An OK letter in some ways and very troubling in many others.

OK? In many ways this “letter to colleagues” states the current practice–as schools have successfully been including students with disabilities in sports programs for many, many years. [NOTE that much of OCR’s regulations and letters, including parts of this letter reach far beyond the law, Section 504. More on this in a later blog].

Interestingly, this ‘directive’ or ‘ruling’ as headlines proclaim, came in the form of a letter to colleagues….not a ruling, not a court decision, not a formal action by a deliberative body. What weight will it have in future disputes? We know that often courts, administrative law judges, and hearing officers overturn government letters–when they exceed their authority.

Troubling? This letter goes far beyond the law when it ‘orders’ separate programming. In my view, this letter exceeds the authority of Section 504. Section 504 has more modest goals, to provide equal opportunity in EXISTING programs for students with disabilities–not to demand the creation of new programs.

Troubling? This letter misuses the term ‘modifications.’ When it talks about ‘ reasonable modifications’ it is really discussing ‘reasonable accommodations.’ We know that accommodations do NOT fundamentally alter standards, programs, etc., while modifications do. This OCR letter is not, as I read it now, ordering fundamental alterations in existing programs. Thus, it’s talking about accommodations. This misuse of terminology is troubling, as it confuses educators, parents, and students alike.

Much has already been written about this new OCR letter. See, for example the Ed Week Blog below.

Above are my quick two cents. More later. Your thoughts?

So, I started to surf the net… as we tend to do at these rather frustrating times…

And, lucky me, I came upon this blog–Coming of Age in the Middle. I loved it! Maybe this plane delay was meant to happen?

This teacher, Jessica Lahey, writes that she teaches ‘stuff,’ real stuff. She doesn’t just work to create a comfortable and safe place where students might get to the ‘stuff.’ She’s more direct and focused. While the piece may exaggerate teaching modes a bit, it hits the mark. I loved it. Check it out!

Today when driving around the bay area in California, I heard a radio news report that got me thinking. California is leading the nation with the number of charter schools–now up to 1000. Nationwide, the report indicated that there are 6000 charter schools, with 2.6 million students. That is viewed as growth by the charter school reformers and hats off to them.

But, it left me with a question: anyone who reads about education reforms these days knows of the huge effort toward ‘choice,’ which often means charter schools or even home schooling. It’s been a reform effort for many years.

But, what about special education? Special education educates some six million students– two to three times as many as do charter schools! Special education has been with us since the 1970’s and has been very successful in providing access to education services for all students with disabilities and making our schools more inclusive.

Yet, the system that provides services to students with disabilities is widely regarded as being broken, in need of systemic reform that will allow us to better educate children with disabilities and all other children…

But, reform of special education is not on the nation’s reform agenda. Other than our continuing to tinker with the law and regulations (especially when reauthorization is pending before Congress), we still have essentially the same bureaucratic, adversarial, input-driven, regulation-based system that was set up almost 40 years ago! The world has changed but the system continues. Why is that?

But, but, but. Why is special education not on the reform agenda, especially as it educates between 2 and 3 times as many students as do charter schools? Why indeed?

This discussion is long overdue. I urge you to read these articles.

Which of these bad things is worse? Expelling students for misbehaving or ignoring the education of their peers by allowing misbehaviors to distract from school learning?

We need to discuss this. I side on the side of students who come to school to learn… and the side that suggests we create alternative schools for disruptive students. We need equity for all students.

What do you think?

Worth reading and discussing!

Thanks, Joanne, for bringing this piece to us.

A sad finding–new research shows that therapy for teens who may be ‘suicidal’ may not be effective.

I wish it were otherwise….It got me thinking.

What else is being recommended that is not effective? or for which a research basis is weak? While very few recommendations for therapy are a matter of life and death–as is this service–one is left to wonder about the research base for much of what is pushed by folks…

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2013–I, for one, was born way back in the last century. Awesome it really is.

There are some stories I’ve been watching over the years. One is about the generally-held belief that we can multitask. That is, we can do several things at the same time–all well. It’s the old joke about walking and chewing gum at the same time.

Well, in learning, we can’t multitask really. The work we do–the skills we learn–are not as well done as if we were to focus on each one –one by one. Here’s yet another study showing that multitasking does not work, as much as some of us may wish it were otherwise.

Your thoughts?