Today’s “exquisitely timed” GAO report has set off an avalanche of accusations at charter schools for “discriminating” against students with disabilities. George Miller, who requested the study, told the Washington Post that the news was “sobering.”
No single public school is expected to serve students with every single type of disability.
Everyone already knows, as Eva Moskowitz told the Wall Street Journal, that the best charter schools try to help students with mild disabilities shed their labels (and Individual Education Plans) by improving their math and reading abilities. That could explain a significant part of the discrepancy.
But there’s another point that’s overlooked entirely: No single public school is expected to serve students with every single type of disability. In fact, traditional public schools regularly “counsel out” students with severe disabilities because they don’t have the resources and expertise to serve them. Many school districts operate separate schools (or programs) precisely for those kids.
To test this argument, I just spent 30 minutes on the Office of Civil Right’s Data Collection website. I pulled up the special education data for Montgomery County, Maryland—where I happen to live, and a system that’s widely considered one of the best large districts in the country.
I wanted to see the degree to which schools in the county are serving their fair share of students with severe disabilities. (I counted all of the disability groups except for Emotional Disturbances, Specific Learning Disorders, and
Recently I received an email from a student unlike any message I have received in forty years as a college professor. It is worth quoting for what it says not so much about this student as about the culture we have now created within K-16 education in America. Commenting on the failing grade I gave her in a course, the student wrote: “I have never received an F for as long as I have been in college, I complied with the paper and the two tests, and you mean to tell me I did not get anything from the class. I will appeal this because who is the failure? You are the teacher whom I relied upon to teach me about a subject matter that I had no familiarity with, so in all actuality I have been disserviced, and I do expect my money back from the course, you did not give me any warning that I was failing! You should be embarrassed to give a student an F.”
It is no longer sufficient to hold a student by the hand. You must now literally hand them a diploma.
Photo by gadgetdude
Never mind the punctuation errors and illiteracy of the email; we have all come to accept
Today marks the fifty-eighth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, so it’s fitting that the lead article in this morning’s New York Times is about America’s growing diversity. “Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.,” the headline reads. The story immediately focuses on the issue of schools. “The United States has a spotty record educating minority youth; will older Americans balk at paying to educate a younger generation that looks less like themselves? And while the increasingly diverse young population is a potential engine of growth, will it become a burden if it is not properly educated?” Good questions.
What's the point of an integrated school with segregated classrooms?
Photo by woodleywonderworks.
Yet, despite our student population’s diversity, the number of diverse schools, as imagined by Brown, remains limited. Upwards of 40 percent of black and Latino students still attend racially isolated schools (where white pupils represent less than 10 percent of the enrollment). And the average black or Latino student attends a school that is 75-percent minority. Meanwhile, more than four in five white students attend schools that are majority-white—even though whites barely make up 50 percent of our school population. (All of these data are from Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project.)
The front page of Sunday’s New York Times featured a pair of articles, each of which was informative and alarming in its way but which, taken together, produced (in my head at least) a winter storm—as did Tuesday evening’s State of the Union message by President Obama.
The longer, more informative, and more alarming, of the articles was an extensive account of why Apple’s iPhones are now made in China rather than the U.S. The short version is that “the flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.”
Flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills. Hold that thought.
Simply put, although the President spoke of restoring millions of manufacturing jobs to U.S. shores, it’s hard to picture Apple (or similar firms) responding.
The second article previewed the President’s speech which, as predicted, focused heavily on the U.S. economy and ways to boost it. His proposals do, in fact, include some education and job-training initiatives, as well as macro-economic policies, several of them noted in the speech itself. But mostly what Mr. Obama did was trot out a bunch of government programs and rattle
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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