April 30th, 2010

Parents! Shut off social network for middle schoolers!

Here’s a brave principal in New Jersey… story on CBS News and picked up by Joanne Jacobs at www.joannejacobs.com.
http://wcbstv.com/technology/facebook.social.networking.2.1662565.html#addComments.>(School principal asks parents to shut down social network sites for middleschoolers).

We know that parents need to flex more muscle so students can focus on learning, not the damage caused by social networking. So, it is inspiring to read about a middle school principal who urges them to do just that. His email to families is gutsy. Let’s wish them all success in reorienting students to real world (here and now) socializing and real learning in school.

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April 28th, 2010

HELP!

I’m doing an informal piece about the buzz word of the day, trust. Everyday in our papers and on the radio and the web, we see stories about the lack of trust in one arena or another.

Consider:

Teachers, unions and districts don’t trust each other.

People’s trust in the media is at a low level.
(trust in media at low level) “Trust is the Number 1 thing we are thinking about,” says a Vice President and a senior editor at CNN. This story was also reported on Vermont Public Radio (Lack of trust in media)

People don’t trust the government.

Parents and districts in special education disputes lack trust.

In President Reagan’s day, it was “Trust but verify.” Now, we seem to be onto “Can’t trust, so fight.” Our nation cannot stay on this course–it is dangerous, divisive, and totally unproductive. What shall we do?

My dear readers, if you have other examples or solutions, please send them along.

In my univere, I am working to promote ‘trust based special education.’ Your thoughts?

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April 24th, 2010

WE– the answer!

Following up on the last post, the much better way.

When I talk to an ‘employee’ anywhere–in a store, a school, at the doctor’s, if he uses the WE word I know the place is humming. “This is how we do it.” How different that is from, “I don’t make the rules…” or “THEY do it like that.”

Getting people on board as team players doing what ‘we do’ is powerful.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | 1 Comment

April 24th, 2010

"I didn't make the rule."

When I tried to walk through the State House driveway, the guard stopped me. You can’t go that way. What? “I didn’t make the rule.”

I turned around and went the other way….thinking.

How sad. He clearly did not believe in the rule he was enforcing. A prisoner of his job. And then I thought more. So many of the folks doing special education procedures feel the same way–”I didn’t make the rule.”

I’m stuck with it. I’ll do it. But I don’t believe it’s a good rule. I don’t believe it’ll help kids learn.

It is sad when so many are stuck in jobs that they don’t really believe are functioning as they should.

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April 22nd, 2010

Leadership and trust in our schools

I don’t usually read the Huffington Post– but this entry caught my eyes. (Our children in crisis).

Stephen R. Covey–we need parents to parent, teachers to teach, children to learn–we need to build trust, community, leadership. Sound familiar?

Yes, a very good read.

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April 20th, 2010

Time for 'trust-based special education'

My angle to fix special education? It’s not about getting more money… In my view, rather than more at this time–we need to spend what we have (already 20-40% of school budgets!) much better. Right now, too much goes for process, compliance, regulations, lawyers, etc. One of my special education director colleagues informally surveyed her teachers to find that special ed teachers spend about 19% of their time actually teaching! That is scary. We need to “educate, not litigate!”

My angle? We need what I call “trust-based special education.” The current 35+ year old system is built on an adversarial footing, relying on parents to “advocate” for their children AGAINST the schools! Parents have to file complaints, due process hearings, etc. Through my book and the talks I’m giving, I hear a lot of “Thank you for saying what we all know. You have courage. Etc.” We need to rebuild trust–without it, no one can teach effectively. Let’s be honest about that!

Right now, some of us are working to build (slowly, slowly…) on the notion that teachers need time to teach, not time to document everything and worry about getting sued (practicing defensive education). We need to focus on education–not litigation. Procedures Lite seems to have caught people’s attention. I’m happy to give you more info on this. As well, we (Special Education Day Committee) launched an alternate dispute resolution model, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, called “SpedEx.” Alas,it seems not to have yet found willing partners. We’re working on it. Little steps and persistence. We’ll get there!

At this time, my approach is to use small steps to make a big difference. As in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and Chip and Dan Heath’ Switch books… I call my approcah “back door [and legal!] strategies/solutions!” I gave a talk two weeks ago in San Antonio–much interest in this approach. And will do several talks here in New England in May/June…. Join us! Let me hear of your ‘little steps to big effects’ ideas! Together, let us finally fix special education and improve learning for ALL students!

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April 18th, 2010

New book on the Shut down learner. SDL not SLD!

Life is great, isn’t it. Every day brings new ideas!

So here is Dr. Richard Selznick’s book, The Shut-Down Learner–Helping your Academically Discouraged Child. (Shut down learner). This psychiatrist is trying to help kids without labeling them as disabled. So, it’s SDL, not SLD! I love it!
It reminds me of my own book, Fixing Special Education–we need to focus on what kids can do, not just what they struggle with, etc. etc. etc. Not just dicing and splicing weaknesses that lead to discouraged learners. It also reminds me of one of my favorite books, Mindset–also the psychology of success, not labels.

Let’s see how far SDL goes. We surely need all the new voices we can get for positive approaches.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | 2 Comments

April 15th, 2010

Could we get into the college of our choice now?

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again–it’s tough being a student today. Getting into college used to have some benchmark certainty. For many elite colleges, there used to be ‘Early admission’ in January and regular admission in the middle of April. But now, we learn that colleges are hedging their bets and adding more high school students to their wait lists… no YES or NO on the first round for many. It’s a tough year out there. (Colleges expanding waiting lists)

And it’s been said before, at the end of the day, it’s more about what students make of the college experience than which college they attend.

Good luck to all in the class of 2014!

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April 12th, 2010

Stop teaching reading in a vacuum!

I always sit up and take notice when E.D. Hirsch sends out an alarm. He’s the Core Knowledge guru–students need to learn basic knowledge about the world. Let’s call that stuff. It turns out that reading cannot be taught in a vacuum as a series of discrete skills that are supposedly transferable.

It turns out that students who know stuff, can comprehend what they read better. Students who don’t, can’t comprehend the material before them–even if they can decode and have phonemic awareness. Isn’t that plain as day? So obvious? Why has that been so hard to explain to a generation of educators? In math, too, students who don’t know number facts (even if they have a calculator) are way behind. They are missing the basic building blocks of knowledge. Stuff. Obvious again.

(E.D. Hirsch on standards).

Too often, special education, as well, focuses on skills in isolation. Decoding, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, etc. With all the focus on skills, too often, these students are not exposed to a rich curriculum and learning stuff. So, E.D. Hirsch’s warnings apply to students with disabilities as well. We need to teach stuff as well as skills. One without the other is unsatisfying. And it doesn’t work well.

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April 12th, 2010

Innovation Schools Act of 2008 in Colorado

I was just reading about this! How amazing– a state law that actually encourages schools to develop programs to improve student outcomes–and to obtain waivers from policies that would get in the way of innovation! Wow. It’s about time! Schools that are drowning in paperwork have a reprieve when they design effective programs for student learning.

That is exactly what we need in special education.
(Colorado’s Innovation Schools Act)

For example, Procedures Lite, a Massachusetts program, should be expanded to schools nationwide! For information about Procedures Lite, please visit (Special Education Day)

Maybe there is hope. Let’s hope.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | 3 Comments