The Governor of Florida and other education reformers seem to have forgotten where Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) started. In this post, I’d like to remind them.
The other night I watched the movie Danny Collins. It’s a loosely based true story about a burned out rock star who learns that years earlier he received a letter of encouragement from John Lennon. This has a profound influence on him. The movie stars Al Pacino and Annette Bening. I thought it was a good movie—and perhaps a nice story for Father’s Day. But one part of the movie disturbed me.
Collins, trying to win favor with his estranged son and daughter-in-law, enrolls their hyperactive daughter, his granddaughter, in an exclusive New York City private school for students with disabilities. While visiting the school, which is beautiful and shows a ballet class in the background, the principal, or headmaster, says to the parents and Pacino’s Danny Collins character, that they do IEPs because they care about the individual. He brags about not doing everything in a “one-size-fits-all” fashion.
With his comments there’s subtle implication that public schools don’t do IEPs, and that students don’t get the attention they deserve in those schools. But IEPs never originated in private schools. They didn’t start in parochial schools either.
Often, private and parochial schools don’t bother to do IEPs because the federal IDEA law does not require it of them. These schools are usually selective. Parents must pay to enroll their students in these schools.
Yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott appeared at a Catholic Morningstar School for students with disabilities, signing a public school bill. Put aside the dramatic implications this has for public education and Separation of Church and State. Here I want to focus on disabilities.
Morningstar Schools are nice schools for students with developmental disabilities. I visited one many years ago. But I have no idea, nor probably do you, how much progress students make. These schools aren’t accountable to the public and taxpayers.
I also don’t notice inclusion which so many parents now demand in traditional public schools. The more recent IDEA re-authorizations require it. A lot of pressure is put on public school teachers to put students with disabilities into inclusion classes. They must provide the same curriculum as students who aren’t identified as having disabilities. They must also show results. Why is this not insisted upon when parents use vouchers?
Seeing Scott in a parochial school venue, signing a public school bill, was surreal. Sending any student with disabilities to a parochial or private school, acting like they are better schools for students with disabilities is deception, just like the private school discussion in the Danny Collins movie. The fact is, these schools prove no accountability to the public.
I’m sure there are probably some elite schools that do special education well, like in the movie, but they did not start the IEP, and poorer children do not get to attend those schools. And, again, no one really knows how well those schools do.
As far as Catholic schools go, the Catholic blog Aleteia sums it up nicely: In the United States, public schools (rather than Catholic schools) have shouldered special education.
They go on to write some history about where IEPs originated, which I paraphrase here.
In 1972, Geraldo Rivera’s presented an exposé of the Willowbrook State School. Children were shown in deplorable conditions. After that there were several Supreme Court decisions including the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1972; Goss vs. Lopez, 1974; and Mills vs. Board of Education, 1972).
In 1976, all of this came together for Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Act. This legislation covered children ages 3-21. Later Public Law 94-157 included funding special education for children birth to age 2. In 1992 and 2004, these laws were changed and became IDEA.
I liked that concise explanation. I would like to add that with the advent of Public Law 94-142, public schools made incredible changes to include students with disabilities. These changes were never fully funded, but in most schools, teachers made the sincerest of all attempts to serve all children.
But with ever more funding decreases and added disparagement of special education and teachers, special education services in public schools have become more difficult to get. There appears to be a concerted effort to destroy special education in public schools.
That doesn’t mean private or parochial schools are doing special education well. Who knows how they’re doing? Most elite private schools do not accept students with disabilities, and that was obviously clear in the Danny Collins movie.
And Catholic schools, or other parochial schools, no matter how well meaning, are still not fully equipped, or ready to include students with disabilities in inclusion classes—although some say they are trying.
If public schools no longer do special education well, the way they started out trying to do, it is because of people like Gov. Scott, Jeb Bush, and other school reformers who have gone out of their way to condemn public schools.
Catholic and private schools are not accountable to the public. They aren’t public schools.
We can’t forget that IEPs began in public schools. Public schools opened their arms to everyone, including students with any kind of disability. They never turned anyone away. They charged no enrollment. Let’s see how many voucher schools will do the same. If they’re never held accountable, how will we know they do IEPs and do them well? The answer is, we won’t.
Karen in Virginia says
My son’s IEP is inadequate. It states, “He will make progress in math.” “He will make progress in reading.” For a child of normal intelligence with ADHA, there is nothing individual about this. IEP’s, which are legally binding, are written loosely to avoid litigation. Additionally, all teaching assistants were removed from leaning disabilities teachers and placed in classrooms for those with severe developmental disabilities. Sadly, the learning disabilities teacher is simply used as a teaching assistant in the classroom as she works with the students who have IEP’s, simply trying to support a developmentally inappropriate math curriculum that regular teacher have to push through. The learning disabilities teachers do not create their own lessons which would specifically target these children. As a former teacher, I have had to do the teaching for him, yet the school division then receives the credit for his progress.
Nancy Bailey says
Your situation is different from special education in the past. Drastic changes have taken place to public schools AND special ed. programs in the name of school reform. IEPs used to be valid documents written with the feedback of a number of professionals and parents, Short and long term goals were individualized and teachers were accountable for student progress. And you’re right that special education teachers have been de-professionalized. Thank you for your comment, Karen.
ADHD is a medical condition… how are you treating or addressing this??
ciedie aech says
I appreciate the statement suggesting that public schools have “shouldered” the responsibility for including all kids and all needs. It is the losing of these strong all-student shoulders which has begun to explicitly illustrate the difference between our nation’s school expectations today — and our nation’s school expectations of only a couple decades ago.
Nancy Bailey says
Well said, Ciedie! That’s my favorite statement too. Thank you!
If public school education was truly inclusive and included room for everyone’s beliefs, including the one this country was founded on, and didn’t spend time teaching kindergarteners about homosexuality, then maybe parents would feel more inclined to support the public school system. Also the reason IEPS became a thing was because public school systems refused to do the very thingsame that you just listed, therefore it had to become documented. I know this as a fact because I am an RN and my job used to be helping children with disabilities reintegrate into the public school system. It was like pulling teeth. And you may not be absolutely sure at the progress some of these children make in private schools but we know for a fact that many children make no progress at all in public schools. The main reason being is that teachers are not held accountable in many states ie: there is no way for them to be fired and they are protected at all costs.
Nancy Bailey says
Schools have always reflected the changes that occur in society. Educators and parents must come together to determine how to address the sensitive issues of our time. You have a school board don’t you? Why not politely express your concerns there?
No. IEPs came about due to court cases and Americans becoming disgusted with inhuman conditions at Willowbrook and in institutions. Public schools before 1975 did some special ed. but it became law that year that schools must serve all children.
I am not sure why, as an RN, you would be reintegrating students into school.
Not sure of progress? Students in public schools are tested repeatedly! Poor test scores mean schools close and teachers lose their jobs. I have no way of knowing how private or parochial do.
It seems like you really don’t like public schools. But I always appreciate debate. Thank you, Tina.
I cringe to think about the rate those private schools with no oversight are beating (or euphemistically, “paddling”) kids with disabilities. States (like FL) where corporal punishment in school is still legal have been shown to use physical punishment more often towards students with disabilities.
Just did a quick search and turns out Florida was already exposed in 2011 for the disastrous results that followed giving private school vouchers to students with special ed needs, including corporal punishment (legalized physical abuse), among other things beyond the pale.
Pamela Barnes says
I have to say that I find this entire article somewhat puzzling. The author’s writing style can best be described as “rambling.” For someone that appeared to advocate for children with differences, she does not appear open to individual differences in choices for education.
I have been a special education in both of these settings. BOTH have their strengths and flaws. Private schools are able to meet individual needs simply by their nature. Their class sizes are typically smaller and they have “clients” they have to answer to. They don’t have the luxury of relying on the fact that their families will keep coming back to a failed system because it’s the only choice they have. However, they don’t typically have the resources or the multidisciplinary teams that public schools are able to afford (not to mention the equipment).
Public school special education has become a nightmare over the years. It’s never been great, so I’m an effort to make it better, they have gone from one extreme to another. I now spend more time on paperwork and sitting in IEP/eligibility/re-eval meetings than I do seeing kids (and I’m very efficient with my paperwork). I have never had this many lawyers sitting in my meetings. I have never seen the burnout and turnover of good teachers as I have in the last couple of years. These are both seasoned and brand new teachers that are leaving the field. It is NOT for the lack of funding. It is NOT for the lack of administrative support. It is NOT for the lack of accountability. It is because (in part) because no one wants to bend that far backwards any more. To the point where our teachers are broken. Their strength lies in the fact that many of the underlying processes that work are still there, and (if you are lucky), you have teachers that stick around and know what they are doing.
And to clear up another point…no private school I’ve EVER been to (especially Catholic) has denied a student based on their financial situation. In the case of Catholic schools, parishioner funds are allocated to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Special education in either setting is a challenge. Beating up on fellow educators and parent choice doesn’t elevate the conversation. Pointing out that private schools don’t have as much accountability doesn’t help. They are accountable to these parents that are paying. That should account for something. And believe me, there have been numerous situations where public schools have been known to manipulate those numbers. Crying about life being unfair is a disservice to our kids. Let’s get to work fixing the challenges instead of whining about them.
Nancy Bailey says
Public schools have been intentionally defunded. The purpose is to close them due to privatization.
I advocate for democratic public schools open to all children. Do to such extreme measures, special education isn’t always properly addressed. Although I know public school teachers and special education teachers who still work hard and achieve success with their students.
I wonder if you are a fully credentialed special education teacher with a degree from an accredited university.
Private and parochial are often not held accountable nor are they open to all students.
Please read my current post which is about what you speak.
Private and parochial schools don’t always have credentialed teachers, or they create their own teacher prep programs. They can pick and choose their students.
Catholic schools and most private schools are not known for their special education, especially inclusion.
I advocate for public schools and public school teachers. Please pay attention to the research about all of these schools.
This one of the biggest scam and fraud against children including in Miami Dade public school system American schools system
The public school system run one of biggest fraud in US history.
I have challenge the fourth largest school district in America that is Miami Dade County public school system.
. Modern-day discrimination run by American public school system. Giving children fake grads and fake diploma and fake honor roll certificate.
People wake up there nothing called learning disability in education education is a system .
I have a son that no problem at all where the public school in Miami Dade public school system. Have defraud Medicaid and the federal government and the taxpayers of thousands of dollars off my son that no problem
Just because of my own investigation I find is one the biggest fraud against children in America.
I am doing a massive investigation I already make a change in America 4th largest school district in America
The public school system make more money off failure then progress
I am taking my case to the US Department of justice education division for more investigation
So called autism mean self or hermit in English
When I challenged Miami Dade public school system and they come with there finding nobody no nothing about him in the public school District.
My so called autism is not a disability and nothing to do with education.
For more information I can contacted
Please look up Federal laws 504 this law was designed for handicapped children only for handicapped accommodation in public school system and they kick out of the public school system. And make up there own handy cap children by using so called autism and ADHD .They try me with that BS
I end in family court because of this kind behavior in America public school system.
Children that are labeled bring millions of dollars in public school system .Children are getting killed and abuse under federal laws 504
17 children got murder under federal law 504 in park land florida
504 children end up in jail under federal laws 504 so called IEP
They give my fake grades and fake honor roll certificate.
These children rights have been violated under civil rights act
People I want no what mental health facility. Called chrysalis mental health comes the school to evaluate children talking about education evaluation. .
What mental health have to do with education nothing. I doing a on going investigation still going.
Nancy Bailey says
You have a lot of concerns. I hope you get some support for your initiatives. I will try to break it down. I will check on Chrysalis mental health. I’ve not heard of them before.
Hang in there and take care.