Flutterby™! : disabilities in the system

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disabilities in the system

2006-02-19 21:20:05.25392+00 by Dan Lyke 20 comments

An SFGate article on how learning disabilities are being used to extort private school tuitions out of school districts. And, yes, I've seen the effects that one of these struggles has had on a class, and it ain't pretty, nor is it economically sustainable.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Education ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-20 21:47:24.350088+00 by: polly

yes, special ed students are protected by the law, no, it does not give parents the right to exploit the system. it is a shame that the parents have not allowed the school district the chance to accomodate this child's handicaps. the district may have done a great job for the kid.

on the other hand, there are school systems that make a minimal effort for the special ed student that is highly unacceptable IF the parent knows what their student's rights are. there are a lot of special ed students slipping through the cracks because their school district is not making an effort to help them with an education plan and following it.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-20 22:02:24.868377+00 by: Dan Lyke

I know of two situations where parents are trying to extort several tens of thousands of dollars a year in private school tuition for their children from Marin County. In one case their nit-picking drove an extremely good teacher out of a classroom, much to the chagrin of the remaining assistants and parents of students.

Given minor changes from the current system I'm not averse asking school districts to make a reasonable effort with all kids, but, at least out here in California the outright extortion that certain lawyers and parents are practicing is obscene.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-25 17:37:22.194507+00 by: ziffle

They now classify high IQ kids as disabled because they need special handling! The system should be aboloished. There should be no public schools at all.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-25 18:01:14.452658+00 by: Diane Reese

They now classify high IQ kids as disabled because they need special handling! Really? Since when?

I have two high IQ kids, neither of which have ever been classified as "disabled". I'd be curious where you found that information. Perhaps you're confused about the situation when gifted ed. and special ed. are drawing from the same pool of money or competing for the same "non-cookie-cutter" funding, and some groups may have tried to game the system by playing with classifications so their constituent students could get some funding. What high IQ kids thrive on is fast instruction, ability to move at their own (fast) pace, and extra challenge ... as, I might add, do MOST kids! What they do not thrive on is being asked to slow down to keep up with kids who do not learn as easily the things that come very quickly to them, hence the trend towards pull-out classes.

My kids' needs would not have been satisfied in public schools, so I never enrolled them. I've always paid for them to go to private schools where they can work at their own pace and have the resources to create opportunities for themselves. I am fortunate to have been able to offer this to my kids. I would never have asked my public school districts, to which I pay my taxes, to fund our preferred educational method, even though one child does have additional special needs. It's that pesky personal responsibility thing rearing its head. I have no problem with public schools, and believe they should exist without a doubt, and I should help fund them. It would be nice if they were more like the private schools I've sent my kids to, I think that would be better for everyone, but some of the factors that make the private schools work are not feasible in the public system. (Especially in matters of discipline and consequences.)

Just curious, do you have any kids, ziffle? Have you put them through school? What were their experiences? Anyone care to share knowledge of what life is like in countries without public schools? Perhaps we need to be an agrarian economy again, huh? Oh wait, that requires math and reading. (Sorry, I'll stop now before I get snarky.)

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-25 18:31:25.014535+00 by: Dan Lyke

Actually, Diane, this is an ongoing struggle with me. On the one hand I have some personal experiences with home-schooled kids which are not positive, on the other hand I know a few people who came out of the "unschooling" process who are amazingly smart and educated. And, of course, I have my own personal issues with the "one size fits all" philosophies that our current educational models enforce. So, yeah, I'm willing to accept that public schools and economic success might not be as closely tied as we imagine.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-26 00:27:23.176226+00 by: Dori [edit history]

Diane, thanks for asking those questions -- I was wondering the same things.

I've heard about parents of gifted kids trying to find out if their kids could count as special needs, but I've never heard of anyone doing it successfully, and I've never heard of schools or school districts recommending it.

When districts are told that they have to pay for everything the special needs kids need, and then they have to provide for the average majority, there's only one place to pull the money from: the high achievers. It's not a great idea, but that's the way the game is rigged in CA.

I'd have gone for the private schooling option for our son except that we just couldn't afford it. What we ended up doing (and what I think that more parents ought to do) was just to not assume that the public school would give him 100% of what he needed. We recommend other reading for him on top of what he's required to do for classwork, we ask him questions about what he's learning, and we point him towards additional resources (online and offline) that we think would interest him. The end result is that he's decided, for example, that he wants to spend his own money on subscriptions to Science News and Scientific American.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-26 17:54:51.92012+00 by: ziffle


Well I have four grown sons. All educated. I just finished 29 years of supporting them. They are all high intelligence.

Its nice that you think there should be public schools and you should fund them. I don't think its nice if you think there should be a gun pointed at my head to force me to support them. If that's the case, put your guns away please. I am against forcing people to do things.

In my opinion the whole problem with how stupid - most - children are today is that there are public schools, determined to garner government money with the latest 'new scheme' instead of teaching things like - math and English -! What happened to American history? And so much more? Where are the hardy boys, and self reliance and individualism? And accomplishmnet, and blue ribbons for the Winners of a game not for everyone? Only private schools answerable to the parents will teach the right things, and if the 'right things' differ between schools then let the parents vote with their money and reality will be the final arbiter.

The issue is not what life is like in countries without public schools, the issue is what is life like in countries without freedom? To choose the school and life you want. The freer the country the better the life style, and the better the schools. Lets free our schools.

I was told by a current active teacher that high IQ students are catagorized as 'exceptional' in with the low IQ slow learners. Ridiculous. This is the problem with public schools. If the internet was a publicly funded deal we would all still have 28.8 modems! And the same holds for schooling - only schooling is more important.


#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-27 01:54:29.771467+00 by: polly

zif...we (hamilton county teachers) are teaching math, social studies/american history. however, science, especially in my school gets a little tricky. my school has 3 actual science teachers, one per grade (6,7,8th). BUT, there are 6 classes per grade, divided into two teams per grade. the students have 5 core classes and one related arts class. this means that the other teachers, have to teach a science class, which is outside their field. by the way, our science test scores suck. sames goes for social studies/american history...a core teacher is going to have to teach outside their field. those test scores are just a little bit better than the science.

did you notice that i haven't mentioned english, more commonly referred to as language art? not only am i the art teacher at my school (i LOVE my job) but i am also the evening school teacher (do you hear the funeral march?) evening school is not fun with "mrs. jennings", lol. i am helping these juvenile delinquents with the lessons that their teachers have sent that these students are supposed to be able to do on their own. there is no english. i'm not sure what you call it, it's more of read or listen to a fiction/non-fiction passage, make a graphic organizer about it, predict what might happen next, write an summary about it, answer some questions by filling in the blank from the reading then move on to the next one. the students can't read, they most certainly can't write OR spell, they don't know nouns from pronouns, they can't congugate verbs...but they make great graphic organizers. maybe it is the faint hope that when these kids graduate they will be able to fill out a job application with a graphic organizer. who knows?

gifted kids? there is a person who goes to the schools where gifted kids have been identified and supposedly works with these students once or twice a week. mysteriously these kids end up going to a magnet school or a better/majority white school who has wonderful test scores. by the way, did i mention my school is an inner city school?

for the record, my 2 yo grandson will be going to a private catholic school when it is time for him to go at the cost of $300 a month. we are methodist/baptist. his parents can afford it. i'm happy for him. my sister-in-law/brother in the army in iraq, has a biology degree from the university of tennessee-chattanooga. she has been home schooling her two kids from day one of their lives. smart neat kids. don't know how she does it. the oldest knows all kinds of neat science stuff...go figure.

government money? it isn't much, certainly won't buy new textbooks that we are desperately in need of, teachers get $100 a school year for supplies. i've spent $998 this past year out of my pocket. my classroom computer was donated from TVA, their cast-offs, it is very outdated. the school geek is doing his best. can't get any money locally. the county commissioners are pissed at the superintendent. we don't get squat. no raises, no textbooks, no money...gee, wonder where the lottery money is going? i read that tennessee's lottery has a lot of money for education. sure hasn't filtered down to the public schools. and yet, the lottery money is help students to go to college. does that mean that only students from the better schools, private schools, will be attending college? i doubt there will be very many from my school finishing high school, much less going on to college. we've got some smart kids in my school. wish they could go to a private school.

public schools do not come up with the new fangled "schemes". that comes from the state level/dept. of education. public school teachers just have to do what the state dictates. want to know what georgia is doing? the teachers have to teach with a "script"! the teacher's manual will tell the teacher what the "correct" response should be according to the textbook writers. if a student comes up with a better/more creative response, the teacher is NOT allowed to acknowledge the student, but is to move on. how about that stifling of the active mind? makes me think of the beginnings of education where the headmaster walked around with a stick and would strike the student with the wrong answer.

private schools answerable to parents? damn, what a concept! how about public schools who can't reach parents because the parent put a block on the school number? we have 10 families we can't call because the school number is blocked. most of our families have disconnected numbers or no phones at all. we have male teachers who will go to the "last" known address of the student to see why the kid has not been in school. the men go because the neighborhoods are too dangerous after school hours. we have had several students just disappear, houses are empty, no one knows where they went. these students can't just go to another school without paperwork from the school they just left.

special ed kids get that one-on-one in our school...if the kid has taken his medicine and not fly off the handle because some other kid looked at him sideways, or a kid isn't trying to fight another kid for what ever reason. we've got 3 special ed teachers for a LOT of special ed kids in my school. we need more. as it is, the 6th grade special ed teacher was new for this school year, she quit last december. the next 6th grade special ed teacher got hired and worked one week. the 6th graders ran her off too. so we are using our "permanent" sub to work with the kids. she's good, a local parent from the "hood". hard has nails and a mouth to go with it. but, she isn't a certified special ed teachers. the head of our special ed department is working overtime to meet the needs of our special ed students. oh wait! did i say overtime? sorry, we don't get paid overtime.

teachers in public school try damn hard to help the kids. even with our own money. it isn't enough.

on a funny note: my 28 year old daughter just got promoted at her job. has worked for blue cross/blue shield since she was 21yo. now she makes as much money as i do, gets paid overtime, has better benefits and only has a GED. go figure. she told me i would hate working for blue cross. i guess i'll take her word for it. i do love my job and the kids.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-27 16:14:41.023263+00 by: ziffle [edit history]

Polly, I read with sadness your compelling post - in my opinion its a clarion call to do away with public schools. You are struggling inside a system designed to fail - you can not fix such a system, better to let it fail. Do not sacrifice yourself to mediocrity.

I would be interested in knowing exactly what is taught in the history books. What is the name of the book(s) that are used?

Zif (you know like 'hef' except my lifestyle is boring - in Mayberry)

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-01 11:26:49.828222+00 by: polly

will low income/poverty level families be able to send their kids to private schools? if not, who is going to foot the bill?

8th grade history is "american history", mcClellin publisher. i've got a copy of history books from each grade in my classroom for evening school (funeral march plays in background). i'll flip through them and see what is being taught.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-01 15:45:54.170304+00 by: Larry Burton

The idea behind vouchers was to make the money available to educate *all* children in private schools. Somehow the idea of vouchers became blasphemous to discuss in some circles. I think its Denmark that does something like vouchers and the competition between the schools has produced some remarkable results.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-08 17:02:10.216877+00 by: ziffle

Polly - "will low income/poverty level families be able to send their kids to private schools? if not, who is going to foot the bill?"

Foot the bill: they will. Or maybe just maybe there will be no advantage to having all those children and they will stop it. What we need are more wanted children, not thousands of children born without regard for caring for them or for the extra income the mothers will recieve from Section 8 (housing subsidy) or other government schemes designed to increase the number of children born to people who can not afford them.

Cold? no - if there are no guns - i.e. 'force' used then they will have to ask for help with sachool instead of demanding it as their right.

I envison a polite world where we 'ask' not 'tell' others what they should do. Our country used to be that way until the liberals took over. Now they have turned person against person, and made conflict fashionable and acceptable.

and finally, since the schools would be private they would be efficient, and affordable, like cars, or housing. If the school system made cars, care to estimate how long it would take or the cost involved LOL!


#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-08 19:37:51.149791+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

"and finally, since the schools would be private they would be efficient, and affordable, like cars, or housing."

Unfortunately, people aren't products.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-08 19:53:27.539462+00 by: ziffle

put your guns away. please.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-08 21:14:29.749512+00 by: Larry Burton

>> Unfortunately, people aren't products.

No, but education is a service.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-08 22:18:46.641892+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

ziffle, did I pull a gun on you? Where?

"education is a service" -- absolutely!

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-09 01:06:16.603236+00 by: ziffle

Mark, not personally :) but in the abstract, when one argues for social solutions over which the aurguee must comply or be arrested it is the use of 'force' to enforce. Is this what you meant? Are you arguing for a social, imposed, solution? e.g. public schools?

And I was thinking about this today in the car, public schools are designed to control the thinking of the citizens. What we need are private schools who will not teach what the government wants, thereby establishing a free market for ideas. This will slowly erode the control the government has established over all of us.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-09 02:07:12.684988+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger [edit history]

ziffle, I'm not sure how best to solve the current educational problems.

We've home-schooled in the past. In New Orleans, that was our only affordable option. The public schools there were dangerous and inadequate. Neither my wife nor I thought it was reasonable to pay so much money for private education when we could take care of it relatively inexpensively ourselves.

We've since (2 years now) moved to rural Lancaster County, PA which has a much higher concentration of home-schoolers but also much better public schools. The teachers were understandably skeptical of our ability to educate our own children, but they're natural learners and quite intelligent. They seem to be at the top of their classes.

The frustrating thing is that they're in special ed (read "gifted") but the upper end of special ed doesn't receive the same amount of resources as the lower end. On the lower end, they have special instruction for a half day every day. My kids get a couple of hours every six days.

Obviously, something is broken. We've seen personality changes in our oldest daughter and, while some of that is simply "growing up" we're worried enough to consider homeschooling again.

So, while I see the benefit of public education (giving everyone a chance), I also see that the current system (especially, it seems to me, with the advent of "No Child Left Behind") focuses on less than mediocrity,

I hope you can see that I'm not completely in favor of the current system, but I'm not completely against it. Should it be fixed? Can it be fixed? I don't know, but, to a large extent, I doubt it.

I simply took issue with the idea that we should treat schools like a factory for people or education like a product. In my mind, that is a big part of the problem: that schools have become a place where we ensure each child conforms to a (minimal) set of standards. Sure, there is some small benefit to those standards, but I think the overall harm outweighs any good.

Let's face it: the current educational system (both public and private) is based on a model whose goal is to create good factory workers. There is nothing wrong with being a good factory worker. Unless you don't want to work in a factory.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-09 15:26:12.072432+00 by: ziffle


Well said - interesting how the spelling bee, geography bee etc. winners are always home schoolers eh? Or Chinese - they take education seriously.

Education is too important to be left to the government. Government schools have one goal: to continue, not to educate your child to its highest. If it were not true they would not have a union.

Factory workers: There are no factories today, and the students graduate unable to function in a world where they need an understanding of financial literacy but have none. These people graduate with 'self esteem' but no basis for self esteem (a fundamental grasp of reality), no knowledge of how to invest (they are taught to be a 'good consumer'), and the illusion that the pension or government plan will take care of them. Its all over, but no one will tell them.

Only a private school for all will work long term. We can not afford public schooling much longer, turning out little nazis with no understanding of American history, or the basis of a valid government, or the ability to support themselves when the jobs disappear.

For an interesting summary of the need for financial literacy and the problem with what is taught in schools today read 'Rich Dad Poor Dad'.


Envision a world where in every area there were many public high schools, all advertising how well their students do, with focus on improving every level of student, and knowing the parent will remove the sudent to another school if they drop the ball. Where thinking rationally, reality, and the ability to succeed where all foremost goals and where the parent could sue the school for fraud if they did not meet the agreed to standards. Think of a bright new world where you and others never had the concern, like you have, as to whether they were doing the right thing by having their student in the school. 'If you think you got a problem, you got a problem.' Where success and achievement was the goal, not merging onself into the mass of medocrity so as to not be noticed and just get by, which is what we have now.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-09 17:13:27.881312+00 by: Diane Reese

interesting how the spelling bee, geography bee etc. winners are always home schoolers eh? Or Chinese - they take education seriously.

Prove your contention with facts, please.

Note that spelling bees, geography bees, etc. are more tests of memorization and rote learning, not of thinking or applying knowledge. While they are fun, they do not represent the desired end-result of good teaching and learning and don't really prove anything about one's education.