Posts Tagged ‘Specific Learning Disability’

I’ll Take Manhattan (Part 3)

Monday, September 14th, 2009

One thing about BS: it makes great leftovers.

Schools have discovered that they can get extra funding from state and federal ‎governments for small-group instruction to help lagging students catch up if they say that ‎the students are struggling because of a processing problem in their brains. School officials who admit that the students are lagging because of poor previous instruction or a difficult ‎home life, by contrast, are left to pay the costs of small-group instruction entirely out of ‎their own budget. ‎

So says Jay P. Green, co-author of  “How Special Ed Vouchers Keep Kids From Being Mislabeled as Disabled” in his equally misinformed follow-up“The Problems with Special Ed”. The problem with both articles, as any special ed teacher will tell you, is that in the real world you don’t get points for identifying kids; you get penalized come high-stakes testing time because special needs kids drag down your scores.  Want to have Arne Duncan lower the boom on your school, fire your entire staff and/or turn you into a charter? Get crappy scores on your standardized test.  Want crappy scores? Label so many of your students Specific Learning Disabled that your special ed population becomes a significant sub-group and therefore subject to even more ridiculous demands.  Green Dot will be beating down your door.

And by the way, assuming a school district can get it together enough to perpetrate such a conspiracy is a bit of a stretch.  LAUSD is so messed up it’s selling itself to the highest low-bidder.

So you can save that Big Mac for lunch tomorrow, but it was junk when you bought it and it will be junk when you warm it up.

I’ll Take Manhattan (Part Two)

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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I would like to spend some time with the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank report that states that children are over-diagnosed with SLD (Specific Learning Disabilities) to make school districts money, but I am too busy gearing up to teach my SLD students, many of them with disabilities so severe they have fallen three years behind their peers academically and have become completely disengaged from learning. So I will take a look at the report piecemeal over the next few days…

Today let’s start by thanking the authors for this definition of Specific Learning Disabilities:

According to the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), SLD is defined as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved [in] understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.”[4] Included in the SLD category are conditions such as perceptual handicaps, developmental aphasia, and dyslexia.

The authors then go on to say:

SLD is among the mildest of the disability classifications covered under IDEA and, importantly for our purposes, is also the one whose diagnosis is most dependent on subjective evaluations.

Okay, let’s stop a minute and do a little exercise.  Find or make a maze, get a mirror. Now try to draw a line within the maze borders while looking at your hand and the maze in the mirror.  Pretty hard? Frustrating? Overwhelming? Make you want to give up? Throw an eraser at somebody? Join a gang?

So SLD is “among the mildest of the disability classifications?” Really? Ask someone who has it how mild it is. Someone who has to live with it day to day. Some kid trying to learn the English language maybe.

Sometimes SLD is a comorbid condition, that is, it exists in the company of another disability, say autism.  Many autistic kids are diagnosed as SLD because the autism label brings with it more costly treatments (speech, OT, ABA), treatments for which a district prefers not to pay. Ask an SLD student with undiagnosed autism how mild his condition is.

To be continued…

I’ll Take Manhattan (Part One)

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I would like to spend some time with the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank report that states that children are over-diagnosed with SLD (Specific Learning Disabilities) to make school districts money, but I am too busy gearing up to teach my SLD students, many of them with disabilities so severe they have fallen three years behind their peers academically and have become completely disengaged from learning. So I will take a look at the report piecemeal over the next few days…

In the last three decades, special-education programs in the United States have grown at a tremendous pace. Much of this growth reflects a growing incidence of students diagnosed with the mildest form of learning disability, called a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), and thus the hardest to distinguish from an ordinary cognitive deficit.

First of all, I don’t understand this sentence.  What is hardest to distinguish from an ordinary cognitive deficit?  SLD?  If so why is it difficult to distinguish from an ordinary cognitive deficit, and for that matter what is a an ordinary cognitive deficit?

Perhaps I will learn as I read on…

Some have speculated that a sizable amount of the growth in special education may not reflect a true increase in the incidence of disabilities. Instead, it may be the result of financial and other incentives that spur school systems to classify struggling students who may not truly suffer from a mental or physical disability as learning-disabled, and thus entitled, under various state and federal mandates, to receive more than ordinary attention, for which the school systems in question are compensated.

At this point, I conjure up a picture of greedy district officials plotting how they can over-diagnose kids to get their hands on state money. But wait a minute.  As a special education teacher I know the opposite is true. District administrators are trying to find ways (by utilizing Learning Centers, Response to Intervention, etc.) not to over-identify children. Why? The more students an RSP teacher qualifies, the more likely the special education population at a given school becomes a “numerically significant” subgroup.  To make Adequate Yearly Progress, a school must prove through state testing that it has met all of the AYP criteria including, as the California DOE website explains, “requirements for numerically significant subgroups.” What constitutes a significant subgroup? Again, the California DOE:

A subgroup is defined as numerically significant for participation rate if it has 100 or more students enrolled OR 50 or more students enrolled who make up at least 15 percent of the total enrollment.

A subgroup is defined as numerically significant for percent proficient if it has 100 or more students with valid scores OR 50 or more students with valid scores who make up at least 15 percent of the total valid scores.

Thus if you have a numerically significant subgroup of special ed kids at your school, their test scores alone could keep you in Program Improvement status, which if you are a teacher or an administrator, could eventually mean your job. Why would you want to over-qualify kids? Doing so would be like shooting yourself in the foot.

Well, that does it for Part One of this writer’s critique.  So many tables so little time…