Archive for the ‘Maureen Downey’ Tag

I'd prefer, 'Changing Demographics.' Thank you.   4 comments

During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.

In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:

‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”

In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.

While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:

1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?

2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?

3. How can you tell the difference between the two?

I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.

The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.

I’d prefer, ‘Changing Demographics.’ Thank you.   4 comments

During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.

In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:

‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”

In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.

While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:

1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?

2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?

3. How can you tell the difference between the two?

I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.

The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.

Edreform epiphany: Charters on crack   Leave a comment

(If you are reading this, my sensationalized headline served its purpose!) By now I know better than to draw conclusions based on a sensationalized headline, so I took the time to read through the recent @AJCGetSchooled blog post by Maureen Downey. Actually, it was a  letter written by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky who suggests that we can fix education by making every school a charter school.

According to Smagorinsky, “Charter schools have been offered as one way of invigorating public education by excusing them from many of the rules that bind ordinary public schools. In exchange, they provide charters that outline their mission and means of accountability.” He’s kinda right and kinda wrong. Just like a lot of other people who have not actively engaged (Read: Devoted 2 or more years to developing a charter application) in the charter ‘business.’ Yes, petitioners (those who write and submit charter applications) can opt to seek waivers for some of the state regulations; however, some regulations must be followed, e.g., attendance rules, accountability measures, etc. Be leary of anyone who says that charter schools have different or fewer accountability measures. Any charter school operating in the state of Georgia is required to administer the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), End-of-Course Test (EOCT) and/or the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). Why? Because that is how Georgia’s Department of Education determines whether a school/district meets Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). No publicly funded school can opt-out of those tests. Not one. Ultimately, the decision to grant any waivers lies with the State Board of Education. We have to stop alluding to the fact that charter schools can pick and choose the laws/rules to which they will adhere.

Here is where my frustration lies (ok, at least one of them): I have yet to hear or read anything about the role lack-luster leadership has played in the demise of public education. Ineffective teachers – check. Bad-arse students – check. Apathetic parents – check. Irresponsible single parents – check. Poor kids – check. When will leaders own-up to their failures as leaders? You know, wasting money to fill unnecessary central office positions. Or wasting money on textbooks not supported by classroom teachers. Changing instructional models/methods every 2-3 years without giving the previous one enough time for implementation and tracked results, or with every new superintendent. Does anyone reading this have any links to any stories covering screw-ups of overpaid central office administration, aside from the indictment of a metro-Atlanta superintendent? I’m still looking…

So here’s what we need to realize: Whether districts opt for charter schools, turnaround schools, firing every staff member, etc., none of these methods will deliver the results they seek. Why? Because some people (leadership) fail to accept that they may be a key contributing factor to the problem. From what I’ve learned, a true leader knows when it is his/her time to move-on to something else. The problem with education is that many decision-makers have been in authoritative roles for 20+ years and still think that solutions of the 90s are applicable to the problems of 2010.

But that’s just me: A crazy mom and former Special Education teacher. What do I know?

What's best for our kids?   3 comments

Just as I was thinking about the topic for my next blog, inspiration came from a few places. I have been seriously considering applying to Harvard’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership program for a few reasons. First, the university covers tuition and provides a stipend. Secondly, if you take a close look at all of the people who are ‘allowed’ to shape and change educational policy, a large majority of them are Harvard graduates, whether they hold MBAs or PhDs. This sends a very clear  message. The fact that our president has a Harvard Law degree does not hurt either. Add to that the fact that I have a soon-to-be 15 year-old son. We have had the ‘What do you want to do after high school’ talk several times and I think we will have the extended version over the next few weeks. Here’s the dilemma: If he does decide to go to college, then Harvard is out of the question for me. At least for the next few years. If he decides that he wants to attend a community college instead, then game on!

The other inspiration was Maureen Downey’s ‘discussion‘ on whether Georgia’s kids are better served by single or multiple track high school programs. One of my Twitter colleagues replied to the link and said he supports multiple tracks, as do I. But as we continued to discuss, I mentioned how some students were taking courses towards a Technical Diploma Track (now defunct) and did not realize that they could not apply to 4-year colleges and universities after graduating. This was more prevalent with students who had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). My colleague and I disagreed on this. He stressed that student are more responsible for choosing what is best for them. While I agree with student responsibility, I also believe that many students are lured by the ‘graduating in 4 years’ carrot, without any real idea of plans after high school. Again, I have actually met and taught some students who were under the assumption that they would be eligible to apply to colleges and universities their senior year. Unfortunately, many of those students were working on a Technical Diploma track and, therefore, were only eligible for technical or community colleges. Why is this important? Because, although I had only taught the students for a semester or a year, I had to be the bearer of the bad news. Not a pleasant experience, to say the least. Despite the advent of email, IEP meetings, using the telephone, or pulling a student out of class, some of these kids did not know their options. This is troubling, especially considering that SWD have the lowest graduation rate among all AYP subgroups. But we must also consider the unspoken correlations: (1) A large percentage of SWD are not completing high school in 4 years. Yes they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) until the age of 21, but realistically, many do not stay beyond the age of 18; and (2) Those who do not graduate in 4 years are very likely to be among the thousands of Georgia high school dropouts each year. If we are to seriously ‘entertain’ (that’s all we are doing right now) this ideal of decreasing the dropout rate, we need to start asking our district and state education officials some tough and uncomfortable questions: Namely, what is your district doing (that actually works) to decrease the drop-out rate? Perhaps this responsibility needs to rest with separate entities. After all, if the districts cannot keep tabs on their students while they are in school, can/should we really expect them to do so once the students leave? Furthermore, many students who drop-out usually report boredom as the motivating factor. Fact: If you can’t keep them engaged, they will find something that will. I believe this is where those multiple track programs, as well as career exploration opportunities, will prove beneficial. Traditional programs and teaching methods DO NOT work for all students, those with disabilities and otherwise. Not all students learn in the same way. Unless we start addressing those needs in the classroom, we will continue to see the drop-out rates raise. Wow. This sounds a lot like the common sense approach to closing the achievement gap.

Effective for the 2008-09 school year, Georgia implemented new graduation requirements for all students entering high school for the first time. The new graduation requirements:

Area  (Units Required)

  • English (4)
  • Math     (4)
  • Science   (4)
  • Social Studies  (3)
  • CTAE/Mod Lang/FA  (3)
  • Health & Physical Education (1)
  • Electives (4)

Georgia’s high school students need a total of 24 credits to graduate, in addition to passing all sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT). You may be thinking, “O.K. what’s the difference between the new and the old requirements?” Georgia removed the ‘track’ titles, e.g. College Prep (CP), College Prep with Distinction (CP+), and Technology/Career Prep (TC). Also, former tracks had a minimum of 22-24 credits; now all students are required to earn 24 credits to graduate. Although the state no longer makes distinctions between diploma types, the class titles are still the same. Students on the CP track do not take core courses with students working on the TC track. The names have all changed, but the programming is still the same.

If you would like to look at Georga’s actual (not average) graduation rates, check out the article I wrote last October. While I am impressed by the improved average graduation rate for Georgia, the AYP subgroups (Blacks, Hispanics, ELL, SWD, and FARL) still lag behind Whites and Asians. For the 2008-09 school year, Georgia’s average graduation rate was 78.9%, up from 75% last year. Here is the breakdown for each group:

  • Black 74.1%
  • Hispanic 71%
  • Students With Disabilities (SWD) 41.4%
  • English Language Learners (ELL) 55%
  • Free and Reduced Lunch-eligible (FARL) 72.9%
  • White 82.7%
  • Asian 91%
  • I will not deny my concern about the huge and noticeable failure of our public schools to graduate more English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Before you launch into a ‘People need to learn English’ or ‘How can students with an IEP not graduate’ tirade, let me make a few things clear:

    1. English is a very difficult language to learn. I didn’t realize how difficult until I started taking Spanish classes in high school. I will say, Spanish is the easier language. When you factor in the possibility that parents may not speak English in the home, it makes acquisition that much more difficult.
    2. My heart is, and always will be, in Special Education. Yes, even after days where a student was having a bad day and decided to cuss-out everyone (myself included), I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences. I have dialogued with some teachers on Twitter about how to ‘fix’ Special Education. We all have our own strategies and opinions, but we all agree that it is in horrible shape (trying to stop cussing on here). Special Education programs, understandably (to a small degree), differ from state-to-state; however, when you have noticeable disparities within a state and between district A and district B, there are serious consequences. Don’t believe me? Just look at the 41.1% graduation rate. That number does not include students with Severe and Profound Disabilities or other groups not required to earn a traditional high school diploma.

    New requirements are in place; however, we will not have any comparison data until the end of the 2011-12 school year. But I am certain that, at the end of this school year, our DOE will boast that graduation rates have improved, without emphasizing average or the fact that some student groups have yet to break the 50% threshold. Sometimes I wonder if I am over-simplifying the solutions, or if people are making things harder than they have to be…… Your thoughts?

    What’s best for our kids?   3 comments

    Just as I was thinking about the topic for my next blog, inspiration came from a few places. I have been seriously considering applying to Harvard’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership program for a few reasons. First, the university covers tuition and provides a stipend. Secondly, if you take a close look at all of the people who are ‘allowed’ to shape and change educational policy, a large majority of them are Harvard graduates, whether they hold MBAs or PhDs. This sends a very clear  message. The fact that our president has a Harvard Law degree does not hurt either. Add to that the fact that I have a soon-to-be 15 year-old son. We have had the ‘What do you want to do after high school’ talk several times and I think we will have the extended version over the next few weeks. Here’s the dilemma: If he does decide to go to college, then Harvard is out of the question for me. At least for the next few years. If he decides that he wants to attend a community college instead, then game on!

    The other inspiration was Maureen Downey’s ‘discussion‘ on whether Georgia’s kids are better served by single or multiple track high school programs. One of my Twitter colleagues replied to the link and said he supports multiple tracks, as do I. But as we continued to discuss, I mentioned how some students were taking courses towards a Technical Diploma Track (now defunct) and did not realize that they could not apply to 4-year colleges and universities after graduating. This was more prevalent with students who had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). My colleague and I disagreed on this. He stressed that student are more responsible for choosing what is best for them. While I agree with student responsibility, I also believe that many students are lured by the ‘graduating in 4 years’ carrot, without any real idea of plans after high school. Again, I have actually met and taught some students who were under the assumption that they would be eligible to apply to colleges and universities their senior year. Unfortunately, many of those students were working on a Technical Diploma track and, therefore, were only eligible for technical or community colleges. Why is this important? Because, although I had only taught the students for a semester or a year, I had to be the bearer of the bad news. Not a pleasant experience, to say the least. Despite the advent of email, IEP meetings, using the telephone, or pulling a student out of class, some of these kids did not know their options. This is troubling, especially considering that SWD have the lowest graduation rate among all AYP subgroups. But we must also consider the unspoken correlations: (1) A large percentage of SWD are not completing high school in 4 years. Yes they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) until the age of 21, but realistically, many do not stay beyond the age of 18; and (2) Those who do not graduate in 4 years are very likely to be among the thousands of Georgia high school dropouts each year. If we are to seriously ‘entertain’ (that’s all we are doing right now) this ideal of decreasing the dropout rate, we need to start asking our district and state education officials some tough and uncomfortable questions: Namely, what is your district doing (that actually works) to decrease the drop-out rate? Perhaps this responsibility needs to rest with separate entities. After all, if the districts cannot keep tabs on their students while they are in school, can/should we really expect them to do so once the students leave? Furthermore, many students who drop-out usually report boredom as the motivating factor. Fact: If you can’t keep them engaged, they will find something that will. I believe this is where those multiple track programs, as well as career exploration opportunities, will prove beneficial. Traditional programs and teaching methods DO NOT work for all students, those with disabilities and otherwise. Not all students learn in the same way. Unless we start addressing those needs in the classroom, we will continue to see the drop-out rates raise. Wow. This sounds a lot like the common sense approach to closing the achievement gap.

    Effective for the 2008-09 school year, Georgia implemented new graduation requirements for all students entering high school for the first time. The new graduation requirements:

    Area  (Units Required)

    • English (4)
    • Math     (4)
    • Science   (4)
    • Social Studies  (3)
    • CTAE/Mod Lang/FA  (3)
    • Health & Physical Education (1)
    • Electives (4)

    Georgia’s high school students need a total of 24 credits to graduate, in addition to passing all sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT). You may be thinking, “O.K. what’s the difference between the new and the old requirements?” Georgia removed the ‘track’ titles, e.g. College Prep (CP), College Prep with Distinction (CP+), and Technology/Career Prep (TC). Also, former tracks had a minimum of 22-24 credits; now all students are required to earn 24 credits to graduate. Although the state no longer makes distinctions between diploma types, the class titles are still the same. Students on the CP track do not take core courses with students working on the TC track. The names have all changed, but the programming is still the same.

    If you would like to look at Georga’s actual (not average) graduation rates, check out the article I wrote last October. While I am impressed by the improved average graduation rate for Georgia, the AYP subgroups (Blacks, Hispanics, ELL, SWD, and FARL) still lag behind Whites and Asians. For the 2008-09 school year, Georgia’s average graduation rate was 78.9%, up from 75% last year. Here is the breakdown for each group:

  • Black 74.1%
  • Hispanic 71%
  • Students With Disabilities (SWD) 41.4%
  • English Language Learners (ELL) 55%
  • Free and Reduced Lunch-eligible (FARL) 72.9%
  • White 82.7%
  • Asian 91%
  • I will not deny my concern about the huge and noticeable failure of our public schools to graduate more English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Before you launch into a ‘People need to learn English’ or ‘How can students with an IEP not graduate’ tirade, let me make a few things clear:

    1. English is a very difficult language to learn. I didn’t realize how difficult until I started taking Spanish classes in high school. I will say, Spanish is the easier language. When you factor in the possibility that parents may not speak English in the home, it makes acquisition that much more difficult.
    2. My heart is, and always will be, in Special Education. Yes, even after days where a student was having a bad day and decided to cuss-out everyone (myself included), I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences. I have dialogued with some teachers on Twitter about how to ‘fix’ Special Education. We all have our own strategies and opinions, but we all agree that it is in horrible shape (trying to stop cussing on here). Special Education programs, understandably (to a small degree), differ from state-to-state; however, when you have noticeable disparities within a state and between district A and district B, there are serious consequences. Don’t believe me? Just look at the 41.1% graduation rate. That number does not include students with Severe and Profound Disabilities or other groups not required to earn a traditional high school diploma.

    New requirements are in place; however, we will not have any comparison data until the end of the 2011-12 school year. But I am certain that, at the end of this school year, our DOE will boast that graduation rates have improved, without emphasizing average or the fact that some student groups have yet to break the 50% threshold. Sometimes I wonder if I am over-simplifying the solutions, or if people are making things harder than they have to be…… Your thoughts?

    Special Education: Public Education's red-headed stepchild   Leave a comment

    It’s a New Year, but I didn’t make any major resolutions for the year. I have recommitted myself to the same resolution I have made for the past 3 or 4 years: To have more patience with adults. I can deal with kids, their incessant questions, and energy. I expect grown, ‘educated’ folks to know better. Pretty sad when you have to make the same resolution year after year. I guess that’s the price you pay for being in the Education business. Anyway, I was checking the AJC for Maureen Downey’s ‘Get Schooled’ blog to see if she posted anything new. Today’s post, ‘Clayton professors describes “forgotten rooms” and children in alternative schools‘, was of particular interest to me because I am a former Special Education teacher. The article may carry a certain level of shock-value to the average person, but as a former educator, not much surprises me. I will admit that the principal’s nonchalance about the room’s existence is one of the reasons why I it is difficult for me to have patience with adults. She could have refused to use that room, especially knowing that a student hanged himself at another Georgia school in one such room.

    But this post is not about that school, or the other 50 that still use the seclusion rooms for students deemed ‘too dangerous’ for their classrooms. As I have said before, if you tell someone something over and over, they begin to manifest those words but that’s a different blog altogether! I am writing this because I am somewhat pissed off. Why does it take this book, or any other, to draw attention to the apathetic attitude towards most Special Education programs and the students receiving services? For those of you teaching, have you noticed that classes for students in Special Education are all located in one area of the building? In trailers? If so, did you realize that was illegal? Probably not because no one wants you to know that. I raised that issue my first year teaching and was told “That’s the way it’s always been?” Of course, being the smartass that I am, asked “Does that make it right?” It’s no wonder kids are embarrassed about their different abilities: They are secluded and reminded of their disabilities for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, in front of the entire school! When you have some time, read up on the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) provision in IDEA. I am still amazed that some teachers/administrators/districts make no qualms about violating federal law.

    Another issue I raised during my first year (yeah, in case you are wondering, I was in the principal’s office more than my students) was regarding the sham they call ‘Collaborative Teaching’ (also known as Co-Teaching/Inclusion). I had the opportunity to teach in that arrangement twice during my first year. The first semester was perfect: The General Education teacher and I actually both taught. She knew that I had a degree in History, so there was no issue about whether I knew the content. The students understood that we were both teachers, equally responsible for instruction, discipline, etc. In fact, our arrangement was so great that we never needed a sub when the other was out. Second semester was a completely different beast. I was assigned to ‘Co-teach’ in a U.S. History classroom. Well, that teacher felt that since I was a Special Education teacher I couldn’t possibly know anything about U.S. History. I didn’t have any space in her classroom; I was told that she would handle ‘her’ students and I would handle ‘mine.’ Never mind the fact that none of the students liked or respected her….Well, the semester progressed and I had made several requests to the department chair and principal about getting a Teacher’s edition. The principal told me that because I was the Special Education teacher, I was not entitled to a Teacher’s edition. Ha! The average person would have believed that and threw in the towel. I ain’t average, by any stretch of the imagination. I contacted the district office to get information on the correct procedure. The Lead Special Education Teacher assured me that I was entitled to those resources since I had students in the class. Guess what arrived a few days later? I will say that after that incident, I no longer questioned or defended myself when they referred to me as a Yankee. Damn straight! I don’t have a doormat on my back. I am sure they were glad to see me go!

    That was a small victory. Unfortunately, the kind of advocates needed for Special Education are ‘Always outnumbered, always outgunned.’ I was fighting for more than a book. Hell, I could care less about the actual book but more about the message those attitudes send to the students. They have rights. Not just the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), but to be treated equally, with dignity and respect. Textbooks can’t teach those lessons. I hope every Special Education teacher finds his or her voice to ensure your students have the resources they need to be successful. The lesson starts with us.

    Special Education: Public Education’s red-headed stepchild   Leave a comment

    It’s a New Year, but I didn’t make any major resolutions for the year. I have recommitted myself to the same resolution I have made for the past 3 or 4 years: To have more patience with adults. I can deal with kids, their incessant questions, and energy. I expect grown, ‘educated’ folks to know better. Pretty sad when you have to make the same resolution year after year. I guess that’s the price you pay for being in the Education business. Anyway, I was checking the AJC for Maureen Downey’s ‘Get Schooled’ blog to see if she posted anything new. Today’s post, ‘Clayton professors describes “forgotten rooms” and children in alternative schools‘, was of particular interest to me because I am a former Special Education teacher. The article may carry a certain level of shock-value to the average person, but as a former educator, not much surprises me. I will admit that the principal’s nonchalance about the room’s existence is one of the reasons why I it is difficult for me to have patience with adults. She could have refused to use that room, especially knowing that a student hanged himself at another Georgia school in one such room.

    But this post is not about that school, or the other 50 that still use the seclusion rooms for students deemed ‘too dangerous’ for their classrooms. As I have said before, if you tell someone something over and over, they begin to manifest those words but that’s a different blog altogether! I am writing this because I am somewhat pissed off. Why does it take this book, or any other, to draw attention to the apathetic attitude towards most Special Education programs and the students receiving services? For those of you teaching, have you noticed that classes for students in Special Education are all located in one area of the building? In trailers? If so, did you realize that was illegal? Probably not because no one wants you to know that. I raised that issue my first year teaching and was told “That’s the way it’s always been?” Of course, being the smartass that I am, asked “Does that make it right?” It’s no wonder kids are embarrassed about their different abilities: They are secluded and reminded of their disabilities for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, in front of the entire school! When you have some time, read up on the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) provision in IDEA. I am still amazed that some teachers/administrators/districts make no qualms about violating federal law.

    Another issue I raised during my first year (yeah, in case you are wondering, I was in the principal’s office more than my students) was regarding the sham they call ‘Collaborative Teaching’ (also known as Co-Teaching/Inclusion). I had the opportunity to teach in that arrangement twice during my first year. The first semester was perfect: The General Education teacher and I actually both taught. She knew that I had a degree in History, so there was no issue about whether I knew the content. The students understood that we were both teachers, equally responsible for instruction, discipline, etc. In fact, our arrangement was so great that we never needed a sub when the other was out. Second semester was a completely different beast. I was assigned to ‘Co-teach’ in a U.S. History classroom. Well, that teacher felt that since I was a Special Education teacher I couldn’t possibly know anything about U.S. History. I didn’t have any space in her classroom; I was told that she would handle ‘her’ students and I would handle ‘mine.’ Never mind the fact that none of the students liked or respected her….Well, the semester progressed and I had made several requests to the department chair and principal about getting a Teacher’s edition. The principal told me that because I was the Special Education teacher, I was not entitled to a Teacher’s edition. Ha! The average person would have believed that and threw in the towel. I ain’t average, by any stretch of the imagination. I contacted the district office to get information on the correct procedure. The Lead Special Education Teacher assured me that I was entitled to those resources since I had students in the class. Guess what arrived a few days later? I will say that after that incident, I no longer questioned or defended myself when they referred to me as a Yankee. Damn straight! I don’t have a doormat on my back. I am sure they were glad to see me go!

    That was a small victory. Unfortunately, the kind of advocates needed for Special Education are ‘Always outnumbered, always outgunned.’ I was fighting for more than a book. Hell, I could care less about the actual book but more about the message those attitudes send to the students. They have rights. Not just the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), but to be treated equally, with dignity and respect. Textbooks can’t teach those lessons. I hope every Special Education teacher finds his or her voice to ensure your students have the resources they need to be successful. The lesson starts with us.