Fitting Education to Students’ Needs

18 Aug

This article by Jay Matthews from the Washington Post does a good job of summarizing just exactly why the special education field is so litigious and combative. Even when a parent does all of the right things, follows all of the procedures and attempts to work with the school system to best meet the needs of their children, the school system still finds a way to screw parents and neglect the student. So now everyone has to get a lawyer, which helps drive up the cost of education even higher.
Even though I’m employed by the school system, I do see part of my job as advocating and helping to protect parents from a system that would otherwise trample them to smithereens. Now with a tough economy and declining revenues, school systems are having to set their priorities more rigidly, and we are reminded as to why the IDEA, ADA and the Rehabilitation Act are all needed. It’s needed to protect the rights of those who otherwise would be left behind. In our Soviet-Style education system,

Our educational system is essentially a Soviet-style government-run monopoly that could only be loved by the likes of Lenin and Stalin.

the educational needs of individual students are subverted in order to accommodate the priorities of the larger state community. The national government curriculum that is being developed is not being designed with the needs of my students in mind. If your son or daughter does not fall within the “average” range, it’s not being developed with them in mind either. Basically, the more nationalized, homogenized and standardized the educational system gets, the less tolerant it is toward individual needs and differences.
So while the lawyers go back and forth, Miguel either remains in his public school, and falls further and further behind. Or his family goes destitute in an effort to privately finance the education that he so desperately needs, while the school system continues to tax its citizens for an education that is not meeting the needs of its most needy citizens.
There are things I don’t understand about Miguel’s case. First of all, his mother was able to get an independent evaluation (several of them, actually) and the school system seemed to reject all of them. In light of a recent supreme court ruling, it seems as though the school system is clearly in the wrong because they are refusing to identify Miguel as Learning Disabled, despite clear and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This case seems to mirror that case identically (Forrest Grove School District v T.A. 2009) or at least up to the stage where Miguel begins attending a private school. I thought the school system had their own team of lawyers? How can they be so ignorant?

Basically, the school system attempts to keep the gate shut by refusing to identify individuals has having learning disabilities at all. This is happening all over the country more and more as Response To Intervention (RTI) begins to be more widely and irresponsibly used to deny and delay services. Second, even after an individual is identified, the school system often drags its feet on actually serving the student. And finally, often when services are provided, it is often executed very poorly by individuals who may or may not be highly qualified. Or in some cases, the conditions under which services are delivered make such services ineffective such as in an area that is overcrowded.

The only thing I can recommend to parents is to push back against the tide that threatens to roll over your children. Institutions can be extremely insensitive until you are willing and able to inflict some substantial pain upon them, usually in the form of monetary damages. While I work for such an institution, my primary concern is for the student and his/her needs, not the needs of collective machinery at the board office or even the administrative office in the building where I work. I believe my fellow teachers who work with the students every day feel the same way. I do feel mostly supported by my peers and the parents of my students. But by administrators and legislators? Not so much. My students fall outside of the margins of the masses and the many and as a result so do I. My needs are foreign and intrusive because my students are regarded as foreign and intrusive. So this year, I am pushing back more. I dislike having to be combative, ornery, whiny and demanding. However, NOT doing so results in nothing happening except an already poor situation deteriorating even further. Somewhere, I have to draw the line and attempt to hold it.
On a more positive note, I have had the opportunity to speak to several classes of regular education teachers and students regarding many of the noises they hear from my students and classroom. It has been extremely positively received. I find myself more and more impressed by the “regular” kids after speaking to them and addressing their concerns and questions. Prior to visiting, there were a lot of complaints from teachers to administrators about the loudness of my group. Hopefully as the year goes on, we can minimize that loudness as the students (both mine and the rest of the school) adjust to a new schedule and new people.

2 Responses to “Fitting Education to Students’ Needs”

  1. Etta K. Brown at 11:36 am #

    As a retired School Psychologist, I have to agree with you about the failure of the school system to meet the needs of children. Wanted to especially agree that parents need to utilize their rights to a free, appropriate, public education. Your words are encouraging because I have just spent 3 years authoring a non-fiction book that tells parents exactly how to do this. Parents will understand that their rights are numerous and far supersede those of the school district. However, the incidence of learning disabilities is growing at the rate of 10 to 20% every 10 yearsl, and research shows that parents need to control their child’s environment to prevent learning disabilities.
    The schools have to teach the child that comes to them. Teacher education has not changed in decades. Education is just not prepared to handle what has become a major social issue. The incidense of learning disabilities in the US is exactly the same as it is in rural areas of India. We are failing our children and blaming the schools.

    It is not true that children with learning disabilities learn differently, these children have compromised learning mechanisms in the brain and in some instances cannot learn because the interconnections needed for learning are not fully developed. Diet, exercise and sleep, and removal of environmental toxins from the body of a child is not the responsibility of the schools. Parents are the only ones who can do this, and the emphasis should be upon parent education and how to protect children from environmental hazards.

    I have addressed both these subjects, how parents can fight back for appropriate education, and how to protect children from environmental trauma in LEARNING DISABILITIES Understanding the Problem, Managing the Challenges., and

    School districts do not take kindly to being criticised by its employees in a public forum. Congradulations, and good luck.

  2. Daniel Dage at 8:01 pm #

    This is why I keep most of my specific complaints within the system itself.

    My one poiint of exception to your comment is “removal of environmental toxins.” I’m totally in favor of minimizing the uptake of toxins, but I haven’t heard of a proven, safe way of removing toxins. Most removal schemes are either unscientific or of dubious safety. And all of them are expensive. Otherwise we’re in agreement! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Comments are closed.

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