February 27th, 2012

Rick Hess on a recipe for mediocrity


Thank you for giving voice to what many educators and parents sense. Something is not quite right here… We want it to work, but as with many education reforms, good intentions often create unintended consequences and mediocre outcomes.

How should we fix this quandary? As I see it, schools should educate according to best practices–not slogans or notions of rights. The LRE (least restrictive environment) requirement of the special education law is a legal–not pedagogical- one. It’s driven by notions of rights, not results for students. Thus, the quandary. We should revisit that!

At the very least in the next reauthorization, the LRE should be defined as the LRAE–least restrictive appropriate enviroment where this student –and her/his classmates–can learn the most. Good teaching practices should drive placements.

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February 24th, 2012

Too many lawyers–of the wrong type?

As a lawyer, I read with great interest news of an upcoming book, Failing Law Schools by Brian Tamanaha. As well, here’s a New York Times blog about it.

The argument is that there are too many new lawyers of the wrong type and, yet, not enough lawyers to serve all people. A quandary. Law schools should differentiate for different types of students and future clients: some research based schools for academics and high end clients and some practice oriented schools for the general public (now, reportedly, underserved). One size does not fit all.

This book will raise discussion about an important issue. Check it out!

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/the-bad-news-law-schools/#

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February 18th, 2012

Finnish Lessons

I’m reading another fascinating book, Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg. He tries to answer questions we have about what makes Finnish schools so successful on international tests. The words that stick out for me are:
Trust
Professionalism
Shared Responsibility.

Especially trust–as parents and students trust teachers, and vice versa. Educators are esteemed. It’s a wonderful profession there. For me–as I write about and work in our special education system, which is, alas, built on distrust–that word rings huge.

If you’re not into reading the entire book, Mr. Sahlberg was featured recently in two articles, one in the New York Times and one in The Atlantic.

Happy reading.

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February 16th, 2012

A faster horse!

I just read the biography of Steve Jobs…. and recommend it highly. (By Walter Isaacson).

At the end, in his own words, Jobs tells us what he wants his legacy to be….In terms of giving customers what they want, that was not his approach. His approach was to figure out what they were going to want before they do! In that vein, he quoted Henry Ford, who once said, “If you’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'”

And what does this have to do with reforming special education? We need to show a better way–that people don’t know yet and that they will want to want!

I love it!

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February 8th, 2012

New York’s Regents easier than ever? Read it and weep.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/education/despite-focus-on-data-standards-for-diploma-may-still-lack-rigor.html?_r=2&ref=nyregion

An amazing article in the NY Times of a few days ago. How sad! After years of NCLB ‘reform’ and effort, we have come to this–lower standards on state tests. Perhaps more students pass, but with what skills really?

Where will this all end for the U.S.? Let’s hope New York’s current reformers–the state’s commissioner of education and the chancellor of the state board of education–will turn this thing around, as they hope to do.

There’s not that much time however. Since we don’t live in a bubble, what is the rest of the world doing–when it sees our goings on?

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February 7th, 2012

Bring back technical and vocational education–now!

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/shop-four-letter-word-jim-berman

I love this title–Shop is not a four letter word. How did we go so wrong in ending this valuable option for so many students and for our nation? One article I found fascinating was Alison Fraser’s study of the success of vocational and technical schools for all sorts of learners in Massachusetts. http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/wp42.pdf. Check it out!

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February 3rd, 2012

Special ed is missing from ECS’s 12 for 2012…

As an avid reformer, I read the Education Commission of the States (ECS) report, “12 for 2012” with great interest. It deals with pre-K education, funding, Common Core, individualizing instruction, teacher quality, among other key issues. Interesting and quite comprehensive. Important and definitely worth reading. I’m sure it will be useful for educators and policy makers.

http://www.ecs.org/html/Document.asp?chouseid=10029

But if I may, I am a former teacher and currently, an attorney who represents school districts in special education. I read this report, searching for a 1/12 on fixing special education. As you can imagine, I was disappointed not to find it! How can that be? Special education needs fixing–it educates 14 % of students nationwide. To educate students with disabilities costs somewhere between 20 and 40% of school budgets. Special education, burdened by complex regulations and ever-present threats of litigation, seems often more focused on compliance than outcomes. We can no longer be silent on this mandated program. We need to tackle it. Surely it deserves 1/12 of the focus on critical areas of need in our schools.

Your thoughts?

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February 2nd, 2012

Where is the trust?

 

Remember
that 2003 song by the Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the love?” … “What’s wrong
with the world, mama?”

 

Well,
in our schools these days, we’re wondering “Where is the trust” and what’s
wrong with our schools?

 

In
special education, parents and schools distrust each other—in fact, that is how
the law contemplated their relationship. Now, more than 35 years later, we need
to fix that. Unions and school districts often don’t trust each other.  Teachers worry about getting sued; educators
document everything. Parents worry about how their children are taught. Even grades
and report cards are subject to lawsuits these days!

 

Stephen
M.R. Covey’s 2006 book, The Speed of Trust—the one thing that changes everything, is right on point. The
title says it all!  When there’s trust,
good things happen fast.  That old
handshake still lives somewhere!  When
there’s no trust, we get bogged down, making it hard for good things to happen.

 

Trust
is the missing link in many arenas in our education world. It’s time to focus
on rebuilding it.

 

 

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February 1st, 2012

Stay tuned!

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