Special Education Needs a Radical Reform

posted in: Reform, Resources | 0

Chester Finn, a past Secretary of Education in President Reagan’s cabinet, has made such a clear statement on special education that I wanted to make it widely available on my site. I echo his words here not just because the special education system is ineffective but also because my three kids have suffered from a well-intentioned federal program that does not work for them. We have, quite literally, thousands of emails, hundreds of letters and lots of time devoted to advocating for the best education our children can get, but the system set up to help us and them achieve this quality, is broken. We are now getting more help from a new school system who has the resources and knowledge we need, but even this great help is a brand new program with issues to work out. We have written to every level of the educational system, from principals to superintendents, from state directors to federal authorities, in our search for reform, and we have not found it. Chester Finn’s statement below is just the tip of the special education iceberg, where the progress we have made in schools over four decades is threatened by the antiquated policy for children with disabilities. So one place to start is some economic funding suggestions included below:

Poverty Cuts Off Your Long-Term Brain

posted in: Reform, Resources | 13

I was admiring Nelson Mandela’s words yesterday and thinking about racism and poverty. When I want better schools, I can’t start the conversation without thinking about the context of those schools. Schools are very much a reflection of the society around them. Some argue that we cannot change schools without changing society. So can we change society? What are more kids in poverty now than twenty years ago? This alone would indicate a failure of society, not the schools into which we send poor kids! And all I can see from my little perch, is that we do not have the will power to stop our short term thinking and embrace the harder conversations that lead to long-term thinking and successful societies. I came across Andy Smarick’s column and he advised looking at this Atlantic magazine piece on the “how” of poverty:

Zero Tolerance for Bad School Policies

posted in: Reform | 0

What do you do with bad kids? First of all, don’t call them bad kids! Kids are learners who make mistakes and need help and guidance along the way, right? So what are we doing about Zero Tolerance policies that throw a disproportionate number of minority students into criminal status? We should craft new school policies that support student transgressions through better guidance, more support and much more attention to their access to quality learning opportunities. An old “rule of thumb” of teaching is that if the learning is interesting, there are less behavior problems. A new rule of thumb for teaching is to make the learning more equitable.

Common Core Steamroller

posted in: Assessment, Reform | 0

Fred Smith, retired analyst, has testified about the Common Core steamroller that is over-running New York State parents and students. In his testimony in front of the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Education on 10/29/13 he documents with graphs that “raise questions about the scales being used to weigh student achievement and the veracity of the [NYState] ELA and Math results.”

Education for All at UNESCO

posted in: Resources | 0

In 1945, UNESCO was founded as The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This group of intellectuals deals with many of the cultural parts of aid to countries around the world. I have made reference to the Education For All (EFA) movement on other parts of this website as something we should all be aware of, and something that maybe some of us would like to get involved with. Could this be you? Read on:

Better Assessment; Flipped Classrooms

posted in: Assessment, Reform | 0

The education reform I envision is based on more accurate assessment of student learning. We have to look at the evidence for student failure under previous reforms, including the current standards/accountability reforms that ask for ever more intense standardized testing. The reforms of the last twenty years depend on the use of standardized testing to hold states, schools, teachers and children accountable. On the surface of this reform, standardized testing sounds like the most efficient way to measure student learning and hold the system accountable for its effectiveness. But instead of accountability, it has produced failure. More students are failing. More teachers feel like failures. More schools are failing larger numbers of students.