Archives for category: Special Education

I have written before about the controversial program called “Pay for Success.” This is also known as “social impact bonds.” Recently, two officials at the US Department of Education and the White House wrote an opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune applauding the use of “pay for success” to expand pre-kindergarten programs.

 

What is “pay for success” and what are “social impact bonds?” As blogger Fred Klonsky explains:

 

Pay for Success is a social impact bond (SIB) that pays Wall Street investors like Goldman Sachs a bounty for every child that does not receive special education support.

 

Pay for Success is nothing less than a push-out program that then pays the bond investor a bonus for every child that is pushed out of special ed services.

 

Special education advocate Beverley Holden Johns sent me this comment on the administration’s endorsement of “pay for success”:

 
In my opinion this is a new low for USDOE. Uncritically mentioning that
only one student in the PFS group was identified for special education,
justifying these absurd results by stating it will be a bumpy road, completely
failing to stress that only very high quality pre-school produces results –
failing to point to the very substantial questions about the quality of PFS in Utah,
not stating that Goldman Sachs has ALREADY BEEN PAID over $260,000 as its
first payment, and by saying USDOE is excited by Pay for Success in ESSA is irresponsible.

 
Bev Johns

 

 

John Merrow officially retired from his long and distinguished career in journalism, but he is not inactive. For one thing, he has printed up some bumper stickers in appreciation of teachers (the other 1%) and is selling them at cost.

 

And on his blog, he has imagined Eva’s testimony when she goes to court to defend herself against parents of students entitled to special education services and New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James. Of course, she doesn’t back down an inch and says that her charter schools treat all “scholars” exactly the same.

 

Here is a small part of her “testimony”:

 

 

“I certainly do not apologize for using out of school suspensions more than any other schools, whether charter or traditional public. They are an important tool in the Success Academy toolbox, as I have written about in the Wall Street Journal. I know that other schools treat behavior issues at the school, but we think sending the child home sends a message to him or her and to the parents.

 

“A child who cannot keep his eyes on the teacher at all times doesn’t belong at Success Academy. A child who continues to call out the answer to questions, even if she’s right, clearly isn’t Success Academy material. A kindergartener who gets curious about the pictures on the bulletin board and leaves his seat to take a close look, that’s behavior we have to stamp out. Obedience trumps curiosity every time, because if we allowed children to follow their desires, curiosity and passions, chaos would ensue.

 

“Yes, it’s true that the parents of children we suspend multiple times often decide to withdraw their children from our schools, but that’s their choice.

 

A lot of kids leave Success Academy, to be replaced by children on our long waiting list. But, your honor, those kids who disappear from our rolls are PITA kids, not special needs.”

 

Read on to find out what PITA kids are.

 

 

Imagine teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird” to children who can’t read. Teachers of special education are expected to teach the Common Core to their students regardless of their ability or readiness.

This comes from Jill Cataldo, a teacher of special education, blogging on Brandin Stratton’s blog, called “Humans of New York.” (Thanks to readers for correcting me.)

“Even in special education, our curriculum is based on Common Core standards. I’ll have to teach about seasons to a child who doesn’t know his own name. I’m expected to teach To Kill A Mockingbird to a classroom full of nonverbal students, some of whom may be wearing diapers and haven’t learned their ABCs. I think it’s insulting to tell students what they’re going to learn, regardless of their abilities and needs. But I try to work some magic and design a lesson plan where everyone in the class can take something away from the story. For the least advanced students, we just use To Kill A Mockingbird to practice the alphabet. Then I’m also expected to teach Algebra. I try my best using lots of velcro and lamination, but I can’t say that many of my students have ever learned how to solve for x. We spend so much energy on learning how to sit still. I think special populations should be focused more on vocational training like filling out forms and budgeting money—things that will give them confidence and prepare them for independence. But I keep my mouth shut and do my best to work within the system. When I first began teaching, my mentor told me: ‘If there’s anything about the system that you want to fight, just make sure it’s the hill you want to die on.’”

New Jersey Democrat Theresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has a truly terrible idea. She wants to introduce “social impact bonds” that would pay off investors to reduce special education referrals. The assumption behind the bonds is that high-quality pre-K can reduce the need for special education.

A parent blogger was aghast and sees these bonds as an effort to end special education.

The blogger writes:

“What is Senator Ruiz attempting to achieve? Her statement, “we won’t have to have early-intervention programs and classification and wrap-around services because we did the work early on” is naive at best and potentially destructive at worst.

“High quality” Pre-K is not a magic bullet. Students with disabilities will not be magically cured by attending preschool. It sounds too good to be true because it is. New Jersey’s classification rate is about 14.5%, higher in low-income districts where this program will take place.

“Will preschool help decrease the percentage of students who need special education services in those districts? I have no doubt that it will. The research supports that presumption.

“Are you going to end the need for Early Intervention, classification, and wrap-around services? No. You aren’t. There will always be students who would have been classified no matter how much preschool they had. There will always be students who need wrap-around services because we, as country, much less as a state, are doing nothing to address the poverty that creates the need for these services.

“Big picture here is, Goldman Sachs is going to make money on students NOT being classified. RtI is going to become the framework for K-12, delaying as long as possible the identification and classification of students with disabilities. And the Special Education Ombudsman position the Senator is trying to create (because constituents have been begging for help) will work for the NJ Department of Education.”

A reader posted a comment about her own children.

“OMG! We won’t have to have early intervention because we have high quality PreK!

“I have three kids. One reg ed., one legally blind, one entered school as profoundly autistic.

“How, precisely, would the most awesome preK in the world have helped my one year old legally blind child? Who would have taught me to teach him?

“Would great preK have made my autistic kid neurally typical?

“Would NOT classifying them have led to educational success? Does Ruiz honestly believe that neither kid would need special ed if they got great preK?
$1700 a year would not have paid for OT!(and, strangely enough, legally blind kids have issues with hand eye coordination !)

“I am way to hot to write to her right now. I will gather my thoughts and write a letter.

“Thanks. I didn’t know Ruiz was so short sighted as to believe no child could possibly remain disabled when they had great preK.”

From Beverley Holden Johns:

CALL D.C. ON PAY FOR SUCCESS
NOW IN S. 1177, the new No Child Left Behind law (ESEA):

You may be able to leave a message at any time, but to talk to
a live person just stay on the phone ignoring any prompts.

PLEASE SAY: S. 1177 will harm
special education. In Utah, Pay for Success (which is authorized
in the bill), funded by Goldman Sachs, resulted in over 99 percent
of children NOT being identified for special education.
(New York Times article of November 3, 2015: “Success Metrics
Questioned in School Program Funded by Goldman”).

PLEASE BE POLITE, BUT VERY FIRM AND INSISTENT –
YOU ARE TRYING TO DO A MOST DIFFICULT THING.

Call your U.S. Representative at their Washington, D.C. office.

Call House Speaker Paul Ryan at 202-225-0600

Call Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-0100

Call House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at 202-225-4000

(each of above telephone numbers are for their leadership
office within the U.S. Capitol Building)

Call the top Democrat for S. 1177, Rep. Bobby Scott at 202-225-8351
(his office opens at 7:30 AM CST)

THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT ON S. 1177:

The House amendment, but not the Senate bill, includes a definition for
‘‘Pay For Success Initiatives’’.
Amendment to strike the definition and insert the following:

PAY FOR SUCCESS INITIATIVE.
—The term ‘‘pay for success initiative’’ means a performance-based grant, contract, or cooperative agreement awarded by a public entity in which a commitment is made to pay for improved outcomes that result in social benefit and direct cost savings or cost avoidance to the public sector.
Such an initiative must include—

(1) a feasibility study on the initiative describing how the proposed intervention is based on evidence of effectiveness;

(2) a rigorous, third party evaluation that uses experimental or quasi-experimental design or other research methodologies that allow for the strongest possible causal inferences to determine whether the initiative has met its proposed outcomes;

(3) an annual, publicly available report on the progress of the initiative; and

(4) except as provided as under paragraph (2), a requirement that payments are made to the recipient of a grant contactor or cooperative agreement only when agreed upon outcomes are achieved.

Unfortunately NOTHING in this definition would have stopped
what is happening in Utah and in Chicago.

As we just passed its 40th birthday, special education
faces perhaps its greatest threat since the Education
of the Handicapped Act (EHA), now the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was signed into law.

The new No Child Left Behind bill, S. 1177, as reported
by the Conference Committee between the U.S. Senate
and the U.S. House includes the permissive use of Federal
funds by States AND by local school districts FOR
Pay for Success.

Funded by Goldman Sachs, Pay for Success in Utah
denied special education to over 99 percent of the
students that were in the early childhood Pay for Success
program.

Goldman Sachs has received a first payment of over
$250,000 based on over 99 percent of students NOT
being identified for special education.

Based on these results, Goldman Sachs may receive
an over 100 percent return on its investment as it
will receive yearly payments based on students
continuing to NOT be identified for special education
(multiple yearly payments for one student).

If special education is reduced to less than 1 percent
of students, for all practical purposes it will cease to
exist.

Goldman Sachs has also funded a Pay for Success
program for the Chicago Public Schools based on
paying Goldman $9,100 for each student, each year, NOT
identified for special education, but results for Chicago
from that program are not yet available.

Success is not the elimination of special education.
Success is not failing to identify students as needing
the specialized and individualized instruction required
by IDEA.

We simply cannot expect the general education teacher
to do it all, to know it all, and to achieve academic
excellence for each and every student.

Pretending we can eliminate disability, pretending
that almost every student with a disability and their
parents will benefit WITHOUT the legal rights of IDEA
which are only granted when a student is identified
for special education, is to turn us back over 40 years
to the time before we had State laws and then the
Federal law requiring special education for each and
every student with a disability.

Beverley Holden Johns is a nationally recognized expert on special education. She is alarmed that the new “Every Student Succeeds Act” permits states to engage in “pay for success” plans, where investors earn money by not referring students for the services they need. Get on the phone to your Senators and Congressmen at once to stop this money-making scheme.

 

Johns writes:

 

 

As we just passed its 40th birthday, special education faces perhaps its greatest threat since the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA), now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was signed into law.

 

The new No Child Left Behind bill, S. 1177, as reported by the Conference Committee between the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House includes the permissive use of Federal funds by States and by local school districts of Pay for Success.

 

Title I, Part D
‘‘(A) may include—
‘‘(i) the acquisition of equipment;
‘‘(ii) pay-for-success initiatives;”

 

Funded by Goldman Sachs, Pay for Success in Utah
denied special education to over 99 percent of the
students that were in the early childhood Pay for Success program.

 

Goldman Sachs has received a first payment of over
$250,000 based on over 99 percent of students NOT being identified for special education.

 

Based on these results, Goldman Sachs may receive
an over 100 percent return on its investment as it
will receive yearly payments based on students
continuing to NOT be identified for special education (multiple yearly payments for one student).

 

“If special education is reduced to less than 1 percent of students, for all practical purposes it will cease to exist,” says Bev Johns, Chair of the Illinois Special Education Coalition.

 

Goldman Sachs has also funded a Pay for Success
program for the Chicago Public Schools based on
paying Goldman on the number of students NOT
identified for special education, but results for Chicago from that program are not yet available.

 

“Success is not the elimination of special education.
Success is not failing to identify students as needing
the specialized and individualized instruction required by IDEA,” states Johns.

 

“We simply cannot expect the general education teacher to do it all, to know it all, and to achieve academic excellence for each and every student,” says Johns.

 

“Pretending we can eliminate disability, pretending
that almost every student with a disability and their
parents will benefit WITHOUT the legal rights of IDEA which are only granted when a student is identified for special education, is to turn us back over 40 years to the time before we had State laws and then the Federal law requiring special education for each and every student with a disability,” states Johns.

 

It is possible that Pay for Success is also in other
parts of the 1,059 page S. 1177.

 

The section quoted above is in SEC. 1020 of S. 1177,
PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION PROGRAMS
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH WHO ARE
NEGLECTED, DELINQUENT, AT-RISK
which amends Part D of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Section 1415.

 

For more information: 217-473-1790

A group of parents, teachers, and scholars wrote a petition to the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is hiring Teach for America to supply inexperienced teachers for students with disabilities. It is astonishing that the board would want to place young college graduates into classrooms with students who need well-trained teachers, not youngsters with five weeks of training.
PETITION
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/lausd-rescind-the-tfa?source=c.em.cp&r_by=856483

 

 

Cancel the contract that pays TFA to recruit untrained interns to teach our vulnerable special education students. Identify reputable programs to recruit graduates and student teachers who are committed to the teaching profession, to our schools and our students.

 

The long version–

 

This is to urge the LAUSD school board to immediately rescind its contract with TFA for special education services. Our most vulnerable students deserve the most qualified professionals possible.

 

Los Angeles Unified School District ratified a contract with Teach For America to provide trainees to fill 25 teaching positions in special education at its November 10, 2015 board meeting. There was no debate on the matter; it was hidden in the consent calendar with attachments of attachments buried deep.

 

While Board member Dr. George McKenna raised important questions about TFA’s retention rate and its commitment to our students, the answers he was provided were misleading because they rely on unchecked data from TFA itself, according to a report in American Prospect (1/5/15). The truth is 87% of TFA recruits plan to leave teaching after their internships end, according to a recent article in Bloomberg News (3/9/15). LAUSD was only the most recent stop by TFA on a statewide campaign over the last few months making the same claims about the need for special ed TFAers. Most school districts from Chula Vista to Santa Ana resisted the sales job after public outcry. But those districts held actual discussions about the controversial contracts with TFA.

 

LAUSD senior staff needs to go back to the drawing board to create partnerships with reputable teaching programs to recruit teachers who will be qualified on Day 1 and are likely to remain committed to the teaching profession.

 

TFA is one of the tools that Eli Broad is using to attack our schools and undermine the very fabric of the public school system in Los Angeles (his foundation is a top funder of TFA). Our elected leaders just endorsed that by approving this contract. It should be rescinded immediately.

 

We are a coalition of public education advocates that includes:

 

Tina Andres, Santa Ana Unified teacher and special education parent

 
Jameson Brewer, PhD, former TFA

 
Anthony Cody, co-founder/board member Network for Public Education

 
Paul Markowitz, teacher and principal, retired

 
Josh Leibner, National Board Certified Teacher

 
Ellen Lubic, Joining Forces for Education

 
Carl Petersen, Change the LAUSD

 
Betty Jo Ravitz, former teacher and Director of Music

 
Sari Rynew, retired teacher

 
Robert Skeels, Juris Doctor Candidate and public education advocate

 
Julian Vasquez Heilig, PhD, Cloaking Inequity

 
Karen Wolfe, PSconnect

 
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Clever equity investors! Goldman Sachs is profiting by investing in Social Impact Bonds, which pay off by helping pre-schoolers avoid placement in special education. The pilot program is in Utah. Goldman Sachs makes money for every child who is not referred to special education services.

But critics are skeptical:

“Nine early-education experts reviewed the program for The New York Times and identified irregularities in how the program’s success was measured. These seemed to significantly overstate the effect of the investment.

“Goldman said its investment helped almost 99 percent of the Utah children it was tracking to avoid special education.

“Researchers say well-funded preschool programs can reduce the proportion of students needing special education by 50 percent at most, usually nearer 10 or 20 percent.

“The success rate in the Utah program was based on what researchers say was a faulty assumption — that many of the school children would have needed special education without the preschool.

“This overstatement means that Goldman and its philanthropic partner, the J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, received more in payments than they should have. The bank was paid for each at-risk child who ended up not needing special education after leaving the preschool program.

“The Utah school district’s methodology, which led to large numbers of children being identified as at risk, was adopted by Goldman when it negotiated its investment.

“As long as 50 percent of the children in the program avoid special education, Goldman will earn back its money and 5 percent interest — more than Utah would have paid if it had borrowed the money through the bond market.”

Bill Gates recently said that he didn’t realize how hard it was to change education. It is really hard work. He has no idea. Sitting in his air-conditioned offices overlooking Seattle, flying in his personal jet, relaxing on his family yacht, surrounded by hordes of assistants and aides, he has no idea of what teachers do and no understanding of why his efforts to “reform” schools keep failing. He thinks it is hard work.

 

But, in Valerie Strauss’ blog, she quotes Nancy E. Bailey, a special education teacher who left the classroom because of the damage done to her students by high-stakes testing. Bailey explains to Gates what is really hard work. It is harder than “philanthropic work.”

 

Bailey, who wrote the 2013 book “Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students,” challenged Melinda and Bill Gates to spend “some serious time in poor public schools” to learn what is really hard in education for teachers and students — and to “spend time with the many moms of students with disabilities who home-school not because they want to, but because schools have cut special education services.”

 

Here is a shortened version of her admittedly incomplete list of what’s really hard in education (and you can see the full blog post and list here):

 

Being an over-tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
Working as a teacher on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty and must deal with the many troubling consequences that come with a life lived in hardship.
Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
Being made to read before you are ready,
Failing third grade based on one test.
Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.
Being poor and working only in math and reading with little opportunity to participate in music or art classes.
Deciding if you can afford to leave teaching because you hate the changes that negatively impact children, including all the high-stakes Common Core testing.
Knowing you have to teach to pay the bills but understanding why parents dislike you for being forced to implement harsh reforms.
Being told you will have to reapply for the job you need in the career you hold dear because your school has been turned into a charter school.
Working with overcrowded class sizes because some reformer doesn’t know better and thinks class size doesn’t matter.
Not being able to get to all your students because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being able to go to the bathroom when you need to because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being paid for a master’s degree on which you spent time and money to better yourself professionally.
Working in a crummy school building while a brand new charter school is opened down the street.
Getting judged for your teaching by the test scores of students you don’t have.
Being forced to focus more on data than children, and filling out mounds of time-consuming and often useless paperwork.
Watching your young students fail computer-based tests because they can’t type fast enough.
Knowing how much time you spent learning to be a teacher and watching others with inadequate training get jobs.
Being forced to put away your developmentally appropriate student play kitchens, puppets and costumes in kindergarten.
Seeing your school put money into iPads when there are so many other things needed.
Working in a school with no librarian or media specialist.
Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
Not having enough guidance counselors to work with you when your student has mental health issues.
Not having appropriate special education services to offer children who need them.
Being a student in a no-excuse charter school and knowing that you could be punished for the smallest disciplinary infraction.
Having your local school board ignore your pleas to keep your public school open.

 

 

 

A lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, claiming that the charter school did not provide mandated services “and were punished for behavior that arose from their disabilities.”

The lawsuit charged that the students did not get physical therapy and other services for weeks, and that a student with autism “was disciplined for not looking in the direction a teacher instructed or for hiding under his desk.”

Achievement First is a “no-excuses” charter chain with schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Its backers include some of the wealthiest supporters of privatization. The families are also suing the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department for permitting Achievement First to avoid its legal responsibilities to the children. One parent said that her autistic son, a third-grader, was sent to a second-grade classroom as punishment for his behavior. The website of the chain “describes this approach as part of Achievement First’s strict approach to discipline.” It is part of a policy called “sweating the small stuff.”

It will be interesting to see whether federal courts allow no-excuses charter schools to abrogate the rights of students with disabilities.

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