Education Week came out with an article pondering a serious question. How can you have special education charter schools and still call it inclusion? HERE.
I wondered, were the school reformers going to do the following:
- Return or ramp-up the old model of resource and self-contained classes within the traditional public school system?
- Pull together counselors, school psychologists, special ed. teachers, regular ed. teachers, district SPED staffing specialists, and other specialists, all who understand and have studied and earned degrees in those areas, to guide decisions to assist individual children with special needs?
- Renew the importance of the IEP, bypassing Common Core State Standards?
- Give parents inclusion as an option on a continuum of services?
No! Just kidding! This isn’t about that at all!
There are no plans anywhere to revitalize special education in America’s public schools. Quite the contrary, for the last 30 years the quest has been to get rid of public schools and special education.
But the reformists have a problem with all their quasi-private charter schools. Kids with disabilities have not been allowed in—no inclusion. But they have been pushing inclusion in traditional public schools for years. The reality, however, is if the charter schools were to pull together all the professionals I noted above, it would be costly. It would dip into their profits.
So they are opening cheap special education charter schools. In the Ed Week example it is one run by a parent (a well-meaning parent). They will throw in some behavior specialists in these schools, probably to guide all the Teach for America types, to show they care about the students who aren’t allowed into the elite charters.
And so now you hear a phony argument about the pros and cons of inclusion, by, just what we need, another nonprofit group. It is called the National Center for Special Education In Charter Schools, and it is designed to start up special ed. charters. It has also taken them twenty years to do this they freely admit. That’s how much the ed. reformers care about kids with disabilities. They are an afterthought.
Here are the backers: of the nonprofit:
• Oak Foundation, based in Geneva
• National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
• National Association of Charter School Authorizers
• Walton Family Foundation
• Academic Development Institute
• U.S. Department of Education (SURPRISE!)
But let’s step back and take a journey down memory lane, shall we?
Since the re-authorization of PL 94-142 to IDEA, the “all or nothing” inclusion mission has successfully been used to destroy special education services in regular schools.
Not only that, teachers, who have students with diverse disabilities included in their regular ed. classes (often large class sizes), who cannot get their SPED students up to grade level, are cast as failures. Some have lost their jobs, and many have watched their schools shuttered (low test scores) to make way for the bright new charter schools, most of which have never been better than traditional public schools.
Recently, Arne Duncan reiterated that if the teachers, the ones who are left, don’t get students with disabilities functioning on the top of the scale, using the NAEP, the federal government will withdraw even more funds from special education. HERE. He is going to use students with disabilities to end special education altogether and help to shutter public schools.
So where will all the students with disabilities go?
Parents and students, I am sorry to tell you this (like you don’t already know) but your children have been used. IDEA used them by pushing the message that it is not alright to have your student, with their special needs, in a special class. They called it a civil rights issue—segregation.
To a certain extent special education is a civil rights issue, and students with disabilities have not been served right for many years! But everything IDEA stood for was about watering down services and cutting special education costs. And parents were led to believe it was all about helping their children fit in better.
Laurence Lieberman, former special education teacher and at the time, learning-disabilities coordinator for the U.S. Office of Education and chairman of the special education doctoral program at Boston College, said this about IDEA 97: “Parents have been duped into thinking that their children will be better off with group process than with individual attention to their needs.”
This was a very honest and to-the-point statement. For years, many special ed. teachers helplessly sat on the sidelines watching sadly as SPED resource and self-contained classes were demonized as segregated bastions of wasteful spending. We held our tongues when outsiders deceived parents into thinking their children with disabilities would benefit and be better suited with other “more normal” students than getting individualized attention, even though the definition of normal escapes most of us.
The word “special” suddenly became a dirty word.
As an aside, I especially love how, with all the data being collected on families, raising all kinds of serious privacy issues, Ed Week can’t tell us how many of these special education charter schools exist!
Oh. But they’re coming. I’m guessing, and it looks like I am right by the Ed Week article, that many parents will run to these special ed. charter schools, maybe even embrace them, not because they are good, but because they are something, anything, to flee the sinking cash-strapped ship called the public school system.
Many parents today might not remember, if they ever knew, what special ed. used to be. And yes I know it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than what parents have now, and it could have improved.
But with their children stuck in overcrowded inclusionary classrooms, all plugging away to reach Common Core State Standards and taking hundreds of high-stakes standardized tests, parents will do anything to help their kids with disabilities escape!
And inclusion, used to dismantle public schools and special ed., well I hope parents didn’t get used to it. I think it has left the room.
I know it’s confusing.
Just remember, as you walk into that new charter school, when the TFA type runs to hug your child, it isn’t what it should be. It doesn’t follow what the old special education planners wanted for your children. It isn’t even close. You have been tricked and I am sorry.
Lieberman, Laurence M. 2001. “The Death of Special Education.” Education Week. 20 (18): 60m 40-41.
Jupiter Mom says
There are many issues with ESE programs in public schools. Parents often lack and are not given the information needed to advocate for their special needs child. “Educationally relevant” services are often misunderstood. But here’s the thing. It’s the law that the student must be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment. This is a good law. We need to have a balance between placing children in resource rooms for their entire educational experience when they can function in some regular placement courses with automatic placement in a regular classroom when clearly there cannot be enough accommodations in place to help the student be successful. It’s a tough balance for the best special ed teacher/therapist/parent. That is what the IEP team is all about though. It is in the IEP that you get the individualized program set up. It is the job of all members of the team to revisit placement decisions before the child has failed. Progress reports specific to ESE students ought to inform parents with regard to how much their child is working in class, the success/lack of success toward goals, etc. Usually progress reports are nothing but a checklist of goals and the teacher checking the relevant box (“Making some progress vs. not making progress). This isn’t very informative. There are a lot of parts of the ESE program I would want to see improved centering around communication. However, “LRE” is not one of the things we need to correct. It is a student’s right to be placed in a regular classroom if, given accommodations and special services (therapy), they can learn in that environment.
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Jupiter Mom,
I couldn’t agree with the IEP and LRE more! You make excellent points!
My question is why isn’t it the law that the LRE be followed in regular charter schools? Why do they get to set up segregated special ed. schools?
At least in regular public schools there is supposed to be a continuum of services with the IEP. Charters don’t follow the law. A continuum of services is what I am calling for.
And I agree with you about the paperwork. And I love your point about communication.
Thanks for your response!
Jupiter Mom says
Good points about the Charters. I agree. Charters seem to be getting a pass at following Federal laws (in my non-legal opinion). For instance, I know a local charter with a good reputation. They have speech services but no other special ed services and definitely no resource room type classrooms. They simply cannot meet the demands of the continuation of services. This is not acceptable. However, having specialty schools is somewhat more complex. Sometimes, they can really specialize and be amazing schools for their students. Placement must be individualized though for this to work. The team must meet prior to placement to consider if this is the LRE. I hate to cut out all specialty schools just because they do not provide all types of services.
Nancy Bailey says
We agree again! I slam charters a lot because where I live they have been used to shut down decent schools. Many are for-profit schools harshly run. *See post about the Prepsters.
The original concept of a charter school wasn’t bad and some very decent people started those with good intentions. There are some good ones that try to follow the same rules as traditional public schools.
And special schools serve an important purpose too. I student taught in a wonderful residential facility for students with emotional problems.
My concern is the destruction of the public school system, and special education, and many charter schools are being used towards that end.
Arne Duncan has proven time and time again that he is on the side of the plutocrats who are hell-bent on destroying public education in this country. He has no experience in the public school system. He has never taught and really seems to have no idea what it is that teachers do. He certainly has no respect for public education. That Obama doesn’t fire him for his ineptitude leads me to conclude that Obama is on the side of the plutocrats as well.