Archives for category: Special Education

The following letter by Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, appeared in the Wall Street Journal in response to a column by Eva Moskowitz about “The Myth of Charter Cherry Picking” (it is behind a paywall):

 

Mulgrew writes:

 

 

Eva Moskowitz must have been staring in the mirror when she wrote her latest screed about the “big lie” about charter vs. public schools (“The Myth of Charter-School ‘Cherry Picking,’” op-ed, Feb. 9). Even as others in the charter sector are beginning to acknowledge that differences in student demographics and attrition are a real problem in comparing charters to district schools, she and her organization have refused to admit that many charters don’t educate children with the same challenges as do public schools.

 

Let’s look at one among many examples—Success Academy 3 in Harlem. It shares a building with a local public school, but her charter has half as many English-language learners, fewer than a third as many special-education students and no “high-needs” students in the special-ed category versus 12% in the public school.

 

She also confuses student mobility with student attrition. Most schools in poor neighborhoods have high student turnover. But while public schools—and some charters—fill empty seats, Ms. Moskowitz’s schools don’t. According to state records, more than half the students in one Success Academy class left before graduation.

 

While Ms. Moskowitz cites a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office about student attrition in charters, she neglects to mention an earlier IBO report that found that it is the less successful students who tend to leave New York City charters. And as Princess Lyles and Dan Clark note “Keeping Precious Charter-School Seats Filled,” op-ed, Feb. 3), failure to fill these seats allows a school to maintain “the illusion of success,” as the percentage of proficient students rises.

 

So when Ms. Moskowitz and her allies claim that charters educate the same kinds of children as do the public schools, who is telling the truth?

 

 

Michael Mulgrew

 

 

Bianca Tanis explains in the AFT publication why high-stakes testing is wrong for children with special needs. She describes a system under political pressure to produce data, where data trumps instruction and the needs of children.

Tania writes:

“I am a special education teacher in New York and a mother of two children on the autism spectrum. Sometimes it is difficult to separate these two roles. Being intimately involved in the education system has made navigating the world of special education for my children easier in some ways, but also infinitely more difficult and heartbreaking in others. Simply put, I know too much.

“When my son began third grade in 2012, it dawned on me that, as required by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), he would soon be mandated to take state tests in math and English language arts, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, despite the fact that he reads at a first-grade level and has numerous challenges with language. I was horrified that my child would undergo such inappropriate testing.

“Unfortunately, since the passage of NCLB in 2002, the practice of compelling all students, including students like my son, to take one-size-fits-all, high-stakes tests has become policy. These tests were originally touted as a way to shine a bright light on educational inequalities based on race, class, and disability. While these tests can have negative effects for many students without special needs, they actually prevent many disabled students in particular from receiving an individualized education that meets their needs. Often, they are subjected to emotionally harmful testing. Many special education teachers like myself have questioned why the practice of administering one-size-fits-all tests to special education students persists when it flies in the face of logic and sound pedagogy. Fortunately, many are no longer willing to remain silent about the flaws in this system.”

She says:

“For the past five years, I have taught students with disabilities from kindergarten to fifth grade in an affluent suburb of New York City. My students have a range of strengths and challenges, and although most are classified as learning disabled, they are extremely diverse in their learning needs.

“As our school and state have embraced the Common Core, it has been challenging to bridge the gap between what my students know and can do and what the standards require. The implementation of the Common Core across all grades has resulted in many students receiving instruction without being taught the necessary prerequisite skills. The situation is especially problematic for students with learning challenges who are sensitive to change and depend on sufficient scaffolding of information and skills to learn. Students struggling prior to the implementation of the Common Core suddenly find themselves significantly further behind.

“The problem has only been exacerbated by the advent of test-based teacher accountability required for states participating in the Race to the Top initiative.1 My colleagues and I have found it increasingly difficult to differentiate instruction for our students while keeping up with the curriculum so they will be prepared to take Common Core–aligned tests. Throw in the threat of a poor evaluation and the loss of teacher job security, and you have a recipe for disaster.

“In an ideal world, if my fourth-graders need to spend an extra week or two working on a math concept, I would use my professional judgment to assess their needs. But as things stand, I am forced to move on, regardless of whether they are ready. There are only so many weeks in the school year, and everything yet untaught in the standards must be packed into the remaining weeks because it will all appear on the test. Rather than a fluid process in which students’ instructional needs come first, teaching has become a marathon to cram it all in. I honestly have heard my colleagues telling their students on the fourth day of school, “We have a lot to do today. We are already behind.” Midyear assessments are given despite teachers not having had the chance to teach all the content that will be tested, because administrators “need the data” to assess whether students are on track for end-of-the-year testing.”

– See more at: http://www.aft.org/ae/winter2014-2015/tanis#.dpuf

Nancy Bailey reports that special education is in jeopardy in Seattle.

 

She writes:

 

You can’t put your guard down. Rest assured the wheels of ugly education reform continue to churn. Here is a recent Seattle Times headline, “Special Education is Ineffective and too Expensive, Report Says.”

 

Why? Well, students with special needs, 54 percent to be exact, aren’t managing to get their diplomas on time. They also aren’t going on to college as much as their non-disabled peers. They fail to always reach their NCLB goals on their IEPs. Students with emotional disabilities, I’m guessing with no real SPED services, are getting suspended 2 to 3 times more often than the students without disabilities. Second language students aren’t being served well, and parents have become concerned that their students won’t be employable.

 

I would argue that the reforms that have taken place since the reauthorizations that formed IDEA, along with NCLB and RTTT, have not been in the best interest of students with special needs across the country. The harsh budget cuts haven’t helped either.

 

But instead of fixing the problems in Seattle, and without reassessing the terrible reforms that have been foisted on schools and students with disabilities for the last 20 years or more, this is what the rubber stamped Blue Ribbon Commission Report from the Governor’s office, came up with:

 

The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

 

“System,” of course, implies teachers. Hey, you teachers quit sitting around painting your nails and raise those expectations! And while you are at it—embrace Common Core! Why doesn’t the news say what they all really mean?

 

And this is how the Seattle Times puts it:

 

But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

 

And where does this all come from? What revolutionary research study have we missed? Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education!

 

You see, with higher expectations and plenty of rigor, most if not all of the students with disabilities can achieve excellent results. And that is where the Common Core comes in: Rigor for all. No exceptions, no excuses.

Katie Osgood is a special education teacher in Chicago who has worked for years with children in high need. She has been critical of Teach for America on her blog for sending inexperienced recruits to work in schools with vulnerable students who should have experienced teachers.

She wrote a comment on this blog today about TFA’s leaked memo on how to respond to critics:

“In TFA’s memo, they cite me BY NAME, as a “known detractor”. So, apparently your tax dollars are also going to spying and unsuccessfully debunking tweets/blog posts from a simple special education teacher in Chicago. I have no media team or PR strategy, I’m just writing the truth of TFA and its devastating impact on my city. I am pretty upset how TFA has singled me out and targeted me. I feel violated and even unsafe given the vast power and resources TFA has at its disposal.”

This is very sad. It was written in response to this post. This is a report on the technocratic data collection about preschool readiness of children with disabilities 0-3. There is not a whiff of humanity in this data collection. What are they thinking in the Tennessee State Department of Education? Does any of this help children? Is it part of Race to the Top? What is the point? What benefit to the children? What am I missing? A reader writes: “Tennessee has been using this measure for 4 years. (I am in no way condoning this) Target Data and Actual Data for FFY 2012-13: FFY 2012-13 was the third full year in which Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) data (entrance and exit) were collected from all nine TEIS Point of Entry offices (TEIS-POEs). Since FFY 2010, ECO data have been collected in the Tennessee Early Intervention Data System (TEIDS) based upon the seven-point scale of the ECO Child Outcomes Summary Form (COSF). The Lead Agency calculates and reports only on children that have been in TEIS a minimum of 6 months (defined as 183 calendar days between entry [ECO entrance date] and exit [ECO exit date]). Outcome entrance ratings are made by the IFSP team using assessment/evaluation, eligibility, and parent information at the initial IFSP meeting. Statewide, assessment/evaluation information is obtained from the Battelle Developmental Inventory-2 (BDI-2). Outcome exit ratings are made by the IFSP team at a review change or transition meeting for children who have been in early intervention services for a minimum of 6 months prior to exit or at three years of age. Exit data from Part C are utilized by several Local Education Agencies (LEAs) as entry data for children who are determined eligible for Part B, preschool special education services. http://www.tn.gov/education/early_learning/doc/TN_PartC_APR_FFY_2012-13.pdf

In response to an earlier post about the U.S. Department of Education setting “measurable and rigorous targets” for children with disabilities, ages 0-3, Laura H. Chapman writes:

“This is nothing more than an extension of the Data Quality campaign that Bill Gates has funded since 2005 along with USDE– initially limited to Pre-K through college, but now clearly starting at birth, and likely in a race to get as much data into “the cloud” on each cohort of kids ASAP along with some hard-wired policies such as do this or we will gut the health and human services funding and IDEA funding for your state.

“Comply or else.

“Of course, closing the achievement gap will be easy enough if you just demand more of the parents and hand over all of the “evidence-based interventions” to instant experts. They will have conjured all of the necessary and sufficient measures for ratings of “infant and toddler and parent effectiveness.”

“Don’t forget checklists for observation, with rubrics for properly identifying all-purpose and specialized remedies for every condition, Instant experts on “disabilities” are sure to be ready (for a fee) to share their power points and modules for corrective action.

“Let’s see, let’s have some infant and toddler SLOs with targets to reach every three months, so quarterly reports can be filed at the state level. Or some VAM calculations with grand inferential leaps from scores on cognitive function, locomotion, eye-hand coordination, new scores for versions of the old Piaget experiments. Add some body sensors to pick up rigorous data on pee and poop and tantrum control, a measure of infant and toddler grit in retaining gas or vomit.

“Perhaps the real aim is to privatize the US Census, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, etc., etc., etc.

“I think that Arne Duncan and Bill Gates have never been in the presence of infants and toddlers and adults who are struggling to make sense out of the booming buzzing confusion that marks you as alive and human and doing your best even if you are not blessed from birth with “the right stuff,” plenty of money and connections with people who give you a bunch of tax dollars and discretionary authority to spend these at will..

“I hope the over-reach on this idiotic plan makes big news.

“My fear is that it will not.”

This comment from a reader in response to a post about “pre-school readiness” for children 0-3 with special needs, with “measurable and rigorous targets.”

The reader writes:

“I spent 19 years in infant special education- even before we even called it early intervention, I was teaching children in the 0-3 age range. Yes- I visited mothers the week their babies came home from the hospital because because they sought and wanted that support. I was in that first group of teachers in the nation earning a MS Ed in Early Childhood Special Education right after the passage of PL 94-142. My program was home-based and holistic- the goal was to help the parent(s) understand how their child’s medical condition/syndrome/extreme prematurity/ brain damage/sensory disorder impacts development, and to help that parent care for the baby’s physical, sensory, cognitive and social needs.

“I went to homes twice a week where there was no heat, no food security, overcrowding, broken windows, little furniture or toys, vermin infestation, poor lighting and broken cribs. And sometimes also there was abuse and domestic violence. I also went to homes with maids and luxury cars- any everything in between. My expertise and support made a difference for those families- but how much more of a long term difference would there be if all the children had prenatal care, safe and secure shelter, food security and access to needed medical and dental care?

“As a teacher, my job was to help the child and parent move from one step to the next developmental step, and celebrate each milestone, whenever it came, with joy. It was about attunement, attachment, engagement and play- not testing, pressure and grit. That is how babies learn- though touch and interaction and play. My job was to help the parent see a child as lovable and capable which might sound unnecessary, but learning that your child has a significant problem is a crushing blow to many parents- it is traumatic, it is a shock, and a nightmare. But yes. I recorded new milestones on a checklist of developmental skills to help the parent understand and delight in the sequence of skills as they developed- not to quantify and get a “score.”

“Rigor? Does Duncan realize we are talking about babies with poor oral-motor tone learning how to suck on a nipple? Or a baby having hundreds of seizures a day learning how to make eye contact with her mother? Or a baby with cerebral palsy lifting his head to see himself in a mirror? What Duncan is proposing is clueless, but also despicable and sinister. Is there anything in this world he cannot reduce to a data point? Grief? Laughter? Love? Acceptance? Health? Comfort? Pride? What is YOUR score Mr. Duncan?”

Reader JCGrim wonders when the testing mania will end. It will end when enough parents band together and demand it. When they say they will not allow their children of every age to be subjected to hours of testing. When they opt out en masse. When enough parents say loudly, “Stop! Enough!”

Grim writes:

“If you think Arne couldn’t be any more incompetent, think again. His newest absurdity is special education’s birth to 3yrs early intervention programs.

“According to IDEA, every state must have an early intervention system that serves children with disabilities from birth to age 3 yrs. (public school takes over services for kiddos with disabilities at age 3yrs.) The feds are requiring state systematic improvement plans with “measurable & rigorous targets.”

“TN’s early intervention system (TEIS) must provide “measurable and rigorous results” for infants & toddlers with disabilities & their families. The data must show that early intervention is “closing the achievement gap” and provide the percent of infants & toddlers who are “preschool ready.”

“You read that right “preschool ready.” What does that even mean? Preschool is where kids get their first ever experiences away from their caregivers. Preschool is the first time kids find out they can smear paint on their hands & paper, play with other kids by sifting through a big bin of rice, dance in big circle with a partner, chase butterflies in a butterfly tent, or turn pudding in plastic ziplocs into a snack.

“When will this insanity end? Enough is enough.”

In this post, Daniel Katz, director of secondary education and secondary special education teacher preparation at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, interviews Mindy Rosier about what it is like to work in a public school that shares the same building with one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter schools. Rosier is a teacher at PS 811, the Mickey Mantle School, which serves children with special needs. PS 811 is situated within PS 149 in Harlem, a traditional public school; it serves about 100 children with autism and other special needs. The Success Academy charter school was co-located inside PS 149 in 2006. What is it like to co-exist with SA?

 

Here is a sample:

 

“There is definitely an us vs. them feeling in the air. I’ve been told that they have shiny clean floors, new doors, fancy bathrooms, etc. Meanwhile, we have teachers who have bought mops and even a vacuum cleaner to clean their rooms for they feel what is done is not efficient enough. Near our entrance, we have an adult bathroom. It is for staff and our parents. Success Academy parents as well have used it. For many months that bathroom went out of order. Honestly, I am not even sure it is fixed yet, but after all this time, I really hope so. So we would have to either use the closet of a bathroom in the staff lunch area or use one of the kids’ bathroom when it is not in use. You and I know that had that been an SA bathroom, it would have been fixed by the next day. SA also throws out tons of new or practically new materials often. At first, some of their teachers would sneak us some materials thinking we could benefit from it. They stopped out of fear. With all the great stuff that they have thrown out, they got angry when they found out that teachers from P.S.149 and I believe some of our teachers too would go through the piles and take what we could use. Well, now they only throw out their garbage shortly before pick up so that no one could get at it. Nice, right?”

The New York City Parents Blog compiled the many complaints of parents and teachers about Daniel Bergner’s article about Eva Moskowitz. Bergner interviewed many critics, but he quoted only two: me and Michael Mulgrew of the UFT.

Unlike the magazine article, the post explains that the main reason Mayor de Blasio rejected Moskowitz’s efforts to expand within PS 149 was that it would cause the displacement of children with special needs, some of whom are severely disabled. It was ironic that the $5-6 million TV ad campaign that Eva’s Wall Street backers ran on her behalf last spring claimed that the Mayor was forcing SA children out of their schools by denying them space, when the reverse was true: Moskowitz wanted to increase the size of her school at the expense of children with disabilities.

The ad campaign paid off for Moskowitz. Many of the same Wall Street tycoons who backed Eva also funded Cuomo’s campaign, so of course Cuomo supported Eva and cut the ground out from under the Mayor’s feet, with the help of the legislature. Eva got free rent, the right to expand in public space, and other privileges. But this was not what you saw in the New York Times article.

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