December 05, 2006
On Math Standards, Expectations, Parenting & "Special Ed"
Comments On "Special Ed" Sought - Please Read To Bottom
Today's news brings a welter of Washington education commentary. Bethel High School student Courtney Moore of Spanaway in a Tacoma News Tribune letter to the editor says Gov. Christine Gregoire's plan to delay from 2008 until at least 2011 the statewide WASL math test passage graduation requirement sends a harmful message: the math standard doesn't yet matter, so don't try. TNT columnist Peter Callaghan explains how the math used to justify the delay is itself pretty fuzzy. A recent post here by Stefan certainly attracted some passionate feelings on the WASL, pro and con.
Meanwhile, the governor's education ombudsperson co-authors a Seattle P-I op-ed, asserting government must better prompt parental involvement with measures including Spanish-language translations for meetings, signs and school materials; and use of Spanish-language radio. What, no Mandarin, Tagalog, or East African languages? How could that be?
The P-I reports today (4th graf, here) that the state legislature will be asked to spend money to close the "achievement gap," which exists between blacks and Hispanics at the low end, and whites and Asians at the high end. Although they fuzzily omit the who and why. The "achievement gap" has assumed a life of its own, with baked-in statist values.
But as letter writer Laura Wrzeski of Lakebay (on muy retro Key Peninsula in Pierce County) notes in today's TNT, the real problems for many low achievers start with "unparents" and their progeny's subsequent behavioral hijinx in school.
There's a price tag that comes with that. Some "special needs" students who markedly raise per-pupil costs in public schools truly have lesser mental capabilities, and need special attention. But how many have been dumped in such programs more because they're bad actors with "unparents?" Is "special ed" about 75 percent a scam? Or just 50 percent a scam? Or less - and I'm (still) an ignorant heartless bastard?
Share your thoughts in the comments here. I'm especially interested in hearing about special ed from current or former educators. Are too many kids dumped there? If so, how can that be changed? What else is wrong, or right, about special ed programs in Washington state public school districts today? And have things gotten better or worse, over the years?
Posted by Matt Rosenberg at December 05, 2006
10:25 AM | Email This
Along with the apathy (being polite) of the system, over the past two decades there has been a massive increase in the drugging of kids. There are 100s of thousands of kids on these drugs adversely effecting them and the schools.
About Child Drugging
Prescribing psychiatric drugs to children is a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry that permanently damages children. While the U.S. federal government spends nearly $1 billion a month fighting the war on drugs, we ignore the worsening problem of legally prescribed psychotropic drugs.
The drugs prescribed for so-called learning disorders are completely different from routine medications that medical doctors prescribe for colds or fevers. Psychiatric drugs are addictive and mind-altering substances.
The stimulants prescribed for ADHD are listed as controlled substances under Schedule II of the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Why? They constitute a substantial risk to public health, have little to moderate therapeutic usefulness and can be potentially addictive.
The main stimulant used for “ADHD” is an amphetamine-like drug, which purportedly acts as a tranquilizer in children. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration it is more potent than cocaine.
2. 1. I believe that the duty to educate children is written into the Washington State Consitution as a paramount duty.
2. There is going to be some form of a public school system.
3. Whether one chooses to analyze the current difficulties in terms of race or class, it is going to be difficult to get parents, on the whole, who moved to certain neighborhoods because of the advantages they perceive in being with people like them (most often class, although with particular individuals there may be elements of race consciusness) to move their children out of that cocoon.
4. There should be quality schools in all quadrants of the city which deliver a good basic education as defined by the RCW.
5. There has to be competition in the public school district to get to quality education in all quadrants of the city.
6. There will have to be a variety of options to get to a quality education in the city:
a. The most likely viable public school insitutional stucture is probably a charter school district in which every school is a charter and has the freedom to innovate to produce the achievement results for basic education as defined by the RCW.
b. I know the Consitutional arguments, but a viable system will probably include a limited number of vouchers for kids from failing schools which could be used even at religious schools.
c. Some kids have MIA parents, illegitimate parents or whatever one wants to call them. Here, there should be a joint effort between the social services agencies to intervene and work with these families.
d. My thesis is Matt is correct that many children who have behaviorial problems often steming from a problematical situation at home are put in speical ed, but not all. Many parents move to Seattle with special needs children because of the programs. Given that, perhaps the funding should be on a special statewide formula for those children who really are special needs and not problems that teachers just don't want to deal with.
Special Needs students come in many forms, some IEP's are very extensive, some only need to address a couple issues. Either way Special Education is costing the school districts far more than they get in Federal or State dollars, so those funds have to be spent from property tax payers. Additionally, Special Education students and and many times do, stay in school until they are 20 or 21.
The problem is that more and more students are classified here based on minor problems. However those fringe students can have an IEP that gets them out of the program relatively quick as well, but while in the program they do get better services and more attention than the general student population.
With the WASL comes students who fail specific portions of the test and each of those students get an 'IEP' of sorts as well, which in a good school will help the kids because they will be treated as each kid being at a different education level.
sidenote: In WASL Math, at our school 7 years ago we had 3% pass the test, last year our 10th graders was at about 60% and with retakes we expect those 10th graders to be well over 85% this year, leaving only 15% needing to pass it as seniors to graduate.
Sorry for this long post folks, but the comment below explains why we need good schools teaching a good basic education in all quadrants of the city:
Stupid in America
Why your kids are probably dumber than Belgians.
John Stossel | January 13, 2006
For "Stupid in America," a special report ABC will air Friday, we gave identical tests to high school students in New Jersey and in Belgium. The Belgian kids cleaned the American kids' clocks. The Belgian kids called the American students "stupid."
We didn't pick smart kids to test in Europe and dumb kids in the United States. The American students attend an above-average school in New Jersey, and New Jersey's kids have test scores that are above average for America.
The American boy who got the highest score told me: "I'm shocked, 'cause it just shows how advanced they are compared to us."
The Belgians did better because their schools are better. At age ten, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age fifteen, when students from forty countries are tested, the Americans place twenty-fifth. The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from countries that spend much less money on education.
This should come as no surprise once you remember that public education in the USA is a government monopoly. Don't like your public school? Tough. The school is terrible? Tough. Your taxes fund that school regardless of whether it's good or bad. That's why government monopolies routinely fail their customers. Union-dominated monopolies are even worse.
In New York City, it's "just about impossible" to fire a bad teacher, says schools chancellor Joel Klein. The new union contract offers slight relief, but it's still about 200 pages of bureaucracy. "We tolerate mediocrity," said Klein, because "people get paid the same, whether they're outstanding, average, or way below average." One teacher sent sexually oriented emails to "Cutie 101," his sixteen year old student. Klein couldn't fire him for years, "He hasn't taught, but we have had to pay him, because that's what's required under the contract."
They've paid him more than $300,000, and only after 6 years of litigation were they able to fire him. Klein employs dozens of teachers who he's afraid to let near the kids, so he has them sit in what they call "rubber rooms." This year he will spend twenty million dollars to warehouse teachers in five rubber rooms. It's an alternative to firing them. In the last four years, only two teachers out of 80,000 were fired for incompetence.
When I confronted Union president Randi Weingarten about that, she said, "they [the NYC school board] just don't want to do the work that's entailed." But the "work that's entailed" is so onerous that most principals just give up, or get bad teachers to transfer to another school. They even have a name for it: "the dance of the lemons."
The inability to fire the bad and reward the good is the biggest reason schools fail the kids. Lack of money is often cited the reason schools fail, but America doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30 years. Test scores and graduation rates stayed flat. New York City now spends an extraordinary $11,000 per student. That's $220,000 for a classroom of twenty kids. Couldn't you hire two or three excellent teachers and do a better job with $220,000?
Only a monopoly can spend that much money and still fail the kids.
The U.S. Postal Service couldn't get it there overnight. But once others were allowed to compete, Federal Express, United Parcel, and others suddenly could get it there overnight. Now even the post office does it (sometimes). Competition inspires people to do what we didn't think we could do.
If people got to choose their kids' school, education options would be endless. There could soon be technology schools, cheap Wal-Mart-like schools, virtual schools where you learn at home on your computer, sports schools, music schools, schools that go all year, schools with uniforms, schools that open early and keep kids later, and, who knows? If there were competition, all kinds of new ideas would bloom.
This already happens overseas. In Belgium, for example, the government funds education--at any school--but if the school can't attract students, it goes out of business. Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents. "If we don't offer them what they want for their child, they won't come to our school." She constantly improves the teaching, "You can't afford ten teachers out of 160 that don't do their work, because the clients will know, and won't come to you again."
"That's normal in Western Europe," Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. "If schools don't perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S."
Last week, Florida's Supreme Court shut down "opportunity scholarships," Florida's small attempt at competition. Public money can't be spent on private schools, said the court, because the state constitution commands the funding only of "uniform, . . . high-quality" schools. But government schools are neither uniform nor high-quality, and without competition, no new teaching plan or No Child Left Behind law will get the monopoly to serve its customers well.
A Gallup Poll survey shows 76 percent of Americans are either completely or somewhat satisfied with their kids' public school, but that's only because they don't know what their kids are missing. Without competition, unlike Belgian parents, they don't know what their kids might have had.
5. It amazes me how the left want to be like Europe when it degrades the US, but if it bumps into unions' interests then success is irrelevant!
6. The union monopoly schools constantly complain about class sizes as their problem. With the lack of accountability and failure to meet standards and the number of people pulling their kids out and into private school, they will get smaller classes, albeit not in the method they had in mind. Maybe that was their plan all along. Drive the kids away but taxes remain the same, equals more money per student and more money for the teachers.
The class size mantra is just a convenient way to politic. When push comes to shove the unions give up smaller class sizes nearly every time. I-728 was a good statewide example. The teachers union fought tooth and nail to full fund the other initiative passed that year at the expense of not funding or arguing fully for I-728 which was the initiative that gives more money for the school districts to increase teaching time or reduce class sizes.
Every time your school district goes into contract negotiations with teachers, the teachers give up smaller class sizes right away for more money for themselves. Either smaller class sizes don't matter or else the teachers put themselves ahead of the students.
Whenever you hear of contract negotiation difficulties and the teachers are out there saying it's because of class size, they are LYING, I know this from experience, it's just a good way for them to try to get the public behind them.
Smaller class sizes do work, but only if the class sizes get down to 11 or 12 and under. In most cases it can be done WITHOUT additional monies. It only requires (say at the elementary level) that proper scheduling would have some teachers teaching 10 students in math or reading at a time, while others are busy with 35 or 40 in arts or P.E.
This can be forced onto the teachers unions by proper legislation. Class size should not be an issue, we should have 10 kids or so per teacher during reading, writing and math, but it takes some creativeness to do it, and it can be done with little or no extra money.
Having graduation standards would be a good idea if it was actually knowledge that was being tested. The WASL tests writing style over substance. It does not test grammar or even reading comprehension. It is so bad that schools spend almost 10% of the classroom instruction time to teach students how to take the WASL. In doing so they give up teaching subject content, such as multiplication tables, to teach how to structure an answer. The right answer and no lengthy explanation gets less points than the wrong answer with the proper written format. Meanwhile, the teachers are getting farther and farther behind in their lesson plans and text books because there is not time to do both.
On top of the loss of subject teaching time, a horrendous amount of money is being poured into the WASL and its prep. A regular standardized test like the ITED or CAT or SAT or any number of other tests can be administered and corrected for a few dollars in only two or three hours of class time. Or for $70 to $90 and 20 hours of class time a school district is forced to give the WASL. The results come months, not weeks, later after the students have moved on to a new grade or even a new school. If some students need the type of untimed, unstandardized, essay test that the WASL exemplifies, let them have it. But for a massive, system-wide assessment, the WASL is an expensive boondoggle.
9. The WASL is fine. If the poor little darlings are learning something in class, they should be able to pass that test. The allegations that it doesn't test real skills are patently false, as the test has been independently validated. What should be the focus is how to fix the curricula and the poor teachers and schools that are producing failing results.
10. My son is developmentally disabled. I had to teach him to read myself using phonics because the district insisted even special ed be taught whole word reading. Most of the kids he was in school with never did learn to read. They also did not really even try to teach them basic arithmetic through drill. They taught them to use calculators. I would agree with that as part of their life skills traing, after it had been ascertained that arithmetic was not learnable for them, but not as just about the only method. Special ed kids, with the effort of their parents (big time) can be taught until they plateau. However, I am seeing that way too many of the mainstream students are being taught using the same methods, and are woefully unequipped to advance further either academically or professionally, until remedial training is undertaken either before or at college level. What a waste of time and fertile minds.
Who has independently validated the WASL test?
The National Technical Advisory Committee. You can find a summary of their findings here.
This committee concludes that the WASL meets the relevant standards of validity as prescribed by the national Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, and NCME 1999).
13. Bad parenting or not, the schools are still tasked with educating these children. If you have kids that are not reading/writing/performing math at acceptable levels, I really don't see how getting them extra help could be called a "scam."
14. I am a little puzzled here. I am no fan of the WASL. However, much as I dislike it, my son still passed the sophomore WASL in all subject areas - and frankly, he is quite weak in math. So - if he can pass it, I shudder to think that there are a whole bunch of students who can't. It doesn't really make sense to me!
To give some perspective to the debate...the following link is a practice math WASL. Take a look at the questions and decide for yourself what you think of it. My opinion, after taking the whole test, is that it shouldn't be that hard to pass if you have a basic working knowledge of mathematical concepts. By the way, can anyone verify if 50% correct is a passing score? I had heard that somewhere but don't know if it is true.
Interestingly enough, Seattle Magazine has looked at every district around the Sound and put them all into categores that make it easy to tell who is doing their jobs and who isnt.
What's funny is that when we moved here 10 years ago there didnt seem to be that many private schools, but looking at Seattle Magazines full layout, that problem has been rectified, and then some.
When a city has an explosion of private schools and homeschooling - people should sit up and take notice.
The bottom line is, the kids dont really care what we're debating here - they just deserve a shot at a decent education. And parents deserve NOT to have to pay taxes on a failing school, while also paying for private school.
Washington State could not be any more ass backwards at this point.
Uh, Lauri, the private school rate has been about 25% here for about 20 years so there have always been a lot of private schools. Homeschool is another thing.
Sorry, we don't get to decide what taxes we pay. I don't drive much but I pay road taxes. I hate the war but I have to pay for that. You choose to put your child in a private school, too bad, you help educate the rest of society so they will grow up and be decent citizens.
There is going to be a public school system of some type:
1. The state Constitution defines it as a paramount duty. So, people will pay for it.
2. The social compact requires that society have a core of workers that can be trained for some type of employment. Ideally, voters should have some clue about this representative democracy and Constitution.
3. The question is whether the public school system can deliver a good basic education to a majority of its students. This last question is
important because many kids are not going to private schools and are not going to be home-schooled.
4. The real question is whether the current institutional structure is accountable for the public dollars invested and a second question of whether the same dollars can be spent more efficiency with better results?
Like it or not, everyone has a stake in the outcome.
19. Check out the editorial in the Tuesday
Wenatchee World Paper. It appears that 49% of our students are failing math and need more time to "cram". That is the reason Queen Christine wants a bit more time!
They are scared spitless that some parent or group of parents will sue the state in a class action if their child does not graduate because of WASL requirements. One possible remedy, tutors to undo the damage of failing schools. This is big $$$. So, relax the standards and let every one graduate whether they can read the exit sign above the door or not. It is not about kids, as always, follow the money.
Laura Wrzeski's letter makes good points, but how exactly does she propose that we "fearlessly intervene" in households with poor parenting? Good parenting can be encouraged but not enforced.
There are things that society can do to help achieve some of the desired effects, such as a higher minimum wage, gun control, national health care, and subsidized day care and preschool. Is SoundPolitics prepared to endorse these steps? I thought not.
We usually disagree. Society can enforce standards that are in the best interests of a child, such as feeding, attending school, and not subjecting a child to abuse. Society can also require parenting classes.
Neither you or Ivan have responded to my questions which I have posted on several threads.
Care to respond?
118. 1. I never said that religion per se makes a student achieve. But, if a school which is religious produces results in terms of its students basic education, is the choice prohibited simply because the school happens to be religious? Basic education is defined in the RCW. That is a standard all schools should meet.
2. Point #1 is not pablum, studies have proved that children rise to meet epectations. There is a famous study of files getting mixed up. Students that should have been labeled underachievers were labeled achievers. They were treated as achievers by teachers and did better than expected on tests.
3. Guess I'm just stupid, even though I have an MBA in economics. This transfer of massive amounts of money from public schools is an interesting statement. Can you cite some actual studies on the economic impact. The Florida program was limited to those in failing schools.
4. Gee, the student loan programs and military college savings allow choice at religious schools. Has this choice increased religious divisions because some one is able to go to Brandeis or Seattle Pacific?
5. All a charter school is an insitutional structure which allows some licensing or granting authority to set forth specific conditions for the operation of the school. What the insitutional structure allows is the freedom to innovate. In many states they are exempt from many regulations, not the requirement to produce basic education standards, and they can do things like:
1. Longer school days
2. Longer school terms
4. single gender classrooms
6. Other innovations
I think the real issue is ideologues can't force their ideology on everyone, no matter what is best for children. The politbureau wants to keep control.
Posted by WVH at December 1, 2006 01:12 AM
33. Ivan and Others of Like Mind:
1. I do not accept the guidelines of Bush's NCLB.
Specifically, what don't you accept about the definition of a failing school? Cite specific examples?
What is your specific definition of a successful school? What elements are you looking at specifically?
What is your definition of a failing school? Define the elements specifically?
2. I oppose charters but I do not do so out of fear.
Why, specifically do you oppose charters?
Would you oppose a charter school district where every school is allocated a per pupil amount and how they use it to achieve basic education in their population of students as defined by the RCW is up to them? If so, specifically, why?
3. I am not a "progressive."
We finally found something that we both can agree upon
WVH - Society can require parenting classes? Really? Under what law? Under what constitution? What would the classes teach? What would be the penalty for not attending? What would be the penalty for attending but not complying with what was taught?
Geez, talk about the nanny state!
As for your other "questions", most of them are actually statements, not questions, and I answered most of the questions in earlier posts, just not to your satisfaction. But if you really have a question, please state it.
This paper that Palouse sites to show the validity of the WASL says the WASL meets whatever they are measuring. However, whatever they are measuring does not insure that you have a test that is valid.
Consider the GLE's below. I have only picked a few of them and these are the new GLE's that Bergeson claims represent a new level of specificity.
GLE 1.1.8 Apply estimation strategies in situations involving multiâ€‘step computations of rational numbers using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers, and square roots to predict or determine reasonableness of answers.
GLE 1.2.6 Understand and apply estimation strategies to obtain reasonable measurements at an appropriate level of precision.
GLE 1.3.1 Understand the properties of and the relationships among 1â€‘dimensional, 2â€‘dimensional, and 3â€‘dimensional shapes and figures.
GLE 1.5.1 Apply knowledge of patterns or sequences to represent linear functions and/or exponential functions.
GLE 1.5.5 Apply algebraic properties to simplify expressions involving whole number exponents.
GLE 2.1.1 Formulate questions to be answered to solve a problem.
GLE 2.1.3 Identify what is known and unknown in complex situations.
GLE 2.2.1 Select and use relevant information to construct solutions.
GLE 2.2.2 Apply mathematical concepts and procedures from number sense, measurement, geometric sense, probability and statistics, and/or algebraic sense to construct solutions
The WASL is supposed to be a test that measures these GLE's. Curriculum is supposed to align to these GLE's. Isn't it clear that these GLE's are so vague they are useless? It would be easy to make a test with a question that could be categorized into each one of these GLE's and at the same time have curriculum that taught material that could be categorized into each one of these GLE's and end up with test questions that were totally outside of the scope of the curriculum.
The solution is to throw out our standards and replace them with standards that are clear and specific so we can have a meaningful WASL test.
Shalimar, I'm not sure what your point is with that. The committee studied the test's development standards, content, content analysis, evaluation and scoring. And they found that:
The level of validity and reliability for reporting individual student and school results is acceptable for reading, mathematics, and writing.
The item development and review processes have contributed significantly to the content validity of the assessments.
These are all people with years of experience with these types of tests and with significant educational credentials. But I'm sure the armchair educators of SP know better.
Until another study is done on that test by people with equivalent credentials finding that the test is not measuring what it is supposed to, everything else is just conjecture.
26. #23 Bruce:
1. If a child is subject to a dependency action instituted by the state, as a condition of having that action dismissed, parents could be required to attend parenting classes. There could be a guardian appointed as well. The standard is best interests of the child. It is in the RCW.
2. Do you have an objection to an insitutional
atructure charter school district? Why or why not?
3. Does every teacher have to be represented by a union?
1. Not a question. (You could be right in this narrow case, but not in general.)
2. It depends. I would probably support it if it banned religious schools and provided equally well for all applicants, including those with special needs.
1. #1 wasn't meant to be a question, but an answer.
2. Does the current institutional structure "provided equally well for all applicants, including those with special needs."
do what you want a charter schools district to do?
Is the current system succeeding or failing?
Among the several reasons that children are referred to Child Protection Services are suspicions of abuse and neglect. Teachers, counselors, and medical personnel have a mandatory duty to report suspected abuse. Child Protective Services investigates and may take further action including a dependency procedure.
Would you change the protection of children?
1. I thought Special Ed had been done away with, and children could not be removed from the classroom for individual attention (somebody might think they were dumb). Hence the rise of "gifted" programs, because it's ok to take the successful children out of the classroom for special attention.
2. Money in Washington education is spent ineffeciently, most is wasted in administration. districts are bound by strange funding requirements, and that awful 10% for art law also applies to school funds (that whole program is full of graft).
3. Too many chiefs bossing around the indians. Too little classroom time is spent teaching the 3 R's, social agendas and special interest subjects are required and suck up valuable learning time.
4. Not enough control of staff. We have many, many examples of district inablity to fire ineffective and criminal staff.
It's a testimony to dedicated teachers and educated that our schools work even as well as they do.
dl 29 sums it up for me. great points and on point. there is enough money. like droughts & floods, it's in the wrong places.
too many bureaucrats/extras on stage not teaching, but shuffling paper. too much union control. fluff disclipline. too many lawyers. true dedication snuffed by the giant weight of rules and mediocre hangers-on.
precisely opposite of why private/religious schools do well. less red tape & leaner. and---TRULY answerable/accountable to those who pay.
can't we create some special ed schools? use public school vouchers. like those tutoring places advertized. in place of 'mainstreaming,' won't these schools have better, focused, more efficient delivery & results and not (yes, not p.c.) disrupt or affect the main bodies of other students? have these been tried?
maybe it's insensitive and segregationist, (not intended) but we have special units of hospitals that practice specialities, right? like pediatrics & heart? can't this work for education?
I don't think your proposal about separate special ed schools is insensitive at all. Rather, I think it's a good idea. Mainstreaming DD kids really doesn't help them all that much. It may expose main bodies of students to the fact that there are imperfect people in the world, and they may learn some sensitivity and understanding. However, trying to mainstream truly developmentally disabled kids is actually cruel. They are cocooned in this velvety, politically correct little high school world where they never understand that they are indeed different. Then, voila, they graduate. And they graduate to a world of isolation and lonliness. All their normal "friends" don't want to have anything to do with them, because they don't have to any more. They have difficulties getting work. They are suddenly spit out into the real world, with real prejudices out there, or fear of their disability, and they don't understand. However, the schools have done one hell of a job at making them comfortable in high school, while not really teaching them anything academically. Separate schools would be much more effective, and could concentrate on preparing these kids for what awaits them in the real world, rather than trying to convince them they are just like everyone else. In the end, they believe that's true and the resulting rejection is crushing for them.
exactly, katomar--my angle was one of real-world practicality and dignity for those who will have to struggle more.
granted, this may cost more, (or not) but we can do it by eliminating other silly feel-good teaching programs and some extra admin staff that do not add to the teaching objective.
the void can be filled like private schools--donations, findraising, volunteers, parents and simply "doing without" some edu-niceties. i wonder if there are any such places out there.