Rick Ayers: It’s Time to Decriminalize Learning #RTTT

Rick Ayers: It’s Time to Decriminalize Learning


There is something in a policy discussion that just loves numbers. We need data. No matter if the data are fuzzy, distorting, or simply unusable. People in the social sciences suffer from physics envy, we want clear and settled facts backed up by interesting charts, slopes, regression tables. Never mind that the best physics begins to call into question the settled nature of the data, still they get to use numbers. Our holy grail is the standardized test, even though these tests have been shown to be laughable in tracking student knowledge, biased towards those with more wealth and cultural capital, and destructive in narrowing and dumbing down the curriculum as schools focus on test prep to avoid closure. Any attempt to describe what happens in a good classrooms in a complex way, in a way that captures the human elements, is dismissed as “anecdotal evidence” at best and, at worst, as granola-fuzzy-hippy sentimentality.

So the learning process, that interaction between humans and between us and our environment, that complicated psychological and cultural practice, that dance of motivation and compulsion, is being handcuffed into narrow moments of transmission — the downloading of facts. Students today are so deeply surveilled by security guards, teachers, administrators, and ubiquitous cameras; their acts in class are so patrolled in the search



Delaware Autism Program Students Need Residential Options #DAP

Autism Delaware’s position paper: HERE.

Delaware Autism Program Students
Need Residential Options

The Director of the Delaware Autism Program (DAP) has announced plans to close the
school’s residential program after 25 years and replace it with after-school programs,
evening respite and temporary emergency beds. These three homes in Newark are
educational facilities that enable up to fifteen students a night from all over the state to
learn critical life skills and work on IEP goals in a home setting. They were initially
designed for short term placements with a parent training component so that students
could successfully transition back home. Over time the service offerings of the DAP
group homes have evolved, sometimes providing long term placement, transition to
adult group homes, respite to families, and/or a safe place for students to reside when
their families could not best care for them. The Director has stated that he intends to
close the homes due to liability concerns and management difficulties and his belief that
residential services should not be provided by school districts. Autism Delaware shares
the Director’s safety concerns, but believes that residential services are a school
obligation and the homes should not be closed unless sufficient alternatives are made
available to students in Delaware.

We support students’ rights under federal law to residential services. Regulations
pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 state that “If placement in a
public or private residential program is necessary to provide a free and appropriate
education to a handicapped person because of his or her handicap, the program,
including non-medical care and room and board, shall be provided at no cost to the
person or his or her parents or guardian.” The Individuals with Disabilities in Education
Act regulations include a similar requirement. This clearly makes it an educational
responsibility. IDEA also requires students be served in the least restrictive
environment, but closing the homes would force some students into out-of-state
placements. We believe this should be a last resort for only the most severely affected
students that need to be in facilities that offer specialized services.

We support modification of existing supports, not their elimination. Management
and safety issues call for redress, not closure. The Office of the Director and the
Delaware Department of Education are committed by a 2004 Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) to cooperate in getting the homes licensed, which has not yet
been done. In the meantime, student and staff safety must be addressed through a
professional inspection to ensure it meets state standards. If the Office of the Director
lacks the resources to manage the homes as required by the MOU, then the district
should arrange for a contracted provider rather than close the homes.
We support more cost-effective solutions than closure. One of the key benefits of
the program is that in some cases, it eliminates the need for expensive out-of-state
placements. Currently, the only in-state alternative is Delaware’s AdvoServ, which costs
the state over $100,000 a year per child. It is more cost effective to either invest in staff
training and licensing, or contract with a qualified provider to operate the homes. In
addition, reinstating parent training to help students return home would benefit families
while reducing the financial burden.

We oppose such a significant change in public service without a more open
public process. Though the closure plan has not yet been approved, new placements
have stopped and current students are now being phased out, bringing an end to a
much needed service without providing an appropriate substitute. Families whose
children are self-injurious, unable to perform basic self-care, faced with multiple
disabilities, or who simply are not able to meet the needs of their child are being shut
out. Affected families and their advocates must be included as decisions are being
made concerning the group homes.

We support returning residential services to their original purpose.

The homes were established as a way to keep students close to their families and
provide short-term residential services while training parents to support their child’s
learning. The need for such services is even greater today as the incidence of autism
has grown. As there are more students in need of the homes’ services than there is
room to accommodate them, Autism Delaware supports expansion and appropriate
funding of services to ensure that all students receive the necessary services to which
they are legally entitled.


Title 14 Education

1500 Professional Standards Board

Authenticated PDF Version

1594 Special Education Director

1.0 Content

1.1 This regulation shall apply to the issuance of a Standard Certificate for Director of Special Education, pursuant to 14 Del.C. §1220(a).

2.0 Definitions

2.1 The following words and terms, when used in this regulation, shall have the following meaning unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

“Administrative Experience” means experience in a pK to 12 setting as an assistant principal, principal, School Leader I, or School Leader II.

“Standard Certificate” means a credential issued to verify that an educator has the prescribed knowledge, skill or education to practice in a particular area, teach a particular subject, or teach a category of students.

“Teaching Experience” means meeting students on a regularly scheduled basis, planning and delivering instruction, developing or preparing instructional materials, and evaluating student performance in any pK to 12 setting.

3.0 Standard Certificate

The following shall be required for the Standard Certificate for a Director of Special Education.

3.1 Educational requirements.

3.1.1 A master’s degree in special education from a regionally accredited college or university where the program is NCATE approved or state approved, where the state approval body employed the appropriate NASDTEC or NCATE specialty organization standards; and Successful completion of a Delaware approved alternative routes to certification program for school leaders. Until approval and implementation of an alternative routes to certification program occurs, candidates shall fulfill the following requirements; A minimum of twenty four (24) semesters hours of graduate level course work in administration, completed either as part of the master’s degree or in addition to it, to include at least one course in each of the following areas, unless otherwise indicated:

      • Supervision and Evaluation of Staff; Curriculum Development; School Law and Legal Issues in Education; Human Relations; and Special Education (12 credits) (may include courses in curriculum, instruction, methods, and administration); or

3.1.2 A master’s degree in school administration; and 30 graduate level semester hours in Special Education taken either as part of a degree program or in addition to it; or

3.1.3 A master’s degree in any field from a regionally accredited college or university; and 30 graduate level semester hours in Special Education taken either as part of a degree program or in addition to it; and Successful completion of a Delaware approved alternative routes to certification program for school leaders. Until approval and implementation of an alternative routes to certification program occurs, candidates shall fulfill the following requirements: Supervision and Evaluation of Staff; Curriculum Development; School Law or Legal Issues in Education; Human Relations; and Special Education (12 credits) (may include courses in curriculum, instruction, methods, and administration taken either as part of a degree program or as part of the requirement for graduate level semester hours in Special Education set forth in and, above; or

3.1.4 A current and valid special education administrative certificate from another state or the District of Columbia.

3.2 Experience requirements.

3.2.1 A minimum of three (3) years of teaching experience with children with disabilities at the pK to 12 level; or

3.2.2 A minimum of three (3) years of professional experience with children with disabilities at the pK to 12 level, in any setting, in a position requiring certification or licensing by the appropriate regulatory body, including, but not limited to a school psychologist, speech pathologist, or audiologist, regardless of whether the applicant’s position meets the definition of “teaching experience”; or

3.2.3 A minimum of three (3) years administrative experience with children with disabilities at the pK to 12 level; or

3.2.4 Any combination of these types of experiences which totals a minimum of three (3) years.

8 DE Reg. 1299 (03/01/05)

Did New York Allow Superman to Pass us by? David Wolf #NYC #KleinBloombergSuperman?

Andrew Wolf: Did New York Allow Superman to Pass us by?

Everyone seems to be waiting for Superman, and that includes New York’s mayor Mike Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein. According to the New York Post, Mayor Bloomberg couldn’t heap enough praise on the controversial anti-teachers union film, “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” and called it a “must see.” Chancellor Klein, through the official “This Week in Your Schools” email sent to thousands of parents and others, reproduced glowing reviews of the flick from the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

But hold on a second. I thought that Superman had already arrived and saved New York’s children.

Haven’t Bloomberg and Klein been in charge of the city’s public schools for eight long years now? Don’t I recall that just last year, the city’s editorial boards were simply gushing over the spectacular success of this dynamic duo, and demanding that the legislature renew unfettered mayoral control when it was due to sunset?

Then we couldn’t escape the chatter over what were referred to as “historic gains” on state standardized test scores. City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent in last year’s mayoral election suggested that more than a bit of “Enron Accounting” might be at play, since scores on other measures such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and S.A.T. scores didn’t show any significant movement.

But Thompson’s charges were ignored by the Bloomberg cheerleaders running the city’s daily newspapers. Despite the non-stop amen chorus extolling the mayor, perhaps the public wasn’t quite as gullible. The expected Bloomberg landslide, fueled by an unprecedented $110 million of the mayor’s own fortune, never materialized. Bloomberg beat Thompson only narrowly.

It turns out that Thompson’s charges of Enron Accounting on test scores were right on the mark.

In mid-July, New York’s State Education Commissioner David Steiner (in office for just ten months) revealed that the math and English tests given to students — for at least the past four years — had become too easy and predictable. Recognizing this, Steiner and Regents chair Merryl Tisch, acknowledged that the state was now forced to raise passing scores.

In an instant, the years of “historic” gains evaporated like the morning dew.

Last year, weeks before the election, the city’s Education Department gave the grade of “A” to 84 percent of all schools for the “outstanding” job that they were doing. With no mayoral election on the horizon, last week only 25 percent of the schools achieved that mark under the new corrected standards.

For the same reason, this year five times as many students were held back and forced to repeat a grade than last year. This process was so botched, that a number of students who had been promoted in June and started high school in September were actually “recalled” and sent back to their old middle schools.

Was all this just some unfortunate miscalculation? No, according to Dr. Betty Rosa, who represents The Bronx on the State Board of Regents. Rather, the cut scores — the number of correct answers needed to pass the tests — seem to have been deliberately and systematically lowered, apparently on orders from Commissioner Steiner’s predecessor, Richard Mills, over a four year period.

Incredibly, State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, convening a public hearing on the matter later this month, has refused to call former Commissioner Mills to testify, stating “I see no value in it. He did what was best back then.” Really?

Perhaps she should tell that to the kids who were snatched out of their new high schools last month. Or maybe explain to the parents of tens of thousands of academically challenged children how it “was best back then” that their kids were told they were passing, moved ahead and never received the remediation that they so desperately need. Would the state’s taxpayers also agree “it was best back then” to give out millions of dollars in bonuses to principals and teachers to reward phantom test score gains?

The very conservative New York Post and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., an unabashed liberal, found themselves in lockstep on at least one issue — that Mills be compelled to testify.

Mayor Bloomberg continues to travel about the country, honored as a hero of educational reform. This despite the grim reality that any small increases in scores that remain after the state’s revisions were dwarfed by the more robust increases that took place during the final years of the much maligned old Board of Education under Chancellors Rudy Crew and Harold Levy. And who was president of the Board of Education then? Bill Thompson, the fellow narrowly defeated by Bloomberg last year.

Ironically, the first step in the Bloomberg prescription to other municipalities is absolute and total mayoral control of the schools. He repeatedly reminds everyone this is the only way to achieve true “accountability.” Unless of course, the mayor in question happens to lose the election, then it is the fault of the teachers union. Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s appointment of Michelle Rhee — a protégé of New York’s Joel Klein — is widely considered a key reason for his defeat last month.

Mr. Klein directly blames the union for Mayor Fenty’s defeat, charging that they pumped “a million dollars” into his opponent’s campaign. The irony that Bloomberg is still mayor (and Klein still chancellor) due to the $110 million that the mayor pumped into his own campaign is apparently lost on him.

I guess billionaires have more right to free speech than ordinary folk such as teachers.

The lesson here is that Superman is not on the way. We have to work with mere mortals. Bill Thompson who accurately warned of the test inflation problem, might have been given the chance to try his hand where Bloomberg and Klein had failed. But last year the public didn’t know the truth about the test scores, and the teachers union refused to back Thompson. There is no justice in Metropolis.

An education film that gets it (No, not ‘Superman’) #WashingtonPost #ValerieStrauss

The Answer Sheet – An education film that gets it (No, not ‘Superman’)


An education film that gets it (No, not ‘Superman’)

This post was written by Mark Phillips, professor emeritus of secondary education at San Francisco State University and author of a monthly column on education for the Marin Independent Journal.

By Mark Phillips

Many schools are largely out of touch with who kids are today. The lives of students, across race and socio-economic class, are very different than they were even 10 or 15 years ago. But in a time when the stress experienced by children has increased markedly, too many schools appear to be adding to it rather than alleviating it. Educators who understand this are far more likely to be successful.

There is presently an estimated 15-year lag between the latest psychological research and the incorporation of this new knowledge into schools. It appears that many of today’s school reformers either don’t know about the research or consider psychology superfluous to quality education and student achievement.

Vicki Abeles’s film, “Race to Nowhere”, has been very popular here in the San Francisco Bay area and one of the reasons is that it focuses primarily on the emotional lives of kids, not on scholastic performance. Most importantly, it chronicles the price kids are paying emotionally for the increased emphasis on test scores.

Three other “reform” films released in recent weeks ignore these issues. “The Cartel” (may its retro style and sensationalism be granted forgiveness!), “The Lottery,” and “Waiting for Superman” all fit the present reform zeitgeist.

While each of the filmmakers demonstrates concern for kids, they remain nearly silent on the psychological realities of schooling and the emotional lives of kids.

The implication is that this psychological stuff isn’t important.

My wife is a psychologist and so I’m occasionally privy to the stories of local psychologists who are trying to help kids survive their adolescence. One is Madeleine Levine and her book, The Price of Privilege, captures this very well.

My teaching interns, working in the inner city, report that their non-privileged kids also are experiencing great emotional stress, the sources different but the pain at least as great. Levine and Abeles get it. Our reform-minded filmmakers apparently don’t.

As Vicki Abeles notes: “The film has been well received in urban as well as suburban communities, and urban audiences have responded with appreciation for the recognition that these issues don’t just affect the suburban communities, but ALL communities. Our schools have become unhealthy environments for most young people. The pressure to teach to the test is being seen in schools in suburban AND urban communities. Our culture is embracing an idea of education reform based on a system that is not working for most students.”

To motivate kids you need to reach them emotionally and create emotionally supportive environments. Both kids and psychologists tell us that the best classrooms and schools are those in which there is an easy connection between students and real engagement between teacher and student.

But it’s more difficult to measure the quality of human relationships than it is to record test scores. Our data driven reformers appear to be more focused on achievement scores than on the complexities of motivation and human relationships that are the foundation for achievement.

A group of at-risk kids who are now succeeding in one of the better local public schools visited with my interns last year. They were asked why they were doing so much better now than in their previous schools. The repeated answer was, “because the teachers here really know you, care about you, and help you.”

Of course that condition alone will not suffice to lift ailing schools. But it is a necessary condition for schools to really succeed.

A stanza in one of my favorite poems by William Stafford comes to mind.

Stafford wrote:

“It is important that awake people be awake or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep. The signals we give-yes or no, or maybe—should be clear; the darkness around us is deep.”

So it is as we navigate the tricky road to educational reform.

What Are These Superintendents Thinking? | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… #crazy

What Are These Superintendents Thinking? | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…


A group of school superintendents have just published a guest column in The Washington Post titled How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders.

It’s appalling.

One would think that with recent events like the electoral defeat of Mayor Fenty in Washington, D.C. and the subsequent anticipated departure of Rhee and the recent test score fiasco in New York City that some of these superintendents would have gained at least a slight dose of humility.


Not only do they inaccurately state research by saying that “the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher” when, in fact, research shows that family background—aka socioeconomic status—is by far the most influential factor in a student’s academic achievement, they also focus the main energy of the article on the importance of giving them the power to fire teachers. There is literally a “throw-away” line near the end where they say “Of course, we must also do a better job of providing meaningful training for teachers who seek to improve.” It is a sentence you can imagine one of them suggesting at the last minute to include to show that they needed to sound vaguely evenhanded. As I’ve written in The Washington Post, that kind of emphasis does not inspire confidence among teachers to support changes in the teacher evaluation system.

It seems to me to be a badly written column, a poorly thought-out political strategy, and an unwise message to send to teachers in their districts if they are hoping to develop a cooperative relationship (which you’d think they’d have concluded by now that they’d need).


Child driven education….. #fascinating speech! #ted