Stand with Us and Say “No” to low expectations for students with disabilities and minority students
by Cheryl Poe, Guest Blogger
I am an African-American mother of two children in Virginia public schools. Both children have learning disabilities.
My husband and I have high expectations for our children. It has been a struggle to make sure that their schools share our high expectations.
One day my son’s speech pathologist said she was not sure if my son had a “real” speech delay, or if my husband and I were speaking “Black English” at home, and that was causing my son’s speech delays. I guess she forgot that my husband, and proud father of my children, is White.
At that moment, I knew that it would take more than teaching our children to believe that if they work hard, they can and will achieve great things. I would also have to convince their schools and teachers to look beyond their race and their disabilities. I would have to persuade their schools that they could be successful in school and in life.
Virginia is sending a different message to parents like me—and to our schools.
Virginia adopted new achievement targets for schools that differ according to children’s race, socioeconomic status, disability, and language proficiency status. The targets for Black and Hispanic children are much lower than for White and Asian children. The goals for students with disabilities, low-income students, and English language learners are even lower.
Achievement Targets in Math
Asian Students: 82%
White students: 68%
Hispanic students: 52%
Black students: 45%
Next year’s goal for students with disabilities, only about 10% of whom have severe cognitive deficits, is a gut-wrenchingly awful 33%.
Say “No” to low expectations for students with disabilities and minority students.
Virginia’s plan will lock in existing disparities for another six years and ensure that the achievement gap between black and white students will increase.
Here are the facts. On the 2010-2011 math tests, the black-white achievement gap was 13 points. Under the new objectives, the black-white achievement gap will increase to 21 points by the 2016-2017 school year.
History tells us what happens when we provide students with separate educational experiences. Before Brown v. Board of Education, millions of black students were locked out of white schools and denied educational opportunities. In Brown, the Supreme Court held that:
“Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society … It is the very foundation of good citizenship …
“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483)
Before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, millions of students with disabilities did not receive an appropriate education and millions more did not receive any educational services.
How many times do we have to learn that treating people differently – sometimes because we believe they need this to succeed – is the best way to ensure that they fail?
The good news is that advocates are taking a stand. I ask you to stand with us by signing this petition.
Say “No” to low expectations for students with disabilities and minority students.
We need to send a message to federal and state policymakers that separate and unequal test targets are not acceptable.
Instead of test goals that lock in disparities, Virginia should have high expectations for all students. Schools need to provide more educational assistance to children in subgroups that are lagging behind. Schools and school divisions that are behind need to make greater rates of annual progress.
On August 29, in a surprise news release, the US Dept. of Education and the VDOE announced that they reached an agreement. VDOE would revise their Annual Measurable Objectives and submit them to the USED for approval.
Friends, this battle isn’t over. We need to remain vigilant.
Please sign the petition. It’s one way to ensure that state and federal officials know we are watching and will hold them accountable for the decisions they make.
Kris Amundson’s post on the Virginia waiver DO-OVER asks several questions that you need to consider, regardless of the state you live in.
- How did the Virginia application get approved in the first place?
- What other states have the same problem, but fewer rabble-rousers to sound the alarm?
- How are we going to close the achievement gaps that we all know exist?
For more information about Virginia’s problems and waivers, please see:
“Yes, Virginia, You are a Swing State” on Our Kids Count Blog
Virginia’s ‘Together and Unequal’ School Standards, an op-ed by Andy Rotherham, published in the Washington Post on August 24, 2012 about serious flaws in Virginia’s accountability system:
“96 percent of all Virginia schools are fully accredited at the same time that only 18 percent of black eighth-graders, 18 percent of low-income eighth-graders and 27 percent of Hispanic eighth-graders are proficient in math in the benchmark National Assessment of Educational Progress.”
New education standards won’t close achievement gap by Kris Amundson, published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on August 25, 2012.
Virginia’s new standards based on race and background by Samreen Hooda, published in the Huffington Post on August 30, 2012:
Virginia to Revise Student Achievement Goals by Lyndsey Layton, published in the Washington Post on August 30, 2012.
I just attended a spring conference with many other TA’S in our district. It dangerous for the district to put these on. TA’s discuss what is going on in their school and they realize that the problems they are seeing are not local to them, but rather a poisonous flood effecting all. Anchorage, Alaska treats their sped children with extremely low expectations. Teaching (or work sheeting to death) students at times 2 or 3 grades below grade level. If there are expectations the aid never sees them. The students are taken out of their classes and grouped in huge groups for the entire instructional periods of math and reading. They are then sent back to their classroom where they are expected to do little or nothing. It has to stop and by golly it is going to. Thank you for your article.
Common Core standards & Teacher Evaluations are coming fast and furious. How do these stack up against IDEA, FAPE & LRE?
Here in NYS, IEP kids are being forced, yes FORCED into Regents-level classes. With no other diploma option for NYS, students (they have removed “IEP” and “Local” diploma options), parents and students with disabilities are looking at one of two educational options: Passing ALL 5 proficiency Regents exams or achieving an Alternate Assessment *certificate* called the Skills/Needs Acheivment Credential (SNAC). This SNAC replaces the IEP diploma option, and leaves no other path to REAL graduation. We know there are MANY IEP kids who fall between the cracks, and now they are being denied access to learning b/c teachers fear their evaluation scores will be affected. Common core seems to cut off SpEd at the knees.
Morning – Excellent advice.
We get many emails from teachers who (1) don’t know if any of their students have IEPs, or (2) ask which of their students have IEPs but are told that this is “confidential:” and/or (3) who are not allowed to see their students’ IEPs because “they are confidential.”
I spend hours thinking about dense school administrators but that’s a topic for another day.
We advise parents to make copies of the IEP for each teacher. That’s the only way the parent can ensure that the child’s teachers know what they are supposed to do.
Cheryl: We will continue to support the petition. I’m in NM with my daughter, won’t be home until end of the week. Sue is editor of the newsletter, blog poster, FB manager. We will ask people to sign the petition but I think the point has been made. Big time.
My personal experience agrees with the comment that one cannot always expect the Judge to understand all the facts and underlying issues. My family constantly heard that the child was “making progress” but yet he was falling further behind academically. Apparently, the professionals did not enjoy having parents question the expectations and any mutual cooperation with “the Team” dissipated.
Thank you Pam and Pete for supporting this very important issue. We have a little more then 1500 signatures at this time, and hope to reach the 2000 mark before the Virgina Board of Education meeting scheduled for Sept 27th to present the petition to the board.
Please continue to support us as we tell VA that unequal is not acceptable!
I agree with Morning. You should have high expectations for your children. We are teaching our children to advocate for themselves as well. My child, who was a junior in high school last year, attempted to advocate for himself by asking for his services. He was told by his intervention specialist that she would not give him the services. When he asked again later for her help, he was immediately taken to the principal’s office for insubordination and given an in-school suspension. He tried a couple of times after that to ask for his services, but was met with the same type of response on each occasion. My child wants to learn, he wants to be successful in school and wants to go on to college to get an advanced degree. He has very high functioning autism. The school district does not think he should go to college. How pitiful for them!
My advice to parents is that “every year you must educate the staff on your high expectations for your child”. Many parents assume that staff members read or even understand the IEPs. It is up to the parents and our kids to keep the bar raised high. We must teach our kids to advocate for themselves and encourage staff to do such.
It sounds like you thought the Hearing Officer understood your case, and saw it through your eyes. You must feel shattered.
Judges are human beings – they have personal histories, beliefs, prejudices, relationships. We see this play out in our cases. Assume a client reminds a judge of his ex-wife who left him for another man. The judge doesn’t trust her and rules against her. Relationships can be hidden issues in special ed cases. Assume the HO’s spouse works as a special ed teacher for the school district. Will the HO rule against his wife’s employer? Probably not.
One HO ruled that the school did not provide a child with FAPE for two years. In his decision, he wrote that he was sorry he could not grant the relief requested (tuition reimbursement). The law on that issue had been settled for 20+ years and we provided him with several cases on that issue. I have to assume he didn’t read these cases and didn’t know he could order the relief.
If you read legal decisions, you know that some facts are used to support a decision, while facts that don’t support the decision are ignored. If the case is appealed, a different judge may reverse because Judge #2 sees the case differently.
You try to prepare cases so the decision-maker wants to rule in your favor. If the decision-maker wants to rule in your favor, s/he will find facts and law to support the decision.
We had 4 day Due Process Hearing in June – we proved multiple procedural problems/low expectations and regression. The Hearing Officer even confirmed some of this during the hearing and pushed settlement 5x in 5 hours after we rested. The District argued in closing arguments and the judge agreed in his final ruling that child only has to have “some benefit” and that even with the regression that we were able to prove the child only had to have some benefit in some area for FAPE to apply. Seems regression doesn’t even matter anymore as long as their is “some benefit” some where. With this standard noone will ever prevail and schools will only be required to provide a classroom for FAPE to be offered.