Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sped and the Superintendent

Editor's note; I took out the reference to a "swarm" of people, forgetting that swarm actually implies a large group and that was not my intent.  As well, I had one unpleasant comment saying I was comparing people to insects. Not the case because there are many words used to describe a group. Swarm is one of them.  You can look it up.

end of Editor's note

The Superintendent visited the Special Education SCPTSA last week.

Just broadly, the Superintendent was given a lengthy intro - not by PTA folks but by Nicole Fitch, SpEd Director, then Juneau stated some platitudes and then had one interesting statement about leaving the "technical" knowledge/work to Sped staff.  I would certainly not expect the Superintendent to know all Sped issues inside out but I certainly wouldn't expect her to deflect a question in that manner.
Per the Strategic Plan, there are some basic questions from Sped parents:
  • What is SPS doing to ensure equitable access for students with disabilities?
  • How are they ensuring that students with disabilities have equitable access to their neighborhood schools? 
  • Or what are they doing to ensure students with disabilities being included in extracurricular activities?
It can't be stated enough that, for many Sped families, just trying to get their child's IEP fulfilled is a near full-time job. So their free time for advocacy is limited to a much higher degree than other parents.

I had intended this post to be longer but on the way to doing that I got waylaid by a couple of people in the small swarm minuscule group of naysayers who protect the Superintendent. 

I had asked at a Facebook page, where I read the account of the meeting, if I could use quotes without names.   I asked this:
So, if I didn't use names, could I use direct quotes from here? Or should I just summarize what the general feeling seems to be from the quotes about the Superintendent's visit?
Most people did not want to be directly quoted (as I suspected) and some didn't want any of their wording used.  So I said sure.  What is above is very broad-strokes writing about the meeting.

And then in comes a couple of the swarm beating me over the head about minding my own business and (basically) to stay in my lane (which is odd because SPS is my lane).

I mention this because, as I warned the Sped parents, if you do not toe some written/verbal line, these people in this swarm  group will come for you next. The goal is to shut down, by any verbal means, any discussion about the goals, strategies and initiatives in this district.

So if many parents are getting a beat-down from a few parents determined to snuff out all discussion, then Houston, we have a problem.

One person said, "We need communities working together." To which I say, Good luck. Because you have a superintendent who is definitely NOT a person who is working to unite this district, either in her actions and her wording. 


Anonymous said...

The Sped /Supt meeting was a disaster. Dyslexia advocates are following up full force. Watch.

Fed Up

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I didn't see your post on Facebook in time to say that you could post any quotes you wanted from my comments. And, I'm sorry for the pushback you got from folks who have rarely, if ever, posted on the Seattle Special Education Facebook page. I don't even know if any of them were at the meeting.

As background, a couple of weeks before the meeting, the board of the Seattle Special Education PTSA asked folks to submit questions for the Superintendent in advance and said they would be given to her so -- I don't remember if this last part was explicit or implied -- she would be able to respond at the meeting. Then, at the meeting, after her glowing introduction from Nicole Fitch, she acknowledged receiving the questions in advance, characterized them as "too technical" for her to speak to, said that's why she has experts on staff and relies on them to respond and instead, she was going to talk to us about the strategic plan work. At that moment, I and many others knew that we were in trouble and that the long standing problems in special education services were not going to be given any attention during this superintendent's tenure.

Sometime last year Wyeth Jessee came to a meeting of the PTSA to talk about the strategic plan. People expressed their concern that special education wasn't mentioned in the plan and he assured the group that as the next levels of the work under the broad primary goals of the strategic plan were fleshed out, they would include special education. He promised us specifics.

Well, the Superintendent had no specifics for the special education community last week. She wouldn't even commit to establishing a dyslexia advisory council so that families and local experts can help and work with the district to improve identification and services, as required by the new state law.

I had suggested in advance that we ask what her vision is for special education services, and how she is communicating the values she wants to see in the provision of special education services to staff in the schools. Apparently, that was "too technical." The President of the PTSA did ask her that question (thank you!) and she was unable to articulate anything.

We are left with having to rely on school based leadership for special education services. There are some schools with leaders who understand and work hard to help our children and families. But, the systemic problems remain and there is no clear path ahead. I've been advocating for changes and improvements to special education for almost 10 years and I've never felt more discouraged -- even though my own child is at one of the schools doing a good job and is having academic and social success. I know so many who aren't having that experience and it's wrong.

In 2018-19, 57.7% of special education students in SPS graduated high school in 4 years, compared to 73.8% of African American males. Even though the English and math scores for African American males are low in the early years, the data show that more of them are able to graduate high school in 4 years than special education students. As many of us said last year, when the strategic plan was adopted, without an explicit mention of special education students in the strategic plan, it was unlikely there would be resources and focus dedicated to this group of students who, based on data, are also very far from education justice. We were assured that wold not be the case. Really????


Anonymous said...

I just want SPED families to hold on until the end of February. There's a huge announcement coming. I wish I could have done this sooner.

It will be interesting to see how the new social justice board will react. We will see if they are for real or just posers.


Anonymous said...

Why is this blog moderator on a Facebook page, where people have a stake in the situation, and questioning them about using their comments to help frame her narrative?


Anonymous said...

The blog moderator is a special needs parent.

Thank you, Melissa, for trying to use your platform to give voice on issues that Supt Juneau thinks are 'too technical' for her to take an interest in.


Melissa Westbrook said...

501C, well, that's a tease but tell us, is this coming from the district or an outside source?

Disgraceful, I'm not "framing" any narrative. I was trying to let Special Education parents know what the superintendent of their district had to say at a meeting specifically for Special Ed issues. I did not question them "about" what they said; I asked if I could print their quotes - without names. When some objected, I did not use ANY quote.

SPS Parent said...

Thanks for elevating the concerns of special education parents. I'm looking forward to the announcement.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to tease anyone. I thought it important to counter the district's position mentioned on your important special education POST. There are many moving parts involved in this effort and each takes time.

We are interviewing law firms, setting up a continuing funding model, and figuring out how best to roll this out.

This is real and I've been planning this for many years, I just needed to raise the seed money and that part is almost complete.


Anonymous said...

Finally! @501C please let people know how they can help.

SPED Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Truly, 501C, do send me any info you want made public if you need help.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The recent college scandal unfortunately highlighted that many rich privileged parents do in fact get psych evals to label their kids as needing special education in order to get the benefits that such a label brings (longer time on standardized tests, etc). To what degree this occurs in SPS (e.g. with private testing for advanced learning) is unclear, but it undoubtedly occurs.

This is a difficult topic as many with kids in need of special education have a challenging road ahead of them. I don't want my ignorance on the topic to add to that burden.

But I do wonder how many lower income kids with some special needs (e.g. ADHD, etc) get labeled simply as problem kids and their issues dealt with by discipline (suspensions, etc), whereas those with more plugged-in parents get the benefits conferred by special education status. This is not a diss to parents who have the means to get the correct diagnosis, but rather, a sadness for the many who don't.


Anonymous said...

Wait a minute: "the benefits that such a label brings"??? Who would purposefully expose themselves to the prejudice and misunderstanding of being disabled in this school system? Get a clue still learning. And as for the accusation that only families of a certain income or ethnicity advocate, please travel to a few buildings where there are lots of kids receiving special education services who might fall in to Juneau's 'furthest from educational justice' category. Their families are marvelous advocates. They keep administrators (like "still learning"?) accountable. Still learning sounds like Supt Juneau.


Anonymous said...

@ reader beat me to it.

The idea that people are trying to game the system and win special ed status is ridiculous.

Suggesting that this what’s happening with HCC appeals is just as ridiculous. The typical HCC complaint is that it does NOT admit many special ed students—that they often need to choose between services. And while “extra time on tests” sounds like it could be nice, many teachers already allow that for any student who needs it, and/or they try to make tests short enough that all can finish. For disabled students, a need for “extra time” doesn’t stop at tests—they need it for other assignments as well. Unfortunately, needing extra time does not actually create new time (I.e., add hours to the day). Getting extra time USES more time—time students often can’t spare—so assignments pile up.

That’s not to say there might not be a few cheaters out there who fake a disability simply to try to get extra time for the SAT or something. However, the good news is that most psychologists can likely see through this ploy. Teachers likely can as well—and schools need to submit proof that the requested SAT accommodations have been in place for years, and actually needed and used. In other words, you don’t just buy a fake assessment and get extra SAT time, and whatever faking might occur would involve fraud by others. It would probably easier to just fake your SAT score, GPA, sports prowess, etc at the last minute.

Learn better

Anonymous said...

To add to Learn Better's comments, the College Board demands a lot of documentation -- going back years and years and years -- before giving accommodations. Still Learning has lot to learn. It is unlikely that there is a meaningful point to Still Learning's comments other than to denigrate special needs families. You have to wonder whose purposes this serves in Seattle Schools at this time.


NSP said...

Spedward, I'm skeptical that Liza in particular said that, though I'm willing to be convinced by evidence. I disagree with Liza on many things, but I find it hard to reconcile that Liza would say that Special Ed isn't a real need based on other things I've heard her say and seen her do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

To what degree this occurs in SPS (e.g. with private testing for advanced learning) is unclear, but it undoubtedly occurs.

"Undoubtedly occurs", sure, maybe a couple. But to put that out there like it's a going thing is truly awful. You cannot assign the same motives that wealthy actors have to get a kid into college versus this situation.

More worrying about low-income kids is that they DO get put into Special Education and stay in.

So Spedward, you have until noon to give evidence about your comment or it will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa said: "Undoubtedly occurs", sure, maybe a couple. But to put that out there like it's a going thing is truly awful. You cannot assign the same motives that wealthy actors have to get a kid into college versus this situation. More worrying about low-income kids is that they DO get put into Special Education and stay in.

Agreed. While I know a single case (no details), my phrasing was clearly poor.

Your second statement ('More worrying...) is interesting. My very limited experience is that of a young boy with special education needs being disciplined and not being identified nor assisted for their disability. Here again, my experience is limited. Would greatly appreciate to hear from those who have more experience or have given greater thought to this issue. What are the issues surrounding special education in our communities that are further from educational justice?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to note - I deleted a comment someone made about Hampson/Rankin and what they allegedly said about Special Education. "Spedward" did not come back and clarify where they heard the remarks about those two so I deleted the original comment.

I don't like either Rankin and certainly not Hampson but I deleted that remark because it was inflammatory and the person did not say how they heard it.

I don't have to be fair but that's the way I am (contrary to a couple of trolls).

Anonymous said...

That comment should have been immediately deleted two days ago. Inexcusable that it took so long.

Course Par

Anonymous said...

Here's the Q&A from the Seattle Special Education PTSA and Supt Juneau. Lots of slogans.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Course Par, that comment was placed last night. I queried the author and waited about 3 hours. You want to vent? Go to the Facebook page for the former Soup for Teachers.

Anonymous said...

I think they think you hover over this blog like they do while they are looking for things they can post on Facebook. This blog occupies a lot of space in their heads.


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Anonymous said...

Wow. Lot of ignorance here. Nearly every family with a modicum of finances, gets a private evaluation for disability. Unlike the HCC private evaluation seekers which entitles the holder to a golden ticket to preferential programs, special ed private evaluations most often get students a seat in a school. Without a diagnosis of Autism, which the district won’t or can’t give, the district will just throw students in a restricted special ed classroom with little support. The district has a long history of giving extra resources to students with Autism, Eg Access programs, formerly called Autism Inclusion programs. Without a diagnosis, you they won’t provide an inclusion program. Beyond inclusion program placement and a regular education classroom, parents get evaluation to figure out their child’s needs. The district is legally required to consider the evaluation. Apparently getting extra disability benefits among the well heeled private school students to get extra SAT time. Yes that is widespread. Yes it’s gaming the system similar to HCC gaming. Google it. There’s an easy solution. Make the SAT untimed.


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