Thursday, September 13, 2007

districts failing AYP in special ed

In Thurston County, only 3 of 8 districts meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks in Special Education--simply because they don't have enough students in that category. Elsewhere, trouble brewing:
"I anticipate we'll have more and more districts have (Adequate Yearly Progress) problems if there's no change in the rules," said Alan Burke, superintendent of Yelm Community Schools.

Most students in special education programs take the same assessments as everyone else in their grade level....

With the large increase in districts that did not meet federal benchmarks, state officials seek assessment alternatives for students in special education programs statewide.

"What we're trying to do is honor the intent of the law, but at the same time, provide alternatives for kids," said Catherine Taylor, director of assessment alternatives at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. "The dilemma always is that we don't have any power over the alternatives to offer because it's a federal law, and we go by their guidelines."
Have to wonder how a system arose that provides qualitatively different education but expects quantitatively similar results.


Jessica Olson -- Everett said...

Yeah, that qualitatively different instruction means, in most all cases, markedly POORER instruction. Why not shine a light on the fact that the outcomes of these students lags far, far behind that of the non-sped kids.

Remember that the vast majority of kids in special ed are NOT cognitively disabled. A kid in the special ed category is most often "learning disabled" (could be dyslexia or dysgraphia, but most often it is UNdiagnosed, and the kid is simply academically behind by two years or more).

Severe cognitive disabilities make up about only 1% of all students.

So let's leave the really low IQs out of it for a minute -- what is education's excuse for not getting the other, normal IQ kids up to par with that "special" education those kids are supposed to be getting?

Could it be that the special education is in fact not so special at all, and now the state doesn't want us to know how poorly those kids are educated?

We've got to quit thinking about the WASL being unfair to the schools because we are comparing sped kids to everyone else, and instead start thinking about the test scores as a place to start asking questions about WHY their scores remain so low.

The whole point of special education is to get the kid OUT of special education, after all, and to get the kid back up to speed with his peers. It can be done, you know.

Jim Anderson said...

Sure, we should "shine a light" on places where special ed is poor, but...

1. Not while simultaneously punishing students by denying them a diploma.

2. Not without the complex statistical analysis necessary to separate the severely disabled from other students--which, WASL-wise, isn't being done.

3. Not while the federal system provides "perverse incentives," from an institution's perspective, for a student to remain in special ed forever. The government is trying to beat with the carrot and feed with the stick.

Jessica Olson said...

Once you start allowing schools to hand out diplomas to disabled kids based upon different standards -- meaning modified standards -- you begin to see an increase in disabled kids with regular diplomas.

Are you aware that once a sped kid earns a diploma, his right to special education is gone? That means schools can exit disabled kids with a diploma in their senior year, when the kid can't read or write or even tie his shoes, and the kid can't then receive services thru age 21 as IDEA allows.

Try substituting the term "black kids" or "poor kids" for "special ed kids" and see if all your arguments don't ring loud with discrimination.

Disabled kids have the right to have accomodations and modifications to allow them to benefit from education, to be sure. But allowing, and therefore tacitly encouraging schools to award diplomas to students who aren't meeting the standard of what every other kid is expected to meet is far worse than denying a diploma based upon standards that are too high.

The real problem is the WASL itself and it unspoken premise that every kid who passes demonstrates college-level readiness. THAT is the problem. We need a test that says all kids should be able to do what is expected of a high school education with a C average -- basic proficiency in reading, writing, arithmetic, history, civics, and the like. Let the college bound take the college prep courses, but don't require everyone to pass a test that indicates this.

The ITBS was a decent measure, and so was the CAT. Too bad so much of ESEA money given to states during the Clinton years was used by the state in developing the WASL; what resulted was the state was too darn embarrassed to admit that if they actually used the test to measure proficiency when the ESEA was reauthorized with teeth in accountability, that the state would be hoisted by its own petards.

That is the shame, and that is what very few of the public realizes.

There would be nothing wrong with demanding we use the ITBS for NCLB purposes, where it could be agreed that the 10th grade level of proficiency in most subjects demonstrated that kids had attained a decent basic level of education.