Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and RESILIENCY!

That word, resiliency, has popped up in many conversations recently. In following my ears, I’m wondering how we foster resiliency in our students.

What are we doing to help students be resilient–to overcome difficulty; to see the sun on the other side; to become active learners; to move from “victim to victor” per Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D., book, “Come on People.” See earlier blog on that one!

I Googled “resiliency in children.” Check it out. Lots of good stuff.

You may also wish to visit the following website, dealing with resiliency in adults.

Yes, let’s move resiliency to the top of the class and make it the ‘4th R!’

Got ideas? Please share!

Dear friends of education,

I just got back from Washington DC, where I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) 20th Anniversary Conference. Check it out at The conference dealt with the nation’s test, often called The Nation’s Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Once on the site,, go to “The Governing Board Commemorates 20 Years.” There, you can click on “Conference Papers” and, if you’d like to hear the panel, go to the podcasts. The panel I spoke at was about testing students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners(ELL). It was Panel IV.

Issues about how to include all students and keep the NAEP ‘real’ and valid and reliable were the subject of that session. They focused on the use of accommodations on, and the exclusions of SD and ELL, from the NAEP.

My loyal blogging colleagues know that I recommend that we keep our eye on the prize at all times. To get testing results that tell us how students are doing–good and bad. To get honest scores; not necessarily rising and good scores. Just the facts!

How to do that? NAGB is chartered by law to develop one test for the nation that is valid, reliable, based on widely held technical standards and representative of all of our nation’s children. It is a voluntary national representative sample test. Scores don’t count for or against students or schools. NAEP allows our country to compare scores from state to state and for large city to city.

How do we get NAEP ‘real’? Once NAGB decides WHAT skills and knowledge NAEP is to designed to measure, other issues fall in place. We then know what accommodations to allow–only those that maintain NAEP’s purpose, validity and reliability. We don’t, for example, read the reading test to a student, if the purpose of the test is to test a student’s skills in phonics, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. We don’t provide a test in Spanish if the purpose of the test is to test reading in English. We don’t provide a calculator if the purpose of the test is to measure math computation and related skills. I was happy to note that Dr. Shariff Shakrani, a fellow panelist, echoed these realities in discussing SD.

In terms of exclusions, based on reading the NAGB law, there should be NO exclusions by schools or states of students. Parents can opt out of the test, and, in some situations, schools can. But schools cannot cherry pick students. In terms of SD, there should be NO exclusions (beyond the 1% of students who take alternate assessments). Current exclusion policies are based on flawed readings of the laws, including the special education law, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

The fact that we now have troubling variations from state to state in terms of how many SD are excluded makes the NAEP far less valuable. Indeed, it tarnishes this ‘gold standards’ as it does not produce comparable scores. Again, I was happy to note that Dr. Shakrani echoed this recommendation to end exclusions (beyond that 1% exclusion).

If we want NAEP to be the Nation’s Report Card, to be a ‘the gold standard’ and to be the basis of decision making for improving our schools, then we must bring accommodation and exclusion policy in line.

How? NAGB should set the NAEP test, tell us WHAT it measures, provide the rules, allow accommodations that are consistent with NAEP’s purpose, end the practice of exclusions, and implement its requirements consistently.

Check out the conference and panel (as well as others) on line: at “The Governing Board commemorates 20 years of NAEP.”

I just read Stephen Lipscomb’s new report (January 2009), “Students with Disabilities and California’s Special Education Program,” found it very useful, and wanted to share it with you. Research support was provided by Karina Jaquet.

The report discusses both programming and funding for special education in California. One thing I really like about it is that the report clearly separates out the (a) costs for special education from the (b) costs of educating students with disabilities–as the second of these includes the regular education services that most students with IEPs receive. This report clarified my confusion on the matter.

You can download it at the Public Policy Institute of California website:

Happy reading!

Friends and colleagues–

I thought you’d like to know that my little books of laws–

Grades, Report Cards, Etc…and the Law, and

IEP and Section 504 Team Meetings… and the Law

are now also available through the Legal Digest. Check it out!

You might find other books and products of interest to you. Of course, you can also buy them directly through School Law Pro.

Philip K. Howard’s provocative new book is thought-provoking and excellent. Life without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law.

For those of us interested in reforming education–and specifically, special education, it has great insight. Imagine my delight to see among Mr. Howard’s references my little book of law about grades and report cards! Grades, Report Cards, Etc…. and the Law. Available at

Mr. Howard has started a national movement, Common Good, and a national conversation, New Talk–to end our reliance on laws and lawsuits as the means for conducting our lives. For more information, see and

But back to report cards, those papers we all know and have grown up with for generations–as children, teachers, parents. Mr.Howard on to something when he includes this little book of laws in his analysis: We know we have an issue when teachers need to worry about lawsuits when they grade students’ work in their classrooms. But there it is.

“Why do you want a holiday? First, decided what you want to accomplish. Miriam Freedman, JD, MA,[with colleagues in SPEDCO–the Special Education Day Committee] started Special Education Day to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the first fedearl special education law in 1975. Freedman writes, ‘Our holiday has been a huge success. It has helped us focus our efforts and gain a community of reformers. We are now launching SpedEx, an alternate dispute resolution model, which the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, is supporting and funding!’ “

Many thanks to the National Speakers Association (NSA) for inspiring people to create their own holiday!

More! It’s about time!

There’s more to add to the last blog! We take inspiration from Bill Cosby, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and, most notably, our new president, Barack Obama.

These leaders tell us some truths– that it’s time for parents, as well as schools, to work to improve outcomes for children. This week’s Education Gadfly picked up on the President’s inaugural speech in calling for a new “Era of responsibility.”
Our President is certainly on to something many of us have felt and known for a long time–but left unsaid. “A parent’s willingness to nurture a child…decides our fate.” Indeed.

We need to build on this important platform. Besides ideas for parental summits or other ways to partner with families and parents, as discussed in the Gadfly, we also need to review and amend our laws, that, alas, so far, run in the opposite direction. These laws (the NCLB, IDEA, Section 504, etc.) ask of parents that they “advocate” for their children, receive information about the schools, the teachers, etc., “demand” more, if what they receive is not enough, and file complaints or hearing requests. That is not enough. That does not lead us on the path of where we need to be.

In fact, in many ways, that approach misdirects us in defining ” parenting.” These laws should, at last, be more explicit in defining parenting as an active verb. And if we can’t mandate that, so be it, but we can at least provide examples–let these laws tell us what parenting is and can be.

I believe people all over our country are hungry for this information and leadership, including parents we may deem currently not to be “good” parents.

For starters in the “how to” department, use then candidate Barack Obama’s words from last May,

“There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one. There is no substitute for a parent who will make sure their children are in school on time and help them with their homework after dinner and attend those parent-teacher conferences…. And I have no doubt that we will still be talking about these problems in the next century if we do not have parents who are willing to turn of the TV once in a while and put away the video games and read to their child.”

So, what are the “how to’s” for starters?

  • Be sure the child is in school on time
  • Help the child with homework after dinner
  • Have dinner with the child!
  • Attend those parent-teacher conferences
  • Be willing to turn off the TV once in a while
  • Put away the video games
  • Read to the child
  • AND?

A wonderful beginning. Hopefully, our practice–and even our laws–will begin to reflect reality–at last. It is time!