Archives for category: Special Education

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports on his blog that the ACLU in Southern California has released a report finding that 20% or more of the state’s charter schools are breaking state and federal laws.

This is very likely the tip of the iceberg and signals that the state should launch a full investigation of illegal activities in charter schools.

Here is the full report.

Will the state dare to investigate privately managed schools that operate with little or no supervision? Will they dare to cross the state’s most powerful lobby, the California Charter Schools Association?

A reader writes:

“In the non-public special education field, we generally feel the residual effects of educational policies and changes. Right now we’re feeling the effects of Common core and PARCC and not in such a positive way. Common Core Standards “do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations,” but our students with disabilities must participate at the same level and with the same rigor as their “non-disabled” peers in PARCC assessments.

 Our IEP’s must be standards-based, aligned to their grade level and our teaching must be aligned to the Maryland CCR Standards at the students grade level. The problem, however, is that the majority of our students are functioning 3 to 4 grade levels below their non-disabled peers and our teachers are struggling to help them acquire and demonstrate a few skills successfully. 

How then do we prepare our students effectively for an assessment that will test them on the very standards they fail to understand? Our students with ED, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and autism have already been formally tested by teachers and related services providers multiple times before even reaching PARCC season. When is enough enough? There has to be a better way to assess their learning.

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of the Opt Out movement in New York.


Governor Cuomo, who made education policy his big issue last year, has gone off on other issues.


The Board of Regents is now led by an experienced educator who has the support of the Opt Out parents.


And Dr. Betty Rosa has not disappointed.


At a recent forum, she said that standardized testing was “abusive” for some students with disabilities and English language learners.


This is a new tone coming from New York State’s highest education official.


It conflicts rather sharply with the pro-testing, pro-Common Core, anti-opt out policies of the state commissioner MaryEllen Elia. This should be interesting.




This is a wonderful story that was broadcast on NPR about an emergency situation in an airplane bound for Melbourne, Australia.


A young man with Down Syndrome was physically ill, lying in the middle of the aisle, and wouldn’t get up.


And he was really upset. He was feeling itchy. He was feeling scared, and no one could move him at that time.


The plane couldn’t land until he was in his seat and belted in.


The call went out from the cockpit, “Is there a teacher on the plane?”


Sophie Murphy, who teaches children with special needs, responded. She lay down on the floor next to the boy and talked to him. Eventually, she talked him into getting up and returning to his seat. Everyone was very quiet and listened closely as she used her skills to calm the boy. When he started vomiting, they rushed to offer sick bags, tissues, and wipes. A doctor sitting close by took notes.


Nothing fazed Sophie. She handled the situation with professionalism and kindness.


She said afterwards:


This was what teachers do. This is what they do in their classrooms every day. They problem solve, and they connect with children on a daily basis. And any one of my colleagues and friends who are teachers would have done exactly the same.


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.