“It’s not enough for a state to be compliant if students can’t read or do math. We must have a system that will do more than just measure compliance.” So said our illustrious Secretary of Education on announcing a move by the federal government to force states to demonstrate that their special education students are making progress towards becoming proficient in reading and math.
Let’s recognize that there are places where special education students are not held to reasonable expectations and that minorities bear a special burden in this area. Realistic efforts to correct this problem are laudable. But let’s also recognize that Duncan’s belief that if we just have high enough expectations and “a robust curriculum,” special education students will excel is a distortion of reality. Put more bluntly, it’s just plain stupidity raised to national policy by a man whose ignorance in these matters has become a cruel joke.
I spent half my teaching career in an affluent school district known for the richness of its special education program teaching spec ed kids in the mainstream. I taught basically the same language and literature curriculum to these children as the regular education kids received, but I taught it differently, very differently and with different expectations. Contrary to Duncan’s belief, and despite my best effort, they didn’t excel in the sense that Duncan uses that word, most of them passing the state English examination, but just passing, many of them having had to make a herculean effort to do so.
Once again, data driven dunces like Duncan set schools up for failure. I saw progress almost every day I taught, but it often was not the kind of progress that shows up on standardized tests. To people like Duncan and the crowd that spends its days talking college and career ready gibberish, that progress has no meaning.
I’m off to the NEA and AFT conventions. I’m told there will be a No Confidence vote in Duncan at NEA. Such a motion failed once before. It will be interesting to see if the delegates have finally had enough. I’ll be blogging periodically during these meetings. Stay tuned.