Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Middle school situation

Here's my take on middle schools in Baltimore:

The majority of standalone middle schools are places of violence with little learning going on. If you are a bright kid who can blend into the culture of the school (i.e. you are the right race, you talk the right way, you wear the right clothes etc) you can make it out of some of these schools intact and having learned what you need to learn to be successful in high school.

Alternately there are middle schools with entrance requirements where most of the kids come out prepared for high school, but these are only an option for kids who test well and with a limited number of seats there will be kids who are bright enough who will be turned away.

There are charter schools who have varying levels of success at bucking the trend of middle schools, but these typically have lotteries with a 1 in 10 chance of acceptance. When that's not the case these charters are either having safety or academic problems that are in line with the neighborhood middle schools.

Add into this mix a kid who takes the Alt-MSA, who needs acceptance from his peers to grow behaviorally, who is never going to look or act like a "normal" kid, and who needs teachers who are willing to modify his work to accommodate his disability. A kid who in situations of chaos can wander and really has no survival skills if he gets lost.

This is why I plead for a continuation of elementary school.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A three minute speech

Changes (for some amount of anonymity) shown in italics

I would like to address the board about expanding the unnamed charter school to x grade. Our son msk would be attending x grade at the unnamed charter school if this expansion were allowed.

My husband and I are supportive parents of 3 City School students. For the last 11.5 years we have always been involved parents – my husband is on a school’s SFC, we are PTA members and we always participate in fundraisers.

Prior to msk entering school he was diagnosed as being autistic. Even though many people urged us to move to the county we were committed to City Schools. My husband and I are City School graduates; our elder children were doing well; but mainly we stayed because we believe in the economic & cultural diversity that City Schools provide.

Msk's initial City School experience was with a school that was supposed to be inclusive (it had a “Together at 5” program) - but clearly msk wasn’t valued. He was often off task, he was frustrated, and his teachers resented the extra work he represented and saw no plus side to him being there. We worried a lot about msk in this setting.

In the summer we attended a PAL program for only a few days – this was clearly the wrong setting for msk with lower functioning children his developed new problem behaviors and there was no academic work at his level.

Eventually we moved to a non-public placement that cost the city money, but worse (from our perspective) - msk was away from “typical” kids. This meant his behavior stagnated and academically he made very little progress in two years.

The unnamed charter school offered a unique setting where we felt msk would be safe and valued and we made an unprecedented move from a LRE Level F school to a Level A school. We did this because the unnamed charter school had a special educator as principal who wanted msk to be there and because differentiated education was seen as standard practice. In this setting msk has made great progress – behaviorally, academically and he’s just very happy at this school. This is the only setting since pre-school where we can say this.

If the application for a x grade is denied I don’t know where to consider sending msk next year. Honestly, I’ve been worried about this transistion since msk first entered the unnamed charter school . I see no alternative to pursuing a non-public placement again. I would love to hear what school the board recommends we pursue for msk next year. We’re looking for a school that:
- Has teachers and administrators who value special need students
- Would not put msk in a isolated special ed classroom
- Would provide differentiated instructional material
- Would include msk in all school related activities
- Would provide the one-on-one aide he needs and not use the paraprofessional for other purposes than his education
- Would not tolerate bullying or exclusion towards msk from his classmates

I think these are all fair requirements for a Free and Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive setting that is his right by law. Is there another City School that could provide these things for msk?

Saturday, February 20, 2010


After nearly two years, I'm starting to feel limited by staying anonymous, but I'm not ready to give it up at this point. As a parent of a special needs student I know that even if you've currently got the nicest, most cooperative relationship, new years, new schools, new teachers can bring difficulties. Difficulties for special needs students often involve lawyers and lawyers mean being very, very careful what you say.

Let me clarify to the extent I can - msk is currently at a school where he's doing very well and we are happy.

So, City School activities continue but, at the moment, I'm not sure about sharing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another week down

Well, I haven't been doing so well with the resolution to post more often. Sorry. It's related to some insane deadlines at work that I would tell you about, but I'm afraid there would be casualties from people dropping dead out of boredom from reading my blog. I want to be clear, I don't find my job boring, but after 25 years of doing this, I have found that just about everybody else finds the work life of an engineer very boring to listen to. So, surf ice it to say that work has been very busy lately and I barely have time to read my favorite blogs, much less do any posting.

My weight/exercise/health resolution has been going better, and I've got to say it seems like a more important resolution. On to specifics. Copying my goals from last week's post:

  1. Drink coffee black - Third week in, still 100% compliance
  2. Weigh in everyday - Third week in, still 100% compliance, logging in to iPod & Nutrisum
  3. Pick low fat when grocery shopping (lean meats, less cream/cheese based dishes) - Still100% compliance meals are much healthier
  4. 30min exercise at work every day - not quite 100% with all this stinking snow and the days I worked from home. Strangely it's very hard to take breaks from work when I'm working at home. Might be related to the 3 kids home from school because of the snow.
  5. Follow the Wii Active 30 day challenge - Another bit of a slippage although I have been getting some exercise from shoveling snow off the deck. Next week I'll do better.
  6. Track and work on the following 5 points - tracking every day
    a. Three servings of whole grains - a little hard, 90%
    b. Five servings of vegetables and fruits - every day 100%
    c.Five glasses of water - every day 100%
    d. No snacks within 2 or 3 hours of bed - hardest, about 75%
    e. Breakfast within 2 hours of waking up - every day 100%

And the results... well, we're talking about a lifestyle change. That will take more than 3 weeks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Pretty hard to believe that this is Baltimore. We've made a minor excursion into the backyard to give the dog a little bit of a walkway and to blow off some steam. I've got to think that trudging through two feet plus of snow is a good aerobic exercise.

Week #2 resolutions

  1. Drink coffee black - Second week in, still 100% compliance
  2. Weigh in everyday - Second week in, still 100% compliance, purchased 2 iPod apps to help keep track Lose it! and Weightbot. Being a geek, apps are great motivators for me
  3. Pick low fat when grocery shopping (lean meats, less cream/cheese based dishes) - Still100% compliance meals are much healthier
  4. Walk more often - still 100% lunch time walks at work except one day where I used the elliptical machine, so I'll rename this 30min exercise at work every day
  5. Follow the Wii Active 30 day challenge - I've skipped 2 days, but plan on making them up over this snowed in weekend.

My new goal is to start tracking my diet with Nutrisum, a program that my company provides. It seems simple enough - you can get up to 5 points a day with a goal of 30 points per week. The points are:

  1. Three servings of whole grains
  2. Five servings of vegetables and fruits
  3. Five glasses of water
  4. No snacks within 2 or 3 hours of bed
  5. Breakfast within 2 hours of waking up