Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How is this appropriate?

So after a little investigation I think this is the process for making ESY assignments:

  1. Make a list of all the kids who have ESY as part of their IEP

  2. Figure out a random but relatively close school that's offering ESY

  3. Split the kids randomly into classroom sized groups

  4. Tell the parents at the last possible moment with the least amount of information possible to keep from having to justify or change decisions made by following steps 1,2 and 3 above

Last year I gave up on trying to reason with brick walls. Every question got the same response

How can it be that during the school year inclusion is the proper setting, but during ESY special needs exclusively is appropriate? Talking to three levels of bureaucracy and always "We don't do it that way"

Would be possible for msk to go to a mainstream summer enrichment program with an aide? "We don't do it that way."

By excluding special needs children from summer enrichment programs, aren't you discriminating against them? "We don't do it that way."

When you make an ESY placement, couldn't you consult with the IEP team or at least the ITA? "We don't do it that way."

I had no expectations that ESY would work out. Somehow, it did. I thought everything would fall in place this year. When I asked the same questions there were new answers. Oh, it seems like the mainstream enrichment program would be perfect for him. Last year they wouldn't have provided an aide for him. This year? He would have gotten an aide, but now it's too late

Here's the question I'd like to ask, but given that I already know the answer I won't bother: Why don't you come up with an ESY process that provides differentiated and appropriate education to special needs kids while involving parents and listening to both their concerns and suggestions?

And the answer is... "We don't do it that way"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A small, quick, non-school directed rant

So, if you haven't really figured out the balance-control thing on your brand new motorcycle that costs more than my car? How-bout you don't go 55 in a 25 zone at the t-intersection in front of my house and drive through my garden? I guess I should be happy that you got it together before smearing your brains on the corner of my house and ending up in my living room. But honestly? It's the trauma of seeing the blood and gore and not any sympathy for your sorry (probably crime-filled) life that makes me say that.


Friday, June 18, 2010

tic, tic, tic, tic

If you recall my post last month you'll remember that I was anxious about not having finalized summer plans for msk. Perhaps you assumed that since I hadn't posted about it again, I had heard about a wonderful placement with a lot of details, and it was all so perfect it would have made for a boring post.

Sadly, that's not the case.

Today, exactly one week and a weekend before the start of ESY I got a letter about msk's placement. Not much advanced notice, eh?

And as far as details of what the program is and if it's a good fit? Nothing but the name of the school. Did they talk to anyone on the IEP team? No.

Last year this exact same situation (well, actually it wasn't nearly this last minute, it was 2 or 3 weeks before ESY) spun me up like a top. This year... breathe in, breath out. I calmly and politely called North Ave. I'll make sure this is a good fit and we'll figure out how to get him moved if it's not a good fit. I'll take it in stride.

I may be getting an extra 10% - 20% more grey hairs every year, but at least I learn from the experiences.

photo - time timer ipod app

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Charter meeting

I promised that I would talk about last week's board working meeting on charters. I'm not sure if anyone who reads this blog is really interested, but I'll throw out some quick links and thoughts just in case.

The meeting agenda is here, and a link to the powerpoint that was presented can be found here (you might have to click the + sign next to 06/07/2010 Non-Traditional Schools Worksession and then the + sign next to Meeting Documents to see the link).

The meeting room was packed and both the board and the general public seemed engaged. That's a good thing, I guess. What's not so good is that even in this presentation with mainly history, there was a lot of political posturing going on. I'm not sure how the next meeting, that's supposed to actually discuss changes to policy, will end in decisions being made.

I also worry that statements based on what some charters do, are going to end up making things harder for all charter schools. Maybe I worry too much.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13th 7:30 pm‐8:30 pm.

The pendulum swings

Yesterday's post was all about sunny optimism. Today's? Not so much. I'm worried. Middle schools seems so big and msk so small and clueless. For the last six years (as long as msk has been in school) we've been at a different school every two years. The first two transfers were about getting out of a situation that was clearly a very bad fit (to put it as politically as I can). The last school was a really good fit. Doesn't matter - aging out and time to move on.

The thing about leaving a burning building is that you don't spend a lot of time thinking about how good a fit the next place is. Really, getting out is more important than where you're going.

This year is different. Is this the right place to be going? There's a lot of chaos in a school this size with kids this age. msk is not into chaos. My theory is that so much of the world and life is confusing to msk he just has to find order in his schedule. Lately his favorite iPod/iPad app is the calendar. He goes back to last summer and forward to next week. He quizzes me on what was and what will be. I fear that that kind of order won't exist in an inclusive middle school setting - even with an aide helping him along.

And then the doubt. Is msk in an inclusion setting because it's best for him, or because of some sort of theory of what is "right"? All this figuring it out as you go seems horribly unfair to him, and to all my kids for that matter.

The pendulum swings to a dark place tonight.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"reasons to be cheerful part 3"

So here I am, after eleven years, continuing to educate my kids in Baltimore City's public school system. This is not a district known for excellence in education and yet I'm trusting them with my most precious offspring. And especially msk, who has some pretty serious issues due to his autism. What am I thinking?

For a start, I've found that the perceptions from people who don't live in the city and/or who don't have special needs kids have a lot more to do with fear than reality. For this post I'll just focus on special education. We've been able to carve out a pretty decent education for msk here (of course there's always room for improvement). A few things have lead to this situation, that we could only find in Baltimore City's schools:

  1. The CEO of the school district previously was a special educator and then head of special education in New York City. And because he was hired to turn around a district with entrenched problems he was given a lot of power. I've heard him say some fairly harsh things in the past, but never once has he questioned the need to educate special needs kid nor has he said anything denigrating about them.

  2. Baltimore City was under a court order because of special education problems. This means there's a lot of grumbling and a lot of extra paperwork, but it also means that they are pretty careful about following the law (with exceptions when kids don't have involved parents, but that's another issue). After many years this is coming to an end, but those years have been educational for teachers and staff.

  3. Because Baltimore has a lot of troubled schools we lead the state in opening charter schools and if you find a charter school with a principal that values educating special needs kids they have the power and autonomy to make that happen.

Some really awful things have happened lately in special ed. Look over at the Club 166 blog for stories related to bad things in Los Angeles and Georgia, just to name a few. I think if you care about special needs kids, these situations are definitely infuriating. On the other hand it's important to look at your own school district and acknowledge when things are going right.

That's the point of this post.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Notice of a Board Work Session

After getting a robo-call from City Schools I found this information (here) on the website:

The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners will hold a series of three work sessions to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about its portfolio of Non‐ Traditional Schools (charter, transformation, innovative and new schools.) The work sessions will be held at the Alice Pinderhughes Administrative Building, 200 East North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21202 on the dates and times listed below:

Work Session I Monday, June 7th 6:00 pm‐7:00 pm Room 301
Work Session II Tuesday, July 13th 7:30 pm‐8:30 pm Room 301
Work Session III Tuesday, August 16 TBA 1st floor boardroom

-Interested members of the public are invited to attend all three work sessions and observe the deliberative process.
-The June and July work sessions are designed for the board to receive information from staff and discuss policy issues related to City Schools’ portfolio of nontraditional schools. Accordingly, public comment will not be taken at June and July work sessions.
- The August work session is designed for the Board to receive information from various stakeholders. Public comment will be taken during the August work session.
The Board may convene in a closed session, in accordance with the Maryland Annotated Code, State Government Article, 10‐508 if any portion of the meeting should be held in closed deliberations. Before any closed meeting is convened, the presiding officer will publicly identify the section or sections of the Act authorizing the closed meeting.

Not sure if this is of interest to any readers of this blog, but it is to me. I will try to attend and if I get any good information I will post it here.