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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Times' Investigation of Special Ed in SPS

A lengthy and troubling report by Brian Rosenthal of the Times on Special Ed and SPS.

103 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad people are realizing that stealing from special ed - like Ballard High School does - is exactly that: stealing. Thank you Brian Rosenthal! When the central office funds a school like Ballard HS for one thing (special ed), using federal dollars... and then they spend that money on something else, that's misappropriation. It also means that special education students are deprived of education and that OTHER students get reduced class sizes as a benefit. When will somebody be accountable for it? The root of "accountable" is "count". Count the money, count the kids, do the long division.

-sped parent

Floor Pie said...

I'm impressed with how well he was able to sum it up. Marni's response is classic.

Thank you for writing this, Mr. Rosenthal, and extra big thanks to the parents and teachers who were interviewed. I hope some good will come of it.

Anonymous said...

So glad he included a shout-out to John Rogers!

Thank you, Mr. Rosenthal!

-JR Mom

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Brian Rosenthal for this article, and to those sped teachers and IAs willing to speak up about what is going on in our district.

Maybe this media attention will help make hiring the new Exec. Dir. a priority?

-former sped parent

Anonymous said...

Right Floor Pie - Marni provides a special ed overview, that teachers optionally can sign up for, then blames the UW for not providing ALL of the district's professional development on special education. As if 1 optional workshop was going to make teachers better. How lame is that? Not mention bait and switch. Let me be the the "sped executive director"... I'll quit after I start up an unfunded program, right before people realize it's totally unfunded and doesn't work. Hopefully I'll get a promotion outta here! Ain't sped directorships grand?

-parent

Anonymous said...

Go John Rogers!

Typical comment from Marni Campbell, who refused to listen to anybody concerning the tenuous readiness for the ICS rollout and now blames the debacle, which has hurt so many teachers, students, and families, on people who tried unsuccessfully to advise her.

This is a successful article by the Times reporter, a good synthesis.

The KUOW headline: "Special Ed In Seattle Public Schools "Atrocious," "Heartbreaking," Say Parents"

http://kuow.org/post/special-ed-seattle-public-schools-atrocious-heartbreaking-say-parents

In this article about a parent's experience: "many parents we spoke to for this story who say the quality of special education in Seattle schools depends too much on how well a school’s principal understands the federal law that guarantees services to kids with disabilities. She says the Seattle school district has lacked steady, experienced leadership in the special education department to keep principals on track."

No. Experienced leadership in the Special Education Department will NEVER keep principals on track. That has to come from principals' supervisors and ultimately from the Superintendent. The Superintendent does not seem to understand this. He does not seem to understand that this is a pervasive systemic institutionalized problem. He thinks let's just hire somebody who gets it.

So we guess that that savior will "get it" quickly and get the heck out of here, first plane.

Parent

Anonymous said...

"Campbell said teachers received extensive training, including up to 92 hours of work sessions for those most affected by the new model."

That's 2 - 2.5 weeks of training. That's OPTIONAL training, and none of it is in the classroom.

Thanks Ms Campbell, your use of the word "extensive" says it all. You didn't know what you were talking about then and you don't know what you are talking about now.

Left SPS for a reason

Just saying said...

I don't think sp ed. dollars at Ballard are being used to reduce class size. Teachers have 160 students per day. If anything, look to the state for more funding.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great article. I'm a gen Ed teacher who had two ICS students assigned to me that first year of the roll out. I was offered one week of training that summer. No follow up.

GenEd /ICS

Charlie Mas said...

Yes. Thank you Brian Rosenthal.

Thanks also to advocates for Special Education students and families. Thanks for educating them on the law and how to exercise it to advocate for their children's education.

One important point lightly mentioned in the article that we should all keep in mind: only a fraction of the students with an IEP have any kind of cognitive disorder. Most of them can and should be working at grade level - if they are taught grade level curricula with the proper accommodations. Having students with IEPs in a properly run integrated classroom will not hold any students back. Non-SpEd families have nothing to fear and nothing to lose from a properly run integrated classroom.

Anonymous said...

Parents have also complained that special-ed classes have been relegated to a school play area, to a stage or, in the case of one post-school transition class, to the Northgate Mall food court.

Apparently these issues are longstanding? Once again I am reminded of the hubris of Eckstein ready to throw whole populations under the bus because their needs are just so much more important.

"Disgusted Near 130th"

Anonymous said...

Charlie, the sad thing, SPS already has/had high quality, great special integrated classrooms. We already had inclusive classrooms at some of our best, most sought schools, all over town. People haven't been afraid of these schools or considered them less because of the students with disabilites:

Salmon Bay
John Hay
Montlake
Lafayette
Graham Hill
Lawton
John Rogers
North Beach
Schmitz Park
Daniel Bagley
Eckstein Middle
Madison Middle
and, lots of others

These schools for DECADES have had inclusive, and supported inclusion programs which truly live up to the ideals of "integrated comprehensive service". With the non-rollout of the new thing, ICS... instead, we got the cancellation of those programs, replaced with no service, no support, wait-to-fail mentality. All paid for with stimulus funds that disappeared.

"Properly run integrated classrooms", as you put it, is no lofty ideal. It's what we ALREADY had. And really, many of these schools still have them if people are willing to go to the mat to get their kids into them. And no, nobody "feared" these schools, or these kids. They were highly chosen by everybody.

The real issue is we can't afford inclusion programs in every school. And, the district thought it could save a few bucks by removing the inclusion programs. But really, it can't. Because kids failing "ICS" now wind up in self-contained programs, which are sprouting up like weeds, and represent the most expensive programming of all.

-parent

mirmac1 said...

Marni Campbell wouldn't know the truth if it were a house that fell outa the sky and landed on her.

Brian Rosenthal has written the best Times education story I've read in years. Many credible sources in different roles, data, examples. Thank you Brian.

Anonymous said...

Marni Campbell looks pretty bad in this article. All she can say is, "That's on Ilene" (passing her responsibility to train staff on somebody else) and "That never happens" (denying the reality of parent after parent and teacher after teacher)? Really???? That's it?

-Jeez

Anonymous said...

I read this story online. Be sure to click through the photos until you get to the last one, which shows the different kinds of disabilities presented in the Seattle classrooms.

It hit me like the proverbial lightening strike, because it shows most of these students have no cognitive barrier to classroom success. To see how blatantly SPS fails students who can and should be going off to college or a job is stupefying.

It is perhaps the most outrageous failing I've seen from SPS yet, and that's counting Potter and the ridiculous school closure/reopen process. Because this failing directly consigns students to a lesser life.

EdVoter

mirmac1 said...

Ballard places nearly all their "high-incidence" students (mild learning disorders) among a few teachers who also have 60-90 general ed students, then pays those teachers with special ed money. That is misappropriation and incompliant with the RCW and the WAC. A student's special ed funding is to pay for the "excess cost" to provide the supports and specially-designed instruction he/she needs to get an education; NOT to allow Ballard's principal to a)keep these students out of the other general ed classrooms b) underspend on general ed and "overspend" on special ed so DeBell can piss and moan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maybe this media attention will help make hiring the new Exec. Dir. a priority?

Honestly, I think hiring a new SpedEd Director IS a priority. I think they are truly trying to find a great person (and maybe SPS' reputation proceeds it and it's harder than they think).

Sorry, Ballard was misusing the SpedEd funds and needed calling out. No school should do this.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

7 school board members and except for dear Betty Patu the only thing they have to say is that special ed costs too much? And according to Charlie special education isn't even a board priority? Wow.

The article didn't leave me with any hope that the situation is going to change. The district might eventually get a new director? That's the big plan?

I hope the SPED parents reading the article all go procure lawyers. It's the only language our district speaks.

SavvyVoter

Backscratcher said...

A lot of the blame in this article falls on the shoulders of Marni -- which it should. But let's not forget her predecessors, particularly Colleen Stump who gets a brief mention in the online timeline as director 2007-2008.

Colleen set the tone in the department for years... threatening and insulting teachers and always passing the blame onto others. When that didn't work and professionals tried to talk about what wasn't working she would resort to her old standby of crying -- that's right crying.

The SSD Special Ed. department has always had directors who were in over their heads -- Stump is now a classroom reading coach. From department director to coach. How she ever became director no one will ever understand.

erik tanen said...

What position does Marnie have now. It seems that a huge problem a SPS is that competent educators leave and the ineffectual or incompetent ones stay and get promoted for more pay and more responsibility. I'm sure the people that they hire or supervise are going to be like them. The culture and quality at the district needs to be overhauled or changed.if you don't changed the district employees or methods than we are all just beating are heads on the ground. With the millions of people who are in education, they are the beat we can get.

Anonymous said...

It is perhaps the most outrageous failing I've seen from SPS yet, and that's counting Potter and the ridiculous school closure/reopen process. Because this failing directly consigns students to a lesser life.

Amen to that EdVoter. Think about just the NOVA move costs. Move NOVA out of Mann building into Meany building. The next year, move it out of Meany building back into Mann building. Cost: $50 million. About the same as the entire costs of special education. And that's only 1 school. What about all the others, Viewlands, etc. ?

Where is DeBell whining about that, which is equivalent to the district's sped spending year after year? That happened under his watch? The supposedly horrible costs of ICS also happened under his watch? Does he hold anybody accountable? No. Only the kids. They should just take it. He asks at a board meeting "When will you find the discretionary sped spending so we can cut it?". But under his watch all sorts of other, pricey discretionary programs have been made available to other students: STEM at Cleveland, Garfield Palace, Language Immersion, etc.

-another Ed Voter

Floor Pie said...

Seriously, I am getting a little weary of hearing DeBell wring his hands about how expensive special ed is. You'd think he'd be ashamed to keep saying it out loud. It sounds awful.

I actually brought this up to Mr. Banda after the community meeting at Hamilton. He was genuinely surprised and tried to rationalize it, like I must have misunderstood or something. And Marni was right there at the meeting too, being his right-hand woman. I hope he reads this article very carefully.

Anonymous said...

A student doesn't get help because the teacher didn't endure 2 weeks of UW garbage training?

A student who needs 10 or 15 or 30 minutes of direct assistance during a 50 minute class in a class of 24 or 34 students who need assistance, too ...

A student who needs 10 or 15 or 30 minutes of direct assistance during a 50 minute class because the MGJ toadies making these stupid policies couldn't do the math to figure out what their ideas cost to implement ...

because the toadies don't care!

ThereIsATeacherToBlame!!!

Anonymous said...

I read the article and was smiling because finally this mess got outed. Then I looked at the comments and I cringed! It's as if we are back pre-60's where disabled kids were denied access to public schools or placed out of sight, out of mind. I know I should read such things with a grain of salt, but I also think there's a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about disabilities and spec ed kids out there that allowed for the neglect and outright law breaking that we see in SPS. Much of this comes down to money. I think as long as we don't fund schools properly, spec ed is regarded as a costly burden which the district, some schools, some parents, and yes- some teachers don't want to deal with.

Our family went through many battles to get my niece the services she required so now at 13, she's working at grade level, successfully mainstreamed in reg ed most of her schooldays and has a future that means a HS diploma, possibly college, gainful employment, and more importantly, independence. We gladly paid many thousands out of pocket every year to cover more therapy time and things her IEP cannot cover. If this child had lived 40 or 50 years ago, she would have been shuttered away and dependent on the state and family to support and care for her.

proud auntie

Anonymous said...

I hope Rosenthal fact checked who he was quoting as the state, since he is quoting not the OSPI Sp Ed department who has actual authority to hear citizen's complaints, but instead a Stacy Gillet who has for years worked for a law firm that represents parents. She can't take Seattle issues in her state job because of her conflict of interest. Not doing that kind of fact checking will make it easy for those in power to spin this as being biased and not accurate. A quote from Doug Gill would have given the "state official" quote credibility.

-SPS Sp Ed Watcher

Floor Pie said...

@ proud auntie - Yep, there's a whole lotta hate and ignorance going on in the Comments section over there. That's the Internet for you. Ugh.

I encourage all of you to register and add comments of your own to keep the discussion elevated.

mirmac1 said...

"Does he hold anybody accountable? No. Only the kids. They should just take it. He asks at a board meeting "When will you find the discretionary sped spending so we can cut it?". But under his watch all sorts of other, pricey discretionary programs have been made available to other students: STEM at Cleveland, Garfield Palace, Language Immersion, etc"

Amen. Special education is where DeBell amorality shines.

mirmac1 said...

"You'd think he'd be ashamed to keep saying it out loud. It sounds awful."

Floorpie, one would think. But among the entitled he is their champion. Why waste OUR money on THOSE kids? They are unworthy of education.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I will start out saying something I said previously and then deleted due to cellphone typos--I'm pretty sure that there's a whole lot of SpEd parents and likely a lot of staffers, too, who would have no qualms about throwing Brian Rosenthal a ticker-tape parade.

Special ed is unsexy and shuttered away in most mainstream media, so this is fairly astonishing that such a lengthy and broad-based article got published.

Brian spent a lot of time researching this article, talking to people, and writing. I'm guessing hundreds of hours was spent on this project. I love the first sentence, referring to a report about special ed that Superintendent Banda admitted just the other night that he didn't read. That says a lot. So kudos to Brian.

And kudos to the brave staffers who went on record about their experiences in Special Ed. Thanks for telling the truth. From my experiences over the past few years, it was such a rare thing for someone employed by SPS, especially administrators, to speak the truth, I almost came to believe that my own truth existed in some sort of alternate universe from SPS. Thank God I never ran into Marni Cambpell personally. That would have only added to my list of frustrations.

The trolls on the Times website comments section are real losers. Really, if you've never read the comments there, you should be warned.

I don't know if it makes sense to spend a lot of time commenting there or not. I think it might be good to write a letter to the editor to say what you think. That goes in the print edition, too, and thankfully, there seems to be some higher standards there.

dan dempsey said...

"Special education began in 1975, when Congress gave disabled students the right to an education and gave school districts extra funding to provide it."

So do the Feds give enough funding to actually provide all the needed services?

So what does the District actually do with the Fed funds available?

====
So we know the District has failed to provide adequate Special Education services .... and an adequate k-12 math program. Not to mention the Native American program disasters.

To paraphrase MAD Magazine's
Alfred e. Newman ...
What? them worry?

---- How is MGJ doing in Detroit?
Results don't matter in this game for Ed Administration.

dan dempsey said...

Another Ed Voter mentioned:
STEM at Cleveland
as an example of extremely poor spending decisions
under DeBell.

I think the vote to spend $800,000 on New Tech Schools three years of services (which was $800,000 flushed away).... was a 4-3 vote ... with Carr, Martin-Morris, Sundquist, and Maier being the four.

DeBell in fact gave a nice reasoned argument for voting against.

The NTN STEM fiasco took place with votes from the Big Money favorites "block of four" not DeBell.

What Them Worry?

Brian M. Rosenthal said...

SPS Sp Ed Watcher:

You raise a fair point. To answer your question: Yes, I did interview Doug Gill...and other people at the state and around the state. They had the same perspective.

As is almost always true in stories like this, I interviewed many more people than made it into the article. The names that don't appear are just as important to us reaching our conclusions as the names that do appear.

In this case, more people I interviewed are not quoted than are quoted. You know who you are. Thanks.

--
Brian M. Rosenthal
http://www.twitter.com/brianmrosenthal

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Did Ms. Gillett tell you about her primary job and that she isn't allowed to handle SPS matters in her job with the Governor's Education Office because of her conflict of interest? If yes, you may want to update your article to identify her by that job rather than her Ombudsman position, where she isn't allowed to touch Seattle issues. If not, look into it so your story doesn't loose impact because those I power can portray it as biased and based on flawed information.

-SPS Sp Ed Watcher

whitney said...

I think much of the problem lies with the Central Office, Superintendent, and Board chasing every new initiative rather than taking care of the real business first.

Just look at all of the time, energy, money, and staff resources we have spent on TFA. If those man/woman hours had instead been focused on getting a Special Ed Director, on making sure the basics were taken care of in our district, we would be in a far different place. And now Creative Approach is added to that list. Why are we adding to the list rather than first taking care of the list we've got?

When you have too many pans in the fire, none of those pans' contents turn out well. And that's what I see as the basic organizational failing of our district -- Our leaders are chasing shiny objects rather than spending important staff time and focus on the basic job.

I think we should all ask district leaders to stop these other initiatives until this special ed issue is resolved.

Anonymous said...

Sp Ed Voter, quoting the simple fact that Seattle is important to the state, in no way discredits Stacey Gillet or the article. It doesn't say anything about any specific cases or any work that she has done in SPS. She simply notes the facts, as in how many complaints. Not a conflict.

-parent

mirmac1 said...

SPS Sp Ed Watcher

Hmmm, Stacy Gillett or Doug Gill... I would pick Ms Gillett over Gill any day. Gill and his staff have demonstrated how they are part of the problem, doing the absolutely minimum to remain "in compliance".

Anonymous said...

My point is that to quote someone with a known conflict of interest, and this articles will be dismissed by those in power as a biased hatchet job. Gill's office is the state when it comes to Sp Ed, the Ombudsman's office has no power. A statistic based on complaint calls to the Ombudsman won't be taken seriously, particularly because it can be written off as a result of Gillett funneling calls or grinding a personal axe. A comparison of the number of actual Citizen's Complaints filed with OSPI or even OCR before and after ICS and a quote from Gill or his counterpart at OCR would actually carry some weight if this is to result in serious change at the JSCEE.

-SPS Sp Ed Watcher

Unknown said...

SPS Sp Ed Watcher

I'm not going to comment on whether or not Ms. Gillett has any conflicts of interests as to case management. This isn't case management.

It is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would reject the rest of the article because she made a statement about how SPS Sp Ed is broken.

The article represents many interviews with many people. One could draw the same conclusions about the state of Seattle Public School Sp Ed even disregarding Ms. Gillett's comments, which I don't suggest they do.

Anonymous said...

Yes yes yes. Thank you Seattle Times for this powerful PRO-CHARTER piece. Your message, and more importantly, your timing, are loud and clear.

-it could be the straw...

Anonymous said...

Again, I am taking about getting momentum at the JSCEE to actually result in change, Mr. Rosenthal is clearly preaching to the choir on this blog. But none of us has power to impact change other than to vote against current board members when next they are up for election or to pursue a legal action on our own if we have a case. The Board, the Superintendent, they have power to make change happen, that only works if people like Ms. Campbell can't explain this article away as being biased, my point is that identifying Gillett as a role she doesn't have with respect to Seattle doesn't help with that. It just puts her in the group that can be explained away as biased because of personal/financial interest, which is how Prof. Schwartz has been explained away in the past, "of course she says negative things, she wants a bigger contract for herself." I am saying be smarter than that and call Gillett a long-times rent advocate so that it doesn't blow credibility,

-SPS Sp Ed Watcher

Anonymous said...

My point is that to quote someone with a known conflict of interest, and this articles will be dismissed by those in power as a biased hatchet job.

But, they will think it's a biased hatchet job anyway. ??? The ones "in power" are the ones that actually hear all the complaints, read the audits - special ed audit, finance audit that specifically cite Ballard high for essentially embezzlement, etc, and then cover it up, minimize it, ignore the problems, and fund the dispute management. None of that has 1 thing to do with some bizarre conflict of interest. How about Marni Campbell applying for a special education directorship - just to get a promoted to the next rung up from principal? Now, THAT'S a conflict of interest.

Talking about special ed generally, isn't a conflict of interest for anybody, anywhere. What are you saying? Stacey Gillet is going to get some new business because she counted up the cases going to the state's ombudsman? Ridiculous claim.

Also, Brian didn't even mention that the district also has a new fulltime position (another 100k or so job) - SPS ombudsman. 70% of that job is special education. I wouldn't be surprised if that becomes several fulltime jobs instead of just one. Kaching - more money on disputes instead of service.

-current sped parent

Anonymous said...

Besides - ANYONE who is a education professional, from IA to teacher to psychologist to speech therapist to university professor - could be seen to have a conflict of interest. They can all do tutoring, right? They can recommend programs that they themselves teach, for the sole purpose of keeping their own jobs, right? WHo knows? Maybe we don't need school at all... education is all just a conflict of interest with those who want teaching jobs?

You could view any of that as a conflict of interest. But then, you wouldn't be able to write any article on the subject. Your claim goes to far - just like the rest of them do.

-current sped parent

Anonymous said...

No actually they can't under the post-Potter conflict policy and procedure.

-SPS Sp Ed Wacther

Anonymous said...

Who? District employees?

They can't what? Tutor? Start their own tutoring businesses, or take private psychology testing clients? SLPs and OTs can't have their own private practices? Of course they can and do. When? Now, or in the future? Are you saying district employees can never take an education related job in the future?

Even if the district had some policy about this, it would be utterly unenforceable. It's certainly possible that the district has many policies that are ridiculous. And if they DO have some misguided "conflict of interest" policy - it isn't because of some newspaper reporting, it's to cover their own butts - not to discredit newspaper stories.

Or maybe you're talking about something else.


-current sped parent

Anonymous said...

Correct, look at the post-Potter ethics policy and procedure. Staff can't tutor students they serve while they ar district employees. Private practice better serve kids in other districts, and certainly not kids you are currently working with as a staff member.

-SPS Sp Ed Watcher

Anonymous said...

Right. But if you speak to media about how much service the kids are NOT gettig in school, and then you provide that service (like speech or OT) to kids, even if they aren't your own school based students - YOU STILL have a conflict, or could be seen as having a conflict. If you're a teacher complaining about the state of education - you ALSO have a conflict. More education funding means more for teachers. More pay (potentially), more job security. Right? By that measure - every single district employee who spoke up - has a conflict of interest. Don't they all just want more for themselves?

Stacey Gillet's position is really no different. In fact it's less. She isn't advocating for anything that would benefit her. She's only advocating for improvement in a system that would actually REDUCE her own profits.

I really don't see the district's "conflict of interest" with regard to reporting issues - as ANY benefit to the community. Covering your a** and hiding information - doesn't benefit me.

-current sped parent

PS. I can see not taking your own student's as private clients. (I have definitely hired my teachers for extra work without ANY problems.) But, I can't see any problem or authority that the district would have over private work from teachers who do NOT work directly with your student.

Anonymous said...

Let's just all wish the ombudsman's office had some power because then some of Seattle's issues might get addressed.

Doug Gill's office within OSPI appears to be part of the problem. Help from Gill's office? Not so much...unless of course it has gotten to the federal level and someone from DC is on the way out to kick the state's butt. (And to be clear the butt-kicking would most likely happen specifically because of Seattle.)

There's a reason Gill isn't quoted here. Or seen in these parts. That would require actual interest and involvement in dire states of affairs. Which would mean doing something more physical than collecting a paycheck.

Here's how you get things done in Seattle (and note that calling Gill ain't one of them.)

Call the ombudsman to log a complaint. Threaten the district with legal action. Call the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Education.

Wish there was a more reasonable alternative to bringing on the big guns, but there isn't. Most every other seemingly reasonable alternative is wasted energy. Which parents fighting for baselevel education for their children don't have much of.

****Been There Done That****

Anonymous said...

That was one hell of an article by Rosenthal. The public comments following are divided into frightening neanderthal 'lock the kids up and don't waste your time', and outraged teachers and parents who are hacked off that the district could care less about special education.

My favorite comment though is from neither group. It is one of the highest rated comments and calls the icky Corporate Reform groups in town to the mat, then slugs them hard. They are down for a count of 10 and wouldn't get up even if they cared to. Which they don't.

DistrictWatcher

Worst of all are the Education Reformistas. Yes, we see you LEV and Stand on the Children and DFER and Alliance for Education, and the City and Family Levy - the one with the special kiss of city 'ownership' by Tim Burgess and Holly Miller and Mike McGinn.

None of you give a rat's @#) about 7000 of our students. You deny audience to the citizen leaders pushing for better. You deny communities eager and desperate to engage. You deny funding. You deny high standards.

You deny special education's very existence, 'busy' as you are with your powerpoints and growth matrix sheets. Oooooooo. Education of these kids costs time and money and full-on dedication and patience and ground level coordination that you can't even begin to imagine. Doesn't fit into your neat little ed reform package at all, does it?

If you can't deign to acknowledge the most vulnerable among us, you can take your ed reform snotty, hypocritical attitudes and go rot. You are hollow at your cores.

Eric M said...

this is hardly an argument for charters. charter schools have a well-documented track record of not serving any students who require extra services, concentrating them inside a smaller public system. charters would solve none of the problems outlined here.

Eric M said...

this is hardly an argument for charters. charter schools have a well-documented track record of not serving any students who require extra services, concentrating them inside a smaller public system. charters would solve none of the problems outlined here.

mirmac1 said...

Amen Times Commenter! Those you call out are all in bed with DeBell, Sara Morris, Shannon Campion etc etc. You would all deny our childrens' existence because the profit margin just isn't there. But hey! One of Ed Reform's latest scheme's is providing special ed online! Well, isn't that special (picture Dana Carvey's Church lady).

Unknown said...

Oh yes, where are the ed reformers when you talk about Special Ed, ELL and homeless students? Nowhere.

Unknown said...

Mirmac1, I find the idea of shuffling SpEd kids into online education repugnant. Sure--make them invisible, and limit their social interactions. Best of all, it's really cheap. How do you meed their needs on IEP's? have them sign forms saying that you agree you are withdrawing them from SPS and enrolling them online, where apparently you don't need IEP's. I'm not joking. It happened to a friend of mine at SPS with her son.

If you want to see how "non profit" charter and virtual schools really scam the system, it is through the use of for profit online education contracts. Check out this article: Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine.

Anonymous said...

An idea of what a mess SPS department was the twice yearly disaster called Power Teaching. This year it was held at Nathan Hale, but is was probably more disorganized and poorly run than usual--long long bottle-necked lines to register with various consulting teachers shouting instructions over the din, workshops held in small classrooms without enough seating for everyone, microphones not working,



There's some important aspects that the article could have mentioned, but left out. For example, the inclusion programs in the elementary schools are nearly extinct--just 4th-5th this year, and only 5th next year. These programs formed a bridge between self-contained and resource.

It also did not mention much about the lack of training provided or required for general education teachers, as far as, accommodations or IEP compliance. It's always seems like it is up to us to explain these things to general education teachers and certain principals, when we have no real authority over them.

--Sorrel

Anonymous said...

I'm very disappointed in Supt Banda's defensesive response.

I'm disappointed in Marni Campbell's cheap attempt to skate around what occurred on her watch.

I'm disappointed this article couldn't drill down more on the culture in SPS Legal Department - how often do they genuinely work to avoid litigation? Probably never.

I'm concerned that the Times may have no follow up articles lined up, that this thing is supposed to stand alone. It's a brief awareness piece in a paper that has done virtually noting to educate and inform the public about special education issues. Rosental should be congratulated for a very solid first step to fill that void but what's next?

reader

Anonymous said...

Reader,

The culture of the SPS legal department and this specific position is that of a revolving door. Part of the reason outside counsel costs went up is that they moved an attorney into the position who knew nothing about Sp Ed because the hot shot HR gal from Chicago (who didn't last a year) wanted a different attorney. In ten years, this attorney position has been held by : Brenda Little, Holly Fergason, Shannon McMinime, Gary Ikeda (a fill in between attorneys), Kevin O'Niell (quit altogether recently), Fay Chess-Prentiss, Chris Williams and now Andrea Fraiser. Of those, maybe two knew what they were doing, and I bet parents hated them the most. And keep in mind there have been four general counsels during the same time period, only one of which had a clue about school law (Mark Green), and one of which was promptly moved to second in command in a non legal position. Ron English is still the acting general counsel and is a construction guy.

-Ed Read

Anonymous said...

Dan Dempsey says: So do the Feds give enough funding to actually provide all the needed services?

Typical Dan Dempsey commentary.

Washington State's Education For All act PREDATES IDEA! Guess what? That means that Washington State already was on the hook to fund ALL of the education for students with disabilities. All of it. 100%. With not a cent from our federal friends.

Why in the world should the feds have to provide any of funding for the education of students with disabilities? Do the feds provide funding for girls? Black students? Asians? No, no, and more no. Just because the federal government makes discrimination illegal - doesn't make them liable for any funding.

We should be thankful that there's some federal funding for students with disabilities. Thank you feds!

-spedvocate

Unknown said...

@Ed Read,
The new attorney's name is Andrea Schiers. Chris Williams is gone. Are you sure that Kevin O'Neill is also gone?

Anonymous said...

Sorry I got her last name wrong. Kevin O left last week. Legal office is Ron English, John Cerqui and the new gal.

-Ed Read

Anonymous said...

@reader and @Brian Rosenthal if you are out there-----

There are plenty of places to follow up this story. How about the taxis the district uses to send our kids many of them nonverbal or learning English across town as a fine place to start. Or the number of parents who attend school with their kids because the district refuses to assign an aide. Or how about the kids getting their services in broom closets while the general ed kids are in regular rooms. How about the ridiculous number of open special education teacher and assistant positions being filled by no one. Or how about the flood of autistic students coming into the district but no plan to handle them. Or maybe the number of African-American boys diagnosed with a behavioral problem to get them out of general ed classrooms. How about the lack of district compliance with IEP paperwork or the no-knowledge principals who kick special ed kids to another school. There doesn't need to be another story. There needs to be a weekly column.

****Been There Done That****

Unknown said...

@reader,

I think it would be fairly difficult to address everyone's particular issues about the problems with special ed in any sort of digestible way. In my view,the article was quite large--it was the largest item on the front page, and spanned about 200 column inches in total. By anyone's yardstick it was a big article. It was not a slap-dash effort; the writer took many months and interviewed dozens of people. As far as I know there is at least one more article following.

Whether the next article talks about the legal department or not, I can't say. I'm going to guess not. The legal department, in my experience, is fairly uncooperative, combs their hair over pointy green ears and usually return to their original planet of origin in a year such that the replacement attorney can rightfully deny any knowledge of anything you accomplished with the previous attorney. Do you really think they are going to tell you statistics on how they strategize? I really don't think so. I think you should be able to get data, though on how much they spend on cases and outside attorneys,etc. But it would take several months and you probably wouldn't get what you want without a fight.

Unknown said...

****Been There Done That****,

You have some really great ideas. How about some op-eds? Unfortunately for us SpEd types, Mr. Rosenthal's superior talent for writing SpEd exposés has been co-opted by the ST political team for covering the 2012 elections.

Jet City mom said...

The state has a safety net for districts who demonstrate that they have used their allotted SPED monies and need more.
In years past, SPS would not apply for this safety net money because they couldn't show where they had spent had spent it & what they needed more.
I seem to remember however that they cleaned up their act enough to apply for it a few years ago, does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

You know, I just read the article and two things struck me. It was big on anecdotes and very short on facts. The quotes were short and without context. It gave no examples of a district in the US that does it "right" and offers no solutions.
And the timing of the article only serves to further the call for charter schools.
I say bad reporting(college level at best) and maybe an ulterior motive.

Not Impressed

Anonymous said...

****Been There Done That****, I love your idea of a weekly column! No end of issues to daylight. On the discipline disproportionality front, the incidence of informal "in house" suspensions of kids with disabilities is something that principals are not required to give specific accountings about - sped v nonsped. I know there are principals who respond to this with "why should I." A weekly column would help and maybe even create an accountability culture.

another reader

Anonymous said...

Well gee "not impressed". The state auditor found the Ballard HS funding problem - the district did nothing. That was reported about in this artcile (most people around here knew about it already.) The discipline/suspension rate 3X normal is right from OSPI. District does nothing. Reporter reported on it. Test scores abominable - but slightly better than state's average, also straight from OSPI. Plus facts on complaint rates, legal defense funding, and new initiatives. Throw it all together and voilla, a fine article. But gee, if all that doesn't "impress" you what would it take? Does some kid have to get killed before you gave a rat's a**?

It's not surprising that the reporter couldn't find the model district for special education - even the authors of the 2007 special ed audit couldn't find one either.

-sped reader

Anonymous said...

As to "ulterior motive" of the author. How about 168 comments in the Times, and going on 100 here. Clearly the article is attracting some readers! And that is the "ulterior motive" any reporter is looking for.

Thank you Brian Rosenthal.

-sped reader

suep. said...

@Not Impressed -- Except that charter schools are notorious for not serving special needs kids at all. So I don't see how this article would make the case for that non-solution.

Jan said...

Thanks, Brian, for shining some light on this issue. I fully agree with those who hope that this is just the beginning of much more attention to and action on this issue. My impressions (only 1 SPED kid, at 1 Seattle School, so I can't speak to the wider issues) matches what -parent said above. Despite a fair amount of cluelessness at the very top levels, a range of mid-level SPED personnel, over a number of years, had established a number of inclusion programs that were working well. MGJ dismantled much of what worked -- and replaced it pretty much with nothing --. This would have been disheartening in the best of times -- but coupled with her disastrous reign over school closings, standardization of materials, and teacher evaluations, with a little Pottergate and some dreadful audits sprinkled in, it is a no brainer to see why the wholesale destruction of the former SPED programs in Seattle got short shrift. Just as with everything else -- there was so much more that needed to be done. And instead, she drove what little there was straight into the ground!

Once the sting of this article is absorbed, I am really hopeful that Mr. Banda will stop to realize that while the search for a good SPED director is important, there is much more to be done here than simply filling one Director-level position. There is so much SPED expertise in this city. There are so many SPED families that would be willing to get behind an effort to turn SPED around and make it successful. Let's GO, SSD.

And Mr. DeBell. Enough on cost. Stop it. It has ceased to add any value to the discussion, and has become an example of whining and scapegoating (blaming the kids for the temerity of costing money to educate).

Jan said...

Thanks, Brian, for shining some light on this issue. I fully agree with those who hope that this is just the beginning of much more attention to and action on this issue. My impressions (only 1 SPED kid, at 1 Seattle School, so I can't speak to the wider issues) matches what -parent said above. Despite a fair amount of cluelessness at the very top levels, a range of mid-level SPED personnel, over a number of years, had established a number of inclusion programs that were working well. MGJ dismantled much of what worked -- and replaced it pretty much with nothing --. This would have been disheartening in the best of times -- but coupled with her disastrous reign over school closings, standardization of materials, and teacher evaluations, with a little Pottergate and some dreadful audits sprinkled in, it is a no brainer to see why the wholesale destruction of the former SPED programs in Seattle got short shrift. Just as with everything else -- there was so much more that needed to be done. And instead, she drove what little there was straight into the ground!

Once the sting of this article is absorbed, I am really hopeful that Mr. Banda will stop to realize that while the search for a good SPED director is important, there is much more to be done here than simply filling one Director-level position. There is so much SPED expertise in this city. There are so many SPED families that would be willing to get behind an effort to turn SPED around and make it successful. Let's GO, SSD.

And Mr. DeBell. Enough on cost. Stop it. It has ceased to add any value to the discussion, and has become an example of whining and scapegoating (blaming the kids for the temerity of costing money to educate).

Melissa Westbrook said...


"Why in the world should the feds have to provide any of funding for the education of students with disabilities?"

Because all states don't comply with serving Special Ed students. It's great you believe WA State does/would without federal law but not all states do/would.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a weekly column that states a current problem, who at the District is responsible for dealing with it, how they respond to an inquiry, and describing how the situation is resolved in a timely (or not so timely) manner. In many newspapers this has been a popular format. I say we need one for District Issues from the "stakeholders" perspective.
Two years to go.

Anonymous said...

Hey KUOW just also ran a special ed story. It references the Times article yesterday. The KUOW piece was more personality focused, but seemed compelling in a human way, where the Times had statistics, which was also good.

I looked up the KUOW story link in case people didn't hear it. A one-two punch on special education. If the district doesn't pay attention now, I can't imagine what will, aside from lawsuits, which is an unfortunate way to proceed.

SavvyVoter

Anonymous said...

The vulnerable should be protected and always have community vigilance. Problems need to be brought into the day-light and solutions sought.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/nyregion/included-accused-of-bilking-city-of-millions-in-special-education-funds.html?_r=1&ref=education

Public School Parent

Backscratcher said...

Ed Read said:

The culture of the SPS legal department and this specific position is that of a revolving door.

Amen to that. The latest reject, Chris Williams, just left... thank god. I had to be in a couple of meetings with this guy and I'm pretty sure he was doped up on something.

The district seems to get the quality of lawyer you might expect -- barely able to read and more concerned with covering their own butt than actually helping parents or teachers.

mirmac1 said...

Public School Parent,

Doug Gill needs to read that NY Times article. Same with the State Auditor. The latter seemed easily dazed by DeBell's brilliant logic (or whining, depending upon your POV). Restricted-use funding like special education, LAP, ELL are just another source of slush funds for some principals.

Beckett said...

Long time SSD SpEd employee...

This story is barely the tip of the iceberg. The most egregious cases I have seen over many years involved where "low-incidence" students have been placed in schools and programs that were completely inappropriate -- even dangerous -- for them.

Usually those are decisions made by what we call "consulting teachers." Some of those CTs are good, but some really shouldn't even be allowed to hold sharp objects.

I can recall one child with a feeding tube that needed constant clearing and caused frequent regurgitation that he occasionally aspirated. He was placed in a school without a nurse.

This is right after the district had been sued for millions when another child at different school did aspirate and suffered even greater brain damage.

Any attempts to talk some sense into the CT and the director (Campbell) about this placement by several people was met with threats.

A teacher at another school who advised the parent against placement of this child in her classroom was disciplined and harrassed by the director and nearly lost her job.

The kid didn't die... but only because of luck.

Anonymous said...

APP parents make a lot of noise for their sped kids. why? less stigma. The district can't reduce stigma, only parents can and too many sped parents dont want to talk about it. understandable but it maintains the status quo. from what i have seen at my inclusion school is staff doing their best to balnce the needs of sped and non sped kids. we all want all kids to feel accepted and get the best education possible, ELL, gifted, 2e, sped, LGBT. to constantly blame the board and the administration is to miss the real problem. Society at large dismisses these hard and expensive to teach kids. Society needs to learn to respect and value all kids. This will not happen by yelling at the district. They arenot a PR firm, they run schools as best they can with fallible human beings. We need to convince the public, wj=ho by the way pays for schools, of the value of effective inclusion. the benefit that will accrue to all of us if we succeed. th eparenst I know tell you over and over about their kids issues are my heroes. they are attacking the sourece of the problem. Stigma.

Rock

Unknown said...

@Beckett,
Someone should have whistle-blown on that one. Did anyone call the state?

Jet City mom said...

APP parents make a lot of noise for their sped kids. why? less stigma. The district can't reduce stigma, only parents can and too many sped parents dont want to talk about it

All due respect , Rock, what the hell are you talking about?
I am very proud of both my kids, both of whom are twice gifted, one who attended private schools with accommodattions, and one attended public schools with accommodations.

Unfortunately one daughter attended SPS when $700,000 that was budgeted for special education, was withheld so that it could go into the general fund the next year. Handy that.
She rarely recieved anything close to a legal & effective IEP.

Because of privacy laws, contact lists of SPED families are not available to parent groups, and without communication helping families become better advocates for their children is very difficult.

Unknown said...

@Rock,

I disagree completely. The point of the article is not that society stigmatizes these kids-although that is clear from a lot of the comments. The point of the article was that SPS administration was not doing the best that it could. It was not compliant with federal law.

The point of the article was that SPS has been "indifferent" to special education.

Your argument that change in society is going to produce change in the failings of special education at Seattle Public Schools is extremely weak. Seattle Public Schools needs to change its attitudes, priorities and funding of indifference to special education. As a start, they need to look at filling leadership positions with experienced leaders, they need to devlop and promulgate models of delivery that work, and they need to provide funding and time for teacher training.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like the article, 'cause I"m still left with wondering what has actually gone wrong, absent the general statements of wrongness. I was looking for specific examples of where things had gone wrong, the kind you could try to fix, individually, and couldn't.

My bottom line is that as long as education is underfunded, the needs of different children are going to end up in conflict with one another, and in that conflict, the most vulnerable (the children whose needs are complex or expensive or who do not have good advocates or are socioeconomically disadvantaged) are going to loose out.

I was also confused about the report of the 10 IEP's that OSPI ordered SPS to follow in 2011. Looking at the OSPI site, I can only find due process hearings (is that the same thing?), and SPS only has 23 over the last 14 years (and that's without looking at what OSPI decided in each case).

(zb)

Unknown said...

Here is the Audio link for the KUOW coverage of SPS SpEd issues by Ann Dornfeld. http://bit.ly/TNoo1w. It is 8 minutes long. I think the audio is more personal and more powerful than the text on the KUOW website. I don't know why that is, but it's true. I think the Seattle Times piece and the KUOW piece are complementary.

I am in the third interview with what happened with my son.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with zb on one point. The district does try to correct the socioeconomic gap, to their credit. If your a non FRL family, you better squeak the wheel.
TP

mirmac1 said...

(zb)

Here is where you can find hundreds of OSPI complaint summaries. Many apply to SPS.

Jan said...

Rock and emeraldkity: it seems to me that the issue is not "either/or." It is "both/and." The District needs to clean up its act, acknowledge and pay attention to this problem, and fix a whole host of issues -- fast. Comments that suggest that maybe the "real" problem is societal stigma, encouraged by timid or misguided SPED parents who only want to yell at the District misrepresent the significant problem that the DISTRICT has with providing educational services to its sped kids. We are not asking the District to fix the societal problems of stigma, exclusion, and bias. We are asking them to step up to their professional jobs, hire the right people, fund the programs, put policies in place so you can't be seen as a "great principal" if you are only great for the 70 or 80 percent of your kids who have no issues -- while you trash and blight the lives of kids with IEPs or 504s, by sabotaging their success.

On the other hand -- there ARE issues around the exclusion and stigmatization of kids who learn differently, require accommodations, etc. That would make a great investigative article sometime for Brian or someone else -- but it wasn't the point of THIS article.

Nor is it sufficient (though it is relevant) to point out the great work being done on the front lines in some schools by some teachers. We do need to acknowledge effort and success where we can find it (no one knows better than SPED parents what help looks like -- because it's like finding rubies, or thousand dollar bills, while walking down the street). The issues are with the overall structure, funding, and management of the program, the interference/noncompliance by many principals and teachers who are clueless or don't want to take on the task of educating SPED kids, and the percentage (whatever it is) of SPED teachers who are NOT up to their jobs.

mirmac1 said...

I agree with sped parent's rejection of calls for federal funding. That is used too often as the excuse to do nothing. Simply because the law of the land under Title IX says you cannot discriminate against women's athletics, doesn't mean that now the feds must pay for girls sports. Ridiculous.

This gives school officials an excuse to throw up their hands and say "Ah!, what can I do?" There are many improvements that can be made, and parents have been at the forefront with suggestions and solutions. But when we get tired of talking to the hand, we get pissed.

Fortunately Mr Banda has seen fit to make room in his schedule for close collaboration with parents, but it took some months in coming. And there is no good reason why we must wait until the next hiring cycle for quality leadership.

Anonymous said...

Thanks miirmac1 -- I was looking for that and only found the due process hearings, which are far fewer in number.

zb

Anonymous said...

Given all the mud slinging, I can see why sped teachers don't stay in the field very long. A thankless job: few resources, thankless and demanding parents, and isolation in buildings. Then there are the endless meetings. Focus on the kids? Yes, that's the best part of the job, but time to do that is getting scarce.

And BTW. Chris Williams did an admirable job. I speak from experience having been involved in a citizens complaint he had to handle. I disagreed with him, (parents prevailed) but he was very professional.

Finally, what's with all the name calling of various SSD staffers? Do you like it when "the trolls" call your kids names? Really, those comments should be deleted unless a person states their real name.

SPED staffer

Anonymous said...


Because all states don't comply with serving Special Ed students. It's great you believe WA State does/would without federal law but not all states do/would.


Melissa, you are missing the point. Lots of schools in Washington state don't comply with IDEA, though it is supposed to. This is not a compliance issue.

The issue here is that education is the paramount duty of the state of Washington. And, that right was extended to students with disabilities before IDEA was enacted at the federal level. Therefore, it is the state's responsibility to educate students with disabilities. I would go so far as to say - this is really a discrimination issue. The feds don't owe you money to stop discriminating.

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

sped staffer, the day that folks in sps step up to admit problems and work with families to solve them, instead of acting like perpetual victims and gatekeepers, will be the day change begins for special education. no wonder families are going bonkers.

reader

Anonymous said...

Complain. Organize and complain. Demand your legal rights. School by school. The NSAP helps to find and work with other parents. I agree with Jan.
Rock

Jan said...

SPED staffer: are we thankless and demanding? I can't speak for everyone, but I would have walked on my knees across broken glass for the wonderful SPED teachers who stood between my kid and educational disaster, who "got" him, who emailed me (often) and answered when I emailed them (often). I can't speak for all the parents of other kids, but the ones I saw were as grateful as I was.
I wasn't even "demanding" (though I have to concede I was beyond ungrateful) to the chemistry teacher who announced point blank that (s)he could not, and would not, provide the IEP accomodations. (S)he thought they were impossible and too time consuming (they mostly consisted of written notes from classes and extra time to complete certain tasks in my kid's specific area of disability, and an opportunity to follow up with oral answers to quizzes and tests -- the biology teacher the year before found them easy and very effective. The chemistry teacher harangued my kid's SPED teacher to remove my child from the class, never answered an email, and refused to give extra help or assist me so that I could. In the end, I decided that my kid would be a better advocate for services in college if allowed to find out just what happened when teachers were a##holes (which this one was -- though I am sure (s)he thinks highly of him/herself, and I know that some kids (APP, etc. -- the ones who "get" things easily and don't take any extra work) probably agree.)

There are many, many problems in SSD sped. I have only the limited view of one parent of one child. But from where I sit, demanding, ungrateful parents are dead last on any list of problems.

Floor Pie said...

I'm with Jan. This "demanding parents" thing seems like a bit of a straw man. Can anyone provide concrete examples?

Anonymous said...

Concrete examples of demanding parents? No, because unlike some people on this blog, I won't call out others by name. Why people like Floor Pie think that is OK is beyone me.

Of course not all parents are unreasonable and demanding. In fact, it is just a few. However, those "few" do tend to suck the time and life out of staff.

SPED staffer

Anonymous said...

Sped Staffer, when you say "call out", you mean, mention a teacher or SPS employee by name? When somebody gets a high position, like Banda, Marni Campbell, or any of the directors - I don't think it a big deal to use their actual name. Likewise, I don't think it would be a big deal to use the name of a PTSA president (usually a parent) or other parent leader. My impression is that most parents are VERY grateful for a job well done by a special educator. Also, many many educators wish that students would just disappear. That's the reality. I'm sure there are some pains in the ass - but isn't that true everywhere?

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

Sped staff, try compromising.

parent

Floor Pie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan said...

SPED staffer said: "Of course not all parents are unreasonable and demanding. In fact, it is just a few. . . ."

Thanks for this comment. I had hoped that was what you meant -- I have no doubt there are a few (to echo what sped parent notes), and I have no doubt that it is disheartening for beleaguered sped teachers when the parents of those you are trying to go to bat for behave badly. From the parent side, it is probably similar. MOST SPED teachers are great. It is only a few who are not. (The same cannot be said for principals and "classroom" teachers -- where the percentages of those who don't, and don't want to, help SPED kids go way up, or the downtown staff, who in my experience seemed positively antagonistic to providing help most of the time.)
We have few allies -- other SPED parents, the professional services community that serves our kids (PTs, OTs, SPs, pediatric neurologists, the EEU folks); we hope we can include as allies the "front line" SPED staffers, who know as well as we do how broken the current system is, and how much better (though far from perfect) it used to be.

Anonymous said...

The Special Ed Post web site ("news for the special education community") posted the Seattle Times article on Seattle School District Special Education problems here: http://specialedpost.com/2012/10/21/is-seattles-special-education-department-beyond-repair/

with the title: "Is Seattle School’s Special Education Department Beyond Repair?"

Reader