Well, as one grass-roots group put it, sometimes the little guy does get heard. Check out this graph of the dropoff of "likes" at Michelle Rhee's Students First Facebook page. Looks like the word got out about her use of signing people up for her organization by luring them to sign petitions at Change.org. That or she's not getting much interest via Facebook anymore.
Also in the category of the little guy speaking up, here comes a story from the NY Times about a teacher, Harris Lirtzman, who spoke up for Special Education students. It's classic because after he spoke up, he was denied tenure, the principal told him to leave the school and, when he went to the NYC Ed Dept., they launched an investigation of him.
He went up the food chain and guess what? He was vindicated.
The State Education Department investigated his charges and sent him a copy of its report. It sustained Mr. Lirtzman’s allegations, one violation of state regulations after another.
High school administrators at the Felisa Rincón de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy in the Bronx had put unqualified teachers in charge of special education classes. They pushed these students into classes crowded with general education students.
And most egregiously, when faced with teaching vacancies, the administrators brought in a conga line of substitute teachers on “rotating” one-week stints to teach special education classes. That treads perilously close to educational malpractice.
Here's what Mr. Lirtzman had to say:
“There are a lot of gray areas in teaching special education in a big city,” he says. “But a fair amount is black and white: A kid is either getting the services required by federal law or not.”
Now there after the state stepped in, there was a lot of finger-pointing. The group representing the principal blamed the city's ed department. But then there was this:
The council added in a written statement that history shows that the city and the state often have “inconsistent special education guidelines.”
So yes, there is in-fighting and yes, things can get confusing but as the reporter, Michael Powell said:
But those words — “inconsistent special education guidelines” — are a not-so-lovely euphemism for violating the rights of underserved children.
Good for Mr. Lirtzman who, by all accounts, was a great special education math teacher. But when he denied tenure, he retired. Here's the ending of the story:
The principal, Ms. Laboy-Wilson, filled out his final evaluation, in accordance with regulations. She rated him satisfactory over all.
On a long list, she listed him as unsatisfactory in just two areas: He did not keep a professional attitude and maintain good relations with supervisors.
If that’s the price of dissent, suffice it to say Mr. Lirtzman can live with that.
This thread will now lead to another one about the findings from the State Auditor's report that includes issues around Special Education.