Archive for the 'Administration' Category

Page 2 of 6

Cooking something up

Los Angeles (CA, US) Unified School District has refused an offer by chef Jamie Oliver, who has received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, to collaborate on a television production about improving school food service, according to Mary MacVean, of the Los Angeles Times. For those who are wondering why on Earth they are reading this lead on LD Blog, alert readers will remind them of a 2009 post on here that noted Mr. Oliver’s accomplishments in the culinary world as well as his connection to the world of Learning Disabilities through his own dyslexia.
Continue reading ‘Cooking something up’

DLD fall conference is just around the corner

Check out the fine slate of workshop sessions available to registered guests at the annual “Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice” meeting of the Division for Learning Disabilities, which is to be held in Baltimore (MD, US) 29 and 30 October. Of course, I am biased, but I consider this one of the outstanding professional development opportunities of the year in learning disabilities, including the more specific disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and so forth (as well as related disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Continue reading ‘DLD fall conference is just around the corner’

Promoting success in college

In “2-Year Colleges Help Learning-Disabled Students Break Into Math and Science,” Ashley Marchand reports about efforts to support students with Learning Disabilities succeed in post-secondary education settings. Ms. Marchand’s article appeared in the news source of record for higher education, the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For as long as he can remember, Robert T. Calloway has had a fascination with engineering and all things mechanical. He wanted to pursue an engineering career despite a diagnosis of dyslexia, which challenged both his confidence and his ability in the classroom.
Continue reading ‘Promoting success in college’

Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education?

In an article slated to appear in Remedial and Special Education, Jeanne Wanzek and Sharon Vaughn reported that widely popular three-tiered approach to addressing did not significantly reduce the number and percentage of students identified for special education across seven elementary schools. Their study, which is limited to the response to instruction or intervention in the primary and early elementary grades and focused primarily on academic intervention, revealed no significant reduction in identification of children as having Learning Disabilities, even though this group would be the most likely to benefit from such prevention efforts. Similarly, there were no differences in the proportion of students identified for special education according to ethnic background.
Continue reading ‘Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education?’

Too common a concern?

At the Greenwich (CT, US) Time site, Colin Gustafson described a meeting where parents of students with disabilities expressed concern about the special education services their children received from the local schools. Under the headline “Parents voice rage over special education in meeting with Freund, Board of Ed chairman,” Mr. Gustafson reported some of the concerns parents raised and some of the responses from school administrators.

Parents’ frustration with the district’s handling of their children’s special education needs boiled over several times during a meeting with the school board chairman and superintendent Wednesday morning.

Many attendees said the families who strongly advocate for their children — even wage legal battles on their behalf — are too often labeled as “problem parents” and have their concerns dismissed by district administrators.

I wonder how many of these sorts of meetings occur but are not reported in the press. Perhaps some of the parents who read this blog can comment on how common these concerns are.

Read Mr. Gustafson’s report, “Parents voice rage over special education in meeting with Freund, Board of Ed chairman.”

New syndrome: Audible delays?

Does anybody know what is meant by “audible delays?”

According to a newspaper report by Bethany Hart who writes for the Washington Court House (OH, US) Record-Hearald, a woman named Tanya Cottrell noticed her child “was learning things in school a bit slower than the other children. He was diagnosed [with] having audible delays which is considered a learning disability.”
Continue reading ‘New syndrome: Audible delays?’

DLD conference sessions filling

Although registration continues for the Division for Learning Disabilities conference, “Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice,” some of the sessions are reaching their limits and will be closed. As a part of its emphasis on creating workshop settings where participants learn how to implement evidence-based practices, DLD caps the number of participants in sessions.

Linda Siegel has put together a very impressive line-up of presenters and topics. As one can see here, the agenda for the meeting in San Diego 23 & 24 October 2009 is chocked full of good sessions by internationally renowned presenters.

Presenter


Title


David F. Bateman How to Prepare for and Survive a Due Process Hearing
Jenny Sue Flannagan & Lucinda S. Spaulding Best Practices for Inclusive Science Instruction
Steve Graham & Sharlene Kiuhara Writing Problems and Writing Solutions
Paige C. Pullen Phonological Awareness Assessment and Instruction: A Sound Beginning
Karen R. Harris, Karin Sandmel, & Mary Brindle, “The Magna Carta Provided That No Free Man Should be Hanged Twice for the Same Offense”: Self-Regulated Strategy Development for Writing
Charles A. Hughes Two Recent SIM Writing Strategies: The Essay Test-Taking Strategy and the Editing Strategy
Erica Lembke & Todd Busch Using Curriculum-Based Measurement for Data-Based Decision Making within a Response to Intervention System
Maureen W. Lovett Multiple Component Intervention to Improve the Outcomes of Struggling Readers: Remediating Reading Skill Deficits and Misguided Beliefs About Effort and Achievement at the Same Time
Marjorie Montague Improving Mathematical Problem Solving of Middle School Students with LD
Brian Bottge Teaching Mathematics to Adolescents with LD in Rich Problem-Solving Contexts
Rosemary Tannock Understanding and Engaging Children’s Wandering Minds
Karen J. Rooney Adolescent Literacy: Putting Research into Practice to Develop the Literacy Skills of Older Students
Deborah C. Simmons Integrating Vocabulary Strategies into Social Studies Instruction
David Scanlon The ORDER Routine: For Comprehending Content-Area Concepts
José Luis Alvarado & Anne Graves RTI for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners: Supporting Teachers to Implement Tier I and Tier II Literacy Instruction for Older Struggling
Susan P. Miller Building a Strong Numbers and Operations Foundation to Enhance Mathematics Success
Nicole Ofiesh “Got Accommodations?” Implications for Planning Instruction and Transition from Secondary to Postsecondary Settings
Rollanda E. O’Connor Successful Tier 2 Interventions in Reading: Grades K-4
Kimberly Bright & Paul Riccomini I THINK: A Real-Life Problem-solving Strategy for secondary students with Learning Disabilities

Link to the conference page at TeachingLD.org to register.

Vouchers and identification rates

Over on the Web site of the Manhattan Institute under the headline, “How Special Ed Vouchers Keep Kids From Being Mislabeled as Disabled,” Marcus Winters and Jay Greene published an article reporting their analysis of Florida’s McKay vouchers program. They report that, schools that have nearby voucher-accepting private schools, the incidence of children identified as having Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is inversely correlated with the number of neighboring private schools.

The question examined in this report is whether special-education voucher programs change the likelihood that students will be diagnosed with an SLD. Voucher programs allow disabled students to attend a private school, which receives payments in the form of full or partial tuition that would have otherwise been directed to the transferring student’s public school. Special-education voucher programs appear to reduce a local public school’s financial incentive to diagnose a marginal student who is merely struggling academically as suffering from an SLD by offering him the chance to leave the public school, enter a private school, and take all of his funding with him.

I hope to get a chance to provide a more detailed analysis of the report. Other tasks require immediate action on my part, though. I’d welcome comments from others who have the time to examine the report.

Link to the article by Mr. Winters and Mr. Greene.

Miguel might show us what’s wrong

Under the headline, “Age-Old Problem, Perpetually Absent Solution: Fitting Special Education to Students’ Needs” in the Washington Post, Jay Mathews writes about the case of Miguel Landeros:

Miguel Landeros is a lanky, well-spoken 12-year-old about to begin seventh grade in Stafford County. He is severely learning disabled, with reading, writing and math skill levels at least two years below his peers, and needs special teaching, according to a licensed clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and other specialists.

Last February, Stafford officials refused to accept that evaluation and left him in regular classes. He performed poorly, failing all core subjects. Recently, they promised to give him more specialized services, but not the ones the experts who examined him say he needs.

I admit that education writers in general, and I in particular, write very little about learning disabilities and the many failures of federally mandated public school programs to help students who have them. I often say the cases are so complicated I have difficulty translating them into everyday language, and even then readers struggle to understand.

Mr. Mathews’ admission of a lack of understanding about special education (in general) and Learning Disabilities (in particular) is unsurprising to me. Not only is there a lot to know (and, sadly, too often educators do not even know what there is to know), but lots of people who view educational issues through the lenses of finance, policy, and social justice simply don’t get (a) the evidence available about effective educational practices and (b) the personal side of education.

Had Miguel had early access to effective instructional practices, which have usually been more readily available in special education, during his early years of schooling, he probably would have at less substantial problems as he moves into middle school. Special education has been education’s reservoir for research about effective teaching methods over the past 20-30 years.

Dan Hallahan and I cited a series of innovations that emanated from LD (e.g., systematic monitoring of progress, explicit instruction in strategies for solving academic tasks) and are now widely adopted in education. In Michael Gerber’s memorable phrase, Learning Disabilities served as blue-green algae for education, forcing us to abandon antiquated notions of classification and instruction and move toward more flexible perspectives, just as blue-green algae precipitated a change from Linnaean taxonomy to classification based on evolution.

The case of Miguel illustrates how educators reject reasonable and evidence-based methods in favor of ideologically driven policies. In place of employing powerful instructional practices and adapting instruction to individuals, schools too often explain away students’ difficulties. They make what amount to excuses!

I have not seen the thick sheaf of papers that Miguel’s mother sent to Mr. Mathews, so I don’t know if that folder contains any of the following excuses for not serving Miguel. I suspect, however, that Kelli Castellino (Miguel’s mother) has heard some of them, and likely others:

  • “He’s just a boy; they mature differently”;
  • “He’ll get it when he decides to put his mind to it”;
  • “We don’t want him to have the stigma of special education”;
  • “He just needs a little extra time to finish things”;
  • “We can’t give every child a Cadillac education.”

(Parents and teachers, please feel free to add other examples to this list. Just drop ’em in the comments.)

In addition to the excuses, we educators often let ideology and half-truths trump the individual needs of children, which puts us at odds with parents. The innovation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was considering students with disabilities as individuals. Based on the unique educational needs of those students determined to be eligible, educators and parents are supposed to develop individualized education programs.

I suspect that Ms. Castellino also heard that (a) the least restrictive environment is a critical concern, (b) inclusion is the approach recommended by experts, (c) accommodations are all most students really need, (d) special education identification processes are subjective and arbitrary, (e) half of the students with LD don’t really have true disabilities, and more.

Many special educators, especially those in administrative positions, seem to have bought the idea that including everyone in general education is the goal. They point to the lesser outcomes for students with disabilities (e.g., higher failure rates on competency tests and greater chances of under- and unemployment after school, just to name a couple) and argue that those results are caused by special education’s separatistic and ineffective ways. For some unknown reason, they forget that there must have been something unique about the students that contributed to them being identified in the first place.

They also ignore the fact that some of the early, ardent advocates of inclusion have recanted. Take, for example, Mary Warnock’s change of position, as noted in this entry over on Teach Effectively:

Mary Warnock, the individual most responsible for promoting inclusionary policies and practices in Britain, has said that the effort to include students with disabilities in mainstream schools has “Has gone too far. It was a sort of bright idea of the 1970s but by now it has become a kind of mantra and it really isn’t working.”

For some students, inclusive schooling is just fine, but when it becomes the de facto standard, then it butts heads directly with IDEA’s foundational idea: individualization. When inclusion is invoked in cases such as Miguel’s, ideology trumps reason.

Mr. Matthews wondered whether a charter school for students with LD would be a solution. I suspect that one based on evidence about effective instructional procedures and practices (and there is plenty of research documenting them) would be beneficial for those students. But, those same methods could be put into practice in the public schools. A major impediment to doing so, in my estimation, is our current emphasis on how special education is something to be avoided, that it’s broken, wrong, misguided, and undesirable.

Another reason that the charter might work is that it might be freed from the shackles of ideologically-driven education. But I can already hear the howls about how awful such a school would be. The ideologues would complain that it was separatist, inconsistent with the real world, too expensive, and so forth.

Link to Mr. Matthews’ article.

Gerber, M. (2000). An appreciation of learning disabilities: The value of blue-green algae. Exceptionality, 8, 29-42.

Lloyd, J. W., & Hallahan, D. P. (2005). Going forward: How the field of learning disabilities has and will contribute to education. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28, 133-136.

NCLD report

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a US advocacy group, released a report entitled “The State of Learning Disabilities” today. The report presents broad-strokes data about Learning Disabilities (LD) across the life span, including (for example) data about not only school environments, but also work situations.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The identification rate of school-age students with LD has consistently declined for the past 10 years
  • Learning disabilities disproportionately affect people living in poverty
  • People of all races are identified with LD at about the same rate (except people of Asian descent), and,
  • The cost of educating a student with LD is 1.6 times higher than a regular education student (compared with 1.9 for all students with disabilities).

Link to the report.