Archives for category: Special Education

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.

 

 

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.

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