Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Something Called Help

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Washington, D.C. Free morning lunch in the kindergarten of a Negro school

Photo: “Washington, D.C. Free morning lunch in the kindergarten of a Negro school” (Marjory Collins, 1942)

Please read this heartbreaking Judith Warner post about what we are doing for kids in crisis compared to what was done for them during the Great Depression:

The youth crisis of the 1930s terrified observers and led to a profound shift in American politics. “The Depression toppled the notion that children’s welfare could be left to individual families, private charities, and local and state governments,” Mintz writes. “It created a consensus that the federal government had a responsibility to promote children’s well-being.” Anxious about the emergence of a “lost generation” that could fall into the grip of fascism, the Roosevelt administration started the country’s first free-lunch programs, opened hundreds of free nursery schools, created the first federally-financed work-study programs for teenagers, funneled money to poor states to maintain teachers’ salaries, and created jobs for teenagers. Schools were built. Aid to Dependent Children came into being

What a difference an administration makes:

But if needy children were iconic — and change-inspiring — back then, they now appear to be all but forgotten.

The stimulus package of last spring contained a good deal of additional federal financing for child-care and Head Start programs. But that assistance was a one-shot deal. Ten states have cut back on their financing for pre-kindergarten education; at least nine have growing wait lists for child-care subsidies. Ohio and California have eliminated certain preschool programs altogether; other states are making it harder for families to qualify for state assistance.

Candidate Obama promised to double federal money for afterschool programs — instead that funding has remained flat, even as need has increased. According to a recent national survey carried out by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, 26 percent of school-age children are left alone after school each day — an increase of 800,000 kids since 2004. And as many as 100,000 teachers have been laid off this year.

In Obama, children got a symbol of hope.  In FDR, something called help.

Another Reason to Love (and Save) Our Public Schools

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

A school in New York is taken over a by a charter that gets rid of a school library with a legacy of volunteerism and community TLC. Could your public school be next?

The Sorrows of Miss X

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Some teachers seem to have all the luck. Like Miss X. She has three autistic kids in her class. An accident? I couldn’t really say. Maybe the administration thinks she has a good touch with these kids. She does. Even though she has very little support to see to their needs (and they have many despite their myriad talents), she gives them all she’s got. She’s a very accepting woman and a great teacher. So wouldn’t it be a little unfair to tie her performance as a teacher to the standardized test scores of her students when a big percentage of them are in special ed? Wouldn’t it put her at a disadvantage and teachers who are not as inclusive, who do their best to get rid of special ed kids, at an advantage?

But why does Miss X have so many autistic students? Three’s a lot even by today’s standards. Back when I started teaching autistic kids were exotic. You’d only see them in special classes and in special schools. The first autistic child I worked with was in a special class I taught over the summer. He had long blond hair and liked to spit in his hand. He could keep a tissue afloat by blowing underneath it, and when put in front of my Smith Corona electric typewriter, would type the names of the major credit car companies over and over. I would talk a lot to the boy and though he couldn’t respond verbally we developed a relationship that was strong enough that his father, a single dad, sought me out during the school year for advice. “What can I do to help my son?” he asked me. I didn’t know how to respond.

I still don’t. And now there are more and more autistic students, and they’re not just in special classes; they’re in the general ed class with Miss X. Witnessing my own autistic son in the hands of his truly gifted therapists has helped me to better understand my ASD students, but I still need to learn much, much more. And now that education is under siege (from budget cuts and charter privateers) public schools aren’t the best place for learning. Some even think the help I give my disabled students is part of a pact I’ve signed with the devil to defraud the honest taxpayer in order to make the school districts rich with money earmarked for special ed. Kids with learning disabilities are the most over-identified, these folks claim, but don’t worry; guaranteed they’ll go after autistic kids too. Why are there three autistic kids in Miss X’s class? Because under the pressure of teachers and parents, they are getting over-identified too.

Watch and see if this recent article in the NYT doesn’t give them fodder. It examines what they used to call herd mentality, monkey see monkey do. Why are overweight people overweight? Because an over-eating friend of an over-eating friend has fallen off the Weight Watcher wagon, tipping over the first domino that will make a whole social network overweight. Why are parent’s freaking out about the illegal peanut traffic in schools?

They (the authors) even argue — and this is sure to generate controversy — that the obsessive drive to create “nut free” environments is not the result of any real increase in children’s allergies but rather something akin to an epidemic of adult hysteria, spread via network transmission.

Well if you think those peanut- hating parents are bad, the argument might go, take a look at their autism-loving brethren.  Why are there so many autistic kids at school? Their parents are hysterical, that’s why.  And worst of all, their craziness is spreading.

Yes, I can hear it now: vaccination doesn’t cause autism.  Facebook does.

I guess all you can do is hunker down.  And hope Miss X doesn’t get laid off.

Podcast 24: Day 2 of School

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Talk to You Later-Notes to My Son: Day 2 of School

Are You Ready, Charterteers!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Read today in the LAT’s coverage of charter Locke High School that the special ed classes aren’t so hot. Good thing next year Locke operator Green Dot will be taking them over too. I’m sure the school will use state special ed funds wisely. Don’t want to have the same problems they’re experiencing in PA. Wouldn’t like to see special needs kids like my son not getting what they need because someone’s cooking the books:

Special education for charters is funded in a different way than for school districts. School districts pay a sizable portion of special-education expenses on their own. They get a state subsidy, calculated using overall student enrollment and adjusted for wealth. Typically, school districts spend more on special education than they receive in subsidies from the state.

Charters get a per-child payment for their special-education students based on the special-education costs of the districts where the children live.

(PA Governor) Rendell’s proposal addresses a funding quirk that state officials believe costs local school districts money while benefiting charter schools.

Local school districts by law provide a full array of special-education services, from those for mildly disabled students with reading problems to those for children with severe cognitive problems and autism. The most severely disabled are sent to special schools.

Many charters end up with special-education students who are less severely disabled than those in most school districts.

In those cases, where relatively high-cost school districts are funding typically lower-cost charter school special-education students, the possibility of subsidy windfalls exist.


Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I found this link in Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Thanks to the Daily News for its critical examination of New York’s inflated testing results:

It’s the state exam version of grade inflation.

Soaring scores on the state math test don’t necessarily add up to better schools or smarter kids.

That’s because it has gotten easier to teach to the test as the questions have gotten easier to predict, a Daily News analysis revealed.

And, the tests may also be easier.

“It’s the lesson of the financial crisis, and it’s the lesson here – you can’t just trust the numbers, you have to look at what the numbers mean,” said Columbia University sociology doctorate student Jennifer Jennings.

“If you can always make pretty good guesses about what’s going to be on the state tests, teachers aren’t stupid and we’re putting them under a whole lot of pressure, so basically they’re strategic about what they teach.”

A Question

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Went to an inservice today to learn about Open Court, the reading program we use at the district. The training was for RSP teachers and the topics included accessing the curriculum and the tiered approach to intervention. The teachers were intelligent and experienced, the presenters sharp and on-point, and I got a warm collegial feeling. I was happy to be an RSP teacher and sharing ideas with these folks. And I wondered on the way home, if all of us are going to be displaced by charters or reconstitution, who’s going to rush in to fill the void? If we in that room care any less for children than those who will come to replace us?


Friday, May 29th, 2009

Wanted to post this as soon as possible, the best, most concise and nuanced look at Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s vision for education and why it will mean disaster for public education and our kids.  Here’s a little excerpt:

But Chicago Public Schools (CPS) policies are not really about Duncan or his successor. The biggest threat to finally achieving equitable and quality education in Chicago’s low-income African American and Latino/a schools is not the individual who carries out the policy but a system of mayoral control and corporate power that locks out democracy. The impact of those policies includes thousands of children displaced by school closings, spiked violence as they transferred to other schools, and the deterioration of public education in many neighborhoods into a crisis situation.

Focus, Focus

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


Okay.  I will.  Right after this post, which has nothing to do with California, fatherhood or autism, the alleged subjects of this blog.  Just had to share this tome-like post by John Lawhead about the charterization of NYC:

Leonie Haimson, a parent and school advocate, writing on the New York City Public School Parents blog, wrote that the Tweed strategy seemed like an effort to “create such incompetent, dysfunctional government that the public will no longer support the notion that the government can provide useful public services, leading to further privatization and the undermining of the whole notion of the public good.” Teachers who never wanted to be part of any lousy schools wonder, who wins from the closings and reorganizations? Concerned about “failing” schools? Poverty schools are like the overmedicated patient that eventually needs a different pill for every function. How will the dizzy, disordered, hysterical, somnolent, depressed school ever get “fixed” when it is such a lucrative prospect for the education companies? Profits are predicated on students and teachers’ lack of control over the institutions where they work and learn. How many of the products, the packaged teacher-proof lessons, the training and consulting, interim assessments would be exposed as unnecessary if school communities could find a way to use their own judgment and solve their own problems?


Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

I got into an exchange in the edublogosphere about tenure, whether it was a basic right, as one commentator claimed it wasn’t, or a way of keeping minority workers down (last hired, first fired) as another commentator claimed it was.  All I can say is that I have tenure for the time being and hope to hold onto it as long as I can.  Some of these comments came from the Windy City where I guess a lot of teachers don’t have crap. What’re you LA guys complaining about? they seemed to be saying. At least you have bargaining rights. So since Green Dot has “given” those rights to the teachers at schools like Locke (after axing the teachers who were already there) should I feel greedy that I don’t want them coming after my school (and tenure) too?  As Caroline Grannan puts it in a recent post:

Those (media) voices constantly cite teacher “tenure” as the evil to end all evils. Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines tenure:

“…a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary dismissal.”

It seems to me that anyone who has ever worked for an employer would view “protection from summary dismissal” as a reasonable right for workers. That would include most every employee of the mainstream media corporations –- who I have a feeling haven’t thought this through when they do all that bashing, blaming and demonizing of teachers.

So if tenure isn’t a basic right, so be it.  But it is a reasonable right, which I think every teacher should have.