Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Duncan to Sped Kids; Try Harder

Update: from the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet on this story:

How well special education students perform on a test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, will be one of the factors considered. This marks the first time that NAEP scores have been attached to any education policy that has potential consequences; the Education Department could withhold federal funds to states that don’t comply with the new special education regulations, though officials there said that is not something they want to do. But NAEP, a test given every two years to a nationally representative sampling of students, wasn’t designed for this purpose. When asked by reporters about whether using NAEP for this purpose was turning it into a high-stakes test, Duncan said, “I wouldn’t call it high stakes.” He said his department was using NAEP because, however “imperfect,” it was the “only accurate measurement we have.”

Well, shades of MAP, imagine using a test for a purpose it was not designed for.  

end of update

An interesting collection of statements from Arne Duncan came out as he issued new regulations on how schools are to serve Special Education students.  From NPR:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced what he calls "a major shift" in how the government evaluates the effectiveness of federally funded special education programs.

"It's not enough for a state to be compliant if students can't read or do math," Duncan said. "We must have a system that will do more than just measure compliance."

The latest government figures show that the dropout rate for students with disabilities is twice that for nondisabled students. Two-thirds of students with disabilities are performing well below grade level in reading and math. By the eighth grade, that figure rises to 90 percent.

Apparently creating an IEP (individualized education plan) will no longer be enough.  Duncan is saying that it isn't enough for schools to say they are serving these students but that the students are making academic progress.

Fair enough, perhaps, but then there is this:

Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he'll require proof that these kids aren't just being served but are actually making academic progress.

"We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel," Duncan said.

He was joined in this announcement by Kevin Huffman, Tennessee's education commissioner. Huffman said that students don't lag behind because of disabilities but because they not given "demanding homework" and "did not have access to strong assessments."

I'm puzzled at that last statement because if parents want their Sped student to take a regular assessments, I believe that is entirely in their control.  Maybe they want accommodations because their students need them. 

From Curmudgucation:

"We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel," Duncan said. (per NPR coverage)

And I'm pretty sure we don't know any such thing. I'm pretty sure that the special needs students in schools across the country are special needs precisely because they have trouble meeting the usual expectations.

But who knows. Maybe Arne is on to something. Maybe blind students can't see because nobody expects them to. Maybe the student a colleague had in class years ago, who was literally rolled into the room and propped up in a corner so that he could be "exposed" to band-- maybe that child's problems were just low expectations. Maybe IEPs are actually assigned randomly, for no reason at all.

When Florida was harassing Andrea Rediske to have her dying, mentally disabled child to take tests, they were actually doing him a favor, and not participating in state-sponsored abuse.
Don't tell me reading is hard because of your dyslexia, kid. Just do it. And take this test. 

We don't need IEPs-- we need expectations and demands. We don't need student support and special education programs-- we need more testing. We don't need consideration for the individual child's needs-- we just need to demand that the child get up to speed, learn things, and most of all TAKE THE DAMN TESTS. Because then, and only then, will we be able to make all student disabilities simply disappear.



Eric B said...

I can kinda sorta see Duncan's point for most SpEd students. I think they should be expected to make progress, and they should have access to curriculum within their ability. The key phrase there is within their ability. None of that says that students with disabilities will necessarily meet grade standards in every subject, only that they generally make progress forward during the year.

All of that said, there are many students with profound disabilities that will not make progress, and there has to be room for that as well.

Anonymous said...

I can see his point, SPS thought an IEP was fulfilled when they wrote an incoherent document then shoved a student into a "studies skills class"
In reality the IDEA requires students to make meaningful academic progress, yes first they need access and the Feds incorrectly was assumed happening across the states.

Meaningful academic progress is now in the national conversation...I feel validated!


Anonymous said...

I don't think he is telling the kids to try harder, he's informing states that they will no longer receive funding for ineffective programs.

There's no "general progress" in the court decisions, it's meaningful progress.

The two year statute of limitations was added to aid districts in determining reasonable expectations in how long it should take to integrate an IEP student back into main stream education. There are always exceptions, but the vast majority of IEPs are for SLD and it's a fact these students can achieve with the best of them when served.

They develop strategies and use assitive tech to in many cases surpass the achievement of non-disabled students.


Anonymous said...

As a parent of a child with "special needs", all of this nonsense is painful. Testing, accommodations, etc will not change where he struggles. And motor-wise, he will never attain age typical levels of skill.

Cognitively and socially he is typical so his IEP should involve full classroom inclusion (at least at this time) and expect age appropriate academic achievements. But if a child is significantly cognitively impaired, does that make sense? NO! Inclusion in the school, sure to the extent it makes sense, but with significant support academically. Expecting grade level performance academically? No. Just no. Should we expect that the vast majority of kids learn something? Absolutely. Should we hold them to high standards and expectations, believing they can learn and it is our job to support that and find ways to reach them? Of course. Should we expect them to be relatively fluent readers by 8? Maybe not.

I can only imagine the fights we will have if we want to opt out of testing because the schools will "need" their higher performing kids with IEPs to be tested to make their performance metrics.

sn parent

Anonymous said...

sn parent

Your child's IEP will contain the expected goals and how those goals will be measured. This is the way to evaluate the services both in content and frequency. You can adjust most of these when needed.

It's important to make sure the assessments are being performed at the correct frequency to insure progress in being made. Bi-weekly to monthly is best until everyone agrees things are working.

Don't read too much negativity into what was said, because the feds are putting districts on notice and it's about time.


Floor Pie said...

I am a SpEd parent, and I have worked as an SPS elementary school IA for EBD and resource room.

Duncan raises some good points, but I don't know how he expects to actually help SpEd students thrive academically simply by imposing more standardized testing and freaking everybody out by threatening to take away our funding if their scores are low. I can't think of a worse way to encourage special ed students to grow.

I worry about how this would translate into my son's and my students' day-to-day school experience. I've seen how stressed-out teachers and administrators get around standardized testing. Large portions of logic and compassion go right out the window. It's not good for any of us. I have already been in too many situations as an IA where I was expected to push a student much harder than I knew they were emotionally able to do. It's not fair to the students and it's not fair to the adult who ends up on the receiving end of their frustration.

I worry that the threat of losing funding could actually draw attention away from social/behavior IEP goals in favor of slamming them with more reading and math than they can handle. And I worry that accommodations that allow lots of breaks and ease up on the amount of drill they're expected to crank out might be increasingly disregarded or not even put in IEPs in the first place.

I also wonder if it's even legal to set up a system that basically encourages schools to ignore a student's IEP goals in favor of some arbitrary standard. The whole point of an IEP is that it is NOT standard. That's...kind of what the "I" stands for, folks.

I understand that there are some insultingly unambitious IEP goals out there. But the solution shouldn't be to just ignore the goals and focus instead on what the standardized test is testing. The focus should be on WRITING BETTER IEPS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Yeesh.

And finally, I want to point out that when my son was having an absolutely terrible year in first grade -- hitting and biting other students, routinely melting down, all the fun autism stuff -- he also showed immense academic growth on his MAP test scores. Does that mean he was being well served? Should we have kept those 30 minutes a week of resource room instead of transferring to an SM3/autism program? If all we were looking at were his test scores, then we might conclude that his school was doing an AWESOME job serving his needs.

I have many more thoughts our this, but I think I'll stop now and catch my breath. Thanks for reading if you read this far.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I worry about how this would translate into my son's and my students' day-to-day school experience."

Very precisely what I worry about.

I also worry that rather than believing there will be better academic outcomes, there will be more data on academic outcomes based on assessments.

They are not the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Floor Pie..

Duncan does not control ADA or IDEA, 504. They are not changed in any way by his words and remain the law.

Pervasive issues are more complicated, but you should acknowledge biting and hitting other students or teachers should not be tolerated and needs to be addressed appropriately. Everyone needs to feel safe at school including your child.

MAP, MSP results can be used to determine level, but they are only part of the story. Usually they are used in support of IEPs not against them.

Your child's IEP goals will always be the measurement not MSP scores.

Thanks for being an IA and sounds like you have some real life experiences to draw on which is not always the case.


mirmac1 said...

I, for one, am pleased with this change in attitudes regarding students with disabilities if it results in effective programs that educate our students. (Of course the BS about "stronger assessments" is bogus.) Students with intellectual disabilities are but a subset of the disabled student population. Likwise, many students with autism CAN learn quite ably with the proper supports. Frankly, some parents are tired of our students NOT getting counted as part of enrichment opportunities, accelerated programs, and some testing. Measures of student growth and school improvement should carry asterisks if they don't count special education student outcomes.

If Arne's johnny-come-lately interest in SpEd leads to greater accountability and more effective programs, then I'll say it's about friggin' time.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope this brings out the troops and hits all the talk shows.

I believe all the OCR complaints to the USDE have finally bubbled up to the top. I also believe this is a mostly positive thing.

BTW, we talked to Apple computer's assistive technology dept. and they have over 200 MIT engineers working on disability solutions many are available now.

Soon this will be mainstream and you will see great things from all students regardless of disability.

Unless schools embrace solutions including assistive tech they will fail to meet our students needs.

SPS is pathetic in using tech..could this be a Microsoft vs Apple fault?


Anonymous said...

Wait --- hold the phone --- mirmac and I are in agreement once again!

BTW, it was the TN commissioner who mentioned "stronger assessments" and not Duncan.

--- swk

mirmac1 said...

OMG, someone must've slipped me a mickey!

Christina said...

I don't think SPS's weakness at serving its special needs students with assistive technology is a Microsoft vs Apple thing.

SPS doesn't like the use of a LiveScribe pen for students with dysgraphia, because teachers may object to the recording of the lessons.

My son's pediatrician requested accommodation for his dysgraphia such as 30 extra minutes for writing, or a scribe to take notes for him. As far as I know he didn't receive a scribe ever, but his writing has improved a little.

At the end of the year he was granted use of a laptop daily. I understand though that the Writing MSP is by hand: I wonder if we can get an exemption for that or if he has another single-digit score on his Writing MSP to look forward to next year.

I just expect Seattle Public Schools to fail at serving my child's special needs. He has an IEP, progress has been met, but I've wanted accommodations like laptops, scribes or voice recorders or "smartpens" for him since 2011-2012.

Anonymous said...

If a state needs assistance for two years in a row, IDEA requires the department to order the state to obtain technical assistance or label the state “high-risk,” which means federal dollars could be withheld.

The department has never withheld federal dollars to educate special-needs students, said Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services.

But in cases of noncompliance, it has told states how to use some of their funds. That has been the case in the District, which federal officials have labeled a “high-risk” jurisdiction for its failure to meet special-education laws, a designation that triggers tighter federal controls.

My understanding when speaking with the feds is Washington is about to go from "needing assistance" to "Needs intervention" now you understand why the OSPI was acting tough with SPS, because the state is going to lose control over all the SPED funds and SPS is one if not the main reason.

--Bye Bye Banda

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Christina said...
He has an IEP, progress has been met,

Well if his IEP goals have been met then he has been served. The IEP is the measuring stick. If you think he needs more it MUST be in his IEP.

You will also need an EE from a clinical psychologist not just a one from the schools psychometrician.

Knowing how students with dysgraphia suffer in SPS I'm having a hard time believing your son's needs are being met. I would love to know what systems are being used to accomplish the success. BTW you would be the first parent I've ever seen mentioned dysgraphia and progress in the context of services provided by SPS.


Anonymous said...

Duncan said

"We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel," Duncan said.

These are students with a range of disabilities, from ADHD and dyslexia to developmental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

OMG he said "dyslexia" the S has hit the F.


Anonymous said...

The fact is, most students are diagnosed with a disability based on a discrepancy model. If special ed could "fix" the discrepancy - then, we wouldn't (or shouldn't) say the student had a disability. We would say they weren't taught correctly in the first place. So, while it is certainly true that MOST students will improve with special and general education, it is in no way true that most students with actual disabilities will achieve at the same levels as non-disabled peers. That's simply the definition of disability. It is very difficult to determine what the exact rate of performance SHOULD be, if only the schools were doing everything right. And, it is more difficult to measure progress than to even figure out the amount that should be expected. Exposure, socialization, access - are all critical for students with disabilities, even if their performance on standardized measures fails to show progress.

It's also completely untrue that "all students with disabilities will progress" ... at anything. Nice mantra and nice ideal, but not true. Most students will progress, at some rate. Some at a high rate. Some will not progress. And others will regress. There are many disabilities which are regressive in nature - and probably many other unknown reasons for regression. Our system still must educate students who regress.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

Where have you been Bye-Bye-Banda? The state has already BEEN in corrective action. For more than a year. And OSPI, the toothless wonder that it is, has sic'ed another bunch of consultants on SPS. That's about it. Now OSPI will go back to sleep for another 10 years or so.

The consultants rolled into town (funny how they're all friends of people at OSPI). They did a few survey monkeys. They interviewed a few people. And now, they're tweaking the IEP online software again and sending all the teachers to training. Yep. That's exactly the problem. Typing in IEPs. Service? Not of interest to any oversight agency. That's for sure!


n said...

"We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel," Duncan said."

So, how does he know that. If he's so smart, what "robust" curriculum is he talking about?

Thom Harmann told a story today about talking with Jim Jeffords of Vermont about education. When NCLB was initiated, Jeffords wanted to know the back story. Apparently, there is a consulting group that legislators use to get background information on topics and issues. This is a separate entity from legislators' staffs. It turned out that NCLB actually arose out of Neal Bush's ownership or part-ownership in a testing company.

Anyway, according to Hartmann, that was what prompted Jefford's fliop from R to I(caucusing with the dems) and he went to Ted Kennedy about it. Kennedy was so happy to have an education bill/program that he let it slide. According to Hartmann, it was shortly after that that Jeffords quit.

I recall reading that Bush promised Kennedy full funding to support the program but later reneged.

Hartmann said he was told this in person by Jeffords. Hartmann lived in Vermont at the time and he caught wind of it all and went to Jeffords directly and that was what he was told.

If anybody podcasts Hartmann, he told the story today on his show. I learn so much from Thom Hartmann.

Sorry if I'm not too clear. That's my best recollection. When I get a chance, I'll listen to the podcast and make sure I've got it right. But it is pretty much as he told it.

I've gotten to the point where I can't listen to anybody in government or on TV or radio anymore. There are just so many lies and so much misdirection. Arne Duncan is a fool and so is Obama for his total lack of integrity in so many areas. Sorry if I offend anybody. It just goes on and on and on.

n said...

BTW, since when does holding back funding help? We are under-funded to begin with. What's the point of giving even less? It is still all about tests.

Anonymous said...

I might not have been clear - students with SLD and others with mild pervasive issues have shown to respond and achieve grade level performance in assistive technology studies. google it.

The assistive tech along with specially designed instruction doesn't remove the disability it levels the playing field.

I believe there was an effort made 12 + years back to bring such a program to SPS and the teachers union pushed back. Since then groups have stayed away.

In the last few months I reached out to the district with on offer from an expert in the field to bring in specifically designed instruction integrated with assistive date the district has not made an effort and the group has moved on to other things.

It seems like the TIERS group had a heads-up on what Duncan was going to say in his speech, the McWilliams letter to OSPI tows the same line.

The problem is there are thousands of SPED students in SPS 4-5 years behind grade level, so how can a system that can't even manage to keep students at level ever hope to make up for 2 3 4 or 5 years of lost education?

Come on OSPI and SPS show us your detailed plans!


Anonymous said...


They dont withhold funds they control them. They make sure schools like Ballard High are not stealing the funds for other things.

They make sure SPS is spending on things that work for students and not sandbagging funds.

If you read a little you will see that they have never withheld funds ...never.

Maybe they should pay families directly and we can seek out schools that specialize in SLDs and that way we can avoid the whole side show and due process.

An IA is around 50k a year with some students having 2. SPS receives around $14k per SPED student per school year ( correct me if Im wrong) I know of 2 schools my child could have attended for that amount that specialize in SLD. Instead SPS has spent over 100K with nothing really to show for it. The only break thru we have had is thru our hiring outside services for 30K.


Mark Ahlness said...

Oh good grief, will the idiotic comments from Duncan never end? More importantly, will people ever stop paying attention to them?

The first 10 years of my 31 year teaching career were in special ed, with spd students. I have never met more professional, talented, and dedicated teachers in my life than the folks I worked with back then.

Test them more? Expect them to do better? Asking those kinds of questions is a direct insult to the highly trained professionals in the field.

That such a simplistic view of special education makes the news astounds and sickens me.

Anonymous said...

Mark, things have changed in the past 20 years. I think there are many SPED teachers that do help and want to see things corrected, however the same can not be said for the over all program and Gen ed.

You also might want to revisit what SPED is today, again not what it once was.

SLD makes up half of the SPED population these are students who's disability is only apparent in academics for the most part.


n said...

Michael, in Duncan's address he says withholding funds could be a consequence. That's what I was referring to. If a program isn't succeeding, holding back more funds isn't the answer.

It is like everything else in bureaucracies - education and others - too much paperwork and not enough boots on the ground doing the actual work. Duncan is in a business bubble. He's the fool.

And I won't quibble with your opinions and beliefs because you may be absolutely right. But we'll never know, will we?

Whether it is AP, Sped, pre-K, or the regular classroom, it is all just a bureaucratic game. Even our union doesn't seem to get it. A lot of bureaucrats sucking up the money. That's how I feel.

Probably the end-of-the-year blues and still cleaning my classroom which, btw, teachers were given zero days to do this year. Thank you union.

Does anybody out there know how one can get a list of just what custodians are supposed to do at the end of the year?

Melissa Westbrook said...

N, you could ask 609 what they are supposed to do but I testified at the public hearing on the budgets (and they STILL didn't do it the way they should have).

I note that the budget looks like there's a cut in custodial services. Maybe not the union's fault the classrooms aren't clean but a way to have more staff at headquarters at the expense of schools.

Anonymous said...

Michael, the reality is SLD is still a DISability, or... it's students getting effective instruction who didn't have a disability in the first place. Seriously. If you want sped, you're saying your kid really can't achieve commensurately because they are DISabled. Yes, you can speculate on what might work, and read up on the internet for all sorts of "cures", educational, theraputic, diets, etc. The best you can hope for here in public school, is that they will maybe make some progress. And maybe. Somebody will care about them.

Who do you think all those standardize tests are for? They're designed for your kid to fail. Somebody has to fail them. Otherwise, why have the tests at all? Standardized tests are for the status quo to prove that they're better than somebody else. And you can believe that as soon as the disabled students start passing those tests - they will find new tests to ensure failure. In fact, that is what is happening now with common core.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

Ode to Arne

Carrots and sticks
carrots and sticks
Incents work best
Not dummied down tests
Worries Sec of Ed Arne
In high tops and sweats
But all Arne knows are
Carrots and sticks
So carrots and sticks
beget carrots and sticks


Anonymous said...

UGH! Why does it do that????!!!!!!!!


Joe Wolf said...

To: n

Never say "I'm sorry". Especially when you articulate your position as passionately and free of snark and "I'm the smartest person in the room! Look at me!" as you do.

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic Duncan threatens to withhold funds for not getting "results" in Sped when the Feds have never fully funded IDEA to begin with.


Anonymous said...

I think people are muddling two different issues here.

Issue #1: Ongoing problems within SPS of underserving or poorly serving special ed students. Many parents seem to be reporting that here, and I trust your interpretation.

Issue #2: Arne Duncan's comments, which show that he has zero understanding of students he's discussing. His "answer" to this problem is completely one-size-fits-all: every student needs more demanding homework and stronger assessments. Nothing here about individualizing curriculum (the one strategy that has actually been proven to work, and the one that is the basis of the IEP system). Nothing about getting poor schools more access to assistive technology. Nothing about funding more individual support for kids. Just give kids more homework and harder assessments. Great.

I understand that people are frustrated with special ed in SPS. I really do get that. But I wish that people would nevertheless read Duncan's comments closely. He is not your savior. He is not going to push SPS to do better by special ed. He's simply going to push them to require more homework and harder assessments. That's not going to be helpful for 99% of special ed students, who are in special ed in the first place because they struggled with rigorous homework and complex assessments.


Anonymous said...

Seattle added ANOTHER Special Ed Director under the Executive Special Ed Director yesterday! Does anyone know how many new directors have been added this past school year? With a breakdown of how much each Director is making?!

-Just a trooper

Anonymous said...

SLD students are not in SPED because they struggle with rigorous homework or complex assessments!

Come on are you even reading what you are typing?

The FEDS want what I want "significant academic achievement"

Set the goals and meet them. It's up to the district to meet the goals set forth in an appropriate IEP. Understanding what's appropriate is not a difficult task.

The problem is the district doesn't understand how to write a plan and zero clue how to achieve academic success. Don't believe me ?
Ask the district for their data on service models and achievements.

When you have clear goals and limited funding you look for proven cost effective solutions or you can protest for additional resources. SPS doesn't do either! they provide parents with empty promises and steal funding from the kids. Again I'm talking about SLD not pervasive.

SPED is being top loaded with too many people and people with the wrong type of
skills to solve the SLD achievement problem.


Anonymous said...

You mean - you want your kid's academic potential maximized? (Doesn't everybody?) You mean, a "Cadillac"? Sped isn't going to do that for you. I wish it would too. But really, you're simply setting yourself up for disappointment... even if you cost the district 100's of thousands of dollars as you claim. The requirement is that Sped provide your child a "floor of opportunity." Read it again. FLOOR of opportunity. And, that's what they provide.

(As to not providing what SLD's need.) It's the same in every category. None of them are really well served, by any objective measure.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

6 It's up to the district to meet the goals set forth in an appropriate IEP.

Michael, your kid must have been diagnosed pretty late in their school career. No, the school district has absolutely NO OBLIGATION to meet any goal on an IEP. So go ahead, shoot for the moon.

Special education students do not have to achieve ANY IEP goal, or even make progress on ANY IEP goal. So sure, you can write in any goal you want that the team agrees to - but there's no guarantee your kid will meet his/her goals, and there's no legal requirement for that achievement either. The ONLY thing the district absolutely MUST do - is work on the goal. Period. My experience is that even "working on the goal" is something they don't do. I encourage you to go to your child's school and ask how many teachers have even read your kid's IEP. Or know any goal on it. It would be truly amazing if any have read it. As to working on those goals - well, they'll stretch the meaning of the words "worked on that goal" wide enough to catch nearly any instruction.

-Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

NO I'm not saying "Cadillac", but unless there's cognitive issues the SPS is required by state and federal law to meet the same basic level of education with SPED students as non sped students. This is an undeniable fact supported by many legal decisions.

So the floor is the same, but the SPED kids are down in the crawlspace.

Yes, all categories need services, but those services are very different across the spectrum.

The term "significant academic achievement" means get back to grade level and not languish year after year. It certainly doesn't mean "Cadillac".


Floor Pie said...

I agree with AI. These are two different issues.

YES, special ed at SPS has kicked us parents and our kids around for years. It's very understandable that we could see the words "special ed" and "hold schools accountable" and be on board with that no matter what the content was.

But the NPR article Melissa sites here says "The Obama administration...will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress." It also says "States that fall short could lose federal funding earmarked for special education."

I assume by "progress," they mean standardized testing and not progress on each individual IEP goal. And as frustrated as I have been with SPS and special ed, as much as I want to see them held accountable for the mistakes they've made that have hurt children and families, I absolutely do NOT believe that this approach is the right solution.

I don't see anything in here that talks about better trainings, access to technology, higher salaries to attract and retain quality teachers and aides, etc. And I don't see any indication that Duncan knows first hand what it's like for a special education students and staff in public school.

In Michael's response to my first comment, he pointed out that hitting and biting should not be tolerated. I agree with that. I also believe VERY strongly from my experience as a SpEd parent and IA that students are often provoked and escalated into these undesirable behaviors in the first place when demands are unreasonably high.

I still have a scar from a pencil-stab wound I got last year from an extremely agitated child who was just sick of doing math problems. That same year I had a student run out on a ledge and threaten to jump because his teacher was forcing him to do more handwriting than he could handle. Rigor = trigger sometimes.

I can get an excellent performance out of just about any student if I can meet them where they're at and go at their own pace. Sometimes that means giving a reading assessment outside under the trees, or talking WAY more about Totoro than anyone should have to, or giving lots of snack breaks and stickers. And in order to be available to do that, I need 1:1 or small-group time with students AND a lead teachers/administrators who are not so freaked-out about standardized test scores that they're going to actually give me permission to do what I know is going to work.

I provide rigor too. Just ask my reading groups from this year. But I provide it with logic and empathy and lesson plans that are tailored to the students' individual needs and abilities. That's what we need more of. Not more standardized testing, not more quick fixes and one-size-fits-all answers.

Anonymous said...

-Sped Parent

No offense, but your confusing what the SPS has told you and what the courts have ruled, based on the IDEA. Yes in the end you will need to go to court, but really don't throw out statements like "No, the school district has absolutely NO OBLIGATION to meet any goal on an IEP. So go ahead, shoot for the moon."

On this you are 100% wrong!

Take sometime and read the laws and some of the court rulings.We all understand only a jury or judge will provided relief when SPS fails your child and you will have to sue in the end.


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Anonymous said...

Floor pie..

Sounds like you know what you are doing.

I don't have much experience with behavioral issues, my children do not suffer with behavioral or emotional issues and would never disrespect a teacher nor ever assault one.

I understand there are SPED students who have SLD and EBI and they are possibly the most at risk.

I'm not a physiologist and can't and won't begin to comment on approaches for ED students.

P.S What buerocats say and do are usually far apart. I think just having the conversation is a good thing, who knows next may be a big load of cash to support the effort. I would imagine there would be many lawsuits should they try and withhold IDEA funding, so we are along way from that happening.


mirmac1 said...

Just to give you a taste of where SpEd's stood of late with the Fed DOE, realize that the NCLB waiver they just yanked completely waived the state's duty with respect to SpEd student outcomes. There ARE no numbers for SpEd performance on test scores for last year. Because the ESEA Flexibility rendered us invisible. Race to the Top hands out money but doesn't care it if benefits our students. Is that a good thing? Hell no.

Arne-come-lately's comment means that OSPI can no longer continually blow off citizen complaints of IDEA violations AND must track whether our students are learning or not.

Anonymous said...

The SPS average yearly OSPI CC total for 05-13 is 8. I was told this year it's at 24 and most likely climbing based on parents contact.
I'm not sure of OCR complaints numbers over the same time period, but I was told by an SPS insider that the district gets very nervous about the OCR visiting schools.

Does anyone have data on OCR complaints or investigation outcomes for the last few years?


Anonymous said...

Michael, if you could define "SLD" "EBI" and "ED", that would be helpful. I though SLD meant Speech language delays, but that to me means speech therapy, while you seem to be refering more to dyslexia or dysgraphia or similar (which I know SPS does not recognize as specific conditions & therefore it is very hard to get appropriate accomodations).

Arne Duncan is right when he says that only 10% of Sped students passing tests is too low, and he's partly right when he says there should be high expectations (as opposed to overly low expectations, and just writing kids off as being unable to achieve much). Having recognized that there is a problem, however, he then proceeds in completely the wrong direction as far as what should be done about it.

For IEP goals, as far as I know, the staff is required to work on the goals, and to provide any support or accomodation required by the IEP. If they are not doing that, there are grounds for a complaint. I don't believe they can be required to actually meet the goals, as in many cases that is a function of the child as much as the teacher. The best thing one can do is to make the IEP as specific & detailed as possible, and spend a lot of time checking to see that the requirements are being met.

Christina, if your son's IEP says he gets a scribe or a computer for written work, then he by law he gets that for the MSP as well. It sounds like you may have to talk to the school ahead of time to be sure that happens though.

Sorry for hitting so many topics in one post.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

Mom of 4..

Specific Leaning Disability (SLD)

The term "specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

Emotionally Disabled (ED)
Emotionally Behavioral Impaired (EBI)

I need to emphasize it's NOT the SPS that dictates or chooses what disability they will recognize. I know they have pulled that BS for decades again read the IDEA and state laws. SPS can not cherry pick or dismiss clinical diagnosis ever. Dyslexia or Dysgraphia are certainly covered under IDEA and state law. SPS will try to dance around your Independent Evaluations, but by doing so by law it's a denial of FAPE.

Be aware, it's NOT the students responsibility to be accommodated it's the responsibility of the PAID professionals adults.

Please read the numerous case law about IDEA and FAPE and you will see that school's are required to provide FAPE and with IDEA that means following IDEA guidelines and provide meaningful progress. And in the case of SLD it means grade level performance after 2 years of services or significant benefit when a student starts out more than 2 years behind.


Anonymous said...

There's some good stuff to draw on in this article. Don't spin it into
a charter school debate please.

Anonymous said...

Michael - you are soooo green. No, wrong, 100% - courts of law will not require the district to provide your kid with "progress on a plate." On the face of it - that is ridiculous. Nobody can guarantee educational success of anybody else. What planet do you live on? Sometimes courts are indeed ridiculous. But here are a few court findings.

W.R. and K.R. ex rel. H.R. v. Union Beach Board of Education, 414 F. App’x 499, 267 Ed. Law Rep. 550 (3d Cir. 2011).

Court found the district was required to provide an IEP that was reasonably calculated to provide education. Check. District did that. Check. The court added that even if there was no progress, in retrospect the IEPs could not be declared to be inappropriate. Eg. No progress = Fine and Dandy. The court also rejected the parents’ argument that they had been deprived of meaningful participation in the IEP process. The parents appealed only that latter finding. They lost. that once a court determines that the requirements of the IDEA have been met, neither the parents nor the courts have a right to compel the school district to employ a specific methodology.

Of course - you can call a NEW IEP meeting. You can change anything. You can change goals. You can change placement. You can ask for the moon again. But you will be right back to the same No Progress thing one year later. Still no guarantee. And that makes sense to me.

You might be able to beat the district in court on technicalities, like screwed up paperwork, missing deadlines, wrong people at the meeting - but you will never win on substance like "lack of progress". A judge will never believe you on that one. And courts have already said that it's OK not to progress... so long as somebody was implementing your IEP.

Sped Parent

mirmac1 said...

Sped parent is correct.

Anonymous said...

Yep green as a stalk of celery!

BTW this was a decision against SPS last year.

CONCLUSIONS AND ORDERS: (For the Parents) Although the ALJ did not consider the initial referral because it was outside of the timelines for a due process hearing, the ALJ found that the district failed to evaluate and identify the student for special education in 2010. The ALJ also found that district denied the student FAPE by failing to provide appropriate special education services. This was because the district did not develop measurable annual goals, maintain progress data, or show that the student made progress towards his annual goals. The ALJ determined that the private school was an appropriate placement for the student and ordered the district to pay for the costs of tuition and transportation.

Does this make you a deeper shade of green?

BTW their student is doing very well in the private school the district is paying for.

Do you need more evidence?


Anonymous said...

And a little more data from right here in SPS. Remember Marni Campbell? (Probably not) Director of Sped? The one who cancelled all the inclusion programs that we're just now getting back? Remember her?

She published the "success" of ICS (a lame SPS program which was simply a removal of staff). Success was based on the number of students making progress on their IEP goals, any progress at all, on any goal at all. It was something like 75%. It was trumpeted up and down the district like some victory. That is, the director of special ed was PLEASED that SOME kids made SOME progress on SOME IEP goals that they wrote as measured by the people writing the goals.

Guess what? Other kids made NO PROGRESS on ANY of their IEP goals!!!! No crying about that - because, well, PROGRESS IS NOT REQUIRED.

As for me - I think that whole measure is dumb. 1) Who knows if the goals were good. 2) Who knows how they measured progress on the goals. (same people writing the goals, measuring the goals, and reporting progress seems like a cooked book to me) 3) Who knows how students progressed in general education goals (shouldn't that really be the goal).

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

Michael - you're missing the point. YES - you can win on technicalities, failures of process. Failure to evaluate - is a process failure. Failure to conduct an IEP meeting - process error. Failure to keep data - process failure. Failure to create measurable goals - more process errors.

But "failure to make progress" - you will not win, because it is not required. So long as they follow the steps - your kid is free to NOT PROGRESS.... at all. And all of the reasons you may have won, will not guarantee progress.

Why do you think the HUGE district effort is getting all the paperwork fixed? Because that is where they LOSE cases. Actually providing good education... well, the courts DO NOT GIVE A FIG ABOUT THAT. So once they fix up your paperwork, you'll be back to square one.

We as parents care most about actual instruction, not paperwork. CYA doesn't help us.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

Sped parent, you tipped your hat I'm not going to argue with you because it will turn into a SLD vs pervasive issue and benefit no one.

read it again "or show that the student made progress towards his annual goals". There are other case with the same verbiage decided against SPS and many other districts across the nation.

I'm not green I've been fighting for and consulting on SPED for years. You need to understand the system better. Not what you think the system should be or do, but understand how you beat it.
Talk to those who beat it keep your emotions in check, stick to what you can prove, document everything and don't believe anything SPS tells you. Good luck


Anonymous said...

One more thing.
Evidently you think students with SLD are one-sized and should meet the following bar of progress:
And in the case of SLD it means grade level performance after 2 years of services or significant benefit when a student starts out more than 2 years behind.

That is laughable on it's face. Plenty of dyslexic kids are far below standard after 2 years of service. Not illegal. Nobody did anything wrong. It is even conceivable that students with some SLDs - never learn to read. Ever. Eg. They are "below" grade level forever, and they still are accurately categorized as SLD. Expected outcome is not something that anybody could ever write down - for ANYBODY, much less a student with a disability. And really. That is what we want. It is a fine balancing act to have both high expectations and flexible ones.

IEP. The I means individual. And it means individual everything, including expectations.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

You know... "or show that they made progress". That says it all. The district does not need to show progress.... just that they follow the paperwork. That is what "or" means. 1 side of the prong.

I'm not sure what pervasive hat tipping you're talking about. Hard to believe that you've helped anybody win. By my "tipped" hat is off to you, if you've helped them win.

-Sped Parent

mirmac1 said...

Sped Parent has helped innumerable parents in this district. I tip my hat to you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for you misery, but you don't understand the science of dyslexia and recent breakthroughs in treatments and strategies.

It's definitely more complicated when you layer on autism, or disruptive behavior issues.

Dyslexia is a result of the brain processing language based task in a non optimal part of the brain. This a proven fact like it or not and using advanced techniques a subject's processing over time can be moved back in or closer to the optimal processing area.

Why is the idea that SLD is a solvable condition so offensive to you?. It's never eliminated but proven to be manageable.

I know this from personal experience.

On the other hand it's also a fact that poor instruction can induce dyslexia in children with propensity to processing in the right side of the brain, you know the creative side.

Back to our real issue, yes a child with dyslexia can read or write at grade level with early intervention again dont take my word for it ...LOOK IT UP!

The SPS has induced dyslexia in many students not on purpose but out ignorance.

And finally yes schools can be forced to pay for outside services when dyslexic students are not being served because they did not receive FAPE.

I little searching and you will see that most claims over denial of FAPE over poor documentation are rejected. It's not about technicalities it's about learning and removing impediments to learning.

Again you just need to know how to play the game and let the SPS you know it.


Mary Griffin said...

Melissa, I ususally agree with you and with Diane Ravitch and lastly, Peter Greene of the Cumudgucator blog, of whom you quote. But in this case, you all are wrong. And you are not just wrong, but you are dead wrong. 
Peter commits a common mistake by painting all students with disabilities with the same paintbrush--they have low intellect, they can't achieve and the reason they can't achieve is because they have disabilities--D'oh. This is a position echoed by the commenters on his blog as well as by society at large. 
The facts are as Arne stated them--80% of students with disabilities have a normal IQ. They can achieve. When states want to dismiss 2% of students with disabilities from tests, it is not because they are taking a laudable stand against excessive testing (which most of us would agree with), it's because they want to be totally left off the hook for educating students. Not testing the cognitive function of 1% of students is equivalent to not testing 7% of students with disabilities. Not testing 2% is equivalent to not testing 14% of students with disabilities.
For every case like the one he cites of the child of Andrea Rediske, I could give you thousands of cases--students with emotional/behavioral disabilities who are warehoused in EBD classrooms in Seattle without qualified teachers or a curriculum, students with dyslexia or dysgraphia who don't make progress from one year to the next, students whose families don't speak or read English whose IEP's are blank or don't change from one year to the next. 
The facts about a culture of low expectation are true. Students with disabilities are invisible riders on the same train as students who are black. The are part and parcel of the "opportunity gap" which everyone likes to talk about, but no one wishes to address. There graduation rate hovers at 50%, they have disproportionate rates of discipline, and their scores on achivement tests have not improved.
The Curmuducator likes to point out that this is because they have disabilities. No, this is because no one cares. No one cares in the state of Washington and no one has cared in this district for the past 10 years. Somewhere, someone put out a memo that these kids aren't worth the investment of time and money. 
When people talk about the opportunity gap and they fail to talk about students with disabilities, they are failing to talk about 33-40% of students in the opportunity gap. When they put out reports about discipline disproportionality and they dismiss students with disabilities, they are ignoring a group of students with similar rates of disproportionate discipline as students who are black. When the Road Map Project puts out reports which reports on every single category of student EXCEPT students with disabilities, they are committing the same sin of omission. The underlying message here is that these students don't count. They can't be educated and they can't learn. 

Mary Griffin said...

Part 2
don't stand alone when I point to a culture of low expectations. When Congress re-implemented the Individuals with Disabilities Eduacation Act in 2004, they reflected back on the original Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (IDEA 2004 available at
"However, the implementation of this title has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities.
‘‘(5) Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by—
‘‘(A) having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible, in order to—
‘‘(i) meet developmental goals and, to the maximum extent possible, the challenging expectations that have been established for all children; and
‘‘(ii) be prepared to lead productive and independent adult lives, to the maximum extent possible;"

As far as I am concerned, IDEA 2004 is an unrequited dream for many families in Seattle. The price for these families and their children, and for society at large is huge. Things have to change, and if Arne Duncan is finally going to get in that seat and drive that bus, then I am for one, happy about it.

mirmac1 said...

Tipping hat to Mary now.... : )

Anonymous said...

When Mary speaks I take notes.


Floor Pie said...

Mary, I guess I just don't see from the NPR article linked here how Duncan's solution addresses any of those inequities in a meaningful way. Maybe there's more to this than the article states, but all I'm seeing is "hold states accountable when students don't make progress" with the strong implication that "progress" is measured by standardized testing.

So, I could see how that counts as a symbolic victory. Now our kids "count" enough to be included in the mess that's been imposed on all the other students. (Yay, I guess?) But I do take the point. It is insulting to leave them out. I understand that.

What I have a hard time with, as I said before, is how this translates into our students' day-to-day school experience. I have supported EBD and resource room students as they slogged through the MAP tests and some practice Common-Core-ish assessments we had to do in the building this year. It was a miserable experience for most of them and a huge waste of THEIR time. I guess it would be tempting for an observer to say "Well that's YOUR fault, teachers, because you had low expectations and didn't teach them well enough," but in my classroom's case, at least, that would be unfair and hurtful and untrue. We BROUGHT it for those kiddos each and every day, and they learned a LOT compared to where they were on the first day of school. Will the standardized tests accurately reflect any of that? Doubtful.

I guess the larger question here is, what does "progress" and "achievement" really look like? What does it mean? Worksheets? Spitting out the "right" answer on a Common Core reading test? Maybe it's not enough for us to want our kids to have "the same" as what ed reform has imposed on all the other students. It's a start, I suppose. "Equality" of sorts. But we can do better.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arne Duncan did not cite the Florida case.

I agree with Mary's premise but I think that Duncan is putting on a false face of caring when it's about testing and data collection and NOT really supporting Sped students. We'll have to see how it plays out.

If the feds want Sped students to do better with more rigor, the supports need to be there along with the understanding that all kids don't learn the same.

Anonymous said...

Many peoples' reactions on this blog to Duncan's announcement that the USDE is going to focus more on outcomes than compliance in regard to state and district special education programs and services reminds me of this David Horsey cartoon:

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Through the whole of elementary school not a single educator --sped or gened-- ever commented about or raised a question or concern re the inability of my twice exceptional student to show what he knows --reliably-- on classroom assessments, regular classroom assignments, and of course the MSP and MAP. All the activism and effort to address the performance gap has come from the family and community based professionals. In fact, after the first round of MSP testing (3rd grade) which should have been the red flag of red flags, we couldn't even get the GenEd teacher (since promoted to principal!) to respond to a call or an email when we tried to understand what had gone so wrong and the SPED teacher hadn't even documented what the accommodations were/weren't.

We've seen the culture of low expectations for our students' academic outcomes be expressed in the failure of the District to provide adequate training to and accountability of staff. To the extent that when we finally decided to opt out of the MSP out of frustration with not having the tools and insights adopted in time to allow our student to participate without losing a ton of GenEd time/access, the GenEd teacher actually complained to us about our lack of school spirit ... "After all we've done ..."

In my opinion, anything that amps up the ownership of our students' academic outcomes is long long overdue. Let's think of the families who can't afford community based professionals' assistance to unpack whatever learning barriers are in play. Let's think about the families who have to do this through languages other than English. I think more public activism on these matters by Supt Banda would have helped. I hope the next Supt will be the mobilizer that will make a dent in this situation.


Floor Pie said...

I liked Nancy Bailey's take on this. At the risk of getting compared to Fox News again because I'm looking skeptically at Arne's free birdseed, here's the link:

It's worth taking a look at.