Wednesday, December 09, 2015

EEU Kindergarten Program To Go Away

Just saw this at the Soup for Teachers Facebook page.

The Superintendent has program placement in his arena but I would expect that the Board would receive early notification ofANY change in programming.

This is a long-term program that has been highly successful and any dismantling of it should raise an alarm.  I see this as coming from Deputy Superintendent Michael Tolley's area of control.

Friends, I'm asking for your help...
My colleagues at the Haring Center for Research and Training in Inclusive Education just learned that Seattle Public Schools has made the very poor, very short-sighted decision to pull all funding for the Experimental Education Unit's inclusive kindergarten program. This is a blow to our community, and a blow to everyone who values inclusion and believes that all kids have the right to full, equal access to their neighborhood schools.

Video about this program.

This decision will have a devastating impact, on many levels. First and foremost, the 36 students the kindergarten program would have served next year (and the next, etc.) will not have the opportunity to benefit from the outstanding guidance and teaching of the EEU's incredibly gifted staff. The EEU kindergarten gives kids the skills they need to navigate, participate in, and learn from a general education classroom - skills that virtually set the stage for all future school success. For many of our students, the skills they learn in the EEU kindergarten potentially allow them to avoid being placed in completely segregated, separate programs when they move into 1st grade and beyond. All children, especially those with developmental disabilities, deserve to have the best possible start to their educational careers.

This decision also impacts the field of special education on a more broad level. The classrooms at the EEU not only provide high-quality, inclusive education to young kids, they also serve as a living laboratory where the biggest challenges facing the field of education (like, "How do you provide high quality education to kids of a range of different ability levels in the same classroom?".....) are researched, and new educational practices are developed to address these challenges head on. There's a reason why what we do at the EEU works - we consistently challenge ourselves to do more, to look ahead, and to make sure that what we're doing has the evidence to tell us it's working. Countless curricula, teaching strategies, assessment practices, and so much more, have come out of this place. It's changed the field of special education. It's where special education as we know it got its start.

The student teachers and trainees who receive hands-on practice, coaching, and mentorship in the EEU kindergarten classrooms will not have the opportunity to learn in a program where inclusion works. They will not be able to take these strategies and methods and put them into practice in the classrooms where their future careers take them, outside of the walls of the EEU. The effects of this decision will impact children and families for generations to come, in schools and communities all across the country.

The EEU kindergarten program should serve as an example of what is possible. The administrators at Seattle Public Schools, who are legally obligated to ensure that children with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment (i.e. the least segregated, most inclusive classroom) possible, should be planning how this model can be implemented district-wide - how teachers can receive the training and mentorship they need, how school leadership can provide the support and resources necessary to ensure that kids with developmental disabilities aren't relegated to separate, secluded, inferior classrooms, just because they learn differently.

This is a really big deal. Not just to my colleagues, the families I admire and love, or the EEU teachers who have sacrificed their quality of life to work in a place where they can truly make an impact each day. This is about diversity, equity, and access. This is a social justice issue. Inclusion matters.

In the next couple of days we'll be sharing (widely!!) information on how you can help - letters to send, where to send them, who to talk to. Please consider writing, calling, emailing, sharing this post and others, hash-tagging - whatever you feel moved to do. We're taking this to the streets. We won't be silent about this. Please help us. 

Thank you for reading, thank you for caring. ‪#‎inclusionmatters‬

30 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Is the EEU a program? a school? or a contracted service?

Doesn't the Board approve the district's relationship with this operation every year?

It's funny that the superintendent can't continue it without Board approval, but he can terminate it without Board approval. That's the way things go, I guess. The default position is that the district does not do this.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the BAR for the EEU contract from July 1, 2015. It was part of the Consent Agenda, meaning that it was regarded as routine and without opposition.

Pay special attention to what Dr. Nyland wrote, just five months ago, was the alternative to continuing this program:

"IX. ALTERNATIVES
Board approval is requested now so that services will be ready for students on the first day of school. Failure to approve this action would require SPS to identify classroom/building space for serving students, hire staff, and identify required start-up activities (e.g., material purchase, professional development for staff) and would represent additional costs for serving students.

Preschool and Kindergarten Services can be provided in-District as an alternative; however, it is extremely difficult to identify and retrofit building space to meet the preschool service needs and requirements. The collaborative and ongoing training implemented by the staff members and professors at the University of Washington with direct support of research-based practices in instruction and services could not be replicated at this time. There are no other research institutes with professors and staff members overseeing and participating in direct instruction at an on Campus Early Childhood Center as part of their own training. This is a year-to-year contract; if an alternate research institute could provide classrooms and collaborative professional development on research-based practices, a Request For Proposal would be initiated to identify and select an institute to enter into a contract agreement."

So what changed in the past five months to turn this alternative from something to be avoided into something to be pursued?
Will it suddenly be easy to identify and retrofit building space to meet the preschool service needs and requirements?
Can they suddenly replicate the collaborative and ongoing training implemented by the staff members and professors at the University of Washington?
Is there now another research institute with professors and staff members overseeing and participating in direct instruction?
Has an alternate research institute appeared to provide classrooms and collaborative professional development on research-based practices?

Anonymous said...

This makes no sense. What the heck is going on at JSCEE?

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

And, does the City have anything to do with this?

Anonymous said...

This is AWFUL. I am not on Facebook but can see faintly through the "Sign up to continue" screen thing that there are posts about this. If anyone is willing to copy and paste the Facebook posts here I'd be grateful. I love the EEU and am very worried about this news.
--alum mom

Anonymous said...

So SPS in its infinite wisdom is cutting funding to the universally acknowledged shining beacon of quality early intervention and perhaps the finest teachng example of inclusion for children on the autism spectrum in the Northwest

How very, very SPS.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

IT's not very clear where this came from or that Nyland has the authority to do it?

Reader

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that the District is cutting the KINDERGARTEN program and continuing to contract for preschool services.

The website (CHDD) describes the program as "Kindergarten, a full-day blended program that emphasizes the development of cognitive, social, and motor skills that enable children to successfully transition to regular classrooms the following year."

I believe that the program blends 10 or so typically developing kindergarten age students with 10 students with disabilities, in an inclusive setting, with a kindergarten curriculum, individualized to meet student needs.

Casey

Charlie Mas said...

So they're only ending the kindergarten program. I wonder why. Is it their intention to serve those kindergarteners in attendance area schools? How will this improve the service for the children?

Jet City mom said...

This program allows children to make a successful transition to their neighborhood schools.
So this superintendent wants to be known for increasing disproportionality in the district?
This program served two full size classroms of kindergarteners according to the Haring Center website.
Its invaluable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And honestly, where's the room for these kids (considering the capacity issues?)

Jet City mom said...

My neighborhood school had 5 classrooms if kindergarteners. I have no idea where they are putting them. It seems like just a few years ago, there were two.

Robert Cruickshank said...

This is the first major test for the new school board. They need to reverse this move, protect EEU, and then quickly move to restore Middle College.

Charlie Mas said...

This is a test for the New School Board, but it is first and foremost a test of their willingness to meddle in the management and administration of the District rather than constraining themselves to policy issues.

Of course, when the contract comes around for approval they can debate it and then, if they want to keep the kindergarten element of the program, they can simply refuse to approve the contract without the kindergarten. Dr. Nyland will then have to either find a way to replace the entire program or agree to keep the kindergarten.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Dr. Nyland knows what he is doing and is doing the right thing. If that's so, he'll have an opportunity to make his case and try to convince the Board to share his perspective.

Ann D said...

I have known several families who have taken advantage of the EEU and have only ever heard the highest praise for this program.

There is no premise of "educational excellence" left in this district of this is allowed to proceed. I too agree that we also need all the Middle College campuses re-opened.

Oh and BTW, it is lovely to see how the MLK Elementary in Madison Valley houses so many artist studios these days. Totally in keeping with the mission. And we paid for this thrice over. *smacks head*

TechyMom said...

Pound down any nail that sticks up. Destroy anything that is better than average. Make everything the same, and call it innovation.

mirmac1 said...

From Michaela Clancy, Dir of Special Education: "I would be happy to discuss the EEU kindergarten situation as well. A communication will be going out this week as well. This is a complicated situation, as we have been funding these kindergarten services solely from special education funding for many years. We can no longer fund the 20 kindergarten seats at EEU from special education. This has created an access and equity issue in addition to a funding source issue as some parent have noted the past few years. We are working with the department of early learning and school operations to determine what other options are available from general education for the EEU site."

I see the issue of SpEd dollars funding the 10 GenEd kids at EEU, but why isn't BEA funding them? Using the ALE argument, can't EEU be considered an ALE? As for access and equity - one could argue that parents in a struggling school in a dilapidated building will complain of lack of equity and access to a shiny school in a new building with lots of bennies. The solution is to bring a successful model to the non-shiny schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...I didn't think the non-IEP kids at the EEU were funded by SPS dollars. Only the kids on IEPs. I thought SPS was basically contracting with the EEU. I know when we were there, my kid was an SPS student, but I thought the non-IEP students were not. (She mentions 20 seats, but the EEU has 36 K seats.)

Former EEUparent

Robert Cruickshank said...

So let's be very clear here, because SPS is obviously clueless.

You don't promote equity by eliminating programs that provide equity.

This is the same school district that is destroying Middle College, a successful program that has been proven to reduce the dropout rate for kids of color while providing them a curriculum in social justice. In some cases they are replacing that curriculum, designed by and focused on people of color, with Bill Gates's "Big History" - a curriculum developed by and focusing on white men. And the decisions being made about Middle College are being made by white men.

Now we come to EEU, which also has a proven track record of helping kids with IEPs and other special education needs. SPS says "we can no longer fund it" - but that's a lie. Of course they can fund it, they just choose not to. They would rather spend money on unnecessary things like Amplify or on more staff at the JSCEE. That is what undermines equity - a bunch of able people with privilege and wealth deciding to take away something that helps the disabled.

This is like saying we can achieve equity by eliminating civil rights laws, or eliminating affirmative action, or eliminating anything that is designed to help people who are typically left behind or excluded. It's racist, discriminatory, and it will destroy real efforts to achieve equity.

If we want equity, we need to be expanding access to these programs, not reducing it.

Anonymous said...

Basically - the district contracts with EEU for about $200,000 to serve the 36 kindergarteners. They arrive at that figure by 10 x $16,000 for SM2-4. 10 IEP kids. 10 x $4,000 for SM1 kids. 10 IEP kids. That's the average "cost" in the district of excess special ed dollars. 16 x $0 - for students without IEPs. They arrive at the grand total of $200,000 (or so) for all of them. Great deal for the district! Serve the MOST challenging students... AND serves typical students (some of whom will later be identified with disabilities).... AND serves those kids at NO COST to SPS... AND does so inclusively (something the district hates with passion)... AND provides an absolutely great education to ALL students who walk through the door.

We are to believe that this is about $200,000? Even though this would all cost so much more in the district. We are to believe this is about "equity"? EEU is probably the most diverse school in the district. OR are we to believe that the "equity" simply means that only 36 students are served when nearly every family would want a seat?

??? Really. This is about the district's hatred of students with disabilities - and that it wants to kill off everything that could possibly be good. It's about the district's hatred of inclusion - and ANY inclusive practice.

Pathetic

Anonymous said...

By the way. I have 2 kids, one with a disability. Both are EEU grads. My kid with a disability is a high school junior. EEU kindergarten was my student's best year. I knew when I sent my kid to EEU - every day, somebody cared about my child and would do something reasonable. In SPS - yes we've gotten inclusion - but only through constant vigilance. The district lies to me at every single turn. Nothing they say is to be believed. Just like everything being said about this issue has been a lie. Of course there are some good teachers. But, families trust the EEU and know that at a bare minimum - it isn't full of liars like SPS is. Honesty counts. We can put up with a lot - but not lies.

Pathetic

Anonymous said...

to better understand this situation and be able to respond, it would be helpful to have some facts/information:


Exactly how many students with special needs are served in EEU KINDERGARTEN classes?
What is the total number Kindergarten age students with special needs that are enrolled in SPS programs?
Are those other programs in SPS running at Capacity?
(who gets in?) How are students chosen to attend the EEU program?

Is it considered an Option School (or choice, or whatever its called)
Are there any other programs in SPS that offer the same level of inclusion and support? (i.e. What do the sm level 1,2,3,4 programs look like?)
Does SPS use the strategies implemented at the "model" EEU program in their own classrooms, or just send staff to in-services?

Might give some clues as to the districts rationale.

Curious

Anonymous said...

Curious, here's the deal about the claim by SPS that they are being responsive to concerns about inequitable access. The real issue is, why isn't SPS replicating this fine good practice in all of its kindergartens or at least a few per region. That's the real inequity.

Our family never did succeed in the lottery for the EEU. But we and our kids have benefited from its modeling of good practice for teachers and the strength and courage that it gives parents, every single day. What our Superintendent, who never spends a second with special needs communities so far as I can tell, needs to be asking is what are the barriers to expanding the EEU model in SPS.

Curious2

Anonymous said...

Some facts:
There are 20 children with special needs served in the kindergarten.
There are 16 children without special needs. Many of these students are typically developing students that are siblings, were served in the preschool, or were a part of the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program . ECEAP serves families living at or below the poverty line- and their program is a part of the inclusive preschool at the EEU.

Currently- there are lead teachers, graduate students (working on their master degrees), paraeducators, SLPs, OTs, volunteers from a variety of programs, and family support providers working as a transdisciplinary team. They work together to serve all students.

The students are blended together for instruction across the day. All students have access to the general education curriculum throughout the day. All students have access to peers with disabilities and typically developing peers throughout the day. The model provides large group, small group, activity based, and individual instruction. They strive to find the best educational fit for all the students in the classroom.

The kindergarten serves students that could have gone to any of the other models from the district. (Service Models mentioned- which once again are changing for the 15-16 school year).

What does this mean for a student that leaves the EEU to a different LRE? A student that is being fully included during the day at the EEU who then, through the riser process, is enrolled into an SM4 spends significantly more time in a self-contained classroom without access to typically developing peers.

It is not an option school. There is process to officially become an option school. However, there was a lack of transparency and this information was presented with no avenue for repair one month before families’ complete open enrollment for option schools. This means that the EEU has not had time to look into how to become one or research if that is a feasible solution for a center at the University of Washington.


Some opinions:
There is a lot that seems to be coming out that feels like a smoke screen while they scramble for the strongest argument. None of the rationales were brought to the attention of the EEU. The fact is the administration learned this through a side conversation without any opportunity to try to find an answer to the problems they are now saying were serious enough to end a 30 year partnership. This is insulting.

The equity/access is the weakest and most hypocritical argument given. Defunding a program that is a model for inclusivity (and equity) because not everyone can access it? As many others have said- this is not the answer. The new statement from Wyeth Jesse claims that the program is not “replicable in a traditional kindergarten classroom.” This is painfully along the same party line as the decision. The problem is the "traditional” classroom that they are trying to replicate it in. This speaks to a lack of understanding of what inclusion means. It's not a number- it's not a place- it is a community. Also- the school district has a history of having blended kindergarten programs. So at least they were trying harder in the past.

Finally, a lottery to get into a program is heartbreaking. However, the lottery is how the school district decided it would enroll students into the kindergarten program. This system that "precludes all kindergarten students from accessing the particular services at the EEU" is their system.

It IS unfair that this program only has 20 spots available BECAUSE there is not another program that Seattle can point to that includes children the same way.

I don't know numbers. I don't know law. I don't know why they thought they could make this decision without notifying anyone and expect silence. But I know that the work the EEU and Haring Center does is incredibly important and far surpasses the 36 students it would have served next year.

InclusionDOESmatter

Anonymous said...

Curious2, EXACTLY : "what are the barriers" to implementing best practice? And why would a school district choose to do that?

THANK YOU THANK YOU, InclusionDOESmatter, -

Excellent, to the point, well said and right on....


Curious.

Anonymous said...

New information/My current understanding-

Access: The SPS open enrollment process is used by the district to assign 20 kindergarten students receiving special education services to the EEU. The same process is used for open enrollment for the district option schools. General education students are admitted by the EEU. The EEU uses the same priorities for admission as the Seattle Public Schools.

Funding: The rate was determined 4 years ago.
The EEU has a contract with Seattle Public Schools to serve 20 kindergarten students receiving special education services. These rates were determined with SPS based on the cost of transitional kindergartens (which no longer exist and were the least expensive program) and resource room/SM1. Seattle is not paying basic education dollars. EEU requested BEA from Seattle and was denied. During negotiations the rate was lowered further

General Education Students: Seattle Public Schools has never paid for general education students at the Experimental Education Unit (EEU). SPS only pays for students receiving special education services. The funding the EEU receives from SPS does not cover the cost of the kindergarten program. The remaining costs are covered by Haring Center fundraising.

InclusionDOESmatter

chunga said...

What is concerning is how the district is going about such closings, where they're just sprung on the community, with a "trust us, we tried, but we've got to close school X". I want to see the district advocating with the community to keep such schools open. If there are problems, challenges then they should show they're working with the community to address them. I want to see them advocating for McCleary, recruiting community partners, talking with teachers and families. Enough of the top down, un-transparent actions.

Anonymous said...

InclusionDoesMatter,

Seattle Public Schools sped central office are liars. Plain and simple. They love liars, and recruit them into a massive army. They even lie to each other. That's why they all say different things and never have any idea what the other one said or does. Unfortunately, EEU always drinks the koolaide. Just last year they were singing the praises of the wonderful new director. Guess not anymore!

The idea that admission to EEU follows a process is false. All special ed assignment is done in a room by central staff. Sure families send in their request as if "normal district option rules apply", but then sped picks it up. It looks legit, but it isn't. A few years ago there was a public records request for the lottery algorithm. There isn't one for EEU. Instead, there's cronyism, daddy knows best, individualized placement by hand by administrators. Of course none of that is the EEU. It's all on the district.

SPS wants to ensure that there is NO QUALITY in special education that they have to match. And they want no parent advocates coming from EEU.

Speddie

Anonymous said...

New article about the situation here: http://crosscut.com/2015/12/inclusive-kindergarten-faces-seattle-schools-axe/
-alum mom

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