What Will They Do Now?

Breakdown of political party representation in...
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Here we go again.

Congress is about to rewrite education law again.

I shudder every time I think about this.

535 people, whose primary interest is re-election, debating policies that will affect the future of this country for decades to come.

Let me make it a little clearer.

There are 535 people who will create the laws that will govern education for the next generation. Of those, 100 can, at best, think only six years ahead and mostly about their own self-interest. The other 435 can also think mostly about their own self-interest, but their vision is limited to two years ahead.

The starting point for their debate will be the latest iteration of the now 45-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as No Child Left Behind.

That law is almost universally regarded as flawed; the only disagreements have to do with what those flaws are, how they rank in importance, and how much teachers should be blamed for the law’s failure to accomplish its aims.

Forgive me my skepticism, but I can’t see any reason to expect any good to come out of this.

Even if conditions were perfect, it is highly unlikely that Congress would write a law that makes sense for special education students, their parents, or their teachers.

Conditions are far from perfect.

Both political parties are damaged and more interested in making the other lose than in creating good policy.

Lawyers or accountants, not educators, head more and more school districts, including most of the biggest districts in the country.

Tight money means great pressure to reduce the cost of special education services to school districts and their taxpayers.

Consider the political implications of this: Some people had teachers they loved but everyone had teachers they hated.

The only people looking out for special education students are their parents and their teachers—the two groups most marginalized in current discussions of education policy.

There have been seven re-authorizations of ESEA since its inception in 1965, creating almost 100 different programs affecting special education, many with contradictory requirements.

There is no reason to expect anything better from the 2010 revision, should one somehow make its way through Congress.

Flock of Pigeons

Image by cypheroz via Flickr

Probably the best that special education can hope for is allowing multiple methods of assessing the learning of special education students.

A crumb tossed to the hungry pigeons pecking wildly.

We should rise into the sky and express our gratitude the same way the pigeons do

Plop. Plop.

_______________

This blog is the first in a series of three I’m writing as part of the Classroom Insiders panel at We Are Teachers. Please visit to meet the two other special  education bloggers  on the panel and read their posts on this same topic. Our other series posts will appear on April 8th and May 6th.

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5 Responses to What Will They Do Now?

  1. Bev DeVore says:

    Why is it that those who attended school think they are experts on what school should be, do, teach, etc? Why aren’t more teachers acting professionally and standing up to say hey I am the expert, let me help write the rules, policies! Let everyone have input since we still live in a democracy, I thought, and then let those who actually live, breathe and work as a teacher do the work!

  2. Michael J says:

    Deven,
    Take heart. I think help is on the way! (Of course I’ve been wrong many times before, but it’s the stopped clock being right twice a day that I’m hoping will kick in.)

    Anyway,
    Congress is mostly filled with Country Club types who have an awesome tenured job. Don’t have enuff time to figure out what’s going on. The health care “debate” is my data point.

    The kid from Chicago gets it. Democracy means that we all have a right to be as stupid as we want. Even including the folks in Congress. It’s messy,frustrating and the way it is, thank goodness.

    But follow the money. It worked back in the day, and it’s still the most dependable way to separate real life from bullshit.

    I try to look closely at what Duncan is up to, without being distracted by unions this and socialist that.

    Here’s what I think I see:
    High school is going to international standards. it’s inevitable in a globalized economy. New job opportunities at the top of the food chain are global. Gotta make sure every one has a similar education.

    What it means for high school is that at grade 10, there is a fork in the road for the kids. If they pass some kind of test (I don’t know details, yet) they CHOOSE college prep or career prep.

    It’s already in place in either North or South Carolina, not sure which.

    It’s similar to the system in the OECD, with a wonderful American twist. Our kids get to choose the path. As far as I know in the OECD, the path is chosen for them.

    So… I put it to you. If kids knew they could get “a get out of high school jail – go directly to community college” card by passing a test in the 10th grade, what self respecting at risk high school kid wouldn’t do that.

  3. Deven Black says:

    No doubt there are changes afoot that will affect all students, but my primary concern in this post is the future of special education and students who receive special education services.

    In their case, adhering to international standards would be disastrous as most countries in the world are far behind the US in this one area.

  4. Michael J says:

    Good point. I hadn’t thought about that. Let’s hope that the dna difference between us and the OECD will lead to global standards for special education kids. We’re much more sensitive to them than the Europeans. Based on personal experience, they don’t seem to have a clue.

  5. pat says:

    Good points, and nicely put!

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