Archive | June, 2014

Arne Duncan Declares Major Shift, Misguided

special education, major shift in federal evaluation“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Arne Duncan, US Education Secretary said on June 24, 2014 as reported by NPR. A broad, vague and misleading statement that politicians and legislatures take for fact without any evidence based accounts made by experts in Special Education. Further remarks by the Obama administration state that a majority of the 6.5 million US students with disabilities are not receiving a quality education. It plans to hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress.

Oh, yes….sounds all good and dandy. However, let’s be real, let’s really listen and pick these statements apart. Actually the Education Secretary is calling for the government to change how it evaluates the effectiveness of special education programs…and to hold the federal funds as a prize or punishment. Isn’t it enough that we are putting general education students’ and their teachers in charge of demonstrating success by exhibiting growth on high-stakes, standardized tests? Now, we are placing the same expectation onto students with disabilities.

Schools are required by the federal law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that they receive access and supports to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed by a committee and is based on evidence based data. Instruction, goals, and services also need to be evidence based. This plan is dynamic and changes with the student and his/her individualized needs, growth, and ta-da!!! progress. Now Education Secretary Duncan wants to measure this progress alongside general education same grade peers using high stakes, standardized testing; the exact opposite of an Individual Education Plan and its evidence based instruction and progress monitoring.

IDEA 2004 has pushed schools toward progress monitoring and providing interventions within a tiered system that accesses students long before a disability is found eligible and schools have embraced the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework to better meet these federal guidelines. Schools, students, and teachers are working to support all students including those with disabilities to meet the standards. Success however cannot be measured by a standardized growth pattern. Growth especially that of a student with a disability cannot be standardized. It cannot be compared with same age peers. It cannot be held against a standard of general education students or fellow students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are exceptional and receive an Individual Education Plan according to federal legislation. Now this same federal institution wishes to grant funding based on the very thing IDEA stands to protect students from.

Yes, your general statements sound grand and even positive. However, they are naive and misinformed on the system of special education and how best to mandate. It is not a question of growth, but of compliance. It is not a question of standardized progress, but of individualized progress. Much has been written about the lack of education experts making legislative decisions in Washington. Whether it’s the argument and faction of Common Core, teacher evaluations, or now the “major shift” in governmental evaluations of effective special education….it is clear. Working for a better education framework is essential, but perhaps those working for this should actually work in education.


7 Things All Teachers Need to do This Summer

  1. paddlemistsmallRelax, take some time to do nothing. Deflate. Recharge.
  2. Then get every doctor, dentist, mammogram, check-up, and random appointment done. I schedule mine all for the same week, and then keep fingers crossed none of my children require me to be the taxi for anything that week with specific time requirements that will be in conflict.
  3. Well, while you’re at it, do the same for your children and pets.
  4. Read as many books as you can, I bought a huge stack with high hopes for winter break.  They are now working as paperweights till I can dig in next week.
  5. Pick a professional development that inspires you. Shoot for late July. Giving yourself a few weeks to simmer with positivity before the onslaught of the new school year zaps you back into reality.
  6. Meet your teacher friends, outside of school, resist bitching and complaining about anything educational. Do however, laugh and giggle at all the ridiculous things you witnessed or are afraid of for the upcoming year. (Remember though, do not bitch or complain).
  7. Shop!  Buy new school shoes, yes everyone needs a new pair young and old…and then look for classroom items that will make you smile inside. Doesn’t have to be expensive, but we all love finding something new to make life easier. Heck, we are there at least a 1/3 of our lives….so we can invest in something for our classroom, for ourselves. This summer, I am buying a new chair. The school one is about 2 inches too low, old furry burgundy tweed, and has been used since at least 1959 as a seat/napkin and it is time. I don’t necessarily notice it, till testing season rolls around. Then the hours sitting at my desk make me all too aware my butt and arms both ache.

How Many Teachers Feel this Way?

SOLs, Virginia Standards of LearningI do not think I could have said this better.  This teacher captures the frustration, the let down, the lack of optimism within the system accurately in his article The Tough Decision to Leave the Classroom.

It is June, we just finished our SOLs.  I am relieved.  I tend to have a healthy outlook on the scores, if I get them, I will look at them.  However, that is about it.  I won’t cheer, and I definitely will not cry.  I have a week left, I will be filling out spreadsheets of student scores on NWEA tests, ARDT screenings, and critical thinking “Tasks” monitoring each students growth.  And not because anyone wants to see students grow and learn….but simply so bureaucrats can judge and evaluate my classroom instruction.  How that makes sense…I do not know????


Test Scores ≠ Great Teaching

Love this quote from a Diane Ravitch’s Blog from May 2012

“I fear that they are pushing data-worship and data-mania of a sort that will cause teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum, and other negative behaviors (like cheating). I don’t think any of this will lead to the improvement of education. It might promote higher test scores, but it will undermine genuine education. By genuine education, I refer to a love of learning, a readiness to immerse oneself in study of a subject, an engagement with ideas, a willingness to ask questions and to take risks. I don’t know how to assess the qualities I respect, but I feel certain that there is no standardized, data-driven instruction that will produce what I respect.”

Diane Ravitch, Education Historian




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