No Sock Puppet: Teaching for Special Needs.


Sock Puppet

You may have noticed that I don’t write about my school on this blog. I rarely write about my district. And never about my students. It is not what this blog is about.

I write using my real name. I’m not a “sock puppet,” a term I recently learned. A sock puppet is someone who scams others by using a phony ID when posting on the internet. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods was recently busted for being a sock puppet when trashing competitors and manipulating stock sales.

I respect my colleague’s and my student’s privacy and stay away from postings that would identify them.

But I am proud of my school and the work that we do with Special Needs students. As a public school, we welcome all students that live in our district, regardless of their learning needs. We work with many children with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy

There are two factors here. One is that, as a result of struggle and parental demands, the law requires that public schools accept all children, no matter what disability they may have, and teach them in the least restrictive environment.

The other factor is that our school, parents, students, staff and administration have worked hard to make our school a warm, accepting, inclusive and safe place for everyone who learns and teaches in it. This is not something that happens by itself. It takes effort, sensitivity and consciousness.

So it is with more than a little anger that I read John Wooten, right-wing columnist for the Atlanta Journal.

In arguing for charter schools, he claims that one of their values is the fact that they don’t have to accept Special Needs students.

Critics note, for example, that private schools aren’t required to have curriculums tailored to special-needs children, or to hire certified teachers or those trained in special education. True enough.

They note, too, that competitiors are free to accept or reject applicants. True enough.

And hallelujah.

What’s happening here is that the locus of authority is tranferring from government to parents. For the first time in well over a century, the earth is moving in a direction that empowers parents — all parents, not just those with money.

For choice to be real, providers of education services should never, ever, be required to take every applicant. If they can’t serve a child’s particular needs — either because he’s disruptive, not up to grade, or deemed to have problems the school’s not equipped to address — they should be free to reject him.

When enough like-needs children exist, creative educators and entrepreneurs in the free market will create new schools.

This is a lie. It is public schools that have been the most responsive to the demands of parents, particularly to parents with Special Needs children. The more distant the school from the control of the public, the less they need to act on behalf of the common community. This has not happened without political action, nor has it happened quickly enough. But to the degree that there have been advances for those with disabilities, it has taken place where the public has leverage: in the public sector.

The show wasn’t canceled.


The most recent communication from the IEA dramatizes just how much the debate over school funding has changed since the Spring.

At the time of the IEA state convention in March, the talk was of building a broad coalition that would force the Democratic led legislature and the Democratic governor to fundamentally change the way the state’s schools were funded.

The talk back in the Spring was of social justice. Why, the coalition asked, should the quality of a child’s education be determined by their zip code? The reliance on local property taxes was clearly a regressive system, most punishing towards the poor. By shifting the funding of schools to a progressive income tax, the state could move from its present place as 49th out of 50 when it comes to state school funding.

While the state legislature in Springfield has a long and dreary reputation as corrupt as any in the nation, even the most pessimistic thought that this might be the session where things might change. This sense of possibility led to the March on the Capitol on May 2nd that brought more than 8,000 city, suburban and rural school funding advocates to Springfield.

But now it seems that the most we can hope for are a few crumbs. Neither Blago, Jones or Madigan will agree to substantive change. So maybe we get a casino here. A few budgeted dollars there. Just more of the same old same old as past years.

I remember one meeting I had in Springfield a couple of years ago. When the day’s meetings were over we headed for dinner at Saputo’s, an old red-sauce Italian place a few blocks from the Capitol frequented by local pols.

There at a corner table was Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House. Every few minutes a guy or a couple of guys would walk over to the table and bend over to whisper something in the Speaker’s ear. This went on all through the dinner. It was like a scene out of The Sopranos. Except this show keeps on going.

Rotherham Watch

rotherhamwatchjpg.jpgHangin’ with the venture capitalists

Andy is on vacation. So he’s got Mike Goldstein who runs a Boston charter school to fill in for him. If you’re a teacher looking for a job at his MATCH school, you might want to rethink it. He looks at teachers, by his own admission, like a venture capitalist looks at his investments.

Says Mike:

Golf yesterday with a few venture capital friends; one’s plan for today was early cross-country flight, fire one of his CEOs, and then fly home. I wonder how he’d respond to the CEO saying “Well, sure, profits have tumbled, but that’s just one measure. I *know* deep down that the company is improving.”

He was comparing this to a teacher who was given an unsatisfactory eval just because of Dibel scores.

Andy chose a worthy fill-in.

Is the Trib a bought NCLB mouthpiece?

Jim Horn on his blog Schools Matter makes a case that the Chicago Tribune Company is whoring for the Bush administration and NCLB because it needs some tax breaks and FCC waivers. That all may be true and Horn supplies plenty of evidence.

Of course, the Trib has been an anti-uniion, anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-NCLB rag for years, apparently free of charge.

Either way.

What did Kozol say?


Jonathan Kozol

When I read Jonathan Kozol’s column in the NY Times responding to the Supreme Court’s attack on Brown v Board of Education I interpreted in one way. Others seemed to interpret it another.

No one has been more dedicated to the democratic ideal of educational equality than Kozol. And nobody has argued longer and with more zeal for the value of diversity and racial integration of America’s schools.

So, when I read the column, I read it as a blueprint for undermining the Court’s decision. Others seem to imply that Kozol didn’t think the Decision was so bad. Others have argued that Brown is no longer relevant anyway.

This seems to be a dividing line. Is the principle that separate but equal schools are inherently unequal an idea whose time has passed?

In his NY Times column, Kozol is clear. His plan for “transferring up” is intended to counter the impact of the Roberts/Alioto/Thomas/Scalia/Kennedy Court. It is not a proposal to reconcile, but to undercut.

Read his words:

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling on school integration came as a blow to those who have been watching the gradual dismantling of Brown v. Board of Education with despair.

There is, however, some cause for hope. In his concurrence, Justice Anthony Kennedy opened up a new avenue for educational justice by contending that other methods of achieving integration — like revising school attendance zones — are constitutionally permissible so long as they do not sort and label individual children by race.

Kozol then goes on to call on Congress to give some teeth to the transfer provisions of NCLB.

With a sense of urgency AND irony Kozol says:

It would take considerable courage for Mr. Kennedy, who co-sponsored the unsuccessful transfer provision in its present form, to support this proposition. If he did, however, he could deal a mighty blow to resurgent racial concentration — without introducing racial terminology into the debate. For this opportunity, one that was perhaps bestowed unintentionally, we have Justice Anthony Kennedy to thank.

How funny is this?


I was LOL over coffee this morning reading this column by Daniel Herszenhorn in today’s NY Times.

One of my all-time favorite moments covering the New York City public school system occurred just before Christmas in 2003, at Public School 28 in Harlem. About 50 or 60 second graders, onstage in the school auditorium, serenaded Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein with a perfect rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”

When the singing stopped, Mr. Bloomberg applauded. “Children, that was beautiful,” he said. “Now, what I want you to do is say ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year,’ first in Spanish, then in English.”

The problem was not a language barrier — nearly all of the children at P.S. 28 are bilingual — but rather the mayor’s notion that he could give four simultaneous commands to a group of 7-year-olds, as if they were his aides in the bullpen at City Hall or executives at his company, Bloomberg L.P.

Still, the students who had just finished singing so sweetly in unison dutifully tried to grant Mr. Bloomberg’s request.

“Meyeow, weow, eowah, eiwash, iwah,” they mumbled. Or something like that.

Working with children looks easy. It is not.

Green Dot in LA rolls on.


LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Funding from Gates. Endorsement from LA Mayor Villaraigosa. These are heady times for Steve Barr and the Green Dot charters.

The LA Times reports:

Recent days, however, have brought a shift in direction at the district headquarters as a new school board majority allied with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has taken control. On Tuesday, new board member Richard Vladovic, who represents the Locke area, presented a motion to require an up-or-down vote in August on the Green Dot petition.

The charter group’s leaders have vowed to press ahead, one way or another, with plans to convert Locke by 2008. Green Dot is planning to open two small charter schools near Locke this fall. To propel this effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Monday that it had given Green Dot an $8-million grant to develop charter schools in the Locke-Watts area.

The battle over charter schools has roiled Locke. Some teachers angrily oppose a takeover, while others are eagerly supportive. Many remain undecided.

Rotherham Watch.


Rotherham Watch

Andy Rotherham’s Eduwonk blog features a dumb little reference to Mike Antonucci’s reporting on the NEA RA.

Antonucci fancies himself a spy on the union, even calling his junk a listening post and an intercept on the NEA. His hatred for teacher unions knows no bounds. Rarely consistent, he attacks everything. The other day he linked this blog in one of his reports and I got about 20 hits as a result of it. Pretty weak. Does anybody read that thing besides Rotherham? And Alexander Russo? And eighteen other people?