November 25th, 2010

Thanks again, Thomas Friedman. On this beautiful Thanksgiving day.

Indeed, if our country is going to move forward successfully, it’s going to be more from the parents–than the schools. An excellent op-ed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/opinion/24friedman.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage.  As an immigrant, a former teacher, an always parent and citizen, a current attorney who works for public schools–I know that it’s about time to get the parents (and next, the kids) at the responsibility table.  Education will not happen without that.  If they don’t get there soon, it will indeed be a very very scary world for us.

Thank you, Thomas Friedman.

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

November 23rd, 2010

Parenting for America; Teaching for America!

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/opinion/21friedman.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage. Thank goodness–Thomas Friedman finally (though, only in the last paragraph) said what we all know. Teachers can’t teach alone. Parents have to support education, turn off the TV and electronics, feed their kids, get them  to bed on time,  Etc. 

What is still left to be said is, Kids have to study in order to learn. And, shock of shocks,  if the work is hard, they need to study harder.  Not get an excuse for not doing so that condones  lack of  hard work and effort.

Once we get all three players aboard–teachers, parents, students–then we’ll finally get achievement up.  Alas, it woun’t happen before that.

It strikes me as ironic that people look to successful countries, Finland, Singapore, etc., and discuss what their schools are doing –while ignoring the parent and student role in those countries. I am sure that the three players are on board.

Thank you, Tom Friedman, for finally writing that the second player–parents–need to carry our their responsibility.  Next  time, please write about the students’ own critical role.

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

November 21st, 2010

Differentiated instruction. Too good to be true?

http://educationnext.org/all-together-now-meets-differentiated-instruction/

My father told me–if something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not. Differentiated instruction (DI) is designed to make mainstreaming/inclusion work. As far as I know, including all sorts of learners in one classroom is an unproven theory created in the name of a civil right, not pedagogy.  It’s basis is a dream. It’s reality is unproven. Will another generation of students be the guinea pig for this ‘hot’ theory?   As a former teacher and current school attorney, I admit that I’m a skeptic. I worry that DI will lead to further dumbing down for all–in the name if ‘all together now.’   The slide is slow and imperceptible–yet very real and troubling in our current world.

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

November 17th, 2010

Misleading special ed headline. Don’t blame kids; blame the broken system!

The headline, “Special ed students could bankrupt districts.  http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/education&id=7786691  On KGO television in California. It’s not the kids’ doing. It’s the system for special education that is broken. It promises more than it can deliver. It is burdened by bureaucracy and legal threats.  It does not have good evidence of success.  All that is true. All that lead us to establish Special Education Day on December 2–to attempt to fix the system. www.specialeducationday.com.

It’s not children who are bankrupting a system. It’s the system itself that will bankrupt schools. The 35-year-old system, full of unintended, ineffective, and burdensome consequences, that does not work. It must change. Don’t blame it on the students.

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

November 15th, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill! Learn those number facts! There really is no other way!

http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2010/11/was_galileo_wrong.html.  Galileo was right.  So is Diane Ravitch. So was I when I taught students to memorize their number facts. It’s obvious. It’s clear. It’s real. Without facts at their fingertips, students can’t move forward to learn science, math, and live their lives.  And that’s bad for all of us.

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

November 12th, 2010

Beliefs more powerful than research?!

http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/102694.html

A wonderful article with lots of ideas by John Jensen,Ph.D.–about why teacher prep and teacher inservice don’t always translate to better teaching and learning.

He cites a Teacher of the Year’s ADAMANT insistence that his students learn the material. The teacher insisted on hard work. Drill. Repeat. Hard work. Drill. Repeat.  How different from the current mode–that kids will learn if we just present material to them; they’ll learn by osmosis. etc.  Alas, it does not work that way. Kids have to practice; “practice makes myelin’-the connectors in the brain, according to Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code.  Greatness is not born. it’s grown. Practice, practice, practice–especially if the skill is hard.

But, alas, it’s not to be, as we now believe that kids will simply pick up what they need to know. 

According to this article,  teachers don’t learn from each other.  So good ideas are not shared. Even about being ADAMANT that kids learn!  Inservice may not be enough.   If only we encouraged more teachers to be like this one–and supported them in their efforts to be sure their students actually learned the materials–NO EXCUSES!

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

November 11th, 2010

I finally saw Waiting for Superman.’ NOT a word about special ed!

I enjoyed the movie a lot–and seeing some friends in it. I live and breathe education!  Alas, it’s a controversial movie–making it all the more interesting.  

 Yes, we need to ‘fix’ our schools, especially in the cities. Yes, we need to focus on the fact that our top students are not on a par with the world’s top students. But why no word about special education–the program that serves about 14% of all students nationwide and costs millions (often twice the amount we pay for regular education services). Why is special education off the table? We absolutely need to fix that, as well–in the context of school reform. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/diane-ravitch/has-ravitch-hurt-supermans-osc.html

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

November 10th, 2010

Special Education will be 35 years old on December 2!

Special education is middle aged (or is it young adult?).  A true milestone.

It’s time to celebrate how far we’ve come in this civil rights legislation. All students with disabilities now have access to  a free appropriate public education.   An awesome achievement.

Yet, even as we honor the success, we also need to acknowledge that much of the system is broken.   It is far too bureaucratic and burdensome–for schools AND parents.

We need to refocus our efforts to teaching and learning, not paperwork, compliance, and alas, that ever-present threat of litigation. 

The good news is that we in Massachusetts are working on several fronts, including SpedEx and Procedures Lite.  These have evolved through the annual celebrations of Special Education Day. For more information, please visit www.specialeducationday.com

Please let us know about systemic reform efforts in your state and community!

Here’s to a powerful December 2 anniversary.

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

November 10th, 2010

Which gap are we working to close?

An article in today’s Boston Globe caught my attention.  While the best students in Massachusetts seem to do well when compared with other states, they fall behind when compared to other countries.

http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2010/11/10/mass_losing_ground_in_advanced_math/?p1=Local_Links

And see this in The Atlantic Monthly. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/your-child-left-behind/8310.  Thank you, Rick Hanushek and Paul Peterson for this necessary research.

Closing the gap?  Hopefully, articles like this one will spur us to act.  While wecontinue to focus on closing the  achieivement gaps between our struggling students and others in our schools, we are not focusing on the other vital gap–between our best students and the rest of the world. That focus is long overdue.  Hopefully, this article will  move the agenda to close this key gap.  Without closing this second gap, our nation cannot succeed in the new world.  Complacency in Massachusetts (the constant mantra….”We’re the best in the nation!”)  will not help. It’s time for it to go!

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