Sunday, June 02, 2013

Special Education in Seattle Schools

On the front page of the Seattle Times is the headline, "State Instructs Seattle Schools to Fix Problems in its Special Ed."

In my opinion, special needs students with IQ's around 50 and below have no business being mainstreamed in ordinary classrooms. Their needs can be extraordinary requiring one on one attention and help. It's inappropriate to place a student with an IQ of 50 in the same classroom as a student with an IQ in the 99th percentile. This is impossible for the teacher to meet the needs of both extremes in the same classroom and the wide spectrum of needs between, and yet sometimes this happens. The gifted student is the loser in this equation. A teacher can't be expected to deal with the behavior problems of students, teach high level physics, and create a one on one lesson plan for the student with a very low IQ.

Then there are the vast spectrum needs of the deaf, autistic, blind, and Downs Syndrome. It's not fair to expect teachers to deal with all this in the same classroom.

In this article, Linda Shaw writes that Seattle Public Schools risks losing millions of dollars, if they don't fix some of the problems. One of the problems is inadequate reporting, not keeping track of students, and some students aren't even following an academic plan. This is basic.

This population is a large segment of the school district with 1 in 7 students having a disability or special needs. The administration of this budget of 11 million a year needs accountability, direction, and leadership.

I don't know if there is a law on the books in the State of Washington, like Oregon, that all students have the right to learn at their level of ability. This law in Oregon isn't working now. If there is a law in existence in Washington, that's good. Every student has the right to learn at his level of potential and ability. Gifted and talented students, with the most potential and the most promise have the right to be learning every minute, to be engaged, to be challenged, to learn. They can't be in the same room with constant disruptions as the special needs child who also has the right to learn and grow.

I have a minor in special education. I received my Bachelors of Science from Oregon College of Education, in Monmouth, which is now Western Oregon University. I remember hearing in one of my classes about a Downs Syndrome student taking classes at Oregon State University who was learning and thriving. Yes, it's possible. I also remember being excited about learning about the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, which prompted change in my life and how I raised my own children. I learned about the extremes of human potential. This was back in the 70's.

I don't see a lot of progress in education. We are operating so far below what is possible.

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