Thursday, July 17, 2014

Special Education in our Country - One View

I haven't seen this education writer before but all I can say is she's good (and a great advocate for Special Education students and their parents.)  Thank you, Dr. Nancy Bailey.  As she says:

Let’s take back reform and revive, rally, and recover public schools.

Here she takes on Arne Duncan (red mine):

The fact is there has been a concerted effort for years to get rid of special education. It did not start with Arne Duncan and it probably won’t end with him either.

Consider IDEA 1997 and IDEA 2004. Why did they come up with those reauthorizations? If you think throwing all kids into regular classes, in the name of inclusion, and curbing parental rights for legal representation is a gift, think again.

The sad fact is the ed. reformers know special ed. requires credentialed, well-prepared teachers and good programming and they don’t want to pay for it. Charter schools don’t know how to serve these children…or they don’t want to pay for it. And it is tough to implement good special education with Teach for America.

You also can’t sell Common Core State Standards. Special education is a great indicator to show the importance of differences. You can’t put everyone on the same page, with any of the standards really, if students require an Individual Educational Plan. See here.

But it's not all bad news, not by a long shot.

So are students with special needs doomed? I don’t think so. I’m remembering the court cases PARC v.Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia. There are other cases too.

I am actually encouraged. I see special education as the Achilles heel of the reform movement. Duncan and his ilk don’t know how to assist these kids, and parents find the “high expectations” talk shallow. What parent has low expectations for their child? What person becomes a teacher not to expect great things for their students?

And if it has been done before, it can be done again. We can fight for the rights of children. The ed. reformers know this. It is what they are afraid of.

So, we must look beyond these outrageous acclamations by Duncan and his ilk and remember these words: Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE for short. Say it to yourself over and over again.


mirmac1 said...

"If you think throwing all kids into regular classes, in the name of inclusion...is a gift, think again."

Nancy Bailey (sorry, I'm getting tired of calling Ph.Ds in Educational Leadership "Dr) and I agree on many points but not this one. No one says "throw" all kids into regular classrooms. IDEA calls for students to receive supplementary aids and services. What is certain is that those students that can, SHOULD be learning what is taught in regular classrooms - not herded into rooms off the back hallway. And the expectation should be that those students without cognitive deficits, can and will learn with their non-disabled peers.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear is the point of this topic implying that SPS has well-prepared teachers delivering IEP services?

"The sad fact is the ed. reformers know special ed. requires credentialed, well-prepared teachers and good programming and they don’t want to pay for it"

There are schools in Seattle where students are receiving evidence based services resulting in meaningful academic benefit. These are NPAs including morningside academy, Hamlin Robinson School and Dartmoore. SPS pays around 5 million dollars a year for these services because they cant provide them. With hope soon more qualified students will be able to attend these schools without enduring Due Process via Special Education vouchers.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't write this post; this is written by a Sped teacher on the East coast. This is her view on the state of Sped in public education.

I have no problem with SPS contracting with outside service providers for services they cannot give but good teachers and IEP service should not be one of them.

I am firmly against any kind of vouchers for any reason. It opens the door to the final privatization of public schools.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying
"good teachers and IEP services should not be one of them"
because you believe the current SPS staff are "good" teachers capable providing
appropriate IEP services?

There is no evidence showing special education vouchers lead to charter schools. The opposite is true.

When parents can choose via vouchers it provides a pressure relief value for districts, teachers and students. District's legal cost related to special ed drops dramatically along with bad publicity and bad morale.

SPS spends annually around $5M on NPA placement and $3M on legal cost related to special ed problems.Vouchers will create a much more cooperative environment for all.

If you use the $8M for NPA placement we could send around 570 qualified students to NPA and avoid most OSPI IDEA related hearings and complaints. The ill will generated from SPS special education failures will take decades to repair, how much does that cost, so far around an additional $3 million per year.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I said nothing about charters. Odd that you did.

Anonymous said...

OK, let me correct my post There is no evidence showing special education vouchers lead to privatization of public schools. The opposite is true.

Now are you willing to answer my questions?


Melissa Westbrook said...

You asked one question which I answered.

Unknown said...


I guess I get tired of Special Education being used by either side for purposes not having to do with Special Education.

I've said this before and I will say it again, I am against excessive testing for all students. I'm against privatizing of public education. But there is something disingenuous about it when both the reform and the anti reform movement only talk about special ed when it serves their purposes.

I agree with many of Dr. Bailey's comments, but low expectations are a very real problem both nationally and in Seattle. Melissa, I am not joking when I say there were classrooms for students who receive special education services who had no textbooks well into December. There are many schools where students who receive special education services were picked up 15 minutes early every day, even if their last class of the day was Algebra. What gen ed parent would tolerate that? My son's fourth grade teacher made a unilateral decision (without consulting me) to teach third grade math again, to the whole class because it was convenient, even though my son had been successful in third grade math the prior year, throwing him a year behind without me even finding out until February. Why does this happen? Because there is an attitude and a culture that these kids can't achieve and aren't worth the effort. Ms. Bailey's essay is totally deficient in recognizing this fact. I am guessing that her view is echoed by many teachers, and here is an important point that needs to be made: the views of teachers does not always represent the views of what is best for students with disabilities. For that sort of viewpoint, I look to the national organizations that represent families and students. For example, the National Down Syndrome Society, the Autism Society, the National Fragile X Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association are against increasing the use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) to more than 1% of students. I hardly think you could accuse any of these groups of being tainted by ed reformists. The National Center for Learning Disabilities at one time was even hosting an "Occupy LD" campaign to protest the ESEA (NCLB) waivers being given to states to allow them to weaken standards for students with disabilities.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My thought is not that Dr. Bailey has all the answers but she is pointing out how little Duncan and most of ed reform is doing for Sped students except for lip service.

Anonymous said...

Ms Westbrook, I will rephrase my question/s.

Do you believe all general education teachers in the Seattle schools are educated well enough and certified to provide meaningful academic achievement in every area of service for students who have an IEPs.

If so, can you point to the certification programs used?

So far I've read 3 OSPI decisions where the state ruled in the parents favor specifically because
the Seattle school district could NOT prove the student's teachers were trained in teaching students with a specific learning disability.

You see providing IEP services is more than simply filling out documents and that's something the teachers union can't yet grasp.


Anonymous said...

Duncan? teaching is done in the class room not in DC. The problem starts and end with the teachers.

The apologist never get it!


Anonymous said...

I would place a bet that would be as close to a sure payoff as is possible that most SPS general ed teachers do not read the IEPs of their students.

Further, I would place a second bet that most special education teachers do not initiate outreach to work in tandem with general education teachers.

SPS special education is a disaster from the top down, but often it is only the administration that takes the brunt of the criticism. Let's be clear that lack of cooperation between teachers in gen and special education is also an enormous problem.

SPED mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Do you believe all general education teachers in the Seattle schools are educated well enough and certified to provide meaningful academic achievement in every area of service for students who have an IEPs.

That's just a silly question because you know that I could not possibly know the answer to that. No one could except for the head of Sped for SPS.

I'm not going to engage you in this discussion because we are clearly talking about two different things.

I agree with SPed Mom and I had a child in SPS who has a disability and had an IEP.

Floor Pie said...

"If you think throwing all kids into regular classes, in the name of inclusion...is a gift, think again."

Like ICS. Remember what a raging success of "high expectations" THAT all was?

I would be really, really careful what we wish for here. It's not enough to say "I want my kid to get the same as everyone else" when "the same" is just a pile of uninspired worksheets, standardized testing, and ridiculously large class sizes.

And I agree with Bailey that the "high expectations" talk rings hollow. My son consistently does not get his pullout social skills minutes because his team is spread ridiculously thin. I'm just waiting for the day when the team tries to justify this as having "high expectations" of him!

mirmac1 said...

I would not place ICS in the same class as high expectations. It was ALL about saving a buck and not giving a shick. Inept leader Marni Campbell just barfed out the high expectations line because that's what they all did under MGJ and Enfield. Good riddance to her.

Anonymous said...

SPEDMom, I'm pretty sure most sped teachers do indeed provide outreach the general ed teachers. You are right about not reading IEps. Nobody does that. In fact, most people implementing ieps don't even know the areas of qualification on a student's iep.

The most basic problem is not simply teaching in the classroom. It's that school staff, and our society generally, do not value people with disabilities, even though most people will be disabled at some point in their life. When we value and respect people with disabilities, then we will see teachers teaching them instead of ignoring them, we see efforts in meaningful inclusion.

sped reader

Floor Pie said...

I wouldn't put ICS in the same class as "high expectations" either, but that's exactly how they tried to sell it to us, isn't it? I don't see much difference between that and what ed reformers are doing with special ed now. Maybe the rhetoric is a little smoother, but the results will be the same.

mirmac1 said...

Agreed Floor Pie

Anonymous said...

I have a question that is not really addressed in this post: what about the disruption of placing Sped students in classrooms with no support or educator expertise and then, these students create constant disruptions for other students? We have such a case at our middle school and the student with needs is constantly acting out and causing issues in the classroom and thus, disrupting my child's education.


Jet City mom said...

If the IEP isn't working, it sounds like it needs to be rewritten so it can.
The state has a safety net when the district doesn't have enough money to educate students with special needs appropriately, so there isn't any excuse for anyone's education to be disrupted.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of generalizing in this discussion. I am a special ed teacher. I do make sure that the classroom teachers get copies of IEP goals, accommodations and modifications and I go over them with the teachers. I do work with classroom teachers, parents and other school staff to provide the least restrictive environment for our students. We work together to make the class environment work for all students (and the teacher). I do strive to make the grade level curriculum accessible to our students. Of course, problems arise and parents and staff have to work together to try to address them.
When negative things are said about us in public, we can't comment because of confidentiality which I take seriously.
Rocky Racoon

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