Archives for category: Special Education

This comment was posted a few days ago from a school principal in Texas who just earned his doctorate. He wonders what happened to the noble profession he entered.



I wanted to share some good news with you – I completed my dissertation in education and received my doctorate! It was the most stressful and rewarding experience of my life, and despite all the angst and anxiety, I survived intact!


However, the world of education has changed radically since I began my doctorate. Here in Texas, education is still not funded adequately or equitably. The school that I’m principal of just spent the last of our budget, and we know we don’t have enough supplies for the rest of the year. Costs went up, but the budget stayed the same. We’re still short 40 science books, because the district didn’t account for the growth our campus experienced this school year, but hey, science isn’t tested in the grade affected, so, and I’m not making this up, the book coordinator asked we could just photocopy 40 books. No wonder we don’t have enough paper to make the year!


More disturbing is the fact that state testing remains the gotcha that dooms teachers, administrators, schools and districts. Though some understanding the escalating standards are unsustainable, there are still enough pitfalls to trap educators. For instance, how special education students are assessed.


If you didn’t know, the state expects ALL students to test on grade level and meet the state expectations for students. In the past, testing for special needs students included accommodations and modifications to provide equity in the assessment for them. Now, they take the exact same test as all general education students, just online instead of accommodated.


I recognize the goal to measure every student the same, but it is unrealistic to expect special needs students to perform at the same level as general education students. Several of my colleagues and I liken this to expecting all students, both able bodies and differently-abled, to run the mile on the track at the high school. It’s not just or equitable to maintain a set standard for success in that case, but for the state assessment, we’re doing just that.


Of course, the ramifications of this expectation affects the schools and districts, not the students. In fact, the way the assessment rules have been amended, it is perfectly reasonable for a student to meet the required standards less than 50% of the time 3rd grade through high school, and still be promoted and even graduate. No, it’s how it impacts the schools and the districts. That is so demoralizing.
Since the state demands we get all students to grade level, if we don’t, we are considered Improvement Required (IR), or as I call your school sucks. The hoops you have to jump through are endless and pointless. And, since we are rated on an entirely new and unique population every year, it’s not like there’s a reasonable standard we can ever meet.


So, in four short weeks, the state will demand we test our students over standards that are constantly changing, on a test that has nothing to do with what we should be doing in our classrooms, to please bureaucrats who I believe are truly intent on destroying public education.


I once thought education was the most principled and noble profession, and I think it can be, and it should be. But, right now, I can only feel a target on my back.

There is no link for this story, but ipt out leaders are buzzing with the news that children with cognitive disabilities will be tested online this spring. In the past, these children were give performance assessments in line with their IEPS. One parent called this “cruel and unusual punishment” for these vulnerable children. A personal call to a high-ranking state official confirmed that this decision was made by State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, without consulting the Board of Regents.

No, it is not “all about the kids.

Katie Osgood teaches students with disabilities in Chicago. She teaches third-graders. PARCC testing begins soon. The reading level if the tests for her students are sixth grade.

She writes here about the harm these tests will do to her students.

Her students’ IEPs will not be honored. No accommodations!

She asks why children of 8 and 9 are asked to perform literary analysis.

She writes:

“The PARCC test is mind-mindbogglingly inappropriate and long. It gives NO USEFUL information for teachers or schools. It ignores IEPs. It is damaging to kids. It triggers our most vulnerable learners destroying trust and joy in the classroom. It robs classrooms of SO MUCH STINKIN’ TIME.

“Oh, and by the way, PARCC originally was in 24 states, but has now dropped to only 6.

“There is NO REASON for Illinois to continue using this test. None.”

The UCLA Civil Rights Project faulted many charter schools for harsh disciplinary policies towards black students and students with disabilities. These practices, the study concluded, contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. The new study is called Charter Schools, Civil Rights, and School Discipline: A Comprehensive Review.


The comprehensive analysis by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project identified 374 charter schools across the country that had suspended 25% or more of their entire student body during the course of the 2011-12 academic year. The comprehensive review also revealed:


Nearly half of all black secondary charter school students attended one of the 270 charter schools that was hyper-segregated (80% black) and where the aggregate black suspension rate was 25%.
More than 500 charter schools suspended black charter students at a rate that was at least 10 percentage points higher than that of white charter students.

Even more disconcerting, 1,093 charter schools suspended students with disabilities at a rate that was 10 or more percentage points higher than that of students without disabilities.

Perhaps most alarming, 235 charter schools suspended more than 50% of their enrolled students with disabilities.* (*This count includes schools with at least 50 students enrolled and excludes alternative schools, schools identified as part of the juvenile justice system, virtual schools and schools that enrolled fewer than 10 students with disabilities. Any school where rounding of the data or another error produced a suspension rate of more than 100% for a subgroup also was excluded.)

“It’s disturbing to see so many of these schools still reporting such high suspension rates because that indicates charter leaders continue to pursue ‘broken windows,’ ‘no excuses’ and other forms of ‘zero tolerance’ discipline,” said Daniel Losen, the Center’s director and the study’s lead author. “And we know from decades of research that frequently suspending children from school is counter-productive.”

A reader comments:


“In all seriousness, the level of absurdity is reached when a profoundly disabled student is required to be tested and the testing looks something like this… a teacher pulls a chair up to the student’s wheel chair and reads a test question to the student. The student has nearly no use of his limbs or body but can turn his head. Then the teacher reads the possible answers “A”… blah blah blah “B” … blah blah blah and then the teacher holds up a sheet with letters on them and tracks the students eyes trying to guess at where the child’s eyes are looking at A, B, C or D! Meanwhile most of the test material (if not all) is not even relevant to the child or part of the child’s learning day. His day is focused on physical therapy to learn to swallow or to increase motor movement in his very stiff arms and legs. He is well below grade level because along with his physical issues there are cognitive ones too. Is this really the best use of this child and teacher’s valuable time to force him to endure a grade level test based on his chronological age because EVERYONE MUST BE TREATED EXACTLY THE SAME so that data crunchers are happy?”

The New York Post has an opinion column criticizing the New York Times for picking on Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy.

You see, the Times can’t stand success. So it must “destroy” these very successful schools.  
That explains why the Times wrote about the “got to go” list of children who had to be pushed out. 
That explains why the Times published the story and video of the teacher humiliating a first-grader. 

You see, as we have seen in the comments on this blog from two readers who defend whatever happens in charters, especially Success Academy, the public schools do the same, only worse. 
Whatever charters do that is unsavory, there will always be a public school that did it too. 
The only difference between charter schools and public schools, if you listen to the charter advocates, is that they are far, far better than public schools, have higher test scores, and educate exactly the same children (the reason they have so few ELLs is that the charters quickly teach them English, and they have fewer SPED because the charters magically overcome their disabilities).
But fortunately readers of this blog knew this already. 

A reader who comments as Gitapik writes about life in the classroom:




“I’ve been teaching kids with severe disabilities for 22 years. 

“The concept of spending valuable classroom time teaching a curriculum based on a set of standards that is also meant for high achieving kids in general education to a 6 year old with severe autism who isn’t even aware of his or her own name is absurd. Or to a classroom of severely emotionally disturbed children who can’t even make it through a period without at least 2 or 3 physical fights. The practice of it is a waste of time and cruel. Holding teachers responsible for it with the possibility of losing their job goes beyond the pale. 

“We used to have Home Economics rooms where the kids could take orders, help prepare and deliver food, wash the dishes, clean up, etc. Not all day…but a period a day. Honest, practical life skills. We used to be allowed a period in the morning for class meetings during which we could teach basic social skills. The kids enjoyed and profited from these classes as part of the curriculum.

“Gone. No time for it. Got to meet the standards, now. Everybody. The same standards. 

“All in the name of standardization which is supposed to create a system of accountability on the parts of the teachers. It’s like someone put a machine in charge and we’re being fed into the grinder.”

Mercedes Schneider read here about Eva Moskowitz’s threat to sue the city of New York for threatening to withhold funding for her pre-k program, as a result of her refusal to sign a contract with the city. Why did she refuse? She wants the money from the city but she does not believe the city has any authority over her schools or operations. Mercedes began looking for a copy of the suit, but couldn’t find it. What she did find, however, was that another parent from the “got to go” list is suing Success Academy charter schools, and the details are astonishing.

The child in question (“I.L.”) needed special education services. He did not get them. He had difficulty adjusting to the strict behavioral demands of SA. His father began accompanying him to school to find out what was happening. After the father left, the child was again subject to SA’s rigid discipline.

This is an excerpt from the suit, which is quoted in the post:

In or about December 2014– after being repeatedly subjected to disciplinary consequences, including early dismissals, and only after the Lawtons expressed concern to Success Academy staff about the impact that the discipline was having on I.L.– Success Academy Fort Greene began to evaluate I.L. for an individualized education plan (“IEP”)…. Success Academy failed to notify the Lawtons of their rights, or I.L.’s rights, under IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Act].

In the course of the evaluation, I.L. was observed in the classroom, where it was noted that he had difficulty focusing when working independently. Teachers reported, among other things, that I.L. had difficulty responding to behavioral corrections, that he was hyperactive, anxious, and depressed. Staff reported that I.L. had difficulty focusing and with receiving corrections. The observation also noted that his attention could improve when he was allowed to play with something in his hands.

While this evaluation was underway, and just before school had closed for the December break, Defendant Candido Brown met with the Lawtons. Broen told the Lawtons that they should remove I.L. from Success Academy Fort Greene because I.L. was not a “good fit” for Success Academy.

At that same meeting, Brown said that Mr. Lawton would no longer be allowed in I.L.’s classroom. As Mr. Lawton’s presence in the classroom helped I.L. comply with the Code of Conduct and complete assignments, barring Mr. Lawton from the classroom had an immediate negative impact on I.L.’s ability to function at Success Academy Fort Greene. …

Brown prohibited Mr. Lawton from sitting in I.L.’s classroom only after learning that Mr. Lawton had met with Success Academy Fort Greene employees to voice his concerns about the toll that SA’s policies were taking on I.L.

It gets worse. Read the post.

This treatment of a child would never be permitted in a public school. It proves yet again that charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools that operate with public funding and are able to make their own rules, to admit whom they wish, to exclude whom they want, and to ignore legal mandates that are required of all public schools.

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.