Getting to “All Means All”

Eight steps to building an education system that delivers on the promise of excellence and equity

POSTED:October 20, 2014
Professor Paul Reville

To build the education system that the 21st century demands, says Professor Paul Reville, we have to look at what’s failed in our attempts to reform the 20th-century education system we’re still living with.

Speaking at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations event on September 19, Reville summarized the ways in which our current system is failing to meet the promise of excellence and equity in education. Despite more than 20 years of intense reform efforts, there is still “an iron-law correlation between socioeconomic status and educational achievement and attainment.”

Charting a new pathway toward “all means all,” Reville outlined eight broad ideas that both assess and take us beyond today’s shortcomings:

  • There is now a happy coincidence, Reville said, between what we ought to do and what is in our economic interest to do, which is to educate each and every one of our students to a high standard — to educate them for success in employment, citizenship, family life, and as lifelong learners.
  • Schooling alone is insufficient; it is too weak an intervention to overcome the disadvantages of poverty. “We want a society in which demographics are not destiny,” Reville said, noting that the work to meet that ideal has only just begun.
  • Our current system is outmoded, he continued, citing short school days and a one-size-fits-all approach. “We have a batch-processing, mass-production model of education that served us very well if we wanted to achieve a society in which we were sending a lot of people into low-skill, low-knowledge jobs,” Reville said. “But for high-skill, high-knowledge jobs in a post-industrial information age, we need a very different system.”
  • We need a new design — a new way to integrate systems of education and child development that delivers on the goal of preparing each and every student for success.
  • To get there, “we’re going to need to differentiate,” Reville said. We need a system that meets every child where he or she is, and gives them tools to be successful at each stage of their education.
  • We must become more intentional in mitigating the issues in children’s lives outside of school that get in the way of their success in school. He argues that we need to braid systems of health, mental health, and education, taking steps to build social and emotional learning and resiliency.
  • We have to increase access to out-of-school learning for all students. “Affluent families are doing more than ever before in the 80 percent of children’s lives [spent] outside of school to enrich their children’s education. Disadvantaged families can do less and less,” Reville said.
  • All of these needs and priorities are feeding into the creation of the Education Redesign Lab, a new initiative at HGSE that aims to spearhead a national conversation about how we will build a new system of education and child development that finally delivers on the promise of excellence and equity. Reville envisions a national design process that will bring together all of these elements of reform and create “a visionary blueprint for 21st-century education.”

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Credit to Usable Knowledge at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Website:  www.gse.harvard.edu/uk.

Special Education Teachers Are Also Special

overworked teacher

It is becoming tough to keep special education teachers in the field beyond two or three years.  We already have a shortage and it is likely to get worse in the future.  Teaching is demanding enough, but special education teachers must cope with even more challenges.  Professional learning is rarely aligned to special education teachers’ needs. Special education teachers face more parental interaction, longer hours, potential lawsuits, additional paperwork, while their students need more attention.  The slogan “work more, same pay” is not exactly a great selling point in teacher recruitment.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that every student have what’s known as an IEP — Individualized Education Program.  The IEP involves hours and hours of filling out forms and writing reports documenting each student’s progress.  Recently the Tennessee State Board of Education, in the name of greater transparency, has proposed a rule that may actually create more problems for Special Education Teachers.

The Proposed Rule:  The LEA must notify the parents of a child with a disability at least ten (10) days before an IEP meeting to ensure that a parent will have an opportunity to attend. A meeting conducted pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §300.530(e) may be conducted on at least twenty-four (24) hours’ notice to the parents. If the LEA prepares a draft IEP prior to the IEP meeting, a copy shall be provided to the parent(s) of the child at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the scheduled meeting time. The copy of the draft IEP shall become the property of the parent(s). If the LEA prepares a draft IEP prior to the IEP team meeting, the LEA shall make it clear to the parents at the outset of the meeting that the services proposed by the LEA are preliminary recommendations for review and discussion with the parents. It is not permissible for the LEA to have the final IEP completed before an IEP Team meeting begins.

Many, but not all, districts provide parents with a draft prior to the IEP meeting, if requested, and with a reasonable timeline.  However, it would not be appropriate or reasonable to mandate that districts provide a draft prior to all IEP meetings.  Here are a few of the concerns, suggestions and questions that have been put forth by our members:

  • May discourage LEAs from creating drafts, which would lead to longer, less structured IEP meetings and may increase the likelihood of procedural errors.
  • May result in LEAs having to hold separate IEP meetings, which could delay initial services up to 30 days after initial eligibility, in order to give time to have a draft ready.
  • Currently, there is no means of documenting LEAs’ compliance as drafts are removed from EasyIEP system after 30 days or when final IEP is created
  • Places undue paperwork burden on already paperwork-heavy sped teachers.
  • May send information that is confusing to parents without having immediate access to professionals who can help interpret or give meaning to info in IEP.
  • May result in fewer parents attending IEP meetings as perception would be that IEP is already completed and their attendance is not necessary.
  • May lead to meetings starting with an adversarial tone.
  • Not all IEP team members are staffed at the same school, making it impossible for them to convene with the other IEP team members to collaborate on the draft 24 hours prior to the meeting.

Looking at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and new regulations, an LEA should provide the parents with a copy of its draft proposals, if the LEA has developed them, prior to the IEP team meeting.  Parents deserve an opportunity to review any recommendations prior to the IEP team meeting, in order that they may be better able to engage in a full discussion of the proposals for their child.  It is already not permissible for an LEA to have a final IEP completed before an IEP meeting.  Parents should be able to request a copy of any draft documents prior to an IEP team meeting. However, it is critical to be reminded that not all IEP team members are staffed at the same school, and it may be impossible for them to convene with the other IEP team members to collaborate on the draft 24 hours prior to the meeting.  This creates twice the work for teachers.

Which brings us back full circle.  We subscribe to the philosophy of “All Means All” in public education, which means we educate each and every one of our students to the highest level possible.  If we continue to overwhelm special education teachers when we already have a special education teacher shortage by adding to their workload, recruitment and retention challenges will only escalate.  Then students with disabilities will never attain their full academic potential especially if teachers with no special education background are placed in their classroom.  The proposed IEP policy, as currently being suggested needs work.  This may well be a legislative item in 2019.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.