Special-needs boy suspended for bomb cartoon

special-needs student was suspended from middle school for drawing a cartoon bomb, reports WTOC-TV.

A photo of the bomb Parham's son drew. (Oct. 14, 2013/FOX Carolina & Amy Parham)A photo of the bomb Parham’s son drew. (Oct. 14, 2013/FOX Carolina & Amy Parham)

Amy Parham said her son, Rhett,  is a fan of the video game Bomber Man. He drew the bomb at home, but took it to school.

“They actually reiterated to me they knew he was non-violent,” said Parham. “They knew he was not actually having a bomb, creating or making a bomb. School officials told her it was a question of  “perception.”

Rhett will get a hearing to see if his perceived offense is related to his disability. (I think he’s on the autism spectrum, which would mean he’s not good at reading social cues.)

Boys like things that explode, writes Darren on Right on the Left Coast.

When he was young, a local TV show called Miss Pat’s Playroom showed kids’ drawings. He sent one in. Miss Pat said: “And little Darren Miller sent in this picture of an airplane bombing a house.”

No one panicked. No one called for Miss Pat to be thrown off the air. No one called for me to be psychoanalyzed. Back then people were smart enough to realize that boys draw such pictures and it’s perfectly normal, just like playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians.

“Now we’ve taken what is perfectly normal and criminalized it, stigmatized it, and freaked out over it,” he writes. Which is stupid.

Do charters serve fewer disabled students?

Charter schools are doing a better job serving special-needs students than reported, according to a New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Nationwide, charters serve fewer special-ed students, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report. However, the New York study finds “important variations in the enrollment patterns of students with special needs,” said Robin Lake, CRPE director.

In New York, charter middle and high schools enroll more special-needs students than district-run schools, according to CRPE. Charter elementary schools enroll fewer.

Some district-run elementary schools offer programs for special-needs students, the report noted.

Charter schools at the elementary level might also be less inclined to label students as needing special education services. This raises a troubling question: are charter schools under-enrolling or under-identifying students with special needs, or are district-run schools over-identifying them?

Instead of setting statewide special education enrollment targets, policy makers should set “school or regional targets that pay careful attention to those very specific factors that influence such enrollment choices as locations, grade-spans, and neighborhoods,” the report advises.

Setting targets assumes that every school should include the same percentage of disabled students. I’d like to see more schools (charter or district-run) designed for students with specific special needs, such as attention deficit disorder or autism, and more designed for academically gifted students.

Mediocrity guaranteed: Do it all in every class

Telling “every school to meet every need for every kid” is a recipe for mediocrity, writes Rick Hess in Ed Week.

New York City Chancellor Dennis Walcott has committed to educating special-needs children in neighborhood schools, especially in elementary school. However, parents are finding their local schools aren’t prepared to serve all special-needs students.

That should be no surprise, Hess writes.

If we told the owners of the terrific local burger joint that they also need to start serving sushi, pizza, enchiladas, and French cuisine, because people have different preferences, and everyone has a right to eat, I suspect it’d have an adverse impact on quality. If I told a first-rate high school math tutor that he had an obligation to also tutor in science, Mandarin, and history, because he’s the only tutor in the neighborhood, the quality of his work might decline. Yet, this “duh”-caliber observation is largely absent when advocates are asking schools to shoulder yet another burden, especially when discussing how to best serve kids with special needs.

. . . the issue is not whether we ought to serve all kids. That was resolved decades ago. We all agree that we should. The question is whether we think every school, or every classroom, ought to be expected to meet every need of every student. And that strikes me as a recipe for mediocrity.

Or worse. In my 11 years of blogging, I think the complaint I’ve seen most often from teachers is that they’re expected to teach children of vastly different achievement levels, abilities and disabilities in the same classroom with little useful support.

 

‘I don’t want to be a teacher any more’

In her 35th year in the classroom, an Oregon elementary teacher discovers to her surprise: I Don’t Want to be a Teacher Any More.

Starting in the ’90s, class sizes began growing. Teachers were given janitorial and clerical duties to perform, such as cleaning their own classrooms.

Worried about test scores, her district required all teachers to use the same instructional materials.

At the same time, class sizes and special needs were growing. The behavior classroom was closed and its students were mainstreamed into the regular classroom. I tried to become an expert on dealing with anger issues. I tried to learn how to help fifth graders with severe disabilities, limited mobility, and cognitive levels of very young children, all in my regular classroom now filled with 30-35 students.

One day, she realize she’d had enough.

Maybe it was the severely autistic boy who showed up at my door the first day with no notice, but I don’t really think so.  Maybe it was the rigid schedule the principal passed out for everybody to be doing the same subject at the same time of day, or the new basal reader we have to use that we aren’t allowed to call a basal reader. Maybe it’s the look in my student’s eyes when we’re reading the newly required dry textbook when I’m used to wild and crazy discussions about amazing novels.

Her school missed AYP because two few English Language Developing students passed reading.

I thought of the little boy I had with an IQ of 87 who could barely read.  I thought of the little girl in a wheelchair who’d had 23 operations on tumors on her body in her 11 years, and the girl who moved from Mexico straight into my class and learned to speak English before my eyes, but couldn’t pass the state test.

Last year, she was offered $20,000 to retire, but turned it down. At 55, she wasn’t ready to quit working. This year . . .

Ricochet, who teaches high school, is fed up too.

Broad Prize winner fights charters

Everyone was talking up education reform when Gwinnett County (Georgia) Public Schools accepted this year’s Broad Prize winner, writes Rick Hess. But Gwinnett is trying to squelch charter schools in Georgia; it’s  one of several districts suing the Georgia Charter Schools Commission to stop authorization and funding of charter schools.

This is especially awkward in the case of charters like Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls charter which is outperforming county schools in seven out of ten content areas.

. . . the Georgia Supreme Court is now also being asked to decide whether GCSC charter schools qualify as “special schools” under the state constitution. If the court narrows the definition, in accord with the Gwinnett-backed claim that special schools are only those schools for special needs students, the existence of various nontraditional schools across the state could be at risk.

In awarding the $1 million prize, Eli Broad called Gwinnett County the most improved large district in America. Broad is a strong charter school supporter.

'Retarded' label is out

“Mentally retarded” is out, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  “People with intellectual disabilities” seems to be in.

The Allegheny County Office of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities is now the Allegheny County Office of Intellectual Disability.

“The term “mentally retarded” focused only the limitations of people, that somehow these were people who were substandard,” said Donald Clark, deputy director of the office, which comes under the county Department of Human Services. “People with intellectual disabilities can live productive lives.”

Nationally, the “American Association on Mental Retardation” is now the “American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.”

The name changes can be confusing, writes Christina Samuels, who blogs On Special Education at Ed Week. Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States is now The Arc of the United States, which says nothing about its purpose.

She asks what readers think of “special needs,” an increasingly popular replacement for disability categories. Is it too vague? Too cutesy?