Fascinating article in today’s NY Times… the ‘reading workshop’ approach. Through it, students pick the books to read instead of having them all read the same books for class discussion.

This approach seems symptomatic of the individualization going on our lives–and reminds me again of special education with its IEPs (Indidualized Education Programs), each child taught according to his/her needs.

Young elementary school-aged cousins visited us recently. They wanted to play computer games–each his own… Noone wanted to watch TV (all together) and laugh at the jokes together.

My initial thought about the reading workshop approach is a sadness that our young folks will NOT be raised as a community, each sharing and knowing something about the same. We are becoming little islands–centered around our own interests… I find myself agreeing with some of the critics of this approach, such as the comments by Diane Ravitch.

My response? Have some of each–the reading list AND the personal choice. Keep what’s working about those reading lists; don’t throw the baby out–you know.

Your thoughts?

It’s that time of year.

The annual, magical beginning of the school year…Even after all the years since I left teaching for law, I still feel that twinge in early September, or late August. There is something magical and special about starting afresh every year. Our nation experiences that new beginning every year. I hope you enjoy it this year, as you start back to school in September or August.

In close to 30 years of practicing law, I can tell you–there’s nothing like it in this biz. For us lawyers, instead of the annual fresh start, when we return to the office from vacation, ‘stuff’ is piled high on our desks and in emails. That’s because life did not stop, as it does in schools, but went on while we basked in the sun. Now we need to catch up (and wonder if taking that time off was worth the reentry pain).

But, I digress, for educators, students, and parents, September is a magical time of fresh start, possibilities, hopes, dreams, renewal. I wish you all a happy ‘back to school’ of success and achievement in 2009-2010.

Today’s Dallas Morning News reports about Texas’ new law–Senate Bill 2033. Schools need to adopt grading policy before the start of the school year. Teachers need to grade students on the basis of their mastery, not an arbitrary minimum grade below which teachers cannot go.

Under the new law, teachers are no longer required to give students grades they did not earn–such as never going below a 50, 60, or 70.

The purpose of the new law is to give honest grades and to stem grade inflation. The matter is controversial, however, as some link it to school dropouts and social promotion. Others say the law will lead to more teacher respect as professionals– and to more student accountability. An interesting read.

Here is the link to the article:

See also my little book, Grades, Report Cards, Etc… and the Law, and excellent resource for the beginning of the school year. It focuses on legal issues in grading all students, including students with disabilities. Find the order form at: or order the book through Texas Schools Adminstrators’ Legal Digest:

Happy beginning of the 2009-2010 school year!

Google Alert for SpedEx/BSEA

Look what just popped up in my inbox! Yes, SpedEx is up and running… an innovative dispute resolution model for special education that puts the child first.

Check it out! It’s exciting and will some sanity back to disputes about special education placements… We are piloting it in Massachusetts. If other states are interested, contact the BSEA at,, or

Check this article– featured in Boston Sunday Globe “IDEAS” section. Excellent!

It will, hopefully, help us change the focus in education from labeling kids (you’re smart; you’re not….) to doing the hard work– teaching them to grow their grit. Grit–perseverence, hard work, resilience, stamina, single minded purpose, stick-to-it-ive-ness, focus, passion, Success depends on hard work, over and over again–not the label one is given. This approach may be so helpful in how we do special education America. Let us hope.

It features research by Angela Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania psychologist. Check out her survey at

Also, see research by Carol Dweck, Stanford University psychologist. Her book, Mindset, was discussed here in an earlier blog…

Also, check out The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, discussed here in a prior blog.

Lots to chew on….Your thoughts? ideas? Grit?