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Ed Reform Through Lens of SPED: Friends of Boca Ed Panel

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SUMMARY: This presentation reviews the role of special education as a catalyst in education reform and discusses the unintended consequences of even well designed reform. For example, the campaign to correct over enrollment of children with reading problems in special education—a top-down campaign emphasizing evidence-based reading in general education and a cornerstone of NCLB—has contributed to a grassroots backlash against testing and “narrowing of the curriculum.” A difficulty appreciating education’s dynamic complexities helps explain a history of swinging between extremes and why even great solutions often create new problems. Appreciating these dynamic complexities and working from both the bottom up and from the top down are essential to making and sustaining improvements in education. Each year, three million youngsters enter the U.S. education system with high hopes. It is our job to ensure those hopes are fulfilled.

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  • SUMMARY : This presentation reviews the role of special education as a catalyst in education reform and discusses the unintended consequences of even well designed reform. For example, the campaign to correct over enrollment of children with reading problems in special education—a top-down campaign emphasizing evidence-based reading in general education and a cornerstone of NCLB—has contributed to a grassroots backlash against testing and “narrowing of the curriculum.” A difficulty appreciating education’s dynamic complexities helps explain a history of swinging between extremes and why even great solutions often create new problems. Appreciating these dynamic complexities and working from both the bottom up and from the top down are essential to making and sustaining improvements in education. Each year, three million youngsters enter the U.S. education system with high hopes. It is our job to ensure those hopes are fulfilled.
  • This presentation sharpens the focus to look at one corner of the education reform landscape. To see the big patterns we fly at 60,000 feet and to compress 50-odd years into a 12-minute presentation, we move pretty quickly. So, we only can view the most prominent features.
  • Central Premise : Special education has been a powerful driving force in education reform – directly and indirectly.
  • Prior to special education laws enacted in 1970s, things could be pretty grim for those who had any kind of disability or learning difference—they often were relegated to the back of the class, sent away from home to state-run facilities, or bounced out of the system altogether. In other words, their rights to a free and appropriate education were denied. “ The right to free and appropriate education (FAPE) has roots dating back to the1840s and Horace Mann and Henry Barnard’s crusade to develop statewide common school systems to provide opportunities for ALL children and to create common bonds among diverse populations. But for the most part, children with disabilities were not included. Many believed these children could not be educated. When the effort was made, children often were sent away from home to state-run facilities.”   REFERENCES NCLD: HISTORY OF FAPE http://www.ncld.org/at-school/your-childs-rights/laws-protecting-students/what-is-fape-and-what-can-it-mean-to-my-child
  • That began to change with a series of key legislative actions, which provided access to general and specialized education services and improved the lives of untold thousands. Mom power (“ m others o n a m ission) was a major force behind this legislation. ESEA 1965: a national movement to correct educational inequalities for economically disadvantaged and/or disabled children led to passage of—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In the 1970s, reauthorization of ESEA Title VI was added as the Education of the Handicapped Act. Often referred to as Part B, it established grant programs for local districts to expand the development of programs and services to children with disabilities. Reauthorized as NCLB in 2002.   SPECIAL EDUCATION LAWS: 1972, Mass enacted Chapter 766 , which— led to the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975—which subsequently led to a series of reauthorizations and, in 1990, a name change to The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (or IDEA). A component of today’s IDEA, FAPE mandates that school districts provide access to general education and free-of-charge specialized educational services. It provides access to general education services for children with disabilities—support and related services are provided in general education settings as much as possible.   SECTION 504/ADA: Wide-ranging civil rights laws, prohibit discrimination based on disability – a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which broadened interpretations and added examples of "major life activities" including, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating . Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act paved the way for ADA. As applied to K-12 schools, Section 504 “broadly prohibits the denial of public education participation, or enjoyment of the benefits offered by public school programs because of a child’s disability. REFERENCES http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_504 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_with_Disabilities_Act
  • But don’t celebrate yet.
  • By the 1990s, 52% of children receiving SPED services are identified as having LD and 80% of those with LD have a reading disability. NCLD : Learning disabilities (LD) are a group of varying disorders that have a negative impact on learning. They may affect one’s ability to speak, listen, think, read, write, spell or compute. The most prevalent LD is in the area of reading, known as dyslexia. IDA: Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. REFERENCES: NCLD FAST FACTS: http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-explained/basic-facts/ld-fast-facts IDA WHAT IS DYSLEXIA: http://www.interdys.org/DyslexiaDefinition.htm FORDHAM FOUNDATION: 52% 80%: http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2001/200105_rethinkingspecialed/special_ed_final.pdf
  • Exploding SPED populations—especially those diagnosed with LD, mostly with reading problems—siphoning off 20-40% of district budgets REFERENCES: FORDHAM FOUNDATION/RETHINKING SPED : http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2001/200105_rethinkingspecialed/special_ed_final.pdf BACKLASH AGAINST SPED: http://www.massnews.com/past_issues/other/12_Dec/sped.htm
  • Gets your attention, doesn’t it. And it did in the late 80s and early 90s. It sparked a backlash against SPED and ignited SPED reform, which coalesced into the inclusion movement – which basically seeks to serve more SPED kids in regular education contexts. Two pretty influential reports came out during this era: 1986 -- REGULAR EDUCATION INITIATIVE by then Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, in which she cited concerns about some unintended consequences of pull-out programs. 1994 -- PIONEER REPORT—SPECIAL EDUCATION: GOOD INTENTIONS GONE AWRY – which looked at the financial impact of SPED on regular education in Mass. This also sparked concerns about the efficacy of current reading instruction in both SPED and general education. How many children really have reading disabilities? How many actually are teaching disabled? Good Intentions Gone Awry: A thorough examination of special education legislation, enrollment trends, costs, and financial impact on regular education in Massachusetts.   REFERENCES: FORDHAM FOUNDATION/RETHINKING SPED: http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2001/200105_rethinkingspecialed/special_ed_final.pdf NRP REPORT: http://www.amazon.com/Report-National-Reading-Panel-Implications/dp/B000J0MXME PIONEER REPORT: http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pubs_books.php BACKLASH AGAINST SPED: http://www.massnews.com/past_issues/other/12_Dec/sped.htm
  • SPED ANGST In 2000 this all converged and culminated in the seminal Report of the NATIONAL READING PANEL: AN EVIDENCED BASED ASSESSMENT OF THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH LITERATURE ON READING AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR READING INSTRUCTION REFERENCES : FORDHAM FOUNDATION/RETHINKING SPED: http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2001/200105_rethinkingspecialed/special_ed_final.pdf NRP REPORT: http://www.amazon.com/Report-National-Reading-Panel-Implications/dp/B000J0MXME
  • This report had a catalytic impact on the decades long reading wars—at least at policy levels—pushing the pendulum toward structured –language approaches and away from whole-language approaches and ushering a period of deep and far-reaching evidenced-based reading reform.
  • Much of this reform was spearheaded by NICHD, which funded years of cognitive neuroscience research, which taught us much about the reading brain and the science of teaching and learning. ( NICHD also convened the NRP.) They pushed a research to policy to practice agenda – winning major policy battles in the reading wars and focusing general education practices on prevention of reading disabilities. NRP : 5 Pillars of reading instruction— Phonemic Awareness, Phonics Instruction, Fluency Instruction, Vocabulary Instruction, Comprehension Instruction . The NRP reviewed research-based knowledge on reading instruction. In 2000, the NRP concluded its work and submitted "The Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read," at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.   REFERENCES NRP: http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org/NRPAbout/about_nrp.htm http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/nrp/upload/smallbook_pdf.pdf
  • Now 3 powerful strands of reform begin to converge to eventually culminate in NCLB. Much of the convergence and rationale can be seen in reports such as the Fordham Foundation’s 2001 report, RETHINKING SPED FOR A NEW CENTURY. There the groundwork is laid for RTI, evidence-based practices, standards, and accountability. REFERENCES : FORDHAM FOUNDATION/RETHINKING SPED: http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2001/200105_rethinkingspecialed/special_ed_final.pdf
  • And so 10 years ago, Bush signed NCLB into law. Evidenced-based reading instruction was a cornerstone in this law.
  • All these amazing things got done!
  • Also, we reduced children in SPED with LD from 52% to 41%. And, we have much more transparency of school performance and spending Currently 2.4 million students are diagnosed with LD and receive special education services in our schools—representing 41% of all students receiving special education. While they represent the largest group served by IDEA, the number of school-age children identified with LD has seen a steady decline in the past 10 years. (IDEA Part B Child Counts, 2001-2010, Students ages 6-21. Available at www.IDEAdata.org ) MASS NAEP: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/stt2011/2012454MA4.pdf
  • But don’t celebrate yet.
  • Soon cracks in support for NCLB began appearing – e.g., 100% proficiency is seen as a worthy target, but an unrealistic and problematic expectation.
  • Soon other NCLB concerns began popping up.
  • Today there are deep divisions about NCLB, how it should be reformed, and the directions we should pursue in education. NCLD OCCUPY ARTICLE: “On October 20, 2011, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed legislation that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (more commonly known as No Child Left Behind), addressing its shortcomings since the law's passage in 2001. The revised version seriously jeopardizes the law's focus on achievement of students with disabilities and other disadvantaged students. The current version of the law, without question, would turn back the clock to a time when achievement outcomes for students with LD were allowed to remain under the accountability radar... let's not go back there!” http://www.ncld.org/at-school/your-childs-rights/advocacy-self-advocacy/qoccupyq-ld
  • Loud, strident voices are clashing across traditional and new-media landscapes. Education is on everyone’s radar! REFERENCES Waiting for Superman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=ZKTfaro96dg&NR=1 The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjR3DWYxgJc&feature=related American Teacher: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzvD9v7CbEE The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing & Choice are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, by Steven Brill The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas, by Frederick Hess
  • This is a bit of a sidebar in my presentation – but I believe it will be the central issue during the next decade. How well can industrial-era schools prepare 21 st century citizens?
  • We have a history of swinging between extremes.
  • Our solutions often create new problems.
  • “ Well-intentioned demands for “bold” federal action on school improvement have a history of misfiring. They stifle problem-solving, encourage bureaucratic blame avoidance and often do more harm than good.” -- Frederick Hess and Linda Darling-Hammond http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/opinion/how-to-rescue-education-reform.html?_r=2
  • Every year, 3 million youngsters start school. They have all kinds of different backgrounds, but they share the same sense of excitement when they get on that bus for the first time and they ALL have high hopes and expectations.
  • Our job, short and sweet, is to live up to those hopes and expectations!
  • Two examples of people with very different viewpoints finding common ground: How to Rescue Education Reform , by Frederick Hess and Linda Darling-Hammond http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/opinion/how-to-rescue-education-reform.html?_r=2 Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Linda Darling-Hammond is a professor of education at Stanford. Three Ways to Improve USA’s Teachers, by Wendy Kopp and Dennis Van Roekel http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-12-20/teachers-education-public-schools/52121868/1 Wendy Kopp is the founder and CEO of Teach For America and the co-founder and CEO of Teach For All. Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association.
  • Ed Reform Through Lens of SPED: Friends of Boca Ed Panel

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