What Will They Do Now?

03/11/2010
Breakdown of political party representation in...
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Here we go again.

Congress is about to rewrite education law again.

I shudder every time I think about this.

535 people, whose primary interest is re-election, debating policies that will affect the future of this country for decades to come.

Let me make it a little clearer.

There are 535 people who will create the laws that will govern education for the next generation. Of those, 100 can, at best, think only six years ahead and mostly about their own self-interest. The other 435 can also think mostly about their own self-interest, but their vision is limited to two years ahead.

The starting point for their debate will be the latest iteration of the now 45-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as No Child Left Behind.

That law is almost universally regarded as flawed; the only disagreements have to do with what those flaws are, how they rank in importance, and how much teachers should be blamed for the law’s failure to accomplish its aims.

Forgive me my skepticism, but I can’t see any reason to expect any good to come out of this.

Even if conditions were perfect, it is highly unlikely that Congress would write a law that makes sense for special education students, their parents, or their teachers.

Conditions are far from perfect.

Both political parties are damaged and more interested in making the other lose than in creating good policy.

Lawyers or accountants, not educators, head more and more school districts, including most of the biggest districts in the country.

Tight money means great pressure to reduce the cost of special education services to school districts and their taxpayers.

Consider the political implications of this: Some people had teachers they loved but everyone had teachers they hated.

The only people looking out for special education students are their parents and their teachers—the two groups most marginalized in current discussions of education policy.

There have been seven re-authorizations of ESEA since its inception in 1965, creating almost 100 different programs affecting special education, many with contradictory requirements.

There is no reason to expect anything better from the 2010 revision, should one somehow make its way through Congress.

Flock of Pigeons

Image by cypheroz via Flickr

Probably the best that special education can hope for is allowing multiple methods of assessing the learning of special education students.

A crumb tossed to the hungry pigeons pecking wildly.

We should rise into the sky and express our gratitude the same way the pigeons do

Plop. Plop.

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This blog is the first in a series of three I’m writing as part of the Classroom Insiders panel at We Are Teachers. Please visit to meet the two other special  education bloggers  on the panel and read their posts on this same topic. Our other series posts will appear on April 8th and May 6th.

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Good News! And Maybe The Opposite.

09/09/2009
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We got good news today.

It was leaked to us late last week, but today we were officially told.

Our school had met Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals in all categories and subgroups for the second year in a row. We were now officially a school in good standing under NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

Four years ago we were on the verge of being closed because of our history of failure.

Our then newly minted principal started changing the school’s atmosphere, expectations and attitude. Staff started to meet, reflect and change the way they taught.

Extra money was allocated to pay for extra professional development, new materials and Supplementary Education Services (SES).

The turnaround was not easy and not without turmoil, tears and other tribulations, but it was complete.

Going from failure to success was quite an accomplishment by our students, and our staff.

We could not have done it without the help of the Supplementary Education Services, mostly after-school tutoring and enrichment programs, we were able to bring in.

It was a complex and rich recipe that worked.

It worked.

It worked well. And quickly.

So you might think that the things that worked so well would continue.

Not even for a second.

Today we also got some potentially bad news.

As soon as we made AYP for the second year running all the extra money was removed from our budget.

Goodbye extra training.

Goodbye new materials.

Supplementary services were withdrawn. Completely. Cold turkey.

Does this make sense to you?

Not to us either.

We think the extra supports should have been withdrawn gradually, perhaps over two years in order to give us a chance to lock-in our gains.

Students arrive tomorrow.

By the end of this year we’ll find out how we will do without our crutches, without even a cane.

One more reason this will be an interesting year.

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