Flypaper

I'm not a special education (SPED) expert nor will I ever claim to be one. But I do know that it happens to have one of the most mobilized and vocal constituencies in education. And that's no surprise--understandably, parents of special needs children want their kids to receive the services that they need. But this article brought up a couple issues in special education that continue to be a problem.

I'm assuming the fact we continue to see our SPED numbers grow (and their associated costs) is one of the reasons that Virginia lawmakers have proposed that parents be notified--as opposed to approve--when a district wants to terminate services. I'm guessing some parents look at these services as given. But aren't most kids (not talking about the ones diagnosed with severe and profound disabilities) supposed to be benefiting from this assistance and eventually testing out of services? We're told that over a third of special education students in Virginia are deemed learning disabled (LD). Now, I'm not saying that these kids are not learning disabled--just that there's some pretty solid research that says that early identification and prevention programs (esp. in reading) are better for kids who later end up getting labeled LD than are years and years of SPED services.

One of the other proposed changes places limitations around how often schools are required to update parents on their children's progress. It's no secret that special education as a field is particularly rife...

Guest Blogger

A post from guest blogger and Fordham Vice President for Ohio Programs & Policy Terry Ryan.

Ohio's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Zelman, announced to her staff today that she will be stepping down as state superintendent. She is leaving after several months of public, and sometimes nasty, tussling with Governor Strickland and his emerging agenda for Ohio's K-12 education. Dr. Zelman will be missed, and now speculation turns to her possible successor. Scott Elliott of the Dayton Daily News has listed on his blog four possible candidates (including the Governor's wife). He is seeking suggestions on other names to consider; if you have any insights here please share with Scott and his readers.

On the front page of today's Washington Post is a feel-good story about Ocean City Elementary, a Maryland school in which 100 percent of the students passed the state's math and reading tests. I don't want to rain on the school's parade (or give the Post reporter, Dan de Vise, a hard time for finding an excuse to mix business with pleasure (hmm... this school is at the beach... the article appeared just after Memorial Day Weekend...)) but isn't it worth pointing out (again) that when everyone can meet a standard, it means it's not really a "standard"? Perhaps this is a sign that Maryland should raise the passing scores on its tests? Can you imagine a front-page Washington Post story reporting that an entire high school student body got a perfect score on the SAT? Surely someone would question whether standards had slipped.

Still, I'm sure we're only days away from hearing Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings declare that "this school proves that 100 percent proficiency is an achievable goal." And with low enough standards, yes it is....

Liam Julian

Mark Bauerlein, author of this book about dumb people and the harm they do, has the numbers.

Liam Julian

Mark Lampkin, executive director of ED in '08, responds here to an earlier attack, launched by the Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey,??on ED in '08's priorities.

This over-the-top, the sky-is-falling article from the Boston Globe is yet more evidence that the concept of "standards" has taken a beating in public discourse. At issue is the MATCH public charter school, one of the nation's best, according to Newsweek . It pushes its students--most of them poor--to take challenging Advanced Placement courses and provides gobs of extra support in the form of intensive tutoring. Almost all of its graduates go on to succeed in college. So what's the problem? Some students, not feeling up to the school's rigor, are "bolting" for the Boston Public Schools.

Boston officials accuse MATCH of not offering enough support for students to graduate on time, leaving Boston with the awkward task of determining the students' fate.

MATCH officials, on the other hand, say Boston presents an easy out - an automatic promotion - for their students struggling under rigorous graduation requirements. They deny encouraging students to leave, and ask that Boston make diploma determinations based on the charter school's standards.

"It breaks my heart to see students leave this late in the senior year, but it would break my heart more to change or lower our standards," said Jorge Miranda, the school's principal. "There's no compromising on the standards. They need that preparation to succeed in college, and when they get that college degree, that's their ticket out of poverty."

Read that again: "It would break my heart more to change or lower our standards." Amen, Mr....

Liam Julian

"Can too much education hurt your chances of getting hired?" Yes.

Thanks to a friend for sending this mind-boggling Palm Beach Post article:

PORT ST. LUCIE--A 5-year-old kindergartner was "voted out of" his classroom at Morningside Elementary on Wednesday when his teacher asked his classmates to take a vote on whether they wanted him in class, police say.

Teacher Wendy Portillo told the boy, who is known to have disciplinary issues, to stand in front of the class that day, according to police.

"The teacher decided to bring him in front of the class and let the other kids tell him what they didn't like about him, kind of ridiculed him," said officer Michelle Steele, spokeswoman for the Port St. Lucie police.

Portillo then had the class take a vote on whether to boot the boy out of the class and send him to the principal's office.

The class voted 14-2 to send the boy out for the day, Steele said.

Yes, this teacher should stop watching so much Survivor. Maybe she should even be fired. But should the teacher face criminal charges?

After conferring with the state attorney's office, which said the case didn't meet the criteria for an emotional abuse case, police are not pursuing this as a criminal incident, Steele said.

After conferring with the state's attorney office? Doesn't our criminal justice have enough to do? You know, fighting crime?...

Liam Julian

Roy Romer, chairman of ED in '08, tells NPR why education is not a big issue in this year's presidential election.

Liam Julian

Tough to miss over the weekend were two pieces--one in the New York Times, the other in the Wall Street Journal--about high-achieving high school students and their struggles. (Such students, the Times tells us, do not eat lunch.) Columnist Anne Applebaum rightly points out in today's Washington Post that similar stories appear each spring, without fail, and that they provide vivid contrasts to??articles about America's thousands of high school dropouts. It seems clear that a two-tiered (or three-, four-, or five-tiered) public education system exists--has always existed--and that the tiers are growing farther apart. Far less clear is why so many are unwilling to recognize it. They abstain from reality by??not offering classes of different difficulty levels (thus the hasty push to get more kids into AP courses, for instance); by denying??the benefits of quality career and technical education; and by insisting that most, if not all, students should (must!) go to college. But this approach just isn't a smart one. To paraphrase: You have to reform the education system you've got, not the education system you wish you had. Doing otherwise can exacerbate the??trends one is attempting to mitigate....

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