June 26th, 2009

SpedEX is launched! http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/spedx.html

A new, creative, child-centered dispute resolution model is now launched by the Bureau of Special Education Appeals in Massachusetts! Funded and supported by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, it is full of promise and creativity. It will provide a child with a FAPE–a free appropriate public education, with follow up to assure its implementation. We expect stories of success!

Check it out! http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/spedx.html

This model grew out of discussions at Special Education Day events: www.specialeducationday.com… and reflects the hopes of many educators and parents for a quicker, more positive, and more child-centered way to resolve disputes and get on with the business of educating students with disabilities. Stay tuned for updates!

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

June 23rd, 2009

Blue Collar and Proud of It–in USA Today!

Joe Lamacchia’s book, Blue Collar and Proud of It–which was featured in my June 15 blog, is the subject of today’s USA Today article. Yes, Virginia, there are many ways to succeed in life and perhaps, not everyone should go to college. One path does not fit all.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-06-22-blue-collar_N.htm

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June 22nd, 2009

Supreme Court decision on private school tuition

Hot off the Supreme Court docket! Parents of special education students may seek reimbursement for their private school placement even if the child never received special education services in the public school. Once a finding is made that the school district denied the student a FAPE–a free appropriate public education–and that the parent’s private school provides a FAPE–reimbursement is possible.

Here is the N Y. Times article.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/education/23special.html?emc=eta1

This is big and will affect many schools and parents…

For a perspective from a parent advocacy website, Wrightslaw, you may wish to visit:
http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/forestgrove.ta.analysis.htm

Your take on it?

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

June 18th, 2009

What education can learn from Bernard Madoff…

What the (NCLB) No Child Left Behind Act and the IDEA, the nation’s special education law, can learn from Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

My stepfather often told me that if something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not. P. T. Barnum put it this way, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” As the Madoff story unfolded, many of us wondered—how could so many ‘affluent and smart’ investors and charities put all their money in one basket and believe it could earn 12% year after year after year? Perhaps they just wanted to believe.

So now, let’s turn to the NCLB. Another wish dream? It mandates that all children be proficient in reading, writing, and math by June 2014. We want to believe that all children can learn the same standards and that education is the great equalizer. So we make the leap. We mandate it in federal law!

Yes, this law has done a lot of good. It has helped many children reach higher than we might have expected, and focused on academics for all children. All to the good. But, as with all laws, the challenge comes at the edges, where the fit is not perfect and the details build cynicism and threaten to destroy the enterprise. The law’s mandate for ALL is off the mark. It focuses on four student groups: those in poverty, members of racial minorities, non-English speakers, and SWD. The law encourages heightened focus on some groups that who are close to passing (the ‘gap’ kids), but not on others, including bright kids who passed these tests long ago.

As I write this, my local paper reports that several schools here—one of our nation’s education bright spots—“need improvement” because two groups, SWD and English language learners did not reach the standard. This ‘news’ is repeated in communities around the nation. You can’t have 12% growth investment year after year (unless you live in a pipedream). You can’t have all children meet the same standards, year after year, unless you jiggle the numbers.

Alas, some jiggling is happening. For example, Massachusetts, known for its excellent standards and very test, allows invalidating ‘accommodations’—without reporting that fact. Thus, some SWD have ‘read-alouds’ on reading tests (and adult reads the test to the student). Some students are provided with calculators on questions that measure calculating. Then they pass! What does that pass mean? Who does it help?

Other states have abandoned the effort to measure calculation skills altogether. Everyone can use a calculator! Some allow ‘read-alouds’ after the primary grades, even when measuring ‘reading.’ Others lower the bar for all and ‘dumb down’ the curriculum—all in the name of all means all. How can we then know if students can read and write and add and subtract?

I was moved by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s call to stop lying to students–when we lower standards and pronounce students ready to graduate from high school–even as they still lack basic skills. A breath of fresh air!

When faced with impossible targets, contortions occur. We no longer measure what matters. Very sad.

We want to believe that miracles come true. But they should not be the basis of public policy. A dream is no more appropriate in the education than in the investment world. I urge the Obama team, in reviewing and reauthorizing the NCLB, to set realistic measurements for all children, including the move to a ‘value added’ scoring system. Teachers and students need to work together for true education accountability, not simply for numbers that look good but fall apart upon review.

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June 15th, 2009

Great New York Times article… Let's hear it for working with our hands!

“The case for working with your hands.” A fascinating article about just that–how the author became a motorcycle mechanic (and author) and how the manual trades may be making a come back in our economy. You can find it at

www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html

Many of us in education have long argued against the dilution of vocational and technical training and the elevation of academics and lots of testing for all. This article by Matthew B. Crawford is taken from his new book, Shop Class as Soulcraft.

See also another new book, Blue Collar and Proud of It– Success Outside the Cubicle, by Joe Lamacchia. He runs a million dollar lawn care company in Newton, a Boston suburb. http://www.bluecollarandproudofit.com/about.html

Let’s hope these books help lead us out of our lopsided educational system–academics for all. Nothing else. One size does NOT fit all–there are lots of great ways to create a successful life.

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