one ratio, I say!) librarians, IAs (language and behavior, particularly), psychologists, community networkers, community groups, community members...(one can dream, eh...of fifty people in a building helping out, volunteering, every day...)

To ask a teacher to meet every need every minute is impossible. We can ask teachers to TRY to hold up the weight of the earth, the students' education, as more and more of the pillars of support are chopped away around them...But a community member can only expect the teacher to do their best and try to cut them some freakin' slack. Compassionate? Heck yeah, most are! Able to meet an increasing variety of needs all by their little selves all the time? Oh, and educate the rest of the class at the same time? Fat chance.

emeraldkity said...

Mayberry- I think I know what school you mean & I was discouraged when talking to a parent whose child was visiting & they couldn't track him down right away.

Now I realize these things happen but as a young mom I was pretty nervous about no one seeming to know where my 7 yr old was.

However- I did send her to an alternative school for most of grade school till high school & I think kids learn more when they are actively engaged as compared to quiet & still.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, "behavior" is a domain of qualification on IEPs. You appear not to know this. If student has "behavior" problems, then "behavior" must be taught to that student. And, the behavior that needs to be taught is wide ranging. It includes any maladaptive behavior that a student has from interpersonal relationship building, to appropriately responding, to "learning that stealing cars is wrong". etc. Relatedly, "adaptive" is also a domain on IEPs. If a students has "adaptive" goals on his IEP, then those skills too need to be taught. Adaptive skills can be as basic as toileting or as complex as organizational skills to manage time in class, or managing to not engage with students posing as a bad influence. The adaptive domain is closely related to the behavior domain. Further, the coverage is for the entirety of the school environment including anything that might happen after school.

So you see, schools are ALREADY required to teach a lot more than academics. And, there ALREADY is a lot of expertise in schools to do this. Why would we provide this to students with disabilities , and then deny it to others? If that responsibility is punted, the student simply winds up in special education with a behavioral disorder, and the requirement to teach them good behavior reappears. Just because a bunch of teachers don't think it's their job doesn't mean they are correct. Well, it is their job. The fact that the federal government has requires this on IEPs means that those skills are really part of what education really is. The reality is the district already acknowledges this because it has something called tiered intervention - which is supposed to include the behavior domain. Since they are going to be doing it anyway, why not do a good job of it? Doing a half-assed job is just as costly as doing a good one. Why not do the good one?


-different other parent

Anonymous said...

To Salander and Lemonade - why the big "not my responsibility" kick when it comes to education? Do we apply this same standard to other public services? What about medicine? Do we decide NOT to serve patients because they are fat? Are either of you overweight? Do doctors refuse service when people don't get enough exercise or fail to eat green-leafy vegetables? Would that be reasonable too? By your standards, doctors should just send those people home. Isn't a perfectly healthy lifestyle the responsibility of the patient? The fact is a huge percentage of the nations ginormous medical tab is really the responsibility of patients - (diabetes being the most expensive disorder of all, and mostly preventable). People fail to eat well, eat too much, and don't exercise. They drink and smoke. Should doctors just send them home and say "sorry, you did that to yourself". ???

The reality is the medical system, including the publicly funded ones, have to treat people as they are, with the lifestyles they actually have, and have developed, no matter how bad the choices people have made. The medical establishments spends tons and tons of money just doing research on lifestyle preventable problems - diabetes, heart problems, cancer. Nobody thinks that is wrong. Why the different standard for the other big public service - education?

I'm not saying that parents don't have responsibilities, or that people shouldn't try to live healthy lifestyles. But it's obvious that at some point, the public systems just have to deal with the people as they actually are.

-different other parent

seattle citizen said...

Different Other Parent, your health care analogy doesn't work:
Anyone walking into a hospital is walking in for treatment for an illness. The nurses and doctors are there to treat illness - That's what they are trained for, that's their JOB.
Educators (teachers, IAs, librarians, et al) are trained to TEACH. That's THEIR job. The student, one would hope, is walking into the school to be taught, just like the patient wants to be healed.

Yes, part of teaching is civics, and modes of behavior that pertain to social interaction, but the goal of a teacher is to teach these embedded in the, you know, actual course work? The academics? The science, math, reading...

A teacher is not a "doctor of all ills," standing ready to meet the sometimes immediate needs of the children who come through the door. We could continue to train teachers to meet as many "non-academic" needs as possible, as we should, but let's be realistic: The job is to teach...math, say, and there are only so many minutes in a period.

seattle citizen said...

If society REALLY wanted educators to be "doctors of all ills" whilst also actually teaching, society would not be allowing the removal of counselors, librarians, career advisors, nurses, and other supports for teachers doing the "wellness" thing, nor would they be tolerating class sizes rising: A group of twenty students might get quite a few of their needs met by a compassionate and trained teacher; a group of thirty five? Not so much.
You want teachers to do it all yet there are fewer teachers for more kids..
Hmmmmm....

Anonymous said...

After reading these comments, I am becoming better aware why most teachers stay in the profession no longer than five years.

"It takes a village to raise a child" has morphed into "It takes a teacher to raise a child."

--You made it very clear, Seattle Citizen.

Anonymous said...

It's both.

Teacher's do not have time or expertise to teach anything beyond scanty academics to the children who are prepared to learn at the level and in the manner in which they are being taught. (I've seen this consistently in IEP meetings)

Also, we need to teach all kids so they have the cultural skills, social skills, curriculum level and classroom environment that allows them to learn.

To me that means that teachers need much smaller classes, many more support staff, much more planning time.

Instead of punishing loud antsy little boys, we should redesign their educational experience so that they aren't destined for failure because of normal developmental behavior. (A similar issue for high schoolers would be changing school hours to match their developmentally appropriate sleep schedules.)

If we are not willing to teach kids how to succeed with in the behavioral & social norms of school, and make sure those norms are appropriate, then we will continue to have kids who recognize by middle school that the system doesn't like them & there is no way they are going to succeed in it.

-unhappy about the reality of school

Anonymous said...

Different Other Parent, your health care analogy doesn't work:
Anyone walking into a hospital is walking in for treatment for an illness. The nurses and doctors are there to treat illness - That's what they are trained for, that's their JOB.


Same for education. Students are showing up for education, just as patients are showing up for treatment. And as you said earlier, yes it's their JOB to teach them, and yes they do get training on lots of things related to behavior. What are all those PD's all about? You've got to teach them even if they don't seem ready... in all the ways that they may not be "ready". Right! Yes, you most likely will embed the instruction into the "real coursework" and you've got to make the "real coursework" meaningful and accessible at many levels. And, it's not only the job of the teacher. The whole school environment needs to be conducive to meeting the needs of the student. Hey! I'm not saying that punishment doesn't ever work. Maybe it does work a lot of the time. Maybe a big kick in the pants or call home is exactly the right thing. And if students can meet behavioral standards, by all means expect it. But when it doesn't work, the game isn't over. You've got to teach all the skills people need.


-different other parent

seattle citizen said...

diff other parent,

"You've got to teach all the skills people need."

Well, no. A math teacher teaches math. The way she/he teaches it might (hopefully) take into consideration a small variety of variance (culture, language, et al) but math it is, those are the skills.

The health analogy DOESN'T work, in my opinion. The doctor cures, the teacher teaches, the psychologist psych..ologizes?

Yes of course a teacher TRIES to meet the variety of needs, but their primary purpose is to teach the skill they are teaching to the students before them, ALL teh students before them. Yes, this sometimes might be modeling civility and the ways of the world, but really, a teacher "as to teach all the skills people need"? In math class?

The primary function of a doctor is to cure. The patient comes to them for that. The primary function of a teacher is to teach academic skills and whatever other skills society deems it important to give the teacher time and support to teach, such as citizenship etc. But the individual needs of every student, a teacher is expected to teach EACH student ALL the skills necessary to prosper with THOSE particular needs (or aptitudes)? Impossible.

Picture the hour: Class, get into groups with the manipulatives. John, don't throw that: remember the cue we had, that skill I'm teaching you, about how to redirect your energy? Mario, don't react to John. We've discussed your propensity to react to other people. The focus skill we discussed now, please. Let's talk after class (right before I call John's dad). Abdul....Abdul...the language skills you need in order to understand my instructions and gain academic skills I'll get to right after I finish memorizing this Somali dictionary. Luanne, I KNOW you have mastered this math skill; I'm printing the higher level exercise for you now....

Oh yeah, class? Class, take your manipulatives and...Veronica, don't touch Sahila. We learned the skills necessary to interact with all the different cultures in this classroom, and remember that "Sahila's people" don't like to be touched, it's Ivan's people that do't mind that and actually appreciate it.

And so it goes.

A teacher most certainly CAN'T teach all skills. And it's not their job. It's the job of everybody: Parent/guardians, ALL school staff (or what's left of them), community members, politicians, the media and game developers...

seattle citizen said...

Part I:
And let's look at the issue of identifying non-academic needs of each student.
A math teacher can give a variety of assessments to determine skills of each student (and with a skilled teacher can meet a variety of skill levels, but it can't be easy.
What assessments will a teacher use to identify the non-academic needs of EACH student? EACH need of EACH student? What EACH need of EACH student is derived from?

The checkboxes students' parents check? Black...Asian-Pacific Islander...White...Free/Reduced Lunch...What are THOSE supposed to tell a teacher? "I see here on the paper where it says you are Black, Abdul. So I must suppose from this that you share the other Blacks' culture of, hmm, Urban Ghetto upbringing. I will teach to that then!
No? The checkboxes aren't enough, aren't nuanced enough, are often misrepresentative, are often combined with other checkboxes? Well then, let's move on to other ways a teacher will, in their infinite time and ability, determine ALL the needs of EACH student:
The interview (with, say, a fifteen-year-old):
Soooo...tell me about yourself. You're a quiet one, aren'tcha? Hmm...You like cars. Me too! That tells me you have a need for instruction that is hands-on, mechanical...Oh, wait, you just WANT a car....So you are...acquistative...Let's move on: What problems are you having? Are you on meds? What kind? Tell me about the root cause of your anger.
Maybe teacher can also interview the parent/gaurdian: "My son needs discipline, I tell you, and you MUST give it to him! Why? Becuase he's running with a bad crowd, that's why! He's a GOOD boy! Really! It's the girls, actually, THEY must be causing his anger! They won't be nice to him! You have to teach him how to be attractive to girls.
(continued below)

seattle citizen said...

(continued from above; Part II):
You see where this is going, Different Other Parent? The causes of the "needs" are enormously varied, often misdiagnosed ("checked the checkbox, check!") often confused in a maelstorm of crazed adolescent behavior...

Please please please tell us how teacher identifies a) EACH student's EVERY need (accurately); and b) identifies the root cause of that need in order to effectively "teach every skill that child needs."
THEN tell us how a teacher teaches every child every skill they need?

Are teachers psychologists? No, they're teachers. Are they linguists? Nope? Nutritionists? Nuh uh. Phsyical Therapists? Only if they're caught up in their PD.

As we've heard here, teachers SHOULD know a bit about all of these, at least enough to identify, generally, a problem or a need and, if they don't have the skill, be able to "farm it out" to someone actually trained to deal with such things in the building. Psychologist, nurse...But hey, we're cutting these, so whaddya gonna do?

Identifying need without making assumptions that might be false is a tricky business. Turns out that even tho' the checkbox said, "Black," Abdul knew nothing about about Urban American culture. Go figure. Seems that tho' that Kitimoto kid LOOKED Japanese, it turns out he was raised in Broadmoor, and his apparent race identity issues are really rooted in class angst, the plague of the rich...Who knew? Not the teacher, unless they conducted a somewhat creepy interview ("tell me about your mother...") during all their free time during Math period...

Multiply that times 26...30 for K-5, 150...160...165 for 6-12 and you've either got God as a teacher or you've got a poor soul standing before the lectern, hed bowed, compassion given and given and given, yet resources to meet the need taken away, the teacher her or himself mlaigned, abused, called greedy, inept, racist....

Some life. Yes, the teacher suffers. But who really suffers when people expect teachers to teach all skills to all children? The children, because the community outside the school has abrogated its responsibilty and is placing that burden, a burden no one person can carry, onto the aching shoulders of the poor schmoo who, filled with compassion, walked into the classroom thinking they could help some children become productive citizens.

Word Verifier had to take a REERCESS on the last post, but is back now. But WV will need the SUMPA pump for the clogged pipes on this one, I'm afraid....

Maureen said...

I do appreciate the time Seattle Citizen put into his response, but different's analogy was just weak. My brother in law is a radiation oncologist who deals with brain tumors. When my husband dislocated his shoulder, my BIL wouldn't even look at it on the grounds that he doesn't deal with anything below the neck.

When are teachers ever allowed that level of specialization and disregard for all of the needs of the kids sitting in their classrooms? Doctors deal with very small specific defined sectors of their patients' issues. They don't even pretend to help them deal with the underlying issues that are causing their illnesses. Our society expects teachers to teach, parent, psychoanalyze, clean, entertain.... and we pay teachers 30% or less of what we pay doctors (who aren't even expected to nurse or commiserate with their patients let alone parent.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes to Unhappy about the reality of schools comments.

"But it's obvious that at some point, the public systems just have to deal with the people as they actually are."

Okay, but how far do you take that? Because you won't get away with that into adulthood. At some point, kids have to learn what behavior works out in the world and what doesn't. The classroom is only one place they will be learning that lesson.

I agree that teachers should, of course, be teaching classroom behavior expectations (and explaining new ones as they come up) and modeling good classroom behavior (and pointed out often when kids do good just as often as when they don't).

Behavior is a broad term and I thought we meant general classroom behavior and not behaviors because of a disability. I do know about IEPs; my son had one. Sorry about my confusion.

seattle citizen said...

The good thing, tho', is that Teach For America is coming to the classrooms that are, they say, most filled with needs!

These TFA...workers...(are they teachers? without a cert? I'm confused) are SMART! They come from Yale and Harvard and the UW! They're recruited because they're SMART in their content areas! Business, Marketing, Engineering...Better still, they're eager and very, very idealistic, which of course, because they are also so smart (did I mention Yale?) means they are also compassionate. Of course compassion comes not from being exposed to immense suffering of others, not from a broad wisdom of the ways of the world...it comes from knoning engineering!

So these super-smart and idealistic...pseudo-teachers will, no doubt, be well-trained and ready, ready to "teach every skill to every student." We can certainly expect them to work those eighteen hours to just, you know, try HARDER than those mean ol' dinosaurs that are in classrooms actually trying to meet the needs of students.
Oh, wait, they DON'T get over year's worth of learning about different adolescent issues? They don't get to learn about different cultures before they take over the class? Nothing about IDEA or LRE? Hmmm...
Five weeks, you say? That's all they get?

Oh well, at least they'll broaden the candidate pool...and they're so very smart and idealistic, a lack of training in the variety of needs kids have can't be TOO important!

Anonymous said...

Well SC, all can say is... nobody ever said it was going to be easy. And, you seem to have plenty of time to blog. But here's the thing, a kid has an IEP, it has behavioral goals, it has behavioral adaptations(which likely includes ways to modify the environment as needed) it has adaptive goals. Teachers attend those meetings, they agree to the goals, they agree to what's possible, they agree to what isn't. And then they're required to implement them. And that means everybody on the team, including you, is responsible for meeting the students listed needs. So, poof, you've already got to do it. You don't have to do a million things, you only have to do the things listed, and the things reasonable for the student at the present time and as agreed to. And by the way, you'd better be keeping data on it and following that BIP. If you don't, then any punishment meted out is on you and it will come back to bite you.

OK Maureen, sure there are specialists in medicine, and maybe the analogy isn't perfect, but there are also generalists. When you go to the ER (for example) they don't turn you away because you're undeserving. And when people see your uncle, he doesn't say "Sorry, I won't treat your cancer because you smoked and that was really dumb and irresponsible." That's what we're letting the teachers here get away with.

-diff

seattle citizen said...

@diff - Do you have some sort of problem with the time I spend blogging?! How strange. How irrelevant...At any rate, maybe you should blog MORE?

And of course, diff, it's the LAW that teachers work with IEP teachers, the families, the students...Wouldn't want to be arrested like those social workers in NY were, eh? The ones that were so overloaded with work that they didn't get their notes into the system fast enough, didn't spend enough time meeting the letter of the law on caseload management and documentation, so they were arrested when a child died?

That's it: Overload teachers with The Law, diff, then fire them for not getting all the work done. Great.

Meanwhile...yes of course IEPs require action. I thought the conversation was a bit broader, you know, "teach every skill to every child"? Did it SOUND like I didn't think IEPs mattered?

"And by the way, you'd better be keeping data on it and following that BIP. If you don't, then any punishment meted out is on you and it will come back to bite you."

That's great. Threaten the teachers. Very helpful.

I stand by my statements, diff. Of COURSE teachers should be compassionate, and they should make every attempt to meet every need...they see...but they are there to teach whatever it is they are there to teach, Stuff like math and science and reading and such. It's on the community to help kids learn all the other skills. If a kid has no immediate family to do this, well then, we need more social workers...and tutors...and and and and...But don't ask teachers to teach it all. It's not their job, they couldn't do it if they tried, and they really HAVE to teach the academics: "Your student didn't pass the HSPE! HSPE is a law! Ergo, you broke the law! We're arresting you!"
Wouldn't want THAT.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, there's no magical point at which a "behavior becomes a disability". If the behavior is bad enough, then a district "expert" will qualify the student for special education, because everybody hates bad behavior more than anything else. The whole point of a tiered intervention is that you shouldn't have to wait for the problem to explode and a student to be sent to special education before you address it. And yes, we're talking about general classroom behavior.. but what's that? Of course the issue is "what happens when they get out". That is something every parent thinks about. Teachers, not so much. Behavioral expectations, like academic ones, vary according to a student's ability. The goal should be to maximize that for everyone. Yes, by all means, the classrooms do have to teach what will happen out in the real world. But when the same select students are constantly suspended... in fact, they are taught nothing at all. That isn't to say suspension never works. Of course it it is quite effective at times. The point is, the school needs to actually be student focused and actually figure out what works for an individual student - not self-serving or designed to perpetuate inequities.

--diff

seattle citizen said...

"when people see your uncle, he doesn't say 'Sorry, I won't treat your cancer because you smoked and that was really dumb and irresponsible.' That's what we're letting the teachers here get away with."

Yes, those evil, evil teachers, getting away with not meeting all the needs of children.

Gimme a break.

seattle citizen said...

diff, when a GENERALIST finds a problem that might be cancer, the patient is sent out of the room...to the specialist.

Unfortunately for children, the specialists are being laid off and the generalists are being asked to treat cancer.

Anonymous said...

SC, the point is, YOU sit on IEP meetings. If YOU can't do it, then that's the time to say so. And please do. But the larger point is, since YOU have to do this same stuff already for some number of students who have IEPs, then how about apply those same working principles, to everyone? It isn't magic, it's just making the assumption that students do well if they can. Bad behavior is an indication of lagging skills that need addressing. The question of "where does my role end" doesn't meet anyone's needs.

-diff

seattle citizen said...

"The whole point of a tiered intervention is that you shouldn't have to wait for the problem to explode and a student to be sent to special education before you address it. And yes, we're talking about general classroom behavior"

Oh, so we ARE talking general classroom behavior, and not the specific legal parameters of IEPS! So why did you call me out on IEPs? I'm confused. But then, you write that
"...Just because a bunch of teachers don't think it's their job doesn't mean they are correct...[teachers doing]a half-assed job is just as costly as doing a good one....That's what we're letting the teachers here get away with....
That is something every parent thinks about....Teachers, not so much...[schools are]self-serving [and] designed to perpetuate inequities...."
Your disrespect for educators is showing, diff. I was interested in our dialogue until I started to figure that out.

Maureen said...

A point of clarification re IEPs: above, different says: "behavior" is a domain of qualification on IEPs. .... the behavior that needs to be taught is wide ranging. It includes any maladaptive behavior that a student has ... to appropriately responding, to "learning that stealing cars is wrong"

Is this actually true? I.e., if a (say) B- student with no other indications steals a car, they are entitled to an IEP which will require a teacher to ensure that they know it is wrong to steal?

I'm thinking this was an exageration. But of what, exactly?

Anonymous said...

I agree that parents should teach social & behavioral skills to their children. Most do.

But there is a gap between what some kids are taught and what teachers expect. Sometimes it is the fault of poor parenting.

Sometimes that gap is caused by classroom expectations that are developmentally inappropriate. Such as making young children sit still & listen for too long. Or requiring teenagers to end their night sleep at 6:30 am.

Sometimes it is a cultural gap like the very important skill of self-advocacy. Where to succeed in school a student must be able to approach and challenge the teacher about misrecorded grades or clarifying a rubric. But in many homes challenging grownups is a transgression. So the child doesn't question the teacher & get the information they need.


How does a child learn when it is ok to ask a question? My child said that in middle school you should ask 2 questions a week in each class. If you ask more, then you are pesty & disruptive. If you ask fewer, then you are a slacker who is not paying attention. You must make sure that your question doesn't cause the teacher to repeat something they just said and does not introduce any outside information into the discussion. You must time your question not to interrupt information being given but before the slight pause that precedes moving on to an assignment. She learned this by seeing how annoyed teachers got when these 'rules' were transgressed. But I didn't teach her when to ask a question.

Of course waiting til high school is too late to begin teaching cultural norms to kids. Many kids have already given up by then.

- unhappy

Anonymous said...

Maureen, there's an evaluation and assessment. Yes, a student can qualify for special education based on behavior alone. (Would a B- student caught stealing cars qualify? I don't know. Probably not.) Once they qualify, that student's IEP has behavior goals, and probably a behavior intervention plan (BIP).

SC, I did not "call you out" - whatever that means. Nor imply that you could be sued - probably you can't be. I'm just simply saying we already have techniques and strategies that we know we have to do with certain students. My guess is that you probably use them regularly. Why not deeply embed them? Who knows? Maybe you do! The topic of conversation was about at-risk students and what obligations do schools have to them. Plenty! Too bad you see dialogue and anything other than group cheerleading as disrepectful.

-diff

seattle citizen said...

diff, you focused on IEPs when I thought we WERE discussing general classroom behavior (and I would posit that it's not just at-risk: If we are meeting the needs of students, those needs might include special ed, which might not be "at risk," and also advanced, bilingual, etc. While these "categories" of child might have some risks thereby, it's more a question of meeting ALL needs.

I don't "see dialogue and anything other than group cheerleading as disrepectful." What on earth gave you that idea? I LOVE dialogue! What I see as disrespectful is general statements that seem to say that teachers just aren't getting it right, that they're slackers or inept: "
"...teachers don't think it's their job...[teachers doing]a half-assed job....teachers here get away with....every parent thinks about [but]teachers, not so much...self-serving...perpetuate inequities...."
That sort of commentary speaks not to all of us working together, doing our best to meet the most needs, but rather to an attitude that teachers are in the way, that they are a problem.
THAT I find disrespectful.

I hear where you're coming from, diff, I THINK I understand the angst and frustration. But I don't hear you understanding the angst and frustration of teachers. Many, if not most, come into the profession partly because they want to teach, say, math, but also partly because they want to do the very things you're asking them to do: Help individual students acheive. They have hearts, they aren't all "getting away" with avoiding the needs of children. It's a tone thing, and maybe I'm hearing you wrong. If so, I apologize. I'm certainly not advocating group cheerleading! Which group do you mean? The most important group to me is the group of students that are in schools. I DO cheerlead for them.

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Melissa Westbrook said...

"Bad behavior is an indication of lagging skills that need addressing."

Are you talking about a child with an IEP or every student in the class?

I'm not buying that every teacher is required to figure out every single kid's issue every day. It is not humanly possible. I couldn't even do that as a parent and I only had two kids.

Diff, we are all on-board with differentiated teaching and teachers who are compassionate and caring but I think you want a level of involvement and action that isn't possible for a teacher (or anyone else) dealing with a classroom on a daily basis.

If you are only talking about the students with IEPs, then yes, legally the teacher should be trying to fulfill the requirements.

Unhappy, I hear what you are saying. But I have spent some time in middle school classrooms and some teachers take this route because of the number of times their lesson gets interrupted by a "question", some of which have nothing to do with the lesson and that completely slow the class down. Those rules sound like a teacher who got frustrated and had to go the strict route.

anonymous said...

"Do you have some sort of problem with the time I spend blogging?! How strange. How irrelevant...At any rate, maybe you should blog MORE?"

Seattle Citizen, that you have plenty of time to blog is absolutely relevant, especially since you used to frequently post on this blog throughout the school day - that is until someone on this blog called you out on it. Now, thankfully, your posts only appear at night and on weekends, and hopefully you are spending all 2 minutes per student on your student.

FWIW

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Eckstein middle school is addressing this very issue. I am not on staff at Eckstein but have heard some things about this from teachers & parents there.

I believe they felt caught off guard last year by the disruptive behavior that came in with a huge new 6th grade class. It seems they concluded that many kids coming in did not know how to meet the cultural expectations in middle school. Different from previous classes.

So they spent spring & summer in discussions, planning & staff training. They will be teaching school culture & community building in very deliberate ways from instituting the WEB curriculum, to programing team building student days, to blocking classes so that teachers have more time with each student. They are also starting a food backpack program and working to get parents into the school building. The teachers I spoke with are very excited about making these efforts and exploring others.


-Rose M

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

I was not trying to say that there shouldn't be cultural norms around asking questions in class. I was saying that I, as a parent, didn't know to teach these norms to my children. Also the teachers never taught these norms in any explicit way. The children were suppose to figure it out on their own. Those kids, like my daughter, who watched the teachers enough knew what the unspoken rules were. Those like my son, who still doesn't interpret body language or tone of voice well, did not figure it out & couldn't understand why the teachers were so frustrated with them.


This was not one class, but my daughter's experience of middle school as the general rule, with some teachers who were exceptions.

I think that school cultural norms are not so obvious that all parents are really able to prepare their kids to succeed equally in that environment.

-unhappy

seattle citizen said...

FWIW,
The "plenty of time to blog" thing is a moot point. I spend maybe 30 minutes a day on this, if that. Many people spend SOME time contributing to various blogs and discussion and meetings regarding what is important to them (or at least interesting.

Blogging during the school day? In retrospect, perhaps not a good idea. But a) it's about education, no? a part of the teacher's job? Or should teachers just not blog, shut do what we're told, no feedback, comment, suggestion...and b) that year, the first I started blogging, the school I was in was being closed....sloowly...and I had very, very few students. I was also active in trying to direct the closure as best I could, as head of the BLT, and was commenting often and loudly wherever I could.
But it was wrong. I had extra time and used it sometimes to stay engaged in issues regarding cloure. Nonetheless, I think in retrospect that all school hours should be dedicated directly to serving students, as they are in the building.
You're right about that.

Unfortunately, I can't spend two minutes per student per period. The classes at my closing school were small and getting smaller, so I was able to devote enormous resources to individual students. How wonderful THAT was. But classes are being filled to capacity and beyond, now, and many of the non-classroom resources have dried up, so the two-minutes per student per class thing is even more of an impossibility.

Evenings and weekends are a good time to blog, FWIW, and I will continue to do this, spending as much of my non-contract hours in ways that I feel are important, both professionally and personally. Many of those hours will be spent working: papers to grade and such. But some will no doubt be spent contributing to dialogue about schools, students, and communities. If you think it's too much time spent on such things, well, that's your problem.

seattle citizen said...

Unhappy,
I believe the norms can be taught in class, should be, and sometimes are. But sometimes not. This is part of the problem, and I can name at least one teacher who struggles with it, tho' continues to work towards that goal.
Part of the problem is an endlessly changing expectation, at a district level (heck, even state and national nowawdays), of what is to be taught. Academics, citizenship, behavior...as we are seeing in this discussion, there are varying expectations and it seems hard for a building to establish that "tone" or "climate" in a unified fashion - It rewuires buy-in by all staff, it requires networking and a communication strategy...Sometimes there is fear, perhaps, of sticking your head out the door for fear of getting it chopped off: Stay in the classroom where it is safe, don't speak about stuff to other staff because hey, maybe the new paradigm is something you aren't up to speed on and you'll get nailed...
THAT is a big problem, at a school level and, increasingly at district level as district tries (and for good reason in some instances) to make systems district-wide. A culture of set discipline, rules, expectations etc that all staff understand, are knowledgeable about, and can have the time to enact is a difficult thing to do. But, in my opinion, it is better to have it district-wide; students move around, they move from elemtary to MS to HS, and they live in the city. A city/district wide culture of expectations would certainly make things better for most students - I think we agree that stability, structure, and a certainty of consequence (positive and negative alike) is helpful to students.

But I'm with you, unhappy: This would be a good thing in a classroom and a good thing for all parent/guardians to have knowledge about and be able to back up during non-school hours.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen, I don't care what you do with your time when you are off the clock, but I have a huge problem with you blogging throughout the school day - that's on my dime, and at the expense of your students, even if you did have a relatively small class. I do thank you though for admitting that blogging during school hours was wrong, and discontinuing it. And I thank you for blogging during your off hours, and contributing in a meaningful and real way. It's always great to get a teachers perspective, and from years of following your blog posts I have come to the conclusion that you are probably a hell of a teacher, with a strong sense of social justice, and a huge heart. I think that you genuinely care about and try to reach all of your students, especially those from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. Keep doing what you are doing-

FWIW

Melissa Westbrook said...

"THAT is a big problem, at a school level and, increasingly at district level as district tries (and for good reason in some instances) to make systems district-wide. A culture of set discipline, rules, expectations etc that all staff understand, are knowledgeable about, and can have the time to enact is a difficult thing to do. But, in my opinion, it is better to have it district-wide; students move around, they move from elementary to MS to HS, and they live in the city. A city/district wide culture of expectations would certainly make things better for most students - I think we agree that stability, structure, and a certainty of consequence (positive and negative alike) is helpful to students."

I absolutely agree. We have agreed in this district that we want quality schools in all neighborhoods with high expectations for all students.

When did discipline and behavior leave this equation? If we align curriculum, why not the expectations for how we expect students to act in class and at school?

It's funny to even ask this question because you'd think it would be a given. It's not even a given within a school. All you parents of elementary students, note how the school runs now. When your child gets to middle and high school, tell me if you see the same thing.

I'm not talking about shutting down youthful enthusiasm in the halls or the ability to be a free spirit.

But yes, some clear rules about dress and behavior would certainly go a long way in keeping the focus on academics.

seattle citizen said...

Thank you, FWIW. I appreciate your encouragement very much. I also hear your concern about blogging during contract hours. I was in the wrong. I don't do that anymore.

However (and this is no attempt to avoid guilt, where it occurs, or occured, but rather for discussion purposes):
A teacher's day is full of activities relating to students, either teaching, preparing, conferencing with others (staff, parents, community support), learning new techniques or mandates, etc etc. 7.5 contract hours. I throw out the contract hours merely because this is the time "supposed" to be dedicated to my work, a generally accepted "work day" in the real world. Now of course we know that in the real world many, many people, especially professionals, work well beyond that: Personal time and work time often conflate and merge. Of COURSE when a student is needing something directly a teacher's focus should be there. This is much more expected during the 7.5 because of the contract.
However, in the professional communication world that has emerged in the last twenty years or so, there are many real-time tools to be used to research, communicate, answer, ask, comment...This includes education blogs.

Let's look at it this way in a concrete and, frankly, hard and unpalatable scenario: The teacher will work the 7.5 hours you contracted for, every minute interacting with students directly (even when they sometimes don't need it or are busy doing something else...or the teacher is at lunch...So the teacher works those 7.5 hours directly interacting with students, punches the clock, goes home to THEIR life, THEIR children.
So as a taxpayer you get your 7.5 hours worth of direct instruction, but you get nothing else: No prep, no conference, no reseach, no calls home, no home visits (a highly recommended but enormously time consumptive practice...I know.)
OPr the teacher could work other hours - doing the extra stuff that we all value. One hopes. Clubs, intensive editing of student work, extensive prep, regularly used communication networks...including blogs...
Here's the bit for discussion: In a new age, when it seems that some employers (in the private arena) are allowing their staff to do "personal" business on company time because that staff might often work OFF company time to do a better job, does it then follow that allowing teachers to communicate as they wish regarding education, regarding the very individual needs of their students we are discussing, would be helpful to teachers? Or are we to maintain that hard line, work hours vs non-work hours?
Aren't we talking about maximizing employee performance by making them more knowledgeable and communicative in the 21st century cyber world?
Particularly if the employee is using that time online to discuss, conference, learn about students, instead of, say, going on Facebook. Which is blocked, anyway. I've heard.

seattle citizen said...

Hard Line, or Deep Divide:
One of the problems -
In this thread I note a deep divide between educators and parent/guardian/community.

This divide exists within an atmosphere of both mutual admiration and mutual frustration: Each loves what the other does, often, but is also frustrated with other.
Educators can feel under attack, entrench themselves in their position: Retreat to the classroom, close the door to all that hubbub outside, or react angrily to real and perceived attacks, or form a perhaps necessary line of defense as a union and as a group of (one hopes) professionals...none of these is necessarily a helpful response.
Parent/Guardians, no offense to any of us with children, seem often to be understandably shortsighted about the big picture - not a lot of information, and a legitimate focus on their child. Sometimes, again understandably, to the exclusion of thinking about OTHER children. Not an attractive trait for any of us, but I think we know how strong that propensity is, perhaps its just plain biological, who knows.

The educators are frustrated with the parent/guardians for not making sure that educators are supported: Plenty of staff, tolerable (at least) buildings, strong community networks and supports, etc etc. P/Gs are telling teachers to do all these things, more every year, to accomodate THEIR child. Yet FTE goes down.
P/Gs are frustrated that educators are not meeting, sometimes, all the needs of their children. Not all p/gs, not all the needs always, but there is this general undertow of commentary in the media, in policy, and in conversations between educators and P/Gs: You MUST meet all the needs of ALL students.

So what is the divide, I ask myself, what is it REALLY, and how do we bridge it? The district's initiative to be more collaborative is a good start - any open communication between educators at any level and the community HAS to be a good thing - as are the new technologies being ushered in...in fits and starts, htings such as the Source, and now the new school webpages. (the frustration of many educators is the constant change of tech: one system to another, tech problems, etc...teachers, generally older, are notoriously slow adapters of tech. Aren't we all, those of born before 1980?)
The divide is mutual frustration. If resources are made readily available, if educators are supported in trying to reach as many students as possible (and no, not all WILL be reach, some will be...absent. Some killed on the streets. Some just wandered away) then THEIR level of frustration will go down, p/gs level will go down, and maybe all can work more collaboratively to meet the needs of all students.
If we could bridge this "mutual frustration" gap, it would a long, long way towards bridging some might gaps in equity, learning, and services...But it won't come from some think tank or institution or bureaucracy: Such a bridge can only be built between p/gs and the educators who are interacting the children.

anonymous said...

I hear you Seattle Citizen, and honestly I hadn't thought about it that way. I know the teachers that my kids been lucky enough to have work before school, after school, in the evening, and sometimes on the weekends. They volunteer on committees in the evening, attend fundraisers and auctions, host talent nights, school tours, plant sales, and everything in between. And they still find time to meet with me or answer my emails about my child (I often get emails from teachers late at night and on the weekends).

So yes, I see your point, about the give and take, and how teachers work far more than their actual "clock hours".

FWIW

Name said...

This thread is exactly why charters appeal to families

A disadvantaged family may want a school that is focused on strict academics and no-nonsense discipline ala KIPP because they know that their child is not growing up in a culture that reinforces successful behaviors (corner boys and easy money to be had selling drugs or a fuck it all attitude about the future). This same model would not appeal to many privileged families who are looking for a softer more artsy educational environment because they know their kid is going to college and that has never been in doubt. The needs of the two families are at odds and the current model ends up not meeting the needs of either.

- the ideal of a singular public school model that can meet the needs of all citizens is a fallacy unless all teachers are trained in Special Ed and class sizes are limited to 20 kids at all grade levels and there is a 1:10 student to councilor ratio. Its clear from the current budget situation that society is unwilling to provide a quality education for ALL its citizens so families have to find the best possible situation. Change at an institutional level is impossible so people will seek education at a scale that they can actually affect - the individual school level.

I have given up on trying to affect change at the institutional level, it cannot be done. Look at what happened to Harium. I believe he truly thought he could make a difference and now he's given up and given in. I predict that the challengers who replace the incumbents will be just as ineffectual in creating a better system. They might make changes but those changes aren't going fix things for everyone. MGJ and the current board made lots of changes and look how that turned out for us.

Local solutions for local problems is the answer.

Dorothy Neville said...

I am at today's school board retreat which is deciding on highest priorities for the upcoming year. One of Susan Enfield's top priorities is discipline disparity. This is the first I have heard of her address it, as it doesn't directly tie into the four pillars she shared as her priority this year. But she did seem very concerned and sees fixing discipline as a core need.

seattle citizen said...

Thanks for that information, Dorothy - I hope many people can join the conversation with the Interim Supt regarding discipline - Which elements might be fostered/mandated district wide, which tailored to individual schools, which to individual students...As we've seen in recent comments here, there is some concern about those balances.
Perhaps parent/guardians, community members and staff could learn more (or refresh their memories) about discipline in the classrooms of their students, in the individual schools, and district-wide, and also ponder and discuss the issue and come up with a short list of what they'd like to see at each of those levels.
Then email superintendent@seattleschools.org

seattle citizen said...

Maybe someone with lots of spare time could do a short piece of research, a survey, around various practices, successes, and failures around discipline?

Anonymous said...

Since you asked SC, here's a book on Collaborative Problem Solving, which is the only behavior teaching methodology recognized by the NIMH. There are a bunch of companion books for various uses. This has been used extensively in residential centers, schools, homes. Guess what, they say it reduces costs, and root causes of behavior problems are not shirked away from. For schools we also have a national model PBIS, or PBS, positive behavior intervention supports. You can use google to peruse the research. Susan Ensfield, in one of her long talks, has said this is what they expect to be implemented in our schools. It has many years in the field and tons of research behind it. Many whole states have adopted it for their schools.

SC, I think everybody hears you: So little time, so many needs, we teachers can't do it all. And, you're exactly right about that. There will NEVER be fewer demands on any limited resource, including the educational establishment. The question is how do we divvy up that resource? The subject of this thread was serving those who are truly underserved. Some people seem to think that it's fine to just leave some people out, and fine to leave a lot of obvious problems unsolved. If we DO plan to serve those who are truly underserved, then this, or something like it, has got to be part of the mix. If we DON'T plan to serve everyone, then we can just continue on, and you (collectively speaking) can get back to your lesson plan that punts the big issues out into the void. You have got to punt something, and I get that. I guess for me, there's plenty of evidence the schools are already doing a great job teaching the top students, to those who have always done well. We have the highest SAT scores in the country for those taking it. We have scads, and scads of AP classes for those traditionally well-served - so that they may be even better served. Of course, these people too could always use more, and they ask for it. More more more. We have IB programs, and international language immersion programs. It's just really a question of priorities, and what gets prioritized. At the end of the days, these strategies look to be things that, if well implemented, are a net benefit to everyone, and may even reduce costs and effort over the long haul.

-diff

dan dempsey said...

"One of Susan Enfield's top priorities is discipline disparity.

The term "discipline disparity" always concerns me. As I never know if there is a concern for improving the instructional climate in schools so that students are in optimum learning conditions or ... whether there is a concern about the numbers of students in regard to which percentages of certain ethnicities wind up in which categories in the disciplinary actions spreadsheet.

Since Dr. Enfield has regularly deciding against using evidenced based instructional practices and materials that work well with educationally disadvantaged learners .... how does she expect to serve those students? looks like "differentiated instruction" did not do the job ... so now it is on to "discipline disparity" .... Good Luck with that.

Dorothy Neville said...

OK, don't quote me on the term disparity. I am not sure exactly what term she used, but the explanation was that current discipline situation is not working especially how it affects kids of color. In particular, long term suspension are bad.

emeraldkity said...

In particular, long term suspension are bad.

I would agree- particularly since we don't have many/any?, reentry or alternatives that would be appropriate for students who are having too many conflicts in a traditional comprehensive.

seattle citizen said...

diff - Thanks for the links.

You hit on a key aspect of all of this with your comments about who we serve.

As you write, "there's plenty of evidence the schools are already doing a great job teaching the top students, to those who have always done well. We have the highest SAT scores in the country for those taking it. We have scads, and scads of AP classes for those traditionally well-served - so that they may be even better served. Of course, these people too could always use more, and they ask for it. More more more. We have IB programs, and international language immersion programs."

The key here is "those who have always done well." We KNOW that enrichment, all those things a student gets outside the school walls, can prepare a student for learning (and life) in many ways the school doesn't. There are plenty of students sitting in classrooms who are "above level" by the mere coincidence of their birth: Educated parents, savvy parents, parents who take them places and ask them questions and get them thinking about the world in ways that, honestly, prepare them for life even without the education they get in school.

Then there are those that have none of those enrichments.

So when we talk about educational resource distribution, are we talking about adding yet more (and I don't mean that flippantly) to those who are already "above level" at an equal rate as we add to those who are "below level"?

Do we, as a taxpaying citizenry, believe it is important to raise all boats in a public school, or should we add more resources at the lower levels than at the higher levels?

Does this make sense? I think what I'm saying is that ALL parent/guardians, and naturally, want EVERYTHING to be added to their child's experience: The student comes in with a lot of outside prep, enrichment, access to resources at home, yet of course each p/g wants the schools to push that student even further, up up up. (The world, the US at least, is becoming more and more competitive, so in that sense this is also a powerful drive for ALL p/gs.)

But, as many have pointed out and I tend to agree, it is at the lower levels (and this "lover level" is often a factor of little enrichment) that students really NEED resources more. There's a saying that higher-level students "will do just fine." Dismissive and rude, yes, yet there is a grain of truth to it in the weighing of outcomes. A higher level student might (might) have access to many resources outside of school, to help them socially, economically, etc, whereas a "lower level" student might not.

So in our resource allocation calculus, a cold calculus no doubt, do we disperse resources evenly across the board or do we weight them towards raising the lower levels?

Discuss.

Word Verifier is a reaptess, which has something to do with reaping benefits from resources or enrichement or something, I'm not sure.

seattle citizen said...

Resources, "discipline," remedial and advanced:

Some here suggest that schools should be autonomous, "meet the needs of their communities," Some suggest a district-wide system of expectations, formulas, and clsas levels.

To discuss: Different students have different needs. A "one size fits all" approach to anything, we might agree, doesn't meet those needs.

Yet we have expectations: ALL students should be able to operate in an academic environment with common behavior expectations and with common "level" of understanding of skills and concepts, in order to progress up the academic ladder.

Which expectations should be district-wide, which should be decided at a building level, which should be left to the teacher to nuance on the front lines?

Teachers are expected to differentiate, academically and behaviorally (or at least have some ability to work with individual student needs.) But which standards of behavior might they expect in the class, in the school, in the district? How much academic preparation should they expect (does a student come to a classroom "at level"? Should they? Were they progressed from the previous level without having attained the knowledge necessary fot the next?)

Some say charters offer the opportunity for parent/guardians to act more independently to meet needs (I would suggest, that if this is what we want to do as publicly funded institutions, that it could be done with alternative, option, and other sorts of schools.) Yet: There will be students in a wildly independent school who are not getting the same standards of behavior and academics as the school down the block. Is this okay?

There is, obviously, two competing trends: Autonomy (charters, alternatives, etc) and "standards" (Common Core, district policies, etc)

How much autonomy should be given various levels (teacher, school, district, state, nation) and what are they expectations we ALL hold for EVERY one of these levels?

(And remember, always, that in each classroom there will be students who aren't "at risk" or "above level" - for every sweeping reform, there are students whose needs will be LESS met if a classroom or school is geared towards a generalized tyope of student. Or, worse, towards a generalized race...)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, diff, this is a big statement:

"I guess for me, there's plenty of evidence the schools are already doing a great job teaching the top students, to those who have always done well. Of course, these people too could always use more, and they ask for it. More more more."

So it is apparent that you believe a couple of things. That we are reaching all "top students" (we're not) and that they are getting more than other students (they're not). The SAT scores reflect both public and private schools.

AP courses are open to all students. If this district had few to no AP courses, we would not be taken seriously as a district with any type of rigor. Many of our students would not be admitted to college without this work.

IB was a program that teachers and the district decided on. To my knowledge, there was no big parent push for this. Also, IB is open to all students (you can take one class or the whole program).

There are talented students everywhere, some not found. The district is now going to use funds to find the top 10% in all elementary schools (without AL testing but using HPSE and MAP scores) and better serve them. That's helping students who are likely to be immigrant/minority/low=income to get the education they need.

You seem to operate under the idea that APP and Spectrum are getting "more". They aren't. They have big classes, most of the teachers have no special training for advanced learning, etc. If they are getting extra, I'd like to know what.

Foreign language immersion is not an advanced learning opportunity. They are just regular schools using the same curriculum in a different language.

Bright students DON'T always do okay. That is a myth.

Anonymous said...

So in touching back to the original topic...

Tavis Smiley's program did not conclude with "differentiate more in the overcrowded classroom," or "it's all the teacher's fault."

When he talked about how to have success with at-risk, boys of color, he went to the root—all boys in general. He then went out from there, outlining the factors that create the boys' paths in life.

I stated the things he thought would help in the first post of this discussion, so read there (or better yet, watch online at PBS). But one of the major issues Smiley saw was the need for mentors and role models. For example, Smiley acknowledged that there are some terrific high-end role roles in the AA community—a president of the US and one of the richest women in the world. In fact, one of the teenage boys being interviewed at a Chicago charter called himself a "Little Obamas."

Sure, people of color have, in addition, role models like Condi Rice and Collin Powell,. There are numerous entertainers, politicians (from local city council all the way to the top), and civic leaders.

Smiley didn't say this, but I realized that what the majority of low-income , at-risk kids (of all stripes) don't have is a father that gets up every morning and goes to a decent-paying job. Too many of these kids are very aware of the extremes, but they don't see a lot of the "Regular Joe," day-to-day living. They might see it sprinkled on TV (and so much more now than when I was growing up). But they don't see it in their real lives on a daily basis.

If their parents have jobs, those jobs are often low-pay, low-skill or backbreaking. Some have parents who never graduated from high school. Some have parents who are immigrants and struggling with all the complexities of living in a whole new world." I don't need to spell this out for you.

Continued...

(SG)

Anonymous said...

SG...continued

MY OWN THOUGHTS: As many have posted, the issue is, in reality, an opportunity gap—the opportunity of being born into a family that is already on the ladder to success. It doesn't take too much extra-effort to make it to that first rung, but everyone needs to at least make it there if our country, and planet, is going to have a chance of surviving and prospering in the future.

We definitely need to find a way to reach the current 0-21-yr-olds (I don't think it's feasible to try and reach everyone beyond that age bracket). Unfortunately, I do believe that a number of those kids can be reached if we can give them the opportunities they are missing out on. But this will take real money because it can't be done in the present setting.

I think for some the public service and "general parenting needs" are so great, the extreme charters are probably the answer. You just can't expect a public school that is trying to serve hundreds of students of varying life paths to become surrogate parents to them all.

For everyone else, it needs to be much smaller class sizes (15-20), teachers with more free time to work with students, clear rules of conduct, high expectations, and lots and lots of social support in all schools (middle- and upper-income families can have problems too—from suddenly lost jobs to serious medial conditions, divorce, drug & alcohol abuse, and mental illness).

Arguing about how to stretch our ever-shrinking resources (both human and material) is what is tearing this country apart.

Reading other posts/comments on other websites has led me to believe that this is exactly where they people in power want us to be—fighting amongst ourselves. A recent ST piece about how 1-5 city employees make over $100,00/year—primarily police, firefighters and others with dangerous jobs and lots of overtime—prompted dozens of comments with the "throw the bums out" mentality.

We are all scrambling for crumbs at the bottom, be it a job, an education for ourselves or our children, housing, healthcare... And there are so many more of us. If, in another generation or two, few of us can make it to that first rung, our society will go the way of other cultures where power and wealth became concentrated at the top. It won't be petty.

Recent studies show that the middle-class is eroding, rapidly. Crappy public education will definitely contribute to that.

Let's stop fighting about what we can do in the classroom this very second—since we have no real power over that, and focus on the future. Throwing out the incumbent school board members is a good start. I wish here, we could focus at least some conversations on the truly big picture—the opportunity gap that begins with birth.

SG

emeraldkity said...

their parents have jobs, those jobs are often low-pay, low-skill or backbreaking. Some have parents who never graduated from high school.

Raising hand.
So why is it that some of the above families have education as a priority & others don't?

I think we need to pay just as much attention to the girls in challenged situations because these young women may become the mothers of another generation of " disaffected youth".

But if we can reach them- then they can learn like the 11 year old at the orphanage in Mexico where GTA( Global tech academy) began their first partnership- that even if the orphanage will put them on the streets when they are 12, they don't have to limit their potential to survive- they can find opportunities they didn't have 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Emerald Kity...I think it boils down to mentors and role models. The ones who know people who got ahead in a realistic way (not became sports or entertainment stars or major politicians, but got jobs at Boeing, in an office, a bank, at an ad agency, doctor, lawyer, etc.) probably value education and encourage their kids to do well in school. The ones who don't know anyone who prospered in a commonplace way because of their education probably don't see the value in it. I'm just guessing, of course.

SG

Anonymous said...

PS...you're right about trying to reach the girls too—but I was just referring to the Tavis Smiley special which focused on boys.

SG

Anonymous said...

@Dorothy,

"Discipline Disparity" has been used in SPS in the past to force teachers to not document serious and unsafe behaviors. Which lead to having to circumvent the obstructing admin to do what is both right and legal.

I hope that Dorothy means that Enfield will form her budget from the classroom up to district and once Consultants have to hold a bake sale to fund their activities we will see a drop in the 'discipline gap'. This will be due to having mental health counselors, intervention specialists, regular life-path type counselors, psychiatrists, and adequate and safe venues for all these staff to perform their roles in.

SPS does not need one tenth of the administrators at the District office.

Keep the lights on, process payroll and bus tickets, keep the lunches rolling in and with the money saved help save the lives of students caught in the web of misallocated funds.

It's like a whole ecosystem of paper pushing at JSCEE. Existing to meet eachother.

Here's an idea about how to resolve issues without permanent staff.

They are called Disappearing Task Forces. You poll the talent you have working with the issues you have. Then you pull them for a summer or pull them for a year or semester. Then they work on, research, document, propose, take feedback, revise, pass, and implement a solution.

Then they go back to work. You can downsize the JSCEE both in staff and in real estate. Cuts down on power consumption bills, water, A/C, and maybe makes the new place a little less monstrously impersonal?

To others who question why I say what I did. You'll notice most of what I wrote are low to no cost issues. It simply requires parental persistence. I know that can be in short supply...but it cannot be excused. The stakes are too high. Teachers have taken many extra bites of the responsibility apple and a nice sharing of the apple is overdue.

-Lemons

Anonymous said...

Bright kids don't always do OK. Of course not. Sure, anybody can be left behind or fall throught the cracks. But when we talk about an opportunity gap, let's see what we're really talking about. For example AP classes, are these really available to everybody? I'd be willing to bet that no student in an EBD program has every really had the true opportunity to take one. We could just as easily say the "responsibility" (that was the question, right, whose responsibilty?) of providing advanced "extras", or any "extras", like that should fall on the parents of students wanting/needing those extras. Especially since those type of course are available for anybody high-school aged at community colleges or the UW. (I'm not saying we would or should ever do that, just saying it is a priority that benefits the often benefitted, and does not benefit whole groups of others.) Why, for example, is that "responsibilty" for providing those classes greater than some of the things we are so unwilling to provide other students? Consider that APP students are offered a 1-12 lifetime cohort, that is offered no matter the challenge to the district. New buildings opened to support it, students bussed, Garfield stretched beyond capacity, libraries moved, parents moving heaven and earth to make it a great experience, etc. If that APP school and cohort is not preferred, then neighborhood schools are also offered, with whatever advanced learning options available there, as is every alternative school in the district (sure, some people still think it a hardship, not the full 1000 get to stay together in elementary school together, and/or consider any move inferior and/or still lacking in some way) Contrast that breadth of offering to that of EBD students, who are offered no cohort at all, not for a single year, even when there a very few students in their class. Even for 2 years in a row. The programs are moved, students split up, at any time. Buildings often purposefully only serve a limited age range, so that any relationship a student might have developed will be destroyed after 2 years. What kind of "learning community" is that? Kindergarteners in EBD programs have been placed in programs without ANY same-aged, or even near same aged peers. Then suspended for inappropriate behavior... in kindergarten. Neiborhood schools, alternative programs? Never available, they don't even use an enrollment process where it could happen. That sort of thing really is just jail training. And it isn't "all on the parents".

None of this is to say we shouldn't offer advanced classes, or enrichment, or AP, or alternatives. I only use the EBD example because it is the most extreme example of what happens to some groups of people, and it happens to be populated by the very people the article is talkig about. It's just to point out that a great many people put their needs and/or wants on the list, and then consider that to be the job of schools, as if it is the baseline. They forget about all the extras that the system provides them, and often have no idea how little is really offered whole classes of other students.

-diff

(PS. Yes Melissa, I know language immersion isn't an advanced option. But it is a cost, and a priority, special teachers required, special books to be found, and an extra. We could just as easily ask why that extra is the responsibility of the district? Why is this stuff benefitting the underserved an "extra" but that language immersion just another choice? I believe you've made this point yourself.)

Anonymous said...

Diff,
Good point about language immersion and ESL! It is interesting how we lost so many counselors, and supportive wrap around services for kids (spec ed included). The personnel there just get thinner and thinner. Not much peep from the educational establishment. Not much press. Our number as parent adovcates is small, so our advocacy and appearancse at board meetings doesn't amount to a hill of beans. We squeak, but no roar.

Sisyphus

seattle citizen said...

diff, your description of the travails...no, scratch that, horrors a student identified as EBD must face as they are moved hither and yon, without a chance to develop relationships (with staff OR their peers), whilst wrestling with an issue or two that miggt make them in need of structure, routine, and guidance strikes my heart. Thank you for that necessary, and painful, picture you painted.

In an ideal world, groups of similarly aptituded (?) students, no matter their levels, could be a cohort (heck, in an ideal world, I would throw out the whole concept of "grade levels" and instead utilize "skill levels" in various skills and knowledges....but that's unworkable due to cost, I'm afraid.

I'm not sure where I sit regarding an APP cohort without having a stable cohort for EBD (ironically, the justification I've heard for APP as a cohort is that APP is sort of a form of special ed, as the students therein have mastery and skill that sort of puts them in their own realm and leads to its own set of issues. I agree.

But if we have a cohort for APP< why none for EBD?

WV LAZES today. On the digital couch.

Maureen said...

But I've also heard that all students should be able to get appropriate services at their neighborhood schools--they shouldn't have to bus across the city to be served. AND that kids who qualify for special ed services should have complete access to a least restrictive environment and gen ed peers. How do we balance all of these competing needs? APP kids are (voluntarily) bused and have not always had access to gen ed peers. (Not that that seemed to bother them.)

The American Way said...

Face facts. The top kids have parents who push for more and the poor kids don't. Nothing wrong with that, the wealthier should keep the pressure on for their kids and the parents of the smart ones should too. More poor parents need to make noise and demand things for their kids. That's the way it works in the US and it's a pretty good system, for all its flaws. Waiting for the district to do the right thing is a losing strategy. ALL parents need to advocate for their kids in some way.
As regards APP, they love self-contained and they are a strong lobby and get what they want. Why can't they be served in the neighborhoods? They don't want to be and the government values these kids enough to provide money to get them segregated. It's as simple as that. The geniuses are a valuable commodity for the nation.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, you heard it wrong. What's really happening in special ed? All they are doing now is NOT providing staff for a few students who formerly were provided staff, and yes keeping them in their local school. EBD kids? There is absolutely no change in any service delivery model for them, and for most other kids too.

-diff

Anonymous said...

Pretty provocative stuff American Way. That will get the elitist vs. anti-elitist, and poor vs. rich battle going this morning.

I don't think APP parents or Poor kids need your advocacy. You're stance is more like consumptive, typhoid Mary on a Trojan Horse.

-nice try

Maureen said...

diff, I don't think I heard it wrong. I just heard different things from different people at different times.

There are basic conflicts as to what is possible for any subset of the population: Peer support (or 'cohort') and teachers trained for specific issues vs. short bus rides, receiving services close to home and access to LRE/typically developing peers.

I hear you saying now that some kids now have neighborhood placement, but gave up peers and trained teachers while others (including EBD) are assigned to self contained classrooms (so get the cohort and teachers, but not the rest). Is that right?

Something has to give. Which will it be? (And I haven't even mentioned money.) I don't argue that SPS has it right, but some parts of the system must be working better than others. Can you point out some relatively successful models (that exist in SPS) that we can build on? And while I want them to work for the subpopulation, they also have to work for the rest of the kids. IDEA requires that kids with special needs get services but our state constitution requires that ALL of the kids do. Can anything work for all the kids?

SeattleSped said...

There is a false dichotomy that suggests what works for the disabled does not work for all kids. I would argue that the district's best-practice inclusion programs benefit ALL kids. It reminds me of the segregated world I grew up in (Seattle in the 60's) where there were few "negroes" and "cripples" or "retards". Aren't we glad that we don't abide that cloistered environment anymore? At least I am.

Maureen said...

So where are the District's best practice inclusion classrooms? (I think I remember Eckstein?) Do those classrooms welcome all kids or do they cream skim? Are the populations they draw from representative of the District as a whole? Do they require a minimum or maximum population to draw from? (Could they be applied in small K-8 schools?) Are there extra resources (staff or smaller class sizes) necessary or just the support of admin, staff and some professional development?

Anonymous said...

Dear nice try,
My mom told me that if I don't have something nice...
Don't disrespect other people's thoughts or motives without at least touching lightly on the subject matter. It is rude blog behavior.

blog expert

Anonymous said...

I hear you saying now that some kids now have neighborhood placement, but gave up peers and trained teachers while others (including EBD) are assigned to self contained classrooms (so get the cohort and teachers, but not the rest). Is that right?


Maureen, I'm not sure which students you're talking about. ??? Students in ICS (is that who you mean) no longer have access to inclusion programs, (a district mandated cancellation) and have been dumped in neighborhood schools. Presumably, the neighborhood school has a their neighborhood peers, but lacks nearly everything else a student might need. Instruction? Classroom support? Full-time special ed teacher? etc.

For everyone else in a special ed program - everything else is exactly the same as it's always been. And, there are a bunch of types of special ed program: EBD, DH/H, autism self-contained, low incidence self-contained, generic self-contained, dyspraxic self-contained etc. Students designated for one of those program types do NOT get an option to forgo it. They are FORCED to a school that has one of those programs. Their peer group or "learning community" is not a consideration. There's no neighborhood option, there's no alternative school choice. There's only a piece of paper - "You will go here". The district has cancelled 1 of those programs - "autism inclusion", and put those kids in their neighborhood schools without support. Everyone else in a sped program, is still in that same program, still at their whatever school the district decided, and moved as the district decides. They are not served locally, and many are bussed a very long way. Ever notice kids transported in taxi's? Those are sped kids bussed somewhere far, usually. Plus, at any point, the district can decide "oops. Well, we decided that this school wasn't right afterall, you'll go over here now." Then, any relationship formed with anybody, peers, teachers, staff, that all goes out the window. Nor does the district ever try to maintain a "learning community" for these students.

And as to "gen ed" peers. In IDEA parlance, there's no "gen ed" peers. There's non-disabled peers, and students are entitled to accesss to a non disabled peer group to the maximum extent possible. That's what LRE means. APP students are also non-disabled mostly, and it is a form of gen-ed. APP students have access to other APP students who are not disabled.

-diff

Maureen said...

diff, thank you for your patience with me. My special ed experience is limited to a single 500 student K-8 school that includes about 40 Level 4 and about 60 Level 2 kids spread over the 9 grades (plus about 100 kids who are or once were classified as ELL). I know our situation better than most at the school, but it doesn't scale well to the District level.

SeattleSped's post led me to believe that inclusion programs still exist in SPS. Is it in fact true that programs like the one at Eckstein described in this 2008 Seattle Times article no longer exist?

Anonymous said...

Maureen, inclusion programs exist for a diminishing age range. That is, every year they are refusing to admit new students to inclusion programs and just dumping the kids into the "mainstream" without much support. So far. They have been doing this for about 3 or 4 years. So, there's supposedly "no inclusion programs" for K-3. For middle and high schools like Eckstein, they also say "there's no inclusion program". There really are 2 inclusion programs at Eckstein because students actually are assigned to them and in them. I believe their IEPs have some mysterious nomenclature, something like 8:2:2 (meaning, inclusion program) By not calling it an inclusion program, but still providing the service so far, it's pretty clear that they are making the first efforts at cancelling those too. They can one day say "Oh look. You were never in an inclusion program. It just seemed like it. So, we'll just cancel that." Another problem is that they tell different people different things. So while they say there's no inclusion program for those lower grades in their documentation, you can always find somebody who has actually been assigned to one. Who knows how? Maybe they sued their way into one. Maybe the folks doing assignment doled out a favor. Really. Who really knows.

-diff

Anonymous said...

diff,
Thanks for your insights and info. It explains so much of what I saw at our neighborhood school. I tutor kids in math and reading and work with a spec ed teacher most time. I never could understand the disjointed way "services" are delivered when it comes to meeting these students' needs. The new principal is clueless and we have classroom teachers who don't believe in dyslexia and have no clue what aphasia means. The spec ed teachers are always in meeting. Parents of these kids supplement a lot for outside tutors, speech pathologist, neuro-behavioral specialist, etc.

What I see is some special needs kids are grouped in with kids who need extra tutoring for math and/or reading. Though there are kids who really should be with their advanced learning peers so that is extra challenging for us to meet that need (espcially as we are untrained volunteers). We also have kids with behavorial issues who are extraordinary bright, but disruptive, so they are often sent out of class and guess where they end up if not in the hallway... with the special ed teacher. In our school, the special ed teacher is really the catcher for everything.

-parent volunteer

Anonymous said...

Well, it's a little off topic, but to answer Maureen.

Yes the inclusion program is still working at Eckstein. My son was in an inclusion class last year for 2 periods that had a mix of special ed, general ed & spectrum kids in it. There was a general ed and a special ed teacher who team taught the class with IA’s. Instruction was differentiated. Challenge work encouraged for everyone. Also materials were differentiated with research sources provided at different reading levels.Very creative engaging curriculum.

Typically it is the best teachers(or so perceived by parents) at eckstein who are teaching in the inclusion classes because they must be committed to providing differentiated as well as indivdual instruction. Many of my friends with spectrum kids have asked to be in these classes. Unfortunately this level of support is not available in all subjects. So science classes tend to be less accomodating of different needs.

-liked inclusion/blended model