As a school attorney I believe this to be true. As a parent, as well. And you? I suspect you believe it also. Here’s a Wall Street Journal op-ed by a psycholanalyst…. on this very vital issue.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/were-overmedicating-our-children-11551917025?mod=MorningEditorialReport&mod=&mod=djemMER_h

I am a concerned observer– not an expert– in this field. What is also concerning as well is the long term effects on these children (mostly boys) who grow up.. Where do the meds take them?

I spoke recently to a psychiatric nurse who treats young homeless men– many of whom started on their drug use/abuse with these meds given to them in schools. Is there a connection? Some research points to that. It’s very concerning–a tragedy that needs to be studied widely.

We should not be doing harm when we’re trying to do good.

Education Week LETTER

Let’s Have a National Discussion
February 12, 2019

To the Editor:

“Special Education’s Future,” one of Education Week’s 10 Big Ideas (January 9, 2019), suggests that the broken special education system is flawed in many ways, including issues with “child find,” eligibility labels, response to intervention, funding, and more. I hope the article spurs a national conversation and true systemic change for all students—disabled and not.

The article raises questions that Congress needs to answer, including one about the cost of special education, which is spot on. We need to know the real costs of general and special education for these students. However, the question raised about inequalities in due process doesn’t go far enough, as it assumes that a more-equitable due process is the path forward.

Of course, schools need equity, but it’s time to remove litigation from classrooms and rebuild effective schooling for all. The current one-size-fits-all legal system no longer works well, especially as students fall into two groups identified in the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District: those with severe/profound needs and the vast majority with mild/moderate needs who are mostly in general education classrooms. It’s time to create alternatives to due process for the latter.

In terms of inclusion, do policies help or hurt? To answer this, we must focus on all students—general and special education—especially as data are often incomplete, invalid, or misleading. Why do we continue to label students when it often impedes good teaching? Consider “wait to fail,” whereby students aren’t served until after they fall far behind and get labeled. This contradicts solid early-intervention research.

I agree that a revival of activism could fix what’s broken. Let’s get going!

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman
Attorney and Author

Vol. 38, Issue 26, Page 26

Published in Print: February 13, 2019, as Let’s Have a National Discussion
https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/02/13/lets-have-a-national-discussion.html

The big question he asks is whether schools will do what’s needed. That’s the provocative question that my colleague, Kalman R. “Buzzy” Hettelman puts out there for us all. The message is: The earlier the intervention the better.

https://edexcellence.net/articles/heres-where-the-education-reform-devilish-details-on-classroom-practice-should-start

It’s a good provocative read. His forthcoming book, Mislabeled as Disabled, focuses on the children who are not well served and do not learn to read.

Thanks for staying with it, Buzzy.

Here’s a great way to start the new year! An excellent article by Christina A. Samuels, “Special Education’s Future” in Education Week.
https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/01/09/special-education-is-broken.html I hope it helps us gain momentum for a national conversation to fix all that’s broken in special education.

The article gave me many “aha” moments as it sounds like what I’ve been writing for many years and what’s in my recent book, Special Education 2.0–Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law! Amazing!

Samuels highlights the many years of activism that got us here today and challenges us with “it will take a revival of that same spirit to fix what is broken in today’s implementation.” She’s right.

The piece lays out some of the broken features and challenges of special education, starting with President Ford’s prescient signing statement—which foretold many of them.

It explains flaws in “child find” and an eligibility system that requires children to have a “label”—often of questionable validity—to be served. It dares to cite research indicating that we may be under identifying minority children instead of over identifying them—as the press continues to report. Among other challenges, it questions the effects and effectiveness of the push for response to intervention (RTI), as well as the costs of educating children with disabilities, which are largely shrouded and unknown.

Ms. Samuels ends with three questions to pose to Congress when it takes up reauthorization. These questions are a good start but, as I see it, don’t go far enough. Let me explain.

1. The first question about costs is right on! It’s vital that we know what this system really costs. I appreciate the need to account for general ed (inclusion) and other intervention costs that these students receive.

2. The second question–about staffing–is beyond my expertise and I will leave it aside for now.

3. The third question about equity in the due process arena is too ‘in the box’ because it assumes that the current system is also the way forward. We just need to make it more equitable. While I agree that public schools need to be equitable for all, I ardently don’t agree that due process, litigation, lawyer-driven programming, etc. is how to move forward.

While due process may have been effective to end the 1970’s “access” issues, it is no longer needed. No one is excluded these days! All students with disabilities are served—some 14% of all students (even as the law contemplated 10%).

Given today’s reality, it’s time to end that legal system for the 80-90% of students with mild/moderate needs. Litigation (and the ever-present fear of litigation) needs to come out of our classrooms. Educators, administrators, and researchers, not lawyers and legislators, need to build a new approach so that teachers are free for actual teaching and learning for all students.

To the three questions posed in the article, I would add these two for now.

4. We need to acknowledge today’s reality of the two groups of students with disabilities. Please see my recent book, the Journal of Law and Education and Medium.com.
https://medium.com/@miriamkfreedman/happy-birthday-special-education-its-time-for-a-real-redo-d541867d5fb2.

It’s time to seriously ask: Why do we still need the one-size-fits-all 1975 due process law for all students with disabilities, especially for the 80-90% of students with mild and moderate needs discussed above? I believe we don’t. Instead, for disputes between schools and parents, it’s time to explore other dispute resolution models for all children, whether disabled or not, that are child-and education-centric, not money or legalistic/rights-driven.

The 10-20% of students who have severe and profound needs also need a better system. Let’s convene a task force of stakeholders from all parts of public schools to develop a way forward.

5. It’s time to seriously question the current system for finding students “eligible” for services—which is often flawed and too late. As well, current “labeling” often interferes with teaching. For example, we still use the “wait to fail” approach–whereby students aren’t found eligible for special education until they have fallen far behind–an approach that directly contradicts research-based early intervention and continues the legalistic and damaging approach.

I’ll stop here. There’s much to digest in this short piece. It’s a good read.

But one more thing. While we’re thinking big, let’s be honest. It’s really time to abandon legal hoops in a 40+ year old system and move to a system that focuses on teaching and learning, that works for all students. One such approach is competency based schooling where all students (from the most advanced to the most challenged) receive schooling to take them from where they are to where they need to be.

Your thoughts? Here’s hoping that with this article and all of our efforts, we gain momentum for our national conversation and a true rebuild. Happy 2019!

Here’s a great article to start 2019. Thanks you, Joanne.

Teaching real information and skills matters–especially for students who don’t get “enrichment” at home.

Yet, our current education fads steer us in the wrong direction–e.g., no need to teach phonics, no need to teach facts (they can look it up in Google), no need to know the number facts, no need to memorize poetry, no need for the hard work of learning.

All that is wrong–especially for students who most need to learn at school.

Hopefully these fads will fade fast. We can only hope. Happy New Year!

https://medium.com/@miriamkfreedman/the-radical-way-to-fix-public-schools-55768fc12308

Here’s the solution. It first appeared in the TABs near Boston years ago. Then, in educationnews.org in 2011 and now in Medium.com.

Crazy? For sure but what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let’s talk!

The radical way to fix public schools!

If we are really serious about fixing/improving/rebuilding public schools, there is one way to do just that! It is the single, quickest, and most sure-fired way to improve our schools. It’s common sense, really. But it probably won’t or can’t happen.
A lot is on the line. Without radical change, we just tinker on the edges of reform, afraid to confront various realities and stakeholders. But education should be about providing necessary learning opportunities to the next generation, not about today’s interest groups.
Ready for that one way?

Close all private schools.

Admittedly, a most radical step that is politically unfeasible and probably unconstitutional. I know, I know….. But hear me out on this one! This step will force all students (the very rich, the very poor, the smart, the average, the disabled, the at-risk, and everyone in between) into public schools, creating overwhelming pressure to fix them at last. Imagine CEOs in New York City, Silicon Valley, Detroit, and Houston and Senators, Representatives, and Presidents — all sending their children to the public school! Parents, no longer able to vote with their feet out of the publics, will just have to push for radical reform. Only in that way, schools will matter for everyone — not just for other people’s children.

Here are several wonderful examples of the new vision:

Education will focus on teaching all children where they are and taking them where they need to be. We will no longer focus solely on closing gaps for students without basic skills — but will focus on closing gaps for all students, including those at the top of their class who need challenges. We will bring back vocational programs, academically advanced programs — whatever all students need.

Regarding school discipline, students who disrupt classes and violate school rules will be educated in alternative programs without costly litigation that ties the hands of schools, adds disrespect for educators, and damages opportunities for all students. We will become more savvy about drop out prevention and discipline policies. Everyone outside the chattering classes knows that these behavioral issues are the elephant in the public school room. Disruption and time away from learning are key reasons that parents opt out and choose home or private schooling. Parents want their children to learn — not to waste time. Parents want teachers to teach — not face endless distractions. With everyone in the same space, we will finally have to get honest about this.

Teachers will no longer be scorned. As a former teacher, I find the current climate painful. We will rebuild trust between schools and families. With basic respect and trust, reform efforts will no longer flounder. We will treat educators as the experts they are. In my experience, most of them are good enough. Some are brilliant. We will honor their profession, whether through higher pay, creative training and mentoring, quick and efficient removal of the few who are not up to par, paperwork burden relief, even an apple for the teacher sometimes!

We will allow only bureaucratic requirements that directly improve teaching and learning, and will trash all others.

We will demand that parents play their part. Schools cannot educate children alone. Parents must be positive partners to help their children and support the schools. We will change laws that do the opposite, that treat parents as consumers of services and passive participants in improving outcomes. Some laws even require parents to advocate for children against the schools! How does that build a positive school community? It needs to end. We will see that parents help children with schoolwork, feed and clothe children appropriately, and put them to bed on time at night. Common sense will return to center stage.

Enough said. You get the idea. Before long, policies for the good of all children will return to public education. Schools will again be not just for other people’s children.

As an optimist, I predict that within a year, our schools will work far better, even in the inner cities–kids will learn, discipline will be appropriate, teachers will have time to teach, and the sun will shine upon us all.

Too radical? Probably. But think about a system that is designed for everyone children.

Originally published at www.educationnews.org on September 22, 2011.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman
Medium member since Nov 2018
Miriam K. Freedman, is an attorney and author. She wrote her seventh book, Special Education 2.0, to help support excellent public schools for all students.

College for all? It’s not working. We spend much on those heading to college and far too little on those who are not. Our balance is way off. An important read.

Thanks for raising this important issue—that needs to be raised over and over again.

It’s about time that we question the colleg-for-all mantra that has dominated public education. Ultimately, we can fairly ask who that mantra serves? The colleges or students?

Instead, we should focus on what works for different students. One path does not fit all.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Happy holidays!

I hope your holidays are joyous with family and friends and that we’ll share a wonderful new year of peace, prosperity, and meaningful education reforms. I’m staying put in California—if you make it to the Bay Area, let me know.

It’s a good time to review the work year and raise hopes for the new. Yes, I know we’re all super busy now but just maybe, maybe you’ll enjoy collecting reading ideas for the end-of-year break.

With that happy thought, here are three to consider.

First, if you haven’t shared my latest thought-provoking book with others yet or gotten your very own copy of Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law, there’s still time! It’s available on Amazon and on my website, http://schoollawpro.com/store. It’s a great road map for reform and discussion starter. Let me know what you think.

Second, I’m happy to share that I was published in a law journal again—this time, about Endrew F., the 2017 Supreme Court decision setting out what a FAPE (free appropriate public education) is and what schools should provide for all students with disabilities. It’s is a counterpoint in the Journal of Law and Education, Volume 47 Number 4 Fall 2018. I’ve attached the PDF.

Fascinating stuff. Briefly, I argue that

• The Supremes did NOT raise the (FAPE) free appropriate public education standard.
• The Supremes acknowledged the two groups of students with disabilities—those with mild and moderate needs (making up about 80-90% ) and those with profound and severe needs. My loyal readers and fans know that I believe we need different legal procedures and systems for these two groups (more fully discussed in my book).
• The Court confirmed that in the IEP Team process, schools are the experts and parents provide input. It’s time that all Team members understand their unique and important roles, value everyone’s contribution to the Team, and thereby provide well for the child.
Third, have you discovered https://Medium.com ? It’s a fascinating free website—full of good writing—and it’s super easy to be published there. Check out my latest at https://medium.com/@miriamkfreedman/happy-birthday-special-education-its-time-for-a-real-redo-d541867d5fb2. When you add your thoughts to that website, please share. Give it a go!

Finally, if you’re in Los Angeles in February at the AASA (American Association of School Administrators) conference, let me know. I’ll be part of a round-table discussion there. And if you’re in the Boston area in May and want to participate in a reform event that may include a creative out-of-the-box game and other surprises, let me know. We’re starting to plan.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it! What’s yours? Please share. Here’s to systemic and meaningful reform of special education. Come aboard! Let’s get it going in 2019!

Happy holidays!

Miriam

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D.
School Law Pro
www.schoollawpro.com
miriam@schoollawpro.com

Schools, the law, and common sense!

Here’s the link….https://medium.com/@miriamkfreedman/happy-birthday-special-education-its-time-for-a-real-redo-d541867d5fb2

And here’sthe post.

On December 2, 1975—43 years ago, President Gerald Ford signed the special education law to end the exclusion of students with disabilities from schools. The law succeeded, even beyond its mission. We now educate all students with disabilities—some 6+ million—almost 14% of all students, while the law planned for 10% of students. Schools have created programs and done amazing work to provide for all sorts of learners. Parents participate actively. Many students benefit.
Yet Ford was reluctant to sign – he saw the flaws as well as the promise, and his worrisome predictions have also come to pass. The current system is still process (not outcomes)-focused and creates a bureaucratic stranglehold on schools and parents. Teachers drown in paperwork. Student outcomes remain largely unproven, and pervasive fear of litigation looms large. Often, trust between school and home is killed.
Let’s take this anniversary to reflect on the law’s past successes to propose a redo going forward. Consider–
–Special education students have changed over the 43 years so that today, 80-90% of them have mild or moderate needs. Ten-20% have severe or profound needs.
–Special education students and their parents have individual entitlements to due process and programming that no other public school groups have. An industry of lawyers (including me), advocates, bureaucrats, evaluators, and enforcers now service this costly, adversarial law. Ask a teacher or parent.
–Special education teachers spend most of their time on paperwork and bureaucratic requirements, leaving 27% for teaching. Yet, we blame schools for not “closing gaps.” Not surprisingly, many teachers leave the field, creating a special education teacher shortage.
–Curiously, the number of due process hearing decisions has declined. But why? In 2005-6, there were 5385 decisions; in 2011-2— 2262; in 2015-6—1990. Do school districts settle disputes to avoid costly litigation, are student needs being met, do schools and parents work better together, or is it something else? We need research to show us what’s working or not.
–The total cost for educating special education students is estimated at 40% of school budgets, leaving 60% for 86% of students. Is this good public policy? We spend 143 times more for the 6+ million students with disabilities than for the 3.2 million gifted and talented students. Ask a superintendent.
–Special education’s impact on schools is far-reaching, but largely lacks research support. Most of the 80-90% of students described above are in mainstreamed—also known as inclusive—classrooms. Often, the focus is on the location—in which classroom a student sits—not on learning outcomes. Standards and behavior issues (for all students, disabled or not) challenge schools. Lacking objective research about the effectiveness and effects of current practices on all students—disabled and not—how can we provide equitable for every student?
I believe that we need a redo. Yet, it’s been my sad experience that to raise questions about the current system is often deemed “anti-child” or “anti-rights” –none of which is true, as my purpose is always pro-public education for all students. Conversation ends before it begins.
Instead, we need open conversation to forge ahead and respond to current—not 43-year-old—reality. We need stakeholders of good will to come together to celebrate the law’s successes, confront current reality, and create a brand new law. That will take time.
So, for now, to mark this birthday, here are three promising nuggets that may hold keys for forward thinking and movement.
First — Student outcomes. I am drawn to programs that focus on all students— from the most needy to the most advanced. Check out competency based programs (CBE), like Westminster, Colorado’s, “where education is personal!” CBE creates early, individualized, and robust interventions in general education settings to naturally address student needs, and hopefully, prevent students from failing. Results are promising. Outcome-focused programs are a vital step forward.
Second—Resolve disputes without litigation. The use of mediation and other alternate-dispute resolution models are rising. See, for example, Massachusetts’ SpedEx model—a voluntary, child-centered, free, non-adversarial, trust-building approach. The parties work together with a consultant to develop the child’s program and resolve their dispute. Promoting dispute-resolution among pivotal adults—without resort to litigation—is a good step forward.
Third — Meet individual student needs. The unanimous 2017 Supreme Court decision, Endrew F. v. Douglas County, recognizes two groups of students with disabilities–and the learning needs each student has. For most students, robust programming, as described above, may be appropriate. For a smaller group, including the 10-20% of students with severe needs, more specialized instruction may be appropriate. 1975’s one size fits all law no longer does.
Change is hard. Very—especially and understandably here, as many stakeholders fear it—and as parts of the law work well. Yet, I’m optimistic. This is America—the land of innovators and problem-solvers. When we finally acknowledge that the 43-year-old system is broken in many pivotal ways, our can-do spirit will kick in. We’ll focus on learning outcomes for each and every student, disabled and not. We’ll rebuild and maintain the vitality of our public schools.
Starting with these three nuggets, let’s speak honestly to one another, think BIG, and build an effective and equitable second generation approach for all students.

Adapted from Miriam Kurtzig Freedman’s book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law(2017). As a lawyer, Miriam represented public schools for many years, following her career as a teacher and hearing officer. As a reformer, she speaks to local and national audiences. Please visit her website: www.schoollawpro.com.