There were several senators who I expected would change their vote on Betsy DeVos. In the end none of them did, and I think they need to called-out. Their votes for DeVos were especially unethical due to their past positions, or where they are from.
I will write today about one, William Cassidy, M.D., who is the Republican senator from Louisiana.
Cassidy is a doctor and has been outspoken on the issue of dyslexia.
In his opening statement to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee meeting, in 2016, titled “Understanding Dyslexia: The Intersection of Scientific Research & Education,” he stated, The goal of the hearing is to gain a better understanding of what Americans need to know about dyslexia and to raise awareness in Congress about the parents and children affected by this disorder.
Does Sen. Cassidy think Betsy DeVos will raise awareness about dyslexia when she doesn’t understand the federal law surrounding special education?
Most children with dyslexia attend public schools. Because of underfunding and a lack of services they currently do not always get the help they need to be better readers.
Also, because of the deprofessionalization of the teaching profession, many teachers today do not have a good grasp of how to teach children with dyslexia or learning disabilities.
Because of this, many dyslexia organizations have sprung up around the country. All of them want better services for children with dyslexia. They want teachers to understand the problems associated with reading difficulties.
In addition, many parents look to IDEA and rely on the federal mandate for help. Without it, good services are difficult to get.
In 2015, Cassidy became a hero to parents for his tough questioning of former Education Secretary Arne Duncan concerning dyslexia. The tape can be found here.
Duncan had difficulty answering questions about dyslexia services for students in public school.
Cassidy also seemed to get some facts incorrect, but his robust inquiry gave many parents hope that he would push for better public school services for children with dyslexia.
While I am no fan of Duncan, at the end of this tape, he replies to Cassidy with a statement that may have been overlooked, but which I think now is pertinent.
It was a sharp reply on Duncan’s part.
Answering Cassidy’s criticism as to why there aren’t better programs concerning dyslexia in public schools, Duncan answers, “many of your colleagues are looking to be less directive.”
I think Duncan was pointing out that Republicans do not attempt to get services for schools. They lean toward a free market with fewer regulations.
The Louisiana Key Academy
Cassidy’s wife, Dr. Laura Cassidy (she is a surgeon), started a charter school for children with dyslexia in Louisiana called the Louisiana Key Academy. It gets public dollars.
The appeal of charter schools often depends on failing public schools. If public schools don’t provide services, charter schools and vouchers can obtain a foothold. This is how school privatization works. It is why the defunding of public schools and the loss of services is political and disturbing.
Public schools have been intentionally defunded to open the doors to school privatization since the Reagan Administration. This is especially true of special education. No President and few politicians on either side since have championed saving democratic public schools.
While the Louisiana Key Academy received praise by the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity in 2015, this past December the school earned an F grade from the State of Louisiana. State Superintendent of Education John White gave the school a probation.
I cannot tell if the teachers have appropriate qualifications since no credentials are listed on the school’s website.
It is not my intent to be critical of Cassidy’s school. However, Cassidy’s role as a senator should be to care for ALL children, since he took up the dyslexia fight. This should include securing services for the majority of students in all public schools.
His vote for DeVos was also questionable since, according to the Center for American Progress, Cassidy received $70,200 from Betsy DeVos in campaign contributions. This was the second highest amount out of the many Republican senators who received donations from Betsy DeVos and her husband.
But that he voted for her when she knows little about IDEA is troubling. And for all the complaints Cassidy had for Duncan, I don’t see Betsy DeVos addressing the scientific concerns of parents in the dyslexia community.
The goal of Betsy DeVos will most likely be to open more charters and provide vouchers to charters that fail and/or provide little accountability.
The fear is that she will not enforce IDEA which is in bad need of enforcement.
Parents are also concerned they will not receive the protections of IDEA. They will not know if their children are attending a good school with a voucher. Children with dyslexia will likely not get the help they need to become good readers.
Cassidy looks now to be an opportunist and not a senator concerned with the needs of students with dyslexia.
He won’t be up for reelection until 2020, but time flies. So don’t forget to not vote for him then.
In the meantime, pay close attention to what he claims about dyslexia and schools. I am sorry to say he is not to be trusted.
“the [charter school for children with dyslexia in Louisiana called the Louisiana Key Academy] earned an F grade from the State of Louisiana.”
What score is expected for a school full of children with learning disabilities? I’m guessing most of them switched to this school because their current school was not getting them to grade level due to their dyslexia. My brother attended Eton Academy, a private school for children with learning disabilities. Horrible test scores, excellent school! He had been underserved in the public schools, attended Eton for two years and learned to mitigate his LD, and went back to the public schools to graduate with honors. Key Academy saw a need and they addressed it instead of letting it continue. Having kids with dyslexia in the same classroom allows them to teach in ways that dyslexics can learn better.
“should be to care for ALL children, since he took up the dyslexia fight. This should include securing services for the majority of students in all public schools.”
‘Black Lives Matter, why aren’t you shouting All Lives Matter?’
‘Because white people aren’t the ones getting shot!’
My biggest pet peeve in advocating for gifted learners is people saying I should advocate for all students. I never heard someone ask parents of volleyballers wanting a new net why they aren’t also pushing for the new press box at the football stadium.
These families of children with dyslexia are wanting a new net, something without the holes their children slip through. And the person fighting for them is being asked why he isn’t fighting for the majority of students who are doing better than this group? That makes no sense.
(BTW, my district, which has consistently said they have no funding for gifted students, spearheaded their bond drive by promising a new press box at the football stadium.)
Too often when a group of students has been ignored and someone steps up to get their needs met, the response from the community is “If you help get more money for all students, we’ll give you the surplus.’ There never is a surplus and the group continues to get ignored.
Nancy Bailey says
Do you not see the hypocrisy of your claim? If you want to criticize the public school for not succeeding with students who have disabilities, than how can you say its o.k. for the charter to fail? Why not put better resources into the original public school which we all own?
Moving one failed system to another is no success story.
There have been many great teachers who have worked hard to meet the challenges of students with disabilities in the traditional public school classroom!
In the 70s and 80s there was a real push to address the learning needs of students with disabilities. I suggest you read a little history.
Most Colleges of Education actually prepared teachers to work in the area of learning disabilities which included dyslexia. Of course there was more to learn, but with the drive to privatize where are these classes and credentials now?
Yet, when these students are put in inclusion classrooms with little guidance and support and lacking resources, these schools are called failed and often shut down due to test scores!
And now it could also affect a teachers VAM evaluation!
Yet it is fine to segregate students with dyslexia in a school that doesn’t even tell us the training of their teachers?
I usually like to argue with you, but you are way off base here. You also know perfectly well that I have supported students who are gifted.
You have too much going on in this comment. Don’t even get me started on the issue of poverty and charter schools. You really want to go there with the lousy charters in Detroit?
Stick to one point please.
Also, Cassidy should be fighting for ALL students with dyslexia! Most attend traditional public schools. Deregulating schools and rules pertaining to the education of students with disabilities is very dangerous.
You and I both know that test scores don’t tell the entire story, particularly for kids who test outside the floor and ceiling of a test. If a dyslexic student tests reading at second grade level when entering fourth grade at Key Academy and enters fifth grade reading at a fourth grade level, he has gained two years in one year’s span and is still considered failing. It hurts teachers at all schools when we measure just based on proficiency. Shouldn’t the teacher who helped him make two years’ growth be praised, not dinged?
If we stick a bunch of kids who have been failing into a school – charter, magnet, private, or special classroom – and then say they continue to fail, that is asinine without having any way to measure growth. How do we know Key Academy is failing? Does Louisiana measure growth? Even if it does, are we comparing these kids to students mostly without dyslexia? If so, isn’t almost every single special education classroom in public schools failing?
I know teachers get training in special education, but most still aren’t specialists. Even if they are special education specialists, the needs are so diverse! Even putting more money towards public schools won’t mean that the teachers are experts in dyslexia, autism, hearing impairment, vision impairment, emotional impairment, Down Syndrome, and all the other impairments they come across. No one could be! Even the school’s learning consultants have their limits. I’ve known several that couldn’t tell me what 2e means.
I know inclusion is the norm at this point. I know parents who are very glad about that. I also know parents who don’t like it because their children don’t get the services they need. My district has several programs at different schools for various disabilities, but they don’t have one for dyslexia and that has been a parent complaint I’ve heard numerous times on our forums. If parents want an inclusive classroom, put their child there. If they want a special needs classroom or school, as my parents chose for my brother, that should be supported too.
I’m all for transparency and would have no problem with a law requiring each school to list their teachers and their specialties. And then let parents choose.
What it comes down to is I’m not willing to kill a program that is working (and according to parents there it is) and put students back where they weren’t getting the help they need. Seen that disaster too many times.
Nancy Bailey says
You seem to be missing my point.
The testing argument you are making for a charter that fails, is the same argument you could make for a traditional public school program!
Why kill those programs when students do poorly on the tests or when the teachers are not making readers overnight?
That is the hypocrisy here. And I for one question whether public schools and programs for students with learning disabilities were ever failing like so many say.
I argue that in the 70s and 80s we had a pretty good continuum of services, including some gifted classes. It should have evolved to being better but it ended with 2 lousy IDEA reauthorizations. This was more about cutting funding than services.
But, if you want to kill public education and hand taxpayer dollars over to anyone off the streets who think they can run a school better than the pros, than those folks need to demonstrate they can do it better!
Thus far they can’t do it, and yet those like DeVos and Cassidy want to privatize anyway.
And I will try not to take your specialist statement at heart since my undergraduate and masters work was in special education including learning disabilities. At that time, to teach you needed real credentials and preparation.
It is a bitter pill to watch my profession taken over by those who never studied how children learn or what they need.
Next time you fly, Joshua, make sure you ask your pilot if they know what they are doing in the cockpit will you? Ask them if they came from a Pilots for America program with a few weeks of training.
I don’t know why you seem to think that every person who wants choice is trying to destroy the traditional public schools. My kids are in the traditional public schools. I want them to be great!
I also want options. Sometimes you end up in a decently-funded great public school district that really sucks for your kids. It isn’t about money, but philosophy and you need a school with a different philosophy. My case was gifted, but it could be special ed, a magnet program in International Baccalaureate or STEM, or discipline philosophy. Having tangled with a school district for eight years, I know that sometimes a parent just needs to know when to give up and walk away from a district.
I mostly dislike charters that just clone a district. .I see Key as what a charter should be: a unique program giving students in the area a choice.
My definition of failing schools and programs isn’t the same as many states. I think there are probably just as many failing schools in rich districts as poor. We both know how much income level plays into scores. Rich districts that rely on excellent demographics to boost their scores can be failing too. When adjusted for demographics, some schools in our district do very well and others don’t. All are in the 90th and above percentile, but some aren’t successful compared to demographics. These schools need to be held accountable to. (And yes, I have told that to my elected officials.)
John Wooden said “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” The same holds true for schools. Some schools look horrible on paper, but do a great job for low income students. Some schools look great on paper, but should have accomplished much more with the high income families in their district. Which one is the failure and which one was deemed that by the state?
I’m glad my family doesn’t live in a neighborhood where the choice is risking being assaulted on the way to school or missing the only decent meal of the day. It seems to me that those schools – traditional public or charter – aren’t failing, but our society.
I wish we had traditional public schools so great no one ever felt the need for charters. And I wish that even should those schools exist, that so do charters so that families could have choices. And we will probably never agree on that.
Karen Marttinen says
Despite the worries of DeVos as Education Secretary, something needs to be said. It is very possible that she, with an open mind, can aproach Dyslexia and help in our schools in a very different way than ever before. Lets face it, we need a new approach! This could be revolutionary!
Nancy Bailey says
Probably the most important statement in my post for those who don’t understand is this:
“The appeal of charter schools often depends on failing public schools. If public schools don’t provide services, charter schools and vouchers can obtain a foothold. This is how school privatization works. It is why the defunding of public schools and the loss of services is political and disturbing.”
I am adding: Public schools have been intentionally defunded to open the doors to school privatization since the Reagan Administration. This is especially true of special education. No President and few politicians on either side since have championed saving democratic public schools.
I will agree that many parents head out of dodge due to their children being mistreated by admins (not teachers) who only care about their test scores.
My dyslexic child thrives in public magnet schools as long as I am advocating like a crazy mother (which I have been called more than twice). I advocate for her to be with her intellectual peers with accommodations and modifications because I do know that she learned better language skills from kids who use better language skills. I have been called self important more than once.
However, I also have a background in speech and language and intervention so I am able to pick up the slack at home. Most parents don’t have these luxuries and our state definitely ignores IDEA or merely appeases parents with nicely written IEP’s that aren’t always followed unless the parent is very vocal.
They have made it nearly impossible for kids like mine to succeed because we have so much choice and it seems many of the public schools help with the recruiting and thus flushing of our kids out. Unfortunately. I have been working to come up with happy mediums and searching out the public programs that best suit her needs and boy do they try to wear me out.
Thankfully we are near the end and I believer her file may say something to the effect of, “Give this mom whatever she wants” because I have done my best to not only befriend her teachers, become a really loud (and slightly obnoxious) activist, but also exhaust the heck out of her “gatekeepers”. 🙂
I am not against the public academy they want to open up …..in addition to doing my best to get awareness and materials into all schools.
The real catch with be, if they do chose to learn, understand and use the materials. We have had a few programs in the title one schools and trainings in the past and those materials now sit on shelves collecting dust.
With traditional schools too concerned about image and ratings and beating one another via competition —they would rather just dismiss these kids and write them off.
I feel like I am often left with no other choice than to help those who care enough to break off and start their own academies and schools. At least the kids aren’t being emotionally destroyed or driven out of the system all together.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Bethany. Much has been done throughout the years to dismantle public schools. Unfortunately, I don’t see charters or even private and parochial schools doing much for students with learning problems.
The school accountability question concerning Betsy DeVos was problematic. Not holding charters accountable and changing what accountability means for any school should be a red flag for parents.
Not everyone should be able to start a school. While you may understand language and have a background there, a lot of people who start charters today have no background at all.
Again…I have no idea the background of the teachers at the Louisiana school for students with dyslexia.
Therein lies the problem..
I recently mentioned the multiple school enrollment trying to find the “right fit”. But it’s never the “right fit” because none of them understand kids with dyslexia.
FYI: there is. I silver bullet but I know exactly how “right brained” kids learn.
Explicit, systematic, multisensory methods.
They learn by doing.
However. They are very logical and need every detail to be explained WHY they aren’t correct and WHAT the correct answer is.
They are very literal and visual spatial/tactile learners and need help to understand the meaning of words/vocabulary.
Wanda Simmons says
I AGREE it’s all about $$$$.
The opportunist will capitalize off the poorest districts and children without transparency and accountability.
I deception that charter schools give is unethical.
I got sucked into the dream of a better education opportunity.
It was by far the WORST year of my daughter education experience. It started off ok then when issues arose it plummeted.
FUND traditional public schools properly and give ALL CHILDREN a FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION in their neighborhoods
Jim Katakowski says
Betsy DeVos could be nothing but dismal for Public schools and education. She owns too many of the GOP and that is a conflict. She wants to run Christian schools as a believer that she is right all others wrong. Her open mind is limited to what she preaches. Her religion does not constrict her on profiting from public schools. Her goal is to own them and run them. Her money is evil. Public schools are the target and enemy to her and her rich family. Control!
Christine Zirkelbach says
Why not save the money spent on testing, or on consultants with no classroom experience, and use that to provide more reading specialists and training for teachers so that they can improve outcomes for dyslexic students?
Nancy Bailey says
Very good! I would say some testing is called for. As far as reading specialists, we used to have an area in the College of Education called Learning Disabilities and corrective reading was included in reading instruction. These areas included the study of dyslexia.
These programs seem to have disappeared or been condensed into general education. Colleges of Education have done strange things lately probably due to the push to privatize.
But thanks, Christine. Great insight!
Higher Ed has been constricted and many do. Not understand the needs of these children. Oddly enough, there are tons of therapy centers, psychologists and brain training centers making a nice profit.
Nancy Bailey says
Excellent point! Thank you, Bethany!
Ellen O'Neill says
My organization knows a great deal about the teacher training at Louisiana Key Academy. Nancy Bailey shot a lot of arrows in her piece and the responses reflect the complexity, partisan divides and bitterness that always accompanies education reform. Our Decoding Dyslexia movement in Maryland has been wise to focus on several key objectives: reform pre-service training for general educators and special educators to include structured literacy, deliver in-service structured literacy training in elementary gen ed and middle/high school special ed, and of course early identification.
Charter schools were initially established as labs to demonstrate effective instruction that would then be incorporated back in to public education. This original mission seems all but forgotten and indeed hijacked by a range of private, religious and for-profit interests. However, there remain some excellent models of charter schools that are committed to training teachers in evidence-based multisensory structured-language instruction. These deserve to be supported, examined, and replicated in the public school system at large.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you. And I won’t argue with you that you know of charter schools that work for students with dyslexia, and I respect that you probably don’t want to name them.
But we need good programs in traditional public schools. There, the argument for inclusion in general education classes means there is no hope for special classes to assist students more individually with dyslexia, let along individual schools set up in the school district.
Yet segregated charters focused on dyslexia are O.K? Why not swing the charters you mention into a school system where they can be evaluated like other schools and demonstrate accountability there?
As a teacher with a background in learning disabilities, who taught a resource class for many years in reading and language disorders, traditional public schools need options, not condemnation.
It is unfair to blame these schools for lacking progress on test scores, but say it is fine for charter schools to get failing scores. The public wants something unique and better results from charters that take taxpayer dollars.
But Sen. Cassidy’s vote for DeVos, knowing she does not understand IDEA, is the real point here.
Ellen O'Neill says
Hi Nancy, I absolutely agree with you that Cassidy should have voted against DeVos, and it is smelly to say the least that he received such a substantial donation from her. Just to clarify, I said that, “charter schools that are committed to training teachers in evidence-based multisensory structured-language instruction.”. I did not say that these are charters focused on dyslexia. Therefore we agree. These charters are instead committed to teacher training, much like you described that existed in the pre-whole language days. Indeed, the multisensory training they are receiving incorporates current research from neuroscience, language processing, and concrete-representational-abstract approaches proven to be effective for all learners but essential for dyslexic learners. As such, we are describing inclusion methods that truly embrace Universal Design for Learning. The Decoding Dyslexia Movement promotes these methods for all learners in general education. Our efforts are to increase teacher knowledge in public schools where 90% of all students receive their education.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks, Ellen. I am concerned, however, about such training. Call me old-fashion but I like to rely on universities. Some dyslexia programs are a part of particular universities. There are a lot of dueling programs for dyslexia too.
I am also not a fan of UDL because I am afraid it will ultimately lead to personalized learning and all-tech schools. I wrote about this a while back and David Rose the founder of CAST responded to my criticism, if you care to look it up. We had a nice debate, but I still am not convinced CAST and UDL aren’t about all online instruction in the end.
I also am troubled that all-dyslexia charters are permitted, when it is made more and more difficult for special classes and services in traditional schools. Parents push for inclusion in public schools. It is difficult for the general ed. teacher to address reading difficulties in that environment.
I bet you didn’t expect this long response. Ha! But thanks, Ellen. I’m sure you are doing good work there. Just not a charter advocate.
red dog says
DeVos is a joke but Democrats had a joke of their own named King the former temporary Secretary of Education.. He was NYS failed Commissioner of Education who ineptly rolled out Common Core in NYS whose own kids didn’t attend NYS public schools and he lived in one of the best public school districts in NYS. Furthermore he cancelled several public hearings on Common Core when he couldn’t take the heat from parents who he labeled as “teacher union operatives” Let face it does not matter what party is in control, public schools and their teachers are public enemy #1 according to both parties. Why is education the only field that is not allowed leaders from its own profession. The military is led by people who have come through the ranks, the same with the auto industry but in education we never have a leader who taught 10 yrs., was a Principal for 10 yrs and a Superintendent for 10 yrs.
Nancy Bailey says
I absolutely agree with you. Thank you. King also worked in charter schools.