What We Need To Do To Save The American Educational System Part Three

To bring success to the American Educational System requires a rigorous non-political and non-union in- depth study lasting two to three years. Such a study needs to be done globally, state by state, town by town, city by city, and school system by school system. There are no overnight fixes, getting rid of teachers, pouring more money into the system doesn’t solve the problems. Certainly, creating school systems within schools systems with relative little supervision compounds the issues. Standardized testing does nothing other than cost the local school systems millions and millions of dollars. Going electronic does not insure success. What then, is the real challenge?

The challenge is to identify, honestly, the specific areas of failure. To do this America must be open, to envision how it can assure a higher level of student success in its schools, and hopefully, assure their chances of becoming productive citizens. Can we, as a nation, do this? We can and we must.

We need to make sure that we do not continue to spend time on unproven experimentation, change in school organization patterns, inadequate teacher preparation, and poorly constructed teacher-evaluation tools. The avoid the pitfall of repetition, the following process is recommended.

• Prioritize that which is most important in the continuation of our culture. (What are schools supposed to do?)
• Analyze the failure of those aspects of the education system that have denied the achievement of the prioritized list. (Why don’t students learn to read and to read with comprehension?)
• Recommend solutions that are long-range with built-in cyclic re-evaluation.
• Prioritize again with emphasis on those areas within the educational community that are most important to work on.

An excellent example of the use of failure analysis comes to us from NTSB. Whenever an airplane crashes every aspect of the involved plane, pilots, ground crews, service, fuel, weather, and mechanics receive painstaking analysis. Piece by piece the parts are examined. It is this type of scrutiny the American Educational System must undergo if achievable solutions are the goal.

What is the fundamental road block to this approach? It’s our social system. As a society, we discourage this kind of painstaking examination. No one likes to be put under the microscope. No one likes to admit failure. We, as a nation, have a definite mind-set to put mistakes behind us, to move on. Move on? To what? More failures?

Norman W Wilson, PhD

No Child Left Behind Education Law to Be Revamped?

In 2002, when the “No Child Left Behind” education act was passed it was for educational reform targeted to change the use of Federal funds to close the achievement gap and improve the achievement levels of America’s students. The Federal funding required states to fund their own expenses in order to adhere to the law and gain the Federal monies.

Between 1965 and 2001, $120 billion a year in Federal dollars was allotted to close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Yet, today, we see this gap growing wider.

Now legislators are calling for a revamping of the law in order to make it more flexible and effective.

With 70% of inner city fourth graders unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests, concerns are being raised. Since our high school seniors trail students in Cyprus, China and South Africa on international math tests, educators are seeking ways to ameliorate those statistics for America. Nearly a third of students entering colleges and universities today are required to take remedial classes before they can even begin to participate in regular college courses.

So what is the hope of advocates of the “No Child Left Behind” law? The objective is the same as it was a decade ago. The methods, however, are now in question. How to make educators and school districts accountable for their performance is a mammoth undertaking. With states, like Texas, reducing state funds to schools, the problem of student achievement is increasingly frightening.

Teachers and schools are already burdened with the task of meeting high expectations for educators and more and more involved curricula. Frankly, teachers and schools need tons of assistance that is going to be missed when teachers, teacher assistants and whoever is considered “non-essential staff” are let go because of lack of funding.

One giant contribution which Americans can make toward improving the achievement of our students is by volunteering in the schools. Volunteerism, by its nature, is the giving of oneself, one’s talents and time. That is a service that cannot be legislated. Willing service from those who are equipped to offer it is the component that is embarrassingly missing in Elementary and Secondary Education in America today.

American adults have the ability to contribute and make a positive impact on children’s education. Teachers and Administrators need our help. Students who are “at risk” desperately need our help.

You’ve heard that old idealism ” If I can make a difference in the life of just one child…” Well, we can. It is not so difficult. In working with a Third Grader at a nearby Elementary School, I got a real kick out of his response to a simple suggestion aimed at reducing his obvious stress as he viewed a full page of text his teacher gave him to read. I just asked him to go the second page and read the questions first. Then I showed him how he could scan the passage for keywords that would lead him to the correct answers.

The passage was in the format used for the achievement test mandated by the state of Texas. He has to be able to manage that format in order to be successful. That little boy was thrilled and completed the assignment independently and with enthusiasm. We were both pleased. His teacher was relieved to know that he could work independently. After all, she has a lot of other students for whom she is accountable and she wants each of them to be successful.

Whether or not the “No Child Left Behind” education law remains a Federally funded initiative and is extended by the next school year, our help as educated adults may be crucial to students’ futures.

That tutoring session was just 45 minutes long. The student’s confidence in his abilities is growing exponentially. Volunteerism certainly is a “win-win” process! Try it. Help out in America’s mission to improve students’ achievement.

Special Education – The Law is on Your Side

Help is available– and the law is on your side. Its promise is simple: Every child counts. Every child is entitled to an education. Every eligible child with a disability is entitled to a “special” education – one that confers “meaningful benefits.” That is what Congress has said. That is what the United States Supreme Court has said.

The law protects every child. The law protects you as your child’s parent.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) – Every special-education student must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) developed by a team that includes parents, teachers, school administrators, and other professionals. An IEP establishes educational goals and describes the special services that will be provided to the student.

Due Process – Special-Education law provides many due-process hearing and appeal procedures.
“Section 504″Classroom accommodations are available to many students (K-12 and college) who have disabilities.

There are only five modes of communication that can lead to a disability; they are auditory, visual, verbal, nonverbal and tactical communication.

If your child’s disability is affecting their education, they may be eligible to receive services under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973. The IDEA requires public schools to locate and identify children with disabilities who may need specialized education. These children must “have available” to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs” 20 U.S.C. sec. 140(d). Children with disabilities must “to the maximum extent appropriate [be] educated with children who are not disabled” 20 U.S. C. 1412 (e)(5).

Many parents find themselves in a situation where their child is either struggling academically or having discipline problems in school. Often times, there maybe an unidentified disability causing these problem. If they do have a disability that is negatively affecting their education, they would likely benefit from special education services.

Special Education services may include:
Occupational therapy
Speech and language therapy
Resource specialist programs
Modification of the regular education programs
Special day classes
Non-public schools
Residential treatment, and many more.

If you believe your child will benefit from special education services call a professional. Your child only goes through their education process once, so give your child the best chance for the future by making sure they have the type of education that helps them learn and succeed. Nothing is more important to their future.

The Need for Cyber Law Research in Education

Cyber law in education is an issue that is ripe for scholarly research and analysis.  The importance of this topic is growing exponentially with the meteoric rise in social networking and other online forums which are becoming a primary source of interaction among school aged students. One result of these “virtual” relationships is a blurring of the lines of jurisdiction for disciplinary responsibility. At what point do a student’s actions fall outside of the authority of his or her school? When the student uses school equipment on school grounds the analysis is very clear, but case law has created a continuum that defies any objective definition of where that jurisdiction ends. Similarly, at what point does a teacher or administrator’s actions leave the authority of their employer and become protected by their right to privacy? The question of jurisdiction must be addressed before meaningful processes can be implemented to counteract the damage that online actions can have on the school system.

The harms that are caused at the hands of students through cyber actions include marring the reputation of teachers and administrators, harassing other students and threatening the security of testing and other educational information. Similarly, educators often cause harm through their own cyber actions by using online forums in an inappropriate manner to the detriment of their school or district. These actions may compromise the safety and morals of their students and affect the integrity of the educational system itself. Yet any restriction on these actions runs the risk of violating constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. Needless to say, there is a careful and ever-evolving balancing process that needs to be maintained in this area of law. And the decisions of our courts and enactments of our legislatures must be monitored and influenced by educators and education law experts.

The bullying laws that are springing up in local legislatures provide an excellent example of the issues at stake in this field. There is an important responsibility for governments to protect children from this new form of harassment. At the same time, however, in addition to the inevitable first amendment challenges, educators need to have a voice as to the practical limits on building level school personnel in implementing these new laws. These issues present a fascinating intersection of legal issues that will only become more relevant and topical in the decades to come. 

Research and analysis will be important in normalizing policy in the field. Ultimately statutory enactments and case decisions will  provide the law on these subjects.  However, these statutes and decisions are by no means immutable.  Like any other area of law, they evolve and change over time.  And these shifting principles are all the more prevalent in a field of law that is in its infancy such as this one.  There are no long-standing seminal court decisions on the topic, nor is there any conventional wisdom with respect to a proper statutory framework.  Therefore, in this field more than any other that I can think of within education law, there is a need for scholarly research and publication to help organize and shape the developing legal trends.