What will cure education?

Joanne Jacobs has an interesting piece about reformers who went to private schools trying to fix public schools.


We can go around and around with that one, but how about this radical idea for true reform?

 I’ve always thought (and written once in an op-ed piece) that, truly, the only way to fix our public schools is to close all the private schools. Radical, eh? Only in that way, schools will matter for everyone–not just for other people’s children.

Of course, it won’t happen. Alas. But, it would work. I’d predict that within a year, our schools would be fixed, even in the inner cities–kids would learn, discipline would be in place, teachers would have time to teach, and the sun would shine upon us all.

How about giving this idea a try?

http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/154424.html#comment-30853.  Frankly, I am NOT surprised.  Are you?

As a former teacher, and current school attorney, I found that direct instruction worked best for my students (who were at all achievement levels).  Now, so many years later, it’s gratifying to see research confirming that approach.

Of course, a blend of approaches– direct and problem solving–is probably the way to go.

Fourth FREE sticker!

Here’s the fourth FREE sticker–it’s what lawyers will tell you every day of the week:

If it’s not in writing, it did not happen!

Educators need to document what they do.  This sticker should help get the message out!

How does  it work?  When you order books from School Law Pro (See Store), you’ll get a selection of FREE stickers. Or, send a stamped, self-addressed envelop to School Law Pro, PO Box 960515, Boston, MA 02196, for a FREE selection.


Dee Alpert

I read with sadness that Dee Alpert died last weekend. While I did not know her, I knew of her passionate advocacy for special education. Her death is a loss to our community.

As some of you know, at the end of 2009, I was interviewed by Education News.Org about my new book then, Fixing Special Education.  Dee contributed a very interesting comment. I contacted her after that–but we never got together.

So now I reread her comment.  She both criticized my interview and agreed with it that something needs to change. Her suggestion?  Do away with the IDEA! And instead, at the end of every year, have an outside independent evaluator assess whether the student made progress. If yes, presumably, stay with the program. If no, give the parents a voucher so they can choose another.  You can read her comments at the “most commented’ section of www.educationnews.org.

Agree or disagree, Dee was a creative forward looking advocate, pushing for children to learn more and better. I will miss her contributions going forward.

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Sticker #1: It’s the RELATIONSHIP!

FREE with book orders. Or, send prepaid envelope to School Law Pro at PO Box 960515, Boston MA 02196–and we will be happy to send a selection to you.    These vinyl stickers are 5.5 x 1.75 inches.  They are beautiful and make the message stick!

It’s April and time for STEP  Four!  As you know, every month in 2011, we’ll post a STEP  to FIX special education.  There are 12 steps. By December, our systemic transformation should be well underway! Please share your comments and let us know the steps you are taking to fix special education. 

 April 2011—Step Four to change the path we are on

 Educate all students, without labels. End the reliance on the medical model as gatekeeper for services in our schools. 

 Where we are now….

To obtain special education services in the U.S., a student needs to pass a gatekeeper to get a label signifying that he or she is diagnosed with one or more of the 14 disability categories recognized by federal law. The term ‘medical model,’ as used here, describes that gatekeeper model—a system to diagnose children and then special education to ‘fix’ or ‘treat’ or remediate the disability.  The law is based on the idea that something is wrong with the child that the schools need to fix or improve. 

 Many issues have emerged from this label-driven system.  Much of it is based on flawed research. For example, the labels we used are viewed as fixed—even as brain research suggests otherwise—the brains are more fluid and change over time. We spend much effort on treating the disability, rather than focusing on skills and knowledge that students need to learn.  Some science we believe in—such as the belief in ‘learning styles,’ or dividing students into VAK categories (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)— is discredited by current science.  And finally, we really don’t know why some struggling learners are labeled with a disability and receive special education services, while others are left behind as, well,  just ‘struggling learners’ Our identification procedures are flawed.

 Where we need to be. How to fix it?    We need to change our belief systems and the incentives we have in place. We need to make it unproductive to spend money and time on labeling, and productive to spend it on teaching and learning.   As Don Asbridge wrote, “Students need to go to school to get an education, not a diagnosis.”

 We need to focus on educating all children—not on sorting them. Let us educate children based on what they know and can do and need to learn, rather than on who they are. 

The No Child Left Behind Act and IDEA’s focus on response to intervention (RtI) is a good start. RtI provides targeted assistance to young students, especially in reading and math. The theory is that if we teach children at their level—from the start—fewer of them will be referred for special education.

 Every learning difference is not an illness or defect. Teachers need to focus on teaching all types of learners, not sorting and diagnosing them.

 Creative open-minded problem solvers—we need you now!


These steps are taken from Fixing Special Education—12 Steps to Transform a Broken SystemThe book is available at School Law Pro: http://schoollawpro.com/fixing-order.doc and at 

Park Place Publications at http://www.parkplacepubs.com/online-store/view/fixing-special-education-12-steps-to-transform-a-broken-system

 Stay tuned for May’s STEP!