Getty Images/Tomwang112

Anne DelfosseMiriam Kurtzig Freedman

6.17.2020

This spring’s school closures have challenged us to look at many things differently and to be open-minded, creative, and brave about moving toward necessary change. As we consider reopening schools in the fall, let’s hold on to that mindset and ask what should special education become? Does the forty-five-year-old federal law (IDEA) need a thorough redo? We believe it does.

There is much to celebrate about all that public schools now provide for students with disabilities. We’ve certainly come a long way since 1975, when the law was enacted. Yet, especially as this crisis has revealed, special ed’s plethora of services, costs, and procedures have produced unintended consequences and missed opportunities.

At the start of the closures, Philip Howard’s USA Today discussion of cumbersome regulations included this: “Schools are a hornet’s nest of legal rules. Soon after New Jersey closed its schools…a parent of a special education student complained that it violated his rights.”

The parent was surely right. The closure also violated the “rights” of innumerable other students, with and without disabilities. Yet this parent was onto a key feature of our current quandary: While other students may have a theoretical “right” to an education, his child has a statutorily enforceable and uncapped entitlement! The crisis lays bare this difference.

Nationally, about 14 percent of today’s students — identified as disabled — are entitled by federal law to a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE). Nobody else is. Having an entitlement is a big deal because it ensures that a government program will provide eligible recipients (here, students with disabilities and their parents) with a specific set of services, rights, and other benefits — no matter the circumstances, school budget constraints, or what their peers get.

Now more than ever, this entitlement challenges schools. The national coronavirus crisis turned upside down the education of more than 50 million public school students, including 7 million with disabilities. Educators, students, and parents have struggled on a steep learning curve relative to distance learning, virtual classrooms, etc.

How can schools provide a FAPE for some while trying to innovate for all students? How are they supposed to implement burdensome special-ed regulations, including timelines and meetings, always working under the fear of litigation, during this trying period? Even before the crisis, special ed teachers spent much time on meeting bureaucratic requirements, leaving a reported 27 percent of their time for actual instruction. Many chose to leave the profession. One can only wonder what the crisis has been doing to teachers.

When schools reopen, we can expect that most students will have regressed in academics and other skills. (If they don’t, why have schools?) Schools will face this challenging reality as they work to support all students to catch them up and help them learn anew. Despite this reality, however, only special education students will be able to assert legal rights and file due process claims against their schools for compensatory services to make up for any regression, to say nothing of complaints for missed timelines, services, and other requirements. Schools expect a barrage of such claims.

Really? Yes, under current law.

Notably, special education is the only entitlement program in our public schools — rights that are enforceable through due process hearings and in court. Since 1975, Congress has wisely chosen not to create new entitlement programs in the K–12 realm.

Who are these students? The law was written to provide access to public education for students with severe and profound needs. Today, however, estimates are that those children make up only 10 to 20 percent of the students enrolled in special ed. The vast majority (estimated at 80 to 90 percent) of today’s students with disabilities have mild or moderate needs. They are educated mostly in general education classrooms. Yet the law, rights, and regulatory requirements for these two very different groups are the same.

In 2001, writing in Rethinking Special Education for a New Century, Tyce Palmaffy posed a key question: “The question of why learning disabled children are more deserving of extra help than everyday low achievers is one that LD advocates have never quite answered.” Nor has it been answered nineteen years later.

It’s also time to ask: Do students with full access to public education still need “protections”? And what about the law’s opportunity costs? For example, how can America’s prosperity and leadership position continue when so many other students, including advanced students, are underserved? How can we get teachers to focus on instruction instead of compliance? How can schools better spend scarce resources?

Yet the special education beat goes on. Even during this crisis, school administrators and attorneys spend inordinate amounts of time and effort on how to provide for special education students and how to comply with legal mandates when other students get far less than they should. Parents of special education students spend effort, often with great anxiety, to “fight” for their child against their public school, which the current statutory arrangement reinforces. These dysfunctional responses cannot be what the good folks who wrote this law had in mind.

This civil rights law was designed to provide individually-planned access to public education for students with disabilities — not to create a semi-separate system serving one subset of students. Regarding compensatory services for students with mild or moderate needs, if their parents, advocates, and attorneys prevail in demands for special services while their classmates do not receive any, how is that fair, equitable, or wise? It is not — and it’s not what this law intended. If and when that happens, public support for special education will surely decline. Most people understand crisis, fairness, and its opposite. Be careful what you wish for.

When this crisis abates, our world will look very different. The crisis has shed a bright light on many failings of American education, including inequalities, one of which is the inequitable distribution of rights and entitlements to education.

What to do? For starters, we believe it’s time to divide the special education student body into two very different groups: the far larger group of students who have mild and moderate needs and are mostly educated in general education classrooms and the smaller group who have profound and severe needs. In so doing, we take guidance from the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The Court highlighted the reality of two different groups of students with disabilities — those who are pursuing general education goals and those, generally with severe or profound needs, whose education is individualized according to their circumstances.

For the larger group, the entitlement has completed its mission of providing access to education and should end (or be capped or otherwise limited), especially as it has also become increasingly dysfunctional and has brought great opportunity costs. Instead, it is time to build appropriate systems for these students within one interconnecting mechanism referred to as “general education.” Students with mild or moderate needs should be served through quality, individualized regular education — as should all other students. Dispute-resolution avenues should be provided for all students.

Some may argue that, rather than extracting some students from an entitlement, all students should have one. We disagree. The last thing we need is more lawyers, lawsuits, regulations, and bureaucrats running our schools.

For the smaller group of students with more severe and complex needs, it’s time for a thoughtful taskforce to propose how to proceed. Should these students retain an entitlement, or is another approach to ensure services more appropriate? Should the law mandate that other social service agencies step up to serve students who often have complex and costly needs? Should their education remain a school district responsibility, or should the state, through other agencies, become a mandated partner?

In short, special education claims and rights that go beyond reasonableness and fairness, all exacerbated by this crisis, face us squarely. We can no longer ignore them. They present the opportunity to question the continuing need for the forty-five-year-old entitlement for millions of students with mild or moderate needs and to work to establish a better way forward for students with severe and profound needs.

When schools reopen, maybe, just maybe, we will finally confront the fact that it’s time to end or limit the entitlement for many students with disabilities and devise a system that is leaner, rational, equitable, and more effective for all students. It’s time to build anew.

Anne Delfosse is a speech pathologist and former special education administrator. She has served students with disabilities, their families, and professional teams for forty-two years. Currently, she works as a consultant, mentor, and coach to professional educators.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman is an experienced school attorney, author, and reformer. Her most recent reform book is Special Education 2.0 — Breaking Taboos the Build a NEW Education Law. For more information, please visit SchoolLawPro.com.

© 2018 The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

This was originally posted on Medium

Breaking News: On May 11, 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that the University of California President recommended that the SAT be suspended for U C admissions. That is huge! Undoubtedly, as the U C goes, so will the nation.

Yet for some of us SAT-watchers, it was not “breaking” news. We have watched the SAT over the last many years slowly destroy itself as the testing gold standard. Let’s call it a self-induced suicide (an oxymoron, undoubtedly).

Sadly, as I see it, the SAT, which is used all over the world, has lost the right to call itself the gold standard in testing — a benchmark that is valid and reliable. A valid and reliable test is one that measures what it purports to measure and reports scores that others can rely on. There may have been a time when, if the SAT says it — then it is so. But, that seems to have ended a while ago. While the LA Times does not cite the lack of validity or reliability of scores, my sense is that the long sad saga that got us here has been part of the woodwork for a while. In short, these scores no longer are what they purport to be.

I see three main reasons for this decline. Most importantly, the test prep and the accommodations industries; and also, the slow drip of errors by the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, along the way.

First. The test prep industry. A bit of history.

The test prep industry was not always there. The SAT was developed in 1926 as an aptitude test to encourage and promote testing by students who may have been diamonds in the rough — underprivileged students who did not attend fancy schools or live in fancy homes. Like my immigrant brother, who scored 800 in math on the SAT in the 1960’s — a fact that changed his life. Over the SAT’s almost 100 years, we’ve come a long way from its initial purpose. It no longer tests “aptitude.” Instead, its goal is to predict freshman year grades in college.

NPR reported, “SAT prep was born in a Brooklyn basement in 1938, when Stanley H. Kaplan began tutoring students on how to prepare for standardized tests. Word spread, and soon students began arriving from all over the country to learn techniques for passing standardized tests. In the early 1970s, Kaplan expanded his business…., opening 70 centers by 1975. The Washington Post Company — owners of The Washington Post — bought the company from Kaplan in 1985.”

“SAT prep was big business, and…Kaplan Educational Centers, would become the largest such operation in the nation. Another company, The Princeton Review, was growing as well. Like Kaplan had in 1938, John Katzman began his company by tutoring a handful of New York students after he graduated college in 1981.”

There are other companies in the test-prep business and “[m]illions of students have spent have spent millions of dollars preparing for the SAT.”

For full article, please visit: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/sats/test/history.html

For a long time, the College Board vigorously maintained that one can’t prepare for the SAT,students and parents who could afford to do so, doled out lots of money for test prep told another story. Other students were left behind. Eventually, even the College Board had to acknowledge that some students’ scores improved with test prep, and teamed up with Khan Academy to develop test prep material.

So what do today’s scores actually mean? Are they valid and reliable?

Second. The accommodations industry. In 2002, the College Board made a fateful decision — to stop ‘flagging’ test reports of students with disabilities who took the test under nonstandard conditions. Soon thereafter, the ACT followed suit. See my 2003 story about this decision at https://www.educationnext.org/disablingthesat/

The flag was designed to give score readers (such as college admissions officers) notice that the test had been given with extra time or other accommodations/ modifications. Therefore, the scores needed to be read with care as they were no longer standardized. Since the test was normed as a timed test, extra time modified its validity standards. Amazingly, ending the flags meant that nobody was notified of that fact. Slowly, over the years, the numbers of students taking the test with 50% or 75% or more time grew from 2% to close to 5%. And, quite predictably, most students who used extra time were vying for the small sliver of selective college seats. We began to see that the affluent used this avenue far more than disadvantaged students; for example, we started to see reports that at some exclusive prep schools 40% of their students had extended time.

It’s fair to ask what today’s scores actually mean. Are they still valid and reliable?

Over the years, in these two ways, the shine on the gold standard test — also called a common yardstick — has worn off. Today’s test results need to be read carefully — with a whopping grain of salt. Do we really know what they mean? Are they still reliable predictors?

Third. Over the years, the College Board has been confronted with controversy. In 2005, it recalibrated the SAT and added a writing component. Later, it changed the scoring, even as recently, SAT scores have declined. At another point, it tried to neutralize advantages of males over females in test results — even as females turned out to be better college freshmen students, belying the SAT’s stated purpose. Recently, it toyed with adding an “adversity score” which it dropped after facing an avalanche of criticism. Controversy continued about flaws in the “new” SAT, as well as the College Board’s handling of scoring errors that affected 5000 students. All the while, the rise of “test optional” college continued.

Drip. Drip. Drip. Perhaps not surprising, for an almost 100-year-old test.

Thus, in reading that U C President Janet Napolitano recommended that the SAT be dropped from admissions decisions (at least on a trial basis), we SAT-watchers were not surprised.

The next big question will be — assuming we still have colleges with admissions criteria after the pandemic, how will their admissions officers admit students in the future? Will the focus be on academic excellence and preparation or will it slide to other societal goals? You’re invited to join us watchers. Stay tuned.

This was originally posted on Medium

Good for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for working on proposals to Congress urging flexibility to implement the primary federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), during school closures caused by this pandemic. The CARES Act requires her to propose, within thirty days, IDEA provisions that should be waived, if any. Notably, and perhaps overlooked, is the fact that this effort is of great importance to many stakeholders, including the wider school community beyond special education. All general and special education students, teachers, administrators, and parents want schools to function as well as possible during this crisis. Secretary DeVos represents them all. But schools cannot “flex” without congressional action.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has issued guidance, acknowledging that there may be a need for flexibility in how special education is provided, consistent with the need for health and safety, adding “[W]here we can offer flexibility, we will.” This guidance does not have the force of law, nor does it inoculate schools from the threat of litigation.

In normal times, many IDEA regulations and requirements are burdensome, with compliance issues often leading to litigation and the fear of litigation. That’s far from ideal, but now is obviously not normal. As schools struggle to provide even minimal education for all students, including students with disabilities, they need freedom to function as best as they can.

In this unprecedented crisis, schools need targeted, specific, and temporary flexibility around IDEA requirements related to timelines, meeting attendance, assessments, eligibility findings, specific services delivery, report writing, and due process for claims generated during and by the current crisis. Without such flexibility, the fear of lawsuits remains and diverts the focus from education for all students. Of course, schools and parents are encouraged to work collaboratively and constructively-and many do. Yet even “good faith” efforts are subject to interpretation, which can lead to litigation.

Everyone knows that we’re in a national crisis that has turned the education of more than 50 million students-86 percent of whom are general education students-upside down. Many schools are closed with no learning or far less learning through online or other means going on, approaches that themselves raise equity challenges for children without internet access. Parents are encouraged to “home school” their children. We know that many students will lose skills and regress, and may develop other challenges, as well. Schools are in a most complicated, challenging, and endlessly exacerbating reality.

Congress should act to ease the quandary schools face without delay. Ironically, if Congress does not act now, when given the opportunity to do so, attorneys arguing cases after schools reopen can easily assert that Congress intended all regulations and requirements to be enforced-even during the pandemic! It’s time to get serious.

IDEA-now forty-five years old-provides students with disabilities with an individual entitlement to a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to access and learn what the law calls “the general curriculum.” Among other rights, they are entitled to specialized instruction and individualized services that their parents can enforce through due process. The general curriculum is supposed to help all students gain academic, social, behavioral, and emotional knowledge and skills. Eighty to 90 percent of students with disabilities have mild or moderate needs and are mostly educated in general education classrooms. The other 10–20 percent of disabled students have severe or profound needs.

Special education, the only entitlement in our public schools, ensures that a government program provides eligible recipients (here, disabled students and their parents) with rights and other benefits-no matter the circumstances. Right now, my attorney colleagues who represent public schools are spending inordinate amounts of time and effort on the complexities that follow from that reality.

It should be understood that, in addition to the educational services that can be provided to special education students while schools are closed, many will require compensatory services after schools reopen. Well and good. Yet let’s keep in mind that almost no students will make as much progress while schools are closed as they would when attending school. (Else why have schools?) However, as stated above, special education students have due process rights to assert those claims. Others don’t.

Claims such as these highlight the need for Congress to mandate temporary flexibility so long as the general curriculum remains upended for all students. IDEA, the special education statute that provides students with disabilities with individualized services for learning and accessing the general curriculum-as the general curriculum is provided to all students-was built to ensure fairness and equity, not their absence.

Secretary Devos should urge Congress to protect schools and students, including students with disabilities, with sensible and temporary flexibility. Congress should enact them as a necessary bridge as quickly as possible. When schools reopen, we’ll have plenty of time to rethink next steps, including possible reform of this system. We may even learn something about how a suspension of procedures and other rights actually impacts students. But for now, extraordinary circumstances require an out-of-the-box approach. Congressional flexibility is a good first step.

Many stakeholders await the ED’s proposals-may they come swiftly!-and Congress’s prompt and sensible response.

This was originally posted on Medium

As just published by Fordham Institute! Please share with others!

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman

4.14.2020

Getty Images/Toshe_O

Good for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for working on proposals to Congress urging flexibility to implement the primary federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), during school closures caused by this pandemic. The CARES Act requires her to propose, within thirty days, IDEA provisions that should be waived, if any. Notably, and perhaps overlooked, is the fact that this effort is of great importance to many stakeholders, including the wider school community beyond special education. All general and special education students, teachers, administrators, and parents want schools to function as well as possible during this crisis. Secretary DeVos represents them all. But schools cannot “flex” without congressional action.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has issued guidance, acknowledging that there may be a need for flexibility in how special education is provided, consistent with the need for health and safety, adding “[W]here we can offer flexibility, we will.” This guidance does not have the force of law, nor does it inoculate schools from the threat of litigation.

In normal times, many IDEA regulations and requirements are burdensome, with compliance issues often leading to litigation and the fear of litigation. That’s far from ideal, but now is obviously not normal. As schools struggle to provide even minimal education for all students, including students with disabilities, they need freedom to function as best as they can.

In this unprecedented crisis, schools need targeted, specific, and temporary flexibility around IDEA requirements related to timelines, meeting attendance, assessments, eligibility findings, specific services delivery, report writing, and due process for claims generated during and by the current crisis. Without such flexibility, the fear of lawsuits remains and diverts the focus from education for all students. Of course, schools and parents are encouraged to work collaboratively and constructively — and many do. Yet even “good faith” efforts are subject to interpretation, which can lead to litigation.

Everyone knows that we’re in a national crisis that has turned the education of more than 50 million students — 86 percent of whom are general education students — upside down. Many schools are closed with no learning or far less learning through online or other means going on, approaches that themselves raise equity challenges for children without internet access. Parents are encouraged to “home school” their children. We know that many students will lose skills and regress, and may develop other challenges, as well. Schools are in a most complicated, challenging, and endlessly exacerbating reality.

Congress should act to ease the quandary schools face without delay. Ironically, if Congress does not act now, when given the opportunity to do so, attorneys arguing cases after schools reopen can easily assert that Congress intended all regulations and requirements to be enforced — even during the pandemic! It’s time to get serious.

IDEA — now forty-five years old — provides students with disabilities with an individual entitlement to a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to access and learn what the law calls “the general curriculum.” Among other rights, they are entitled to specialized instruction and individualized services that their parents can enforce through due process. The general curriculum is supposed to help all students gain academic, social, behavioral, and emotional knowledge and skills. Eighty to 90 percent of students with disabilities have mild or moderate needs and are mostly educated in general education classrooms. The other 10–20 percent of disabled students have severe or profound needs.

Special education, the only entitlement in our public schools, ensures that a government program provides eligible recipients (here, disabled students and their parents) with rights and other benefits — no matter the circumstances. Right now, my attorney colleagues who represent public schools are spending inordinate amounts of time and effort on the complexities that follow from that reality.

It should be understood that, in addition to the educational services that can be provided to special education students while schools are closed, many will require compensatory services after schools reopen. Well and good. Yet let’s keep in mind that almost no students will make as much progress while schools are closed as they would when attending school. (Else why have schools?) However, as stated above, special education students have due process rights to assert those claims. Others don’t.

Claims such as these highlight the need for Congress to mandate temporary flexibility so long as the general curriculum remains upended for all students. IDEA, the special education statute that provides students with disabilities with individualized services for learning and accessing the general curriculum — as the general curriculum is provided to all students — was built to ensure fairness and equity, not their absence.

Secretary Devos should urge Congress to protect schools and students, including students with disabilities, with sensible and temporary flexibility. Congress should enact them as a necessary bridge as quickly as possible. When schools reopen, we’ll have plenty of time to rethink next steps, including possible reform of this system. We may even learn something about how a suspension of procedures and other rights actually impacts students. But for now, extraordinary circumstances require an out-of-the-box approach. Congressional flexibility is a good first step.

Many stakeholders await the ED’s proposals — may they come swiftly! — and Congress’s prompt and sensible response.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA, is a school attorney, author, public education law expert, and speaker. Her latest book is Special Education 2.0 — Breaking Taboos the Build a NEW Education Law. For more information, please visit SchoolLawPro.com.

MIRIAM KURTZIG FREEDMAN4.14.2020

This was originally posted on Medium

There’s no doubt. We’re all going through tough times across our country and world. Of course we’ll get through it — but it’s tough going. And while we’re going through it, what do people do? — cooped up at home. Puzzles? Write a book? Clean a closet? Contact friends and family on Skype or ZOOM. All good ideas.

Here’s my partial solution. Art! And, I dare say, I hope it brings a smile to your face. IF these pieces do that, they’ve done their job.

Yes, medicine bottle art! In my home these days, there are so many bottles — of all sizes, colors, and shapes. And my friends contribute theirs. I have lots of empty (and pretty, as I see it) medicine bottles. And here’s some of what I’ve done with them.

Here’s a vase in both the regular colors with those orange medicine bottles and in black and white. And, here’s the “Welcome to the City of Health,” and a close up of the people sitting in the park in the City of Health! Wish we could do that these days.

Our friend Dave Wilson took the photos. Thanks, Dave! Much appreciated.

Medicine bottles on driftwood
The closeup — relaxing at the park in the City of Health!

Enjoy them. And I do hope they brings a smile to your face! I have lots more and will share them in a future post.

We’ll get through this. Let’s also get creative! And keep on smiling.

This was originally posted on Medium

I wrote this post also on Medium.com--where the links to the two presentations are available. https://medium.com/@miriamkfreedman/honoring-clayton-christensen-and-the-limits-of-data-6e335e7ad591

In fact, please follow me on Medium.com for now as I post there more often than on this blog. When and if that changes, I’ll be back here.

Here’s the story I just posted on Medium.com. Enjoy!

The untimely death of Professor Clayton Christensen at the age of 67 has jarred many of us. He was truly an amazing and influential innovator and disrupter. I consider myself lucky because I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Christensen at his presentation in Boston many years ago — speaking about education. He was very clear and inspiring, and I’ve continued to follow him from a distance.

I’d like to share some of his thoughts on the limits of data. We in education are directed to collect data, data, data. Our governments demand it. We’ve absorbed the call that is in the air everywhere. We’re supposed to gather data to — we are told — prove our methods and thereby, improve student outcomes.

We mourn the death of Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who is known as the disrupter — a management guru who assisted so many companies to create anew — many in Silicon Valley credit him for their success. See tributes by Bill Gates and Stephen Jobs, for instance.

And yet, Christensen questioned the primacy and continued piling on — of data. As I read and listened to his two short presentations at the Drucker Forum in 2014 and 2016 — I was so moved and amazed.

While, like many, I’ve taken the idea of data collection as a given, here’s a disrupter who dared to question it and where it’s leading us and which opportunities we are missing. Take a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
_________________
Here’s part of The 12th Annual Global Peter Drucker Forum honored him, as written below.​

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Clayton Christensen.

He was a towering figure — intellectually, morally and physically. We had the enormous privilege to have him as a supporter, mentor and friend of the Drucker Forum. As Steve Blank puts it, we all stood on Clay’s shoulders….

…… Clay spoke at the Forum in both 2014 and 2016, and had planned to be back in 2018. Sadly, as his health declined that became impossible. You will find videos of his memorable presentations and discussions below. These are historic documents, yet hold absolute relevance for today and for future Drucker Forums. At the 2020 Forum, we will continue the celebration of his life by adding our own recognition of the immense value he brought to management thought and practice.

Our thoughts of condolence go most deeply to his wife, Christine, and his children.”

Richard Straub, Founder & President
Angelica Kohlmann, Chair of the International Advisory Board

Global Peter Drucker Forum

Now back to me….

Here are two of the clips that the Drucker Forum provided which deal iwth the limits of data. If you can’t access them here, please do so at Medium.com with this link:

https://medium.com/@miriamkfreedman/honoring-clayton-christensen-and-the-limits-of-data-6e335e7ad591

Data collection is a vital issue for those of us who toil in the public school arena –as we are pushed to collect more data and to create programs driven by data. Really? Please share these clips with colleagues who work in schools and who create programs for schools. I believe you’ll be glad you listened to them.

In so doing, we’ll be honoring the memory and legacy of Clayton Christensen.

Innovation and Growth
“Growth comes from (disruptive) innovation and the link between the two is investment” … and how misguided metrics thwart growth. Watch the video.

The Limits of Data
“Data was not created by God. Data is a representation of a phenomenon, but the data is not the phenomenon” … and why that should make you desperate for theory. Watch the video.

Here are two of the clips that the Drucker Forum provided which deal iwth the limits of data.
Data collection is a vital issue for those of us who toil in the public school arena –as we are pushed to collect more data and to create programs driven by data. Really? Please share these clips with colleagues who work in schools and who create programs for schools. I believe you’ll be glad you listened to them.
In so doing, we’ll be honoring the memory and legacy of Clayton Christensen.
Innovation and Growth
“Growth comes from (disruptive) innovation and the link between the two is investment” … and how misguided metrics thwart growth. Watch the video.
The Limits of Data
“Data was not created by God. Data is a representation of a phenomenon, but the data is not the phenomenon” … and why that should make you desperate for theory. Watch the video.

You’ll be glad you did and please share it with colleagues.

The untimely death of Professor Clayton Christensen at the age of 67 has jarred many of us. He was truly an amazing and influential innovator and disrupter.

I consider myself lucky because I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Christensen at his presentation in Boston many years ago — speaking about education. He was very clear and inspiring, and I’ve continued to follow him from a distance ever since.

I’d like to share some of his thoughts on the limits of data. We in education are directed to collect data, data, data. Our governments demand it. We’ve absorbed the call that is in the air everywhere. We’re supposed to gather data to — we are told — prove our methods and thereby, improve student outcomes.

We mourn the death of Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who is known as the disrupter — a management guru who assisted so many companies to create anew — many in Silicon Valley credit him for their success. See tributes by Bill Gates and Stephen Jobs, for instance.

And yet, Christensen questioned the primacy and continued piling on — of data. As I read and listened to his two short presentations at the Drucker Forum in 2014 and 2016 — I was so moved and amazed.

While, like many, I’ve taken the idea of data collection as a given, here’s a disrupter who dared to question it and where it’s leading us and which opportunities we are missing. Take a listen. You’ll be glad you did.

_________________

Here’s part of

The 12th Annual Global Peter Drucker Forum honored him, as written below.​

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Clayton Christensen.
He was a towering figure — intellectually, morally and physically. We had the enormous privilege to have him as a supporter, mentor and friend of the Drucker Forum. As Steve Blank puts it, we all stood on Clay’s shoulders….

…… Clay spoke at the Forum in both 2014 and 2016, and had planned to be back in 2018. Sadly, as his health declined that became impossible. You will find videos of his memorable presentations and discussions below. These are historic documents, yet hold absolute relevance for today and for future Drucker Forums. At the 2020 Forum, we will continue the celebration of his life by adding our own recognition of the immense value he brought to management thought and practice.

Our thoughts of condolence go most deeply to his wife, Christine, and his children.”

Richard Straub, Founder & President
Angelica Kohlmann, Chair of the
International Advisory Board

Global Peter Drucker Forum

Now back to me….

Here are two of the clips that the Drucker Forum provided which deal iwth the limits of data.

Data collection is a vital issue for those of us who toil in the public school arena –as we are pushed to collect more data and to create programs driven by data. Really? Please share these clips with colleagues who work in schools and who create programs for schools. I believe you’ll be glad you listened to them.

In so doing, we’ll be honoring the memory and legacy of Clayton Christensen.

Innovation and Growth

“Growth comes from (disruptive) innovation and the link between the two is investment” … and how misguided metrics thwart growth. Watch the video.

The Limits of Data

“Data was not created by God. Data is a representation of a phenomenon, but the data is not the phenomenon” … and why that should make you desperate for theory. Watch the video.

This was originally posted on Medium

Violent Students Keep Coming Back

Joanne, thanks for highlighting this the real-world example of a misplaced common good. Here’s her story and my comment.

https://www.joannejacobs.com/2019/12/violent-students-keep-coming-back/

Violent students keep coming back

DECEMBER 16, 2019 BY JOANNE 1 COMMENT

Violent students can assault teachers and classmates, then return to class a few days later, report Brittany Wallman and Megan O’Matz in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. They blame mainstreaming of children with emotional and behavioral disabilities and inadequate support staff trained to deal with their problems.

In school after school, students are erupting with violence. They stab or beat teachers. They throw furniture. They stalk and attack classmates, turning schoolrooms into danger zones where the rights of violent students with disabilities trump all others.

. . . State and federal laws guarantee those students a spot in regular classrooms until they seriously harm or maim others. Even threatening to shoot classmates is not a lawful reason to expel the child.

Federal law guarantees students with disabilities the right to be educated in the “least restrictive environment,” Wallman and O’Matz note. Florida law requires agreement “from the parents, or a judge, before transferring a disabled child to a special-needs school with more therapeutic services and smaller class sizes.”

Reporters found more than 100 students who threatened to kill their teachers, classmates or themselves in an 18-month period, they write. “Nearly half of the youths had histories of mental disorders, and more than half had access to guns.”

“Students with violent tendencies have more rights than the students that they endanger. Just ask Nikolas Cruz,” one schoolteacher told the Sun Sentinel.

The same laws that protect disabled students make it difficult for schools to remove a student like the profoundly disturbed Cruz, who was obsessed with hurting others before he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.

“You cannot get the child out of the classroom,” former teacher Patrick Jovanov said. “You can get him out of the classroom for a day or two or three, but the child comes back.”

Increasingly, teachers are told to leave an out-of-control student in the classroom, while evacuating the rest of the class, writes Max Eden on Quillette. “Room clears” are “designed to protect the rights of troubled students, often with little regard for the rights of their classmates,” charges Eden.

Disruptive or violent students, often labeled as having an “Emotional and Behavioral Disability” (EBD), need “specialized attention in separate settings,” he argues. Assigned to a mainstream class, they can “become virtually untouchable.”

The rise in room clears is directly related to policy initiatives aimed at stamping out so-called “restraint and seclusion.” In the past, as a student’s misbehavior escalated, a teacher might ask the student to leave the room, put a hand on a student’s shoulder to try to get him to calm down, or — if need be — direct him by the arm away from a tense situation and possibly call security to remove him from the classroom area. But as policymakers take these options off the table, teachers have little recourse but to remove every single other student from the classroom before someone gets hurt.

“Teachers report feeling powerless to enforce order and ensure the safety of their students,” Eden concludes.

Laura Waters, who blogs at New Jersey Left Behind, is the mother of a son with special needs. Eden is wrong, she responds. School districts aren’t “powerless,” she argues. They’re too cheap to hire and train support staff. A one-on-one aide can escort a disruptive student from the classroom to a “calming space” and call in a therapist or social worker, if necessary, writes Waters.

Students who misbehave aren’t “untouchable,” she writes. “Many districts train aides and special education teachers in strategies like Handle With Care, which (according to this New Jersey policy manual) uses ‘physical restraint to control a student’s behavior to protect the student and/or a member of the school community from imminent serious physical harm’.”

And here’s my comment:

As a school attorney, citizen, parent, and grandparent, I tend to view the issue more as Max Eden does. I also carefully read Laura Waters ‘ comments — based on her experiences with her son. They both raise valid points.

The debate goes on and on, even as, as I see it, we lose sight of the big picture for our nation — our nation’s public schools that are supposed to serve ALL students. A minimal requirement is that all students can feel safe there. That is the most basic fundamental need.

Alas, we’re far from meeting that need right now. While good people like Ms. Waters and Mr. Eden can debate on and on with good arguments on all sides, as I see it, utltimately, it matters not because of that OPEN BACK DOOR — which almost invites parents to vote with their feet OUT of our public schools altogether.

We can argue forever about the current (I believe flawed) inclusion and room clear policies… while parents (especially those with means who we want engaged in public education) vote with their feet out of the public schools altogether. Not for my kid. It’s not safe. My kid gets no attention. Etc. Etc. Etc. These parents, too, have good arguments.

It’s happening. We know that the percentage of wealthy students who have left public education for private schools or home schooling continues to grow. As I see it, that does not protect rights. Instead, it’s very bad for our nation.

Continuing on our current path further dessimates our public schools. It’s us vs. them. It’s in or out. it is the individual vs. the other students. It’s disruption, fear, uncertainty. It’s not good.

The bottom line is that current policies belie the fact that ALL KIDS MATTER ALL THE TIME. Schools have to be safe and serve ALL OF THEM. Flawed inclusion policies and room clear policies send the wrong message —in a word, that all students DON’T matter. Many parents see that and take action for their own children. They opt- out. They leave.

So tragic — while our government dithers and can’t figure out how to protect and educate ALL of our students, the back door swings wider.

Predictably and tragically, we’ll reach a tipping point when more schools than we already have seen in some troubled inner cities will be ever more for only the have-nots. Sad .Sad. Bad. Bad. Not good for America.

What to do? Instead of our current rights-driven approach for some students, focus on ALL students from the get to. Invite ALL general education parents and teachers to all of the planning tables from the get go . All means ALL. Focus on the rights to education in safe schools that all kids have. Move fast to reign in policies that disrupt the education for all students.

As long as these policies focused on some (but not all) students and their debates continue, it ain’t happening. Sad for all of us and for our nation.

This was originally posted on Medium

(I first published this piece in Medium.com. Please check out my writing there!

We’ve heard about the “IMPOSSIBLE burger” — making burgers from vegetables, not beef. Some people think it’s actually yummy!
So how about the IMPOSSIBLE Fix for special education!

It’s time and it’s not complicated: focus on teaching and learning for all students, general and special education, not procedures, rights, due process, litigation, and the ever-present anxiety-laden fear of litigation that so wrenches today’s schools, teachers, students, and parents.
For the 80–90% of students with disabilities who have mild and moderate needs and are educated mostly in general education classrooms, and their general education peers, focus on learning in schoolrooms — not their parents’ fights in courtrooms.

Notably, in 2017, the Supreme Court, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County, acknowledged the existence of two student groups who receive special education. We know that 10–20% of them have severe or profound needs, and often require complex and costly services. For these students, I believe it’s time to convene a summit to plan a new way forward.

The IMPOSSIBLE Fix focuses on the 80–90% of students with disabilities who have mild or moderate needs and are mostly in general education classrooms. It’s time to substitute the entitlement and due process rights they have had since 1975 when the law was enacted to ensure that all students with disabilities receive education services. That goal was achieved long ago. We now educate more than 6 million students under this law — 13–14% of all students! The entitlement, the only one in our schools, is no longer needed, in my view. Uncapped, it is costly and has become dysfunctional, damaging, and often impedes good education practice.

Really? End the entitlement and due process? That sure is radical! Yes, and probably IMPOSSIBLE. But, let’s at least consider this path. I see it as the only way to fix the mess we’re in. And, if we can’t end it — let’s limit and cap it.

Imagine a 2nd grade teacher with 24 students — five of whom receive special education services. She knows she has to take care of those students first — lest a dispute or hearing arise! How does that help all students learn? How is that fair to those children and the other 19 in the classroom? How is that best practice?

I’ve been writing and speaking about reform at least since 1995. It seems like forever! My writings and presentations are usually well-received, and I often hear: “You’re doing important work. Keep at it.” “Good luck with that!” And the most poignant, “You’re saying exactly what I’ve been thinking and have been afraid to say….”

Yet, nothing really changes until, hopefully, now. Over the last 5–10 years I’ve sensed as new feeling… that more and more people are willing to consider real change. Here’s how we can get to where we need to be to focus on schooling and learning for all students, including the 80–90% of students with disabilities and their general education peers.

1. That table. Invite the right people — all stakeholders people to the table. Since special education students make up around 13–14% of all students, have them be that percent at the table. Fill the table with general education teachers, administrators, parents who work with and love -average students, advanced and gifted students, English language learners, students in poverty, students in wealth. You get the idea. All students. No more trying to fix special education by inviting only those in the “biz” with a sprinkling of others. Instead, invite 13–14% of stakeholders who work with and represent special education — teachers, administrators, parents.

Then, seek honest input from those at the table. Ask open ended questions. Build a summary that everyone takes back to their lives, shares, and revises, until you repeat that meeting at that table. And repeat until we fix the mess we are in.

2. The options. Create attractive options that will substitute for the cumbersome and burdensome system that, after all the paperwork, meetings, and other procedures leaves special education teachers with just 27% of their time for — you guessed it — teaching! Many leave the field as a result, creating a special education teacher shortage.

Creative attractive options already exist. Here are but a few examples.

Check out Vermont’s sweeping education reform. https://info.dmgroupk12.com/
And see excellent work in competency-based education in Westminster, Colorado. https://www.westminsterpublicschools.org/cbswps
I’m also eager to learn more about Karen L Mapp’s program for parent and family engagement at Harvard.

Oh, there are so many other examples of schools and others doing effective work for all students. It’s time to open the floodgates!
Instead of the time and money spent on nonsense –paperwork, compliance, litigation — nonsense because these do not improve student outcomes and, often, get in the way —

Instead of due process and litigation, seek the “the IMPOSSIBLE Fix” of dispute resolution options that are relationship and trust-building and do not involve litigation.

Instead of labeling students as gatekeepers to services, through the failed “wait to fail” model, provide early and steady interventions for all students — from the most needy to the most advanced.

Instead of endless focus on student weaknesses — what they can’t do — focus on their strengths and passions — what they can and love to do!

Instead of training parents to become mini lawyers to fight against the very schools that educate their children, train parents to help their children learn and benefit from all the gifts that schools offer.

3. The benefits. Treasure benefits that will result from implementing the IMPOSSIBLE Fix. These include more time for teaching and learning, better partnerships and more trust between schools and parents, fewer teachers abandoning the field, moneys spent on best practices in classrooms, not winning strategies in court rooms, and the best news of all: better outcomes for all students, as teachers will have more than a mere 27% of time for teaching.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work to make the IMPOSSIBLE — actually POSSIBLE!

Let’s create the Impossible Special Ed Fix!

The IMPOSSIBLE Special Ed Fix!

The IMPOSSIBLE Special Ed Fix!

We’ve heard about the “IMPOSSIBLE burger” — making burgers from vegetables, not beef. Some people think it’s actually yummy!

So how about the IMPOSSIBLE Fix for special education!

It’s time and it’s not complicated: focus on teaching and learning for all students, general and special education, not procedures, rights, due process, litigation, and the ever-present anxiety-laden fear of litigation that so wrenches today’s schools, teachers, students, and parents.

For the 80–90% of students with disabilities who have mild and moderate needs and are educated mostly in general education classrooms, and their general education peers, focus on learning in schoolrooms — not their parents’ fights in courtrooms.

Notably, in 2017, the Supreme Court, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County, acknowledged the existence of two student groups who receive special education. We know that 10–20% of them have severe or profound needs, and often require complex and costly services. For these students, I believe it’s time to convene a summit to plan a new way forward.

The IMPOSSIBLE Fix focuses on the 80–90% of students with disabilities who have mild or moderate needs and are mostly in general education classrooms. It’s time to substitute the entitlement and due process rights they have had since 1975 when the law was enacted to ensure that all students with disabilities receive education services. That goal was achieved long ago. We now educate more than 6 million students under this law — 13–14% of all students! The entitlement, the only one in our schools, is no longer needed, in my view. Uncapped, it is costly and has become dysfunctional, damaging, and often impedes good education practice.

Really? End the entitlement and due process? That sure is radical! Yes, and probably IMPOSSIBLE. But, let’s at least consider this path. I see it as the only way to fix the mess we’re in. And, if we can’t end it — let’s limit and cap it.

Imagine a 2nd grade teacher with 24 students — five of whom receive special education services. She knows she has to take care of those students first — lest a dispute or hearing arise! How does that help all students learn? How is that fair to those children and the other 19 in the classroom? How is that best practice?

I’ve been writing and speaking about reform at least since 1995. It seems like forever! My writings and presentations are usually well-received, and I often hear: “You’re doing important work. Keep at it.” “Good luck with that!” And the most poignant, “You’re saying exactly what I’ve been thinking and have been afraid to say….”

Yet, nothing really changes until, hopefully, now. Over the last 5–10 years I’ve sensed as new feeling… that more and more people are willing to consider real change. Here’s how we can get to where we need to be to focus on schooling and learning for all students, including the 80–90% of students with disabilities and their general education peers.

1. That table. Invite the right people — all stakeholders people to the table. Since special education students make up around 13–14% of all students, have them be that percent at the table. Fill the table with general education teachers, administrators, parents who work with and love -average students, advanced and gifted students, English language learners, students in poverty, students in wealth. You get the idea. All students. No more trying to fix special education by inviting only those in the “biz” with a sprinkling of others. Instead, invite 13–14% of stakeholders who work with and represent special education — teachers, administrators, parents.

Then, seek honest input from those at the table. Ask open ended questions. Build a summary that everyone takes back to their lives, shares, and revises, until you repeat that meeting at that table. And repeat until we fix the mess we are in.

2. The options. Create attractive options that will substitute for the cumbersome and burdensome system that, after all the paperwork, meetings, and other procedures leaves special education teachers with just 27% of their time for — you guessed it — teaching! Many leave the field as a result, creating a special education teacher shortage.

Creative attractive options already exist. Here are but a few examples.

Check out Vermont’s sweeping education reform. https://info.dmgroupk12.com/

And see excellent work in competency-based education in Westminster, Colorado. https://www.westminsterpublicschools.org/cbswps

I’m also eager to learn more about Karen L Mapp’s program for parent and family engagement at Harvard.

Oh, there are so many other examples of schools and others doing effective work for all students. It’s time to open the floodgates!

Instead of the time and money spent on nonsense –paperwork, compliance, litigation — nonsense because these do not improve student outcomes and, often, get in the way —

Instead of due process and litigation, seek the “the IMPOSSIBLE Fix” of dispute resolution options that are relationship and trust-building and do not involve litigation.

Instead of labeling students as gatekeepers to services, through the failed “wait to fail” model, provide early and steady interventions for all students — from the most needy to the most advanced.

Instead of endless focus on student weaknesses — what they can’t do — focus on their strengths and passions — what they can and love to do!

Instead of training parents to become mini lawyers to fight against the very schools that educate their children, train parents to help their children learn and benefit from all the gifts that schools offer.

3. The benefits. Treasure benefits that will result from implementing the IMPOSSIBLE Fix. These include more time for teaching and learning, better partnerships and more trust between schools and parents, fewer teachers abandoning the field, moneys spent on best practices in classrooms, not winning strategies in court rooms, and the best news of all: better outcomes for all students, as teachers will have more than a mere 27% of time for teaching.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work to make the IMPOSSIBLE — actually POSSIBLE! Let’s create the Impossible Special Ed Fix!

This was originally posted on Medium