Sunday, February 19, 2012

Community Meetings on Saturday the 18th

I attended Michael DeBell's community meeting.  Did anyone attend Sharon Peaslee's?  If so, let us know about the discussion.

DeBell's meeting was interesting with the majority of participants from McClure Middle School.  They had a variety of concerns including less-than-stellar science program, loss of students from "good" elementaries like Coe, John Hay, etc. from elementary to middle school (thus creating funding issues for McClure) and issues around discipline at the school.  (You may recall that I mentioned in the SB meeting wrap-up that a mother from McClure had expressed some concerns around discipline as well.)

DeBell gave the group an update on the SB meeting.  He said the MOU that passed had been an addendum to the collective bargaining agreement.  He said that 15 schools had expressed interest in the idea.  He was fairly blase about it so I mentioned that the vote took oversight away from the Board and left it all in the hands of the Superintendent and SEA.

Michael shook his head somewhat wearily.  I think he feels this is an area that is not understood.  He said they didn't give up oversight - they can look at the applications and give input and, of course, let the Superintendent know if there are issues at the quarterly evaluation meeting for the superintendent.

I actually do see his point.  I don't want the Board doing the application assessment - that rightly should be in the hands of the Super and the SEA.  What I want is for the Board (or Board committee) to have REVIEW oversight.  One last set of eyes to look at the applications.   I have a feeling that 95% of them would pass that review easily especially if the CSA Oversight Committee passed them through first. 

Michael is also kind of where Charlie is on these early stages - thinking nothing that dramatic will happen.  This process will likely shore up some of our alternative schools.  He thinks that the bar is set so high at 80% of teacher approval and the Superintendent's approval that there won't be any askew changes. 

But I then said, what about parents?  They are not part of this process of approval at all.  Michael said they would give input during the design process and that's true but, at the end of it all, parents really have no say in the direction their school will go.  I asked Michael to at least direct the Superintendent to please tell principals to make this decision known to parents.  He said, "We try to do that."

Frankly, I was a little surprised in a roomful of parents that he didn't say something like "Yes, we should make sure that parents on tours know of this decision because what they tour now might be different by October or December."  I feel like a Lorax - who speaks for the parents? 

David Edelman, a teacher at Ingraham, said he hadn't been following this much and that it had been in the CBA.  He did say that you don't have to be a Creative Approach school to be creative or innovative.  He's right and the district will have to be careful in the future about marketing our district.  With foreign language immersion, STEM or CAS, other schools might look bland to parents but having a solid academic program and a warm inviting school is a good thing as well.

DeBell also explained that the curriculum instruction waivers vote was postponed.  He said there was a debate about funding at the schools.  Director Peaslee had put forth an amendment stating that because of inequities of fundraising from school to school, the district should be paying for the materials pertinent to the new curriculum.

De Bell explained that they will compromise this way (as I understand it) - take the average cost of adoption and figure out a per-pupil average cost and that amount goes to a school that adopts this new curriculum.  He said it looked like $10 per student and would be fiscally neutral.  He said Singapore is relatively inexpensive while Saxon was more expensive.

Then he got into the superintendent search which, again, has taken a new twist.  Here's the updated webpage.  You can now apply for what they are calling "a 25-member focus group."  So they have a search committee, then another committee that includes those members but some others who somehow got invited to talk with the search consultants and now, another group that does NOT include the search committee who will interview the finalists.  I STILL do not know who was in the second group or how they were chosen. 

A separate thread on this process is coming up soon.

Mr. Edelman gave DeBell a few thoughts on enrollment at Ingraham.  He said he was right in his assessment about growth last year.  He said that he thought the district's estimate that Ingraham would grow by only 30 students was too low. 

The McClure parents expressed their concern over some discipline issues and Michael mentioned that he had heard some similar concerns over the last several years.

One issue is about talking to students about discipline issues (serious matters, not running in the halls) without a parent being notified.  Now one parent said the police couldn't get away with that but I think he may be wrong.  I am going to ask a couple of people tomorrow about this but I did Google it and it appears a police officer and/or school official can speak to your child without you being present.  (I'd like to be wrong on this but I don't think so.)

So going back to the discussion about the ACLU, here's what I was told and what I told my own children.  If your child get accused of something serious by a school official, the mantra is, "I want my parents called.  I want them here while I talk to you."  If your child gets questioned by a police officer, it's "I want my parents or a lawyer."  That protect your child because he/she has just asserted their civil rights.

Many school officials find it a useful tactic to bring a child in a room with a couple of adults and start questioning them.  Very infrequently, but sometimes, a child might be threatened (you'll be suspended, you'll go to juvenile court, etc).  Think of a kid who might be 12 or 13 and how frightening that is.

Tell your child to always ask for a parent to be notified.  Even if a parent can't be found (or get there), your child has protected himself and will be able to say later that on that he or she did not want to talk without a parent present.

There was also a latecomer to the meeting, also a McClure parent, who wanted to talk about Special Education issues.  She said that the program had been undergoing changes and parents were frustrated.  She said that it appeared that at the school level, funding was getting stripped from Special Ed.  She said it looked like some schools were hiring dual-certificated teachers rather just a Special Education teacher .  She said this type of hiring takes some pressure off of General Ed teachers but puts more on Special Ed teachers. 

DeBell said the district had two mandates; to provide the least restrictive environment and to integrate and meet individual needs.  He said Special Ed funding keeps going up. 

It seems like everyone is frustrated with Special Ed.  I wish I had the answers.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts (more of the same I'm afraid):

too much money going to admin and not enough to fully fund schools and their needs - superior sped people. You know, I haven't seen many good sped people in the elementary schools - my experience is that they are few and far between.

Singapore cheaper - of course! That's another area we can save money. Get out all those manipulatives that have come with all those previous very-expensive programs and buy the Singapore paperbacks. Then, put a sign on the District's door: No Solicitors. (Leave off the "please")

n...

Anonymous said...

Special Ed is a disaster waiting to happen every year. It has got to be the most dysfunctional (and corrupt to my mind) department downtown (Marni Campbell's tenure as Director included). I'm sure we're not the only school that feels that the SpEd Dept, from consulting teachers all the way to the top, has made classroom SpEd instruction much harder to carry out. It would be of help if they admitted their incompetence and just staid out of the way, rather than creating more trouble by their actions. We at Van Asselt are now dealing with a situation created by the consulting teacher and is ripe for a law suit. Unfortunately, further details would breach confidentiality.
ken berry SpEd IA Van Asselt @ AAA

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Special Ed is such a troubled subject. As the McClure mother said, ALL Special Ed students are General Ed students.

Like many things, I wish there was a chart where I can see what is the issue. Clearly, it's money but I've talked to many Special Ed parents who seem to have some clarity on this situation and have ideas and yet nothing seems to change.

I also note that one issue (among many) for the MOU is transportation. If a school wants to stay later, what happens to transportation costs which are already soaring? Has no one thought this through?

SeattleSped said...

That latecomer is right. This is likely to be a HUGE audit finding. If that is what it takes for principals to learn that their school budget is not a blank check for them to scrimp on SpEd while using that funding for other things, they got another think coming.

Anonymous said...

The way I understand it is that schools can do anything they can justify and afford within their own budget. If transportation needs cannot be satisfied within their existing budgets, they have to find an alternative.

Sp Ed kids have such diverse needs, it takes more than endorsements to be a truly responsive Sp Ed teacher. Often the challenges are just too complicated and diverse to be adequately met in a school setting.

n...

Anonymous said...

Melissa you seem to totally not get it on the special ed issue. Yes special education students are supposed to be educated in the LRE, everybody knows this. AND, they also have special education needs. The are funded for BOTH types of needs, by both the state and by SPS. When schools take the funding dedicated for the special education needs (not the general education needs of special education students), and derived from federal IDEA funds, and use it on 100 other general education students - they are 1) stripping the special education funding away from special education students and confering it on the 100 general education students, and 2) making families choose between LRE and special education when they are entitled to both. Just because somebody has a sped endorsement, doesn't mean they can provide any special educatioin in the context of a 40 kid class. These schools should be providing a general education teacher (with or without a special education endorsement) IN ADDITION TO THE SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER. That is how they are actually funded.

The union contracts provide for special education teachers (regardless of their credentials in general education) to teach special education students in specific ratios, and to teach them for the entire day. If the max caseload for a sped teacher is 22 learning disabled students - then he is supposed to be teaching those 22 students FOR THE WHOLE DAY. If these teachers are then made to teach general education, they are not really attending to the very complex needs of their students with IEPs. A general educator with the "right papers" isn't really meeting the needs of special education students, nor is it the intent of the funding source.

Furthermore, Michael claimed that "special education funding is going up and up". Well, if you're really using that funding to teach other people and not using for the intended purpose - of course it will go up and up.

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

It seems like everyone is frustrated with Special Ed. I wish I had the answers.


In this case, the answer is simple. Use special education funding for the special education needs of special education students. Special education teachers should be used for special education. They are not general educatioh teachers, they are not hall monitors, they are not janitors... or bus drivers. Not complicated. At all.

-sped parent

Charlie Mas said...

sped parent,

You have done a good job of explaining this problem. Thanks for that. Could you now take it a little bit further? If a Sped teacher is supposed to have 22 students with IEPs the whole day, and a general education teacher is supposed to have 30 students the whole day, could a Sped teacher teach an inclusive classroom of 11 students with IEPs (half the ratio) and a class of 15 general education students (half the ratio)?

Otherwise, how would we be able to create inclusive classrooms and the LRE?

Could there be a pull-out model? Could there be a special education teacher who has a class of 22 students with IEPs for half of the day and then have a different set of 22 students with IEPs for the other half of the day? The students would be in general education classrooms for the rest of the day for the LRE. Is it a problem that this set up gives the Sped students less than all day with their Sped teacher as they should be getting? This model, of course, also allows for smaller class sizes for the general education classes while the students with IEPs are at their pull-out.

I'm asking because I'm trying to envision the model that works right.

An Administrator said...

I'm putting on my flak jacket as I start writing because what I'm about to write is not going to be popular. I may need to go get my flame-proof overcoat as well...

There is a tension that is inherent in serving special education students. On one end, you have the desire to give the student absolutely everything they could need to be completely successful. On the other end is the fiscal reality of what special services cost.

What almost invariably happens is that when an IEP meeting is convened, the parents ask for the "Cadillac" program whereas the school can only afford (and is only obligated to provide) the "Chevy" program. The parents leave incensed that we're trying to "do their student's education on the cheap", when in reality, we're giving them every last thing we can afford.

Do we wish we could provide the "Cadillac" program for every student? Absolutely! Unfortunately, we cannot...there's just not enough money to give every IEP student a one-on-one paraeducator and gobs of assistive technology.

In my building (no, I'm not going to name which one or what district) every dollar generated by special education students is spent on special education students, and we still have parents complaining that we're chintzing out on them.

It is a polarity that will never, ever go away. We can't solve it, all we can hope to do is manage it the best we can.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sped Ed, you just repeated what I said in the thread. I do understand the point of the money getting shifted around when it gets to the schools.

And I also said Special Ed parents should get asked about how to make the program work better.

Thank you Administrator for your perspective. But could you lay out what the Cadillac service would look like versus Chevy?

SeattleSped said...

"On one end, you have the desire to give the student absolutely everything they could need to be completely successful. On the other end is the fiscal reality of what special services cost."

Administrator, special education funding is additive to GenEd funding for our childrens' education. It does not supplant the GenEd funding schools receive. Blame it on JSCEE and the WSS if you only 20% of the $$ you should for my child's GenEd seat. Where does the rest go?

The vast majority of children with IEPs do not require 1:1 aides, but some do and the law says they should get one.

Cadillacs got repo-ed when SPS in its idiocy gutted inclusion programs. Inclusion provided quality education in the least restrictive environment, as the law requires. Now the Chevys are broke down and on blocks because of a lack of will AND creative accounting on the part of downtown and some building administrators.

There are some principals and many SpEd teachers who want to do what's right. It's the others that will be exposed.

Josh Hayes said...

Charlie suggests:

"If a Sped teacher is supposed to have 22 students with IEPs the whole day, and a general education teacher is supposed to have 30 students the whole day, could a Sped teacher teach an inclusive classroom of 11 students with IEPs (half the ratio) and a class of 15 general education students (half the ratio)?"

Just FYI, this is the model that AS1 used to employ -- our SpEd teachers had "core" classrooms which had a mixture of kids with and without IEPs. This went MILES toward ameliorating the perceived stigma of being an "IEP kid", broke down barriers that would otherwise develop between the two student populations, and was in all ways A Good Thing (according to the teachers, parents, and the kids).

It was, therefore, A Very Bad Thing according to the district, and we were forced to stop doing that -- because, you see, Special Ed teachers were only allowed to teach Special Ed kids, and nobody but.

I think your idea is a terrific one, having seen it in action and working, but it'd require some changes in administrative policy to be put in place.

Anonymous said...

Right administrator.

First of all, how well are your students with disabilities doing? Are they passing their MSPs, HSPE's, etc? If so, you can worry that they might have an underserved Cadillac.

Here's an idea. When hiring GENERAL EDUCATION staff, hire the dual certs to teach GENERAL EDUCATION. Notice, the type of funding follows the service taught. Both your special education students AND your general education students (without IEPs) will do better. Very likely, you are already doing this. Great! Some are not.


Then, use your special education staffing (funding) - for the special education needs of students with disaiblities, because their general education needs are taken care of by general education funding and teachers, like it's supposed to be. Stop using your special education funding for teaching of general education. I realize that means you won't get to provide really great staffing ratio's for teaching in "biotech academy" or other advanced courses. But those kids aren't entitled to Cadillacs either are they? Are they entitled to "Cadillacs" funded by special ed kids?

I don't think so.

But you are right, of course all parents will want more than the limited budgets will provide, in any endeavor.

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

First of all, the general educator is supposed to have a class of 30 general education students (all day), 150 in secondary, which includes special education students. They are also general education students. This is the case everywhere today. The special education teacher is supposed to support the general education teacher, AND support the 22 students on their caseload ALL day. Some special educators have as few as 8 students ALL day. Their jobs include doing IEPs, BIPs, FBAs, providing life skills, adaptive skills, social skills, observing students IN ALL environments, taking data in all environments, teaching and assisting students in all environments. The role of the special educator does not include full responsiblity for a bunch of general education kids without IEPs, nor the heavy preparation required for core secondary classes.

How can it work? How can they provide LRE? Special ed staff can assist the general educator in the classroom, he/she can do pullouts, he/she can work with any of the students so long as that assistance enables students with IEPs to get the extra service on their IEPs. At the secondary level, he/she can have special classroom periods devoted to students with disabilities. For the most part, this is how it works.

I agree with Josh that some sort of blended arrangment is fine and great. SO LONG AS THE EXTRA funding and support for students with IEPs actually reaches those students and not some other kids at the expense of the students with IEPs. The temptation is there to use that funding for general education, and it is happening right now.

When schools are simply using their special education funding to hire general educators with the right papers - then that is not an arrangment that preserves the additional funding intended for students with disabilities. And, it is a violation of union contracts which strictly specify ratios.

-sped parent

SeattleSped said...

Josh, what you describe is similar to the old inclusion, except that the special educator needs time to be prepared and deliver specially-designed instruction and support in that, and other, classrooms to those children that need it. The general educator delivers the rest, differentiated as much as is humanly possible (unlike some in our district, I realize that teachers cannot be expected to be superhuman.)

Dorothy Neville said...

Generally when Director DeBell comments on a budget item, he is correct. However, I have heard some contradictory things about special ed budgeting recently, A&F discussion vs Budget Worksession, and was surprised that neither DeBell or Carr questioned the contradiction. So I am doing a deeper dive into this and so far, I cannot support the statement that special ed spending is going up. I need to double check a few things before making a strong assertion though. I am working on a Year Over Year comparison of Seattle and have a question for the Special Ed knowledgeable folks. I would like to compare Seattle with a YOY of one or two other WA school districts. So are there any in particular that are considered to be doing a better job with respect to Special Ed? Any suggestions of what comparison districts I should use to compare budget trends? You can reply to this thread perhaps or email me directly. Thanks.

SeattleSped said...

Dorothy, if families move, it is to Mercer Island. Not saying I know fer sure it's better but.... Sad, but it used to be MI looked at SPS as a model. No more.

Anonymous said...

You can't really measure YOY, and have it be anything meaningful. You could measure how much the district spent on "special education staff", administrators, IA's, teachers, dispute resolutions, and on legal issues. That would be about it.

But that measurement wouldn't really tell you much. What did the special ed "budgetted" money really go for? How will you know that? Quite clearly, in at least some buildings, it is going for other things... like teaching general education students. In nearly every school, non-certified special education staff, paid for by "special education money", performs all sorts of other duties - like bus duty, recess duty, lunchroom duty, tutoring general education students, etc. How will you know what to subtract out for all that? How much "general ed" teaching and/or funding is going for students with IEPs? How will you know that? You will need access to all their IEPs to get to that information. Then you will need to audit the practice in the building to see if it aligns with what's written in the IEP. I'm sure it never would even be close.

Special ed students are supposed to funded by 2 pots of money - BEA (basic ed) and additional special education on top of that. Since they've pretty thoroughly lumped everything together you won't be able to tease it out.

When a special education student leaves the "general education" environment, his BEA funding is supposed to follow him there. How can you track that? For students sitting all day in self-contained special education classrooms - that means half that funding should be from general education. Is it?

This year, the district paid for every elementary students in special education to have a full-time "general education seat", how will you count that? What if the student never sits in his seat? How will you measure or count that? Should that just be counted as another gift from special ed to general ed? Shouldn't it be accounted for somehow?

I'm just saying, it's a lot more complicated than a line on a spreadsheet. None of these directors really have an inkling about it.

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

To answer Charlie:

Could there be a special education teacher who has a class of 22 students with IEPs for half of the day and then have a different set of 22 students with IEPs for the other half of the day? The students would be in general education classrooms for the rest of the day for the LRE. Is it a problem that this set up gives the Sped students less than all day with their Sped teacher as they should be getting?

Yes, what you describe would be a problem. It is far less special education service than is budgeted. First of all, 22:1 is the resource room service for learning disabled students. What you describe is exactly 1/2 the service rate the district has paid for. The caseload for that sped teacher is 44, not 22. Union contract says 22, not 44 because that is what resource room teachers believe they need and that is what they negotiated based on what they know they can do.

The usual arrangement is that the special education teacher teaches a group of 5 kids every hour(or so), some kids may be in there for 2 hours. They are in regular general education for the rest of the day. The national average contact time ratio is 5:1 for resource room learning disabled students. For most students, that is LRE. Some small group pullout, but most of the day in general education. For some parts of the day, that 22:1 staff is assisting his/her students while in general education.

The other situation you described... 11 kids with disabilites, 15 kids without is also far less service than most students need, and less than what the district is paying for. You are describing a blended model, typically those classes are much smaller than 26 students. A 26 student classroom is essentially a general education classroom without any additional funding. The district has done a variety of different blended models. Blended K 17:1, or 17:2. Co-teaching. All have had a much higher staff to student ratio than plain old general ed. There is no current model for this. If the schools want to provide one, it should be negotiated with the union.

Special education students are funded by the state at twice the rate of general education students. That means on average, their teacher:student ratio should be 1/2 as many. 26:1 offers special education student no benefit, and no reduction. Of course, that's on average over the entire district.

sorry, I know I've monopolized this thread

-sped parent

SeattleSped said...

No, sped parent. You are doing us a service. What you describe IS complex. So much so that OSPI won't even touch it with a 10-foot pole. They say "we don't care how the money's spent. Tell the state auditor." Okay. We'll do that. Let's rack up some audit findings....

Dorothy Neville said...

Sped Parent, you are doing a great job. I have asked and asked these sorts of questions but you are the first to be able to explain it in a nuts and bolts way. I would love more of this, more details and explanation. I really have a hard time following all the terminology and types of services and situations.

I am perfectly aware that it is more than line items in a spreadsheet. But there was an assertion made at A&F that special ed expenditures are growing, and we may need to think hard of keeping spending to maintenance of effort. DeBell apparently said the same thing on Saturday, that expenditures were growing. However, a recent budget presentation had special ed expenditures pretty flat. So while it isn't much useful in the bigger scheme of things, if my digging finds numbers to fit with the flat graph (and so far, it does), then the directors who believe special ed expenditures are growing will have to accept the fact that they are wrong in that basic assumption. That's a start, at least.

SeattleSped said...

SpEd is the scapegoat for pretty much everything, and I'm sick of it. Dorothy, I hope you can show them that the $$ numbers and "growth" are simply being used to rationalize more cuts in services!

Anonymous said...

Well Dorothy, that is really a start, and good to know. What really is the funding of the actual special education staffing? It would be a rough cut, and it would be good to know the status of that one thing. I hope you do straighten out any misconceptions.

Beyond that, you'd have to really look into 1) what staff are really doing and who they are servicing and 2) where students are getting all their services, special and general, and who is paying for it? (It may not even be possible to get this information.) 3) how students receive safety-net funding - the state's mandated way to pay for "high cost" students. How much of that do we get? Who does it cover? What does it "subtract out"? 4) administrative costs. Special education has around 25 administrators just to do placement and handle disputes. They are basically incented to make sure there are a lot of disputes (or their jobs wouldn't be necessary). And that means a lot of grief for parents.

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

So what is going on at McClure?

=Potential Customer

Anonymous said...

Is Enfield tracking the problems families are having, especially w middle school inclusion?

Parent

Anonymous said...

Haven't you heard? Ensfield is tracking best route to Bellevue.

-another parent

Anonymous said...

re What's going on at McClure:

1 - the science curriculum is state mandated so I'm not sure how this can be changed or "blamed" on any specific teacher

2 - search McClure and Sarah Pritchett for many past posts

3 - any specific concerns you have we can help with?

As far as police intervention in the schools goes, a principal is in complete control of their school building 24/7. They can and do call the police for any reason they deem fit. And the police respond and carry out the principal's orders regardless of any wrong-doing, evidence, witnesses, etc.

This is District policy. It has been used in the past to remove "bothersome" parents and others basically at the whim of the principal. If you do not obey the police you can be issued a No Trespass Order or even be arrested.

DeBell is well aware of this policy but does not seem to care about due process or parental rights. He has stated that "this (principals whimsical removal of unwanted people) is happening all the time everywhere."

-JC.