Friday, March 06, 2009

More Evidence For The Proposition That Everything The Government Touches Turns To Crap


On education - a thought:

I am a 25 year veteran high school math teacher in a high performance high school. Virtually all discussion in Retooling The Education Factory is productive and interesting. However, the reasons offered for why we are spending an ever increasing amount of money are wrong. Public Law 94-142 Public Law 94-142, The Education For All Handicapped Children Act (IDEA) (U.S. Department of Education website) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Wikipedia), is driving almost all spending increases and absorbing almost all the new money. Implementation of this law has completely distracted educators and distorted what is done in our schools since its passing. Ask any administrator or teacher how much of their time and energy is spent complying with it and you will find out what is really wrong in education in America today.

When I started teaching my high school had one educator with a half time secretary providing services to our special needs kids. We now have an entire cadre of teachers, support staff, and personal assistants. I really do not know the exact number, but I am fairly certain we now have at least a dozen full time people serving these kids. No other component of the staffing in my district has grown over this interval. We have been tight budget forever, have a lean administration, have increased class sizes and reduced teaching staffs, and cut programs of the type Michael Goodfellow thinks we need.

My district has a number of high schools, junior highs, and elementary schools. The staffing paradigm is the same in each: lean as hell at the core with a huge group providing services to special needs kids. In my opinion this is the great untold story of our era. People are absolutely correct about the raw and inflated dollars increasing steadily, they just do not know that it is virtually all going to serve the needs of our least able students - because the law mandates that we must and clever lawyers find ever more need for schools to provide ever increasing levels of service.

It is totally out of hand at this point.

Importantly, due to mainstreaming, all teachers are constantly distracted from teaching a truly robust curriculum by the need to make sure that kids who should never be taking advanced algebra, for example, have a chance at passing. These kids are in these classes these days because the law has a presumption that anyone can learn anything - we educators just need to make the appropriate adjustments to curriculum, testing, homework assigned, seating, provide personal notetakers, full time personal assistants, special small study groups with a full time teacher and only a handful of kids, etc.

Yes, these kids make it through - some of the time. But instead of designing a challenging and interesting curriculum for kids who might actually use math at some point, I need to make sure the mainstreamed kid with the personal assistant and no chance they will even know when to add or subtract in a real world setting has a chance at having some partial success at using the quadratic formula!

The situation is the same everywhere. No one who matters talks about it or writes about it. I am certain it is a significant explanatory factor in both the cost and performance domains. And it is getting worse each year.

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