Saturday, June 02, 2018

SPECIAL EDUCATION: Are we killing kids or just letting them die?

"Is there a difference between killing someone and letting them die?" 

Suppose you were walking by a person drowning in the bathtub. If you do nothing, did you kill them?

Often posed as a common biomedical ethics dilemma, the situation begs the question about "passive versus active". I never thought that this life and death drama might apply to public education.  I have seen this dilemma play out again and again at the micro and macro levels in our Texas public educational system.

Here is this week’s outrage. 

How many hours of advanced training are required BEFORE a certified general education teacher can teach a special education student? 
  • Go ahead....Guess. 
  • Zero

How many hours of advanced training are required before a general education teacher teaches Gifted and Talented? 

Texas Administrative Code requires 30 hours of pedagogic training before teachers can instruct gifted & talented students. The code also requires SIX hours yearly to maintain this certification.

How does this disparity play out? An educational plan may put a general education teacher straight out of school OR perhaps even a "Teach for America" instructor in charge of a special education student's INDIVIDUALIZED educational plan with minimal oversight by a certified special education teacher. 

A general education teacher without any specialized training is responsible for planning, monitoring and reporting on details MANDATED by federal law, and MONITORED by the TEA. Can you guess what happens next for many children?  

On its face, it appears that our laws mandate that Texans keep on walking while special education children thrash in the bathtub. 

Its time we put our money and attention on both sides of the bell curve. 14% of HISD children are identified as GT. 15% of children have a learning difference. 25% of families have a child with a chronic health problem. 

 Its time that Texas took equal pride in how we gather in the sparks of all our children who learn differently, on both sides of the curve.  

I am grateful to have met HISD trustees, educators and professionals who are aligned on this same vector for change. But, we need help undoing unhelpful beliefs and practices translated into rules - written and unwritten. Its difficult to fix the plane while we are flying in it. 

  • Ensure special ed families are involved in your campus PTO.
  • Ensure special ed families are on your campus planning committee.
  • Listen with an open mind to children and parents who live another reality. 
  • Advocate for change in our laws. 

Educational equity is not just an issue of morality. Its a compelling public infrastructure problem impeding growth and development. 

Taking action, we send an unconditional message to all people that we care how a child grows and becomes, no matter what. 

Dr. Josh

(Parenthetically, BY willful neglect, are we  forcing our teachers and administrators to violate Federal Law? We set our well-meaning educators up to deny free access to public education). 

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