What are they really doing?
Everyone who cares about students with disabilities is troubled by Arne Duncan’s latest NPR blathering over the Obama administration’s plans to get even tougher on special ed. and to test these students more and include their scores in the National Assessment for Education Progress known as the Nation’s Report Card.
I have been trying to understand. I mean they can’t be that dense when it comes to kids with special needs.
When they started the conversation by saying that 6.5 million students with disabilities weren’t getting a “quality education,” I thought, Hallelujah! They finally know that what they have been doing, like forcing students with developmental disabilities to take burdensome tests that are unrealistic, can be likened to child abuse.
But they were teasing. Instead, they have taken a turn for the worse. Duncan said, “It’s not enough for a state to be compliant if students can’t read or do math,” and he added, “We must have a system that will do more than just measure compliance.”
Do more than measure compliance?
Making each student wear a ball and chain comes to mind.
But what are they really getting at? Surely they have seen the outcries about high-stakes testing with these kids.
Duncan, with support from Kevin Huffman, who is hanging onto his job in Tennessee by a slippery spaghetti noodle (honestly, how many petitions to remove him does it take?), spoke out demanding even more accountability.
Huffman believes, or so he says, that all students with disabilities, and they were talking about those with developmental disabilities too, should be made to comply through more homework.
Both men insist students in special education pass the tests, because it does them a disservice not to.
You can save yourself a bottle of aspirin trying to figure out how these two got to be such high-powered leaders in education without an ounce of understanding about students with special needs. Behind their dog and pony show there is a calculated reason behind all their bizarre test and homework talk. It is designed to fool us.
The real agenda is not to make special education students their so-called idea of “normal.”
The real reason for all their get tough talk is to rid the country of special education services.
The fact is there has been a concerted effort for years to get rid of special education. It did not start with Arne Duncan and it probably won’t end with him either.
Consider IDEA 1997 and IDEA 2004. Why did they come up with those reauthorizations? If you think throwing all kids into regular classes, in the name of inclusion, and curbing parental rights for legal representation is a gift, think again.
Many of us realize that special education has been dying a slow death for a long time. See here about the destruction of special ed.
Special ed. has always been a pain to local, state and federal cheapskate politicians. Since the creation of Public Law 94-142, one of the best laws ever, there have been detractors who have worked to undo all the progress that has been made on behalf of those with disabilities. To do special ed. right is costly.
The sad fact is the ed. reformers know special ed. requires credentialed, well-prepared teachers and good programming and they don’t want to pay for it. Charter schools don’t know how to serve these children…or they don’t want to pay for it. And it is tough to implement good special education with Teach for America.
You also can’t sell Common Core State Standards. Special education is a great indicator to show the importance of differences. You can’t put everyone on the same page, with any of the standards really, if students require an Individual Educational Plan. See here.
The NPR show ends with Duncan speaking of a $50 million technical-assistance center for states concerning students with disabilities passing more difficult assessments. However, my guess is it isn’t about helping teachers help the students, no. It is about showing that teachers are failing when they can’t get these students to pass the regular tests.
The next step will be their excuse to pull $11.5 billion in federal funding to states for special education! They are already targeting Delaware, California, Texas, and Washington DC.
Then what will happen to students who need special ed. services? You tell me. My guess is we will see more charters claiming to be just for students with disabilities run by the TFA types. Wealthier parents might pay hefty prices for private schools, which, for the most part, have shown little proof of serving this population well, if at all.
Poor students with disabilities? Where will they go for help?
So are students with special needs doomed? I don’t think so. I’m remembering the court cases PARC v.Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia. There are other cases too.
I am actually encouraged. I see special education as the Achilles heel of the reform movement. Duncan and his ilk don’t know how to assist these kids, and parents find the “high expectations” talk shallow. What parent has low expectations for their child? What person becomes a teacher not to expect great things for their students?
The real beauty of all this, the silver lining, is that parents of children with disabilities, while desiring the best quality education and assistance, have learned how to love their children unconditionally. They don’t need high test scores to show them their student’s worth. They see the beauty every day in the stuff of this world that really matters. There are a lot of these parents and they aren’t the silent types.
And if it has been done before, it can be done again. We can fight for the rights of children. The ed. reformers know this. It is what they are afraid of.
So, we must look beyond these outrageous acclamations by Duncan and his ilk and remember these words: Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE for short. Say it to yourself over and over again.
It is what our students deserve…every single one of them. And it is our job to ensure that they get it.