When Government Tries to Make Decisions About Education

It’s an unmitigated disaster. You have people whose only experience in the classroom was as a student, people who don’t understand the depth and breadth of education philosophy or pedagogy, people who bring their own agendas and axes that they would like to grind.

I just finished reading an article that applies to the senate in our state considering a sweeping bill that would make sweeping changes to high school requirements for students with disabilities. You see, my state has already created a quasi-legal situation students with disabilities, creating a separate but equal “track” to “train” kids with cognitive disabilities or learning disabilities in an occupational course of study, with the idea of getting them prepared for the workforce rather than college. And due to the lack of availability for accommodations, modifications, and supports in the traditional course of study, many like my son, have no real choice to make.

calculator-scientificNow they have decided, these wonderfully removed legislators without a lick of educational background, that the provision that allows for the integrated math course taken over the course of the occupation program is insufficient, and that disabilities be damned, no student will graduate without taking four consecutive and specific years of math. You can’t do your times tables? Screw you kid. A statement from the nonprofit Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center said in an alert they sent out Tuesday, “Under this law, if a student – any student – cannot master a math course even more challenging than Algebra II, they cannot earn a high school diploma.”

And we are back to discriminating, folks. Kids who are not allowed to earn a diploma based on the way they were born, based on their neurology. “Here’s an alternative to a diploma, a certificate of completion, which is like a participation award. That should make you happy,” they seem to say. It’s a case of “raising the standards” to look like you are trying to make things better, rather than addressing the very real issues of poor teacher pay, and lack of funding for even textbooks. It’s a case of caring more about your image than the kids of your state. It’s a case of politicians being so completely arrogant in their righteousness that they are literally doing harm to children.

I couldn’t be more disgusted or enraged.

 

This Battle’s Not for Us

I was thankful for one of The Boy’s former teachers last week. She’s the one they moved to a different school this year, and we’ve missed her sorely.It’s funny to think that when we wanted to move him to his current school, she was not in favor and didn’t think he was right for the program, and she is now one of his biggest advocates.

I voiced all of my concerns over this Occupational Course of Study (OCS) with her – that he wouldn’t be in the least restrictive environment (LRE), he wouldn’t have access to his general ed peers, and he may not be able to take band.

She talked me off the ledge. She made me see some things from a different perspective, and made me realize that if I have to choose, this program could work for The Boy. And that he has every right to be in band, although logistically, he may only be able to be in it for one semester.

And I can live with that, as long as they make the “occupational” part of it something in which The Boy has interest. He won’t be folding towels at the hospital if I can help it.

But that’s not what I’m telling the district. I had contacted the director of special ed, as she had been an ally in getting The Boy his current placement, and had earned my respect. I wanted a meeting, but she said she would call me instead due to expediency. Except that all she wanted to do was sell me the OCS program, and I wasn’t going to let her. I wanted her to explain how it was legal, without placing kids in their LRE. After she figured out I wasn’t going to be sold, she told me she would set up a meeting with the transition coordinator (with whom I already met and wasn’t all that impressed) and the occupational coordinator. She told me she would get back to me the following week. That was last week, and she didn’t.

When I emailed her again yesterday, she said that the transition coordinator had been waiting for my call to answer my questions… What?

I sent an email – you know the one. The one I crafted for an hour, making sure to sprinkle acronym bombs all over the place so she would remember that I wasn’t some ignorant parent who didn’t know anything about student rights or IDEA.

Lo and behold, she was able to set up a meeting after all. For tomorrow. Fancy that!

But, I’ll be honest. This meeting isn’t really for us. I don’t expect them to re-design the entire high school setup for us, because they won’t. I don’t expect them to wave a magic wand and put him in band all year, because they won’t. I don’t expect to hear much but placating platitudes. But I want them to know that I know. And I want them to know that I’m not going away, so that if something isn’t working, I’ll be back. And I want them to know that there is a whole host of kids coming up through their schools, and that if I know that what they’re doing is illegal, they better damn well know that those kids’ parents will know it too. And they better think about just what they are going to do about that.

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