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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Education News Stories of the Week

Catching on up on some reading and ran across these stories.

From the federal Bureau of Consumer Protection (within the FTC), a website aimed at kids 8-12 promoting ad education. It's called Admongo. Their goal is that since advertising is all around our kids in more ways than ever, that kids can understand that and understand what an ad is trying to do. It asks 3 questions:
  1. Who is responsible for the ad?
  2. What is the ad actually saying?
  3. What does the ad want me to do?
They did try to be careful in the development of the materials to avoid the idea of promoting commercialism. The education company, Scholastic, is handling the distribution of materials to teachers and students.

From the website:

The campaign has four components: a game-based website at Admongo.gov; sample ads that can be used in the classroom; a free curriculum, developed with the assistance of Scholastic, Inc., that is keyed to standards of learning in 5th and 6th grades; and teacher training videos. Together, these tools will help you build ad literacy skills.

From the NY Times, an echo of what is happening here in SPS, mainstreaming special needs students. From the article:

This fall, more than 250 schools will be asked to accept more students with disabilities rather than send them to schools that have specific programs for special education, as has been the case for decades. By September 2011, principals at each of the system’s 1,500 schools will be expected to enroll all but the most severely disabled students; those students will continue to be served by schools tailored exclusively to them.

But some special education advocates and principals worry that the changes could be too difficult for principals with little knowledge of special education, who are already strained by day-to-day issues and impending budget cuts.

Several quotes (taken out of order) are telling:

Laura Rodriguez, the deputy chancellor for special education and students still learning English, who was appointed last year to oversee the changes, said she was confident they would stick this time because so many educators were frustrated with the system.

“There has never been a golden age of special education,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “For the vast majority of students, there’s no reason they cannot be in a regular classroom setting if they get what they need.”

“The fundamental question is, How much special education expertise am I expected to have, and how much special education services am I supposed to provide?” said Randi Herman, a vice president of the principals’ union, who has been involved in the department’s efforts. “They want to do right by the parents and the child, but right now, there’s a real sense of uncertainty around that.”

“On the one hand, this is incredibly exciting to have more freedom to do what we think is the best for students,” said Allison Gaines Pell, the principal of the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters middle school in Brooklyn, which is involved in the changes next year. “But it’s also scary. I need to know that all my teachers have enough training. I need to know what all the right services are.”

Naturally there's the rub about mainstreaming the "vast" majority of special education students. Is there money to meet the needs? Do the teachers have the training and support? Do principals have the training and support? The article says the decision is being made to help improve outcomes for these students and it has nothing to do with money but frankly, everything has to do with money (and, as an example, that's why immigration reform has been so slow and you get a desperation move like the one in Arizona).

14 comments:

SolvayGirl said...

" Their goal is that since advertising is all around our kids in more ways than ever, that kids can understand that and understand what an ad is trying to do."

I think that is a good thing. There's a reason why market researchers ask people if they are employed by a marketing, PR or advertising agency before they poll them. They know that knowledge of the industry skews their surveys.

ARB said...

SPS is having trouble with similar goals in spec ed, as laid out in a 2/2009 position paper by the spec Ed PTSA (hope link works):

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Seattle_SpEd_PTA/message/1583

spedParent said...

Naturally there's the rub about mainstreaming the "vast" majority of special education students. Is there money to meet the needs?

What's the "rub" part? The vast majority of special education students are already mainstreamed. Is the "vast" getting vaster? Not in Seattle. The new special education is just.. no special education, and that's pretty cheap. Those kids safe and sound in their self-contained enclaves (special programs) are still happy as clams there.

Unknown said...

All teachers need to have some training in spec ed, and even more so as more students get mainstreamed. I have personally seen a child (and parent) with moderate learning delays lose all hope in the school because of a teacher that didn't understand. The teacher did a good job teaching kids on the "normal"* learning curve, but was an absolute disaster for spec ed kids.

* I know there is a huge range of normal and I'm not trying to be pejorative. I just can't come up with a better word right now.

Charlie Mas said...

I hear from a number of families with students with IEPs that the District is putting their kids in general education classes without the proper support and with teachers who lack the proper training.

I'm afraid that I haven't gotten the message very clearly.

My first point of confusion is whether or not that has already been done, or is that going to happen, or is it being piloted in some schools now and will be in all schools soon?

My second point of confusion is the extent to which it is a failure from the family's perspective. Are there some schools or classrooms where it was done well or is it a universal disaster?

My third point of confusion is how the District views it. If the families regard it as a disaster, how could the District see it any other way? Or does the District simply say that they do not yet have enough data points to assess the effectiveness of the change? Or does the District show no interest in assessing the effectiveness of the change? Or does the District acknowledge that it isn't going well, but they believe it will improve as teachers, administrators, students, and families figure out how to work the new structure.

Is there anyone who thinks it is working or does everyone pretty much agree with spedParent who says that the students aren't getting anything in the inclusive classes?

ARB said...

Charlie-

I believe the new spec ed program, called ICS, is in all schools. It is being phased in from youngest to oldest as the distrct phases out the old spec ed programs as students age. I have not heard anything good from K or first grade parents.

To educate yourself, probably start with the spec ed PTSA 2/09 position paper at link in above comment. It is highly critical. Ann Dornfeld from KUOW did a good piece a few months ago, which is probably still on KUOW.org.

Hope this helps.

Josh Hayes said...

Charlie,

At least at AS1 there's no way to avoid mixing together kids with and without IEPs. Last year, for instance, half of the middle-school age kids had IEPs. Classes HAD to have intermingling of kids with, and without, IEPs. I think it's pretty similar this year.

I suppose most schools have lower percentages of kids with IEPs, but I don't know where those data would be.

mom of 3 said...

blumhagn -

As the parent of a child with special needs, I've come to use the term "typical" or "typically developing" rather than "normal." Might work for you. Also working on child first language - ("child with special needs" as opposed to "special needs child." Emphasis being that all children are children first!) I do understand what you're saying, not offended, but you seemed to be asking if there was a better alternative to "normal," and thought I'd offer a suggestion.

ARB said...

FYI, the goal is NOT to "avoid mixing" kids with IEPs and typical kids by keeping IEP kids separate. The law requires education in a least restrictive environment-- it REQUIRES "mixing" whenever possible. It is up to the district to provide the support and comply with the law. Really people, when it is done correctly, there is a benefit to typical kids being exposed to, educated with, and educated about kids who are "different." I know this is not the same as segregation due to race, but certainly the law recognizes that a separate education is not an equal one ... It seems to me that ALL parents should care about this issue because adequate support of kids with IEPs enhances the education of all kids.

Lori said...

I don't know how other families feel, but I was sad to see the Blended K at Bryant disbanded this current school year. We had our daughter in that class and thought it was absolutely wonderful. She was one of 10 "typically developing" kids, and the class could have up to 7 children with IEPs, for whom the goal was to have them in traditional classes the following year. I haven't spoken to all of the parents whose children had IEPs, but I don't think any of them were unhappy with the experience. So I can't understand why they needed to end a program that was popular and working well. The cynic in me suspects that in this day of large class sizes, it just wasn't copacetic to have a class of only 17 (or in our year, only 15) at a popular school. What a shame.

spedParent said...

To answer Charlie's questions.

Have they started "mainstreaming the vast majority of special ed students"?
1) Most were already mainstreamed. All "services only students" were always mainstreamed. All "resource room" students were mainstreamed, although the mainstreaming is pretty weak in middle and high school levels. All inclusion program students were, of course, mainstreamed, at every level. That's at least 75% of the special education students.
2) They have the new ICS program, for K and 1st... which is really the resource room. Everybody who was in a resource room before, is still in a resource room.
3) The district will not let new kids into the great inclusion programs. So, those "inclusion" kids are either self-contained or put in the resource room. ICS is actually a move AWAY from inclusion. If you can't do ICS, you're self-contained. The "vast majority of mainstreamed students" is getting smaller, and the services are becoming less (resource room offers less than inclusion programs).

Pretty neat, huh? Bait and switch. Tell the community you're mainstreaming everybody... when you're really doing all you can to self-contain them. Maybe they won't notice.

Plus, the resource room is actually not all that inclusive. Did you ever see a "rotation" classroom in middle or high school? No mainstreaming there.


Next question. Do some people like the new ICS?

Sure, students who don't need very much... are well served when they don't get very much. If the resource room used to be great for you last year... guess what? It's still great. And, let's not forget, we're only talking about K... how hard is it to do mainstreaming while you sing ring-around-the-rosies? The district has noticed that the kindergarteners are all singing ring-around-the-rosies, and declared their new mainstreaming a grand success. (I believe you also asked about assessment... there it is.)

Next question. What do families think and how has it been communicated? (How is it assessed? answered above)

The SpecialEd PTSA ICS position paper pretty much says it all, and speaks with the definitive authority for the community. Click on the link at the bottom for the full PDF.

ARB said...

Additional detailed discussion and parent concerns can be found at the prior discussion on this blog at:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=28765366&postID=571901142767199104

(or search blog topics for "KUOW")

Kelsped's comment near the end of the string of comments pretty much captures the problems....

spedParent said...

Lori asks, why not keep the popular blended K programs?

We should all remember district had to work mighty hard to sell that blended K program at Bryant... who fought tooth and nail to keep special ed out of their building. Glad to hear they liked it in the end.

Having a program is a lot more expensive than having a resource room. All the inclusive programs (and blended K's) are really popular, so that's why they want to kill them. Also, blended Ks posed a particular program... no exit plan. Even kids who could transfer into the normal first grade at Bryant... weren't allowed to do so. Kids who needed more support in first grade, weren't provided that. All blended K graduates were essentially second class citizens for school assignment everywhere when they graduated. I doubt that failure was the reason for cancelling the programs... I suspect cost characteristics.

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