Saturday, November 21, 2015

Teaching Philosophy: An Application

This picture reveals my greatest classroom achievement. London, Darby, and Chelsea are outcomes of my teaching philosophies and my wife’s. Although somewhat shared, she does not lay claim to all.

I am now an ardent connectivist. So much so, that my classes are the antithesis to the traditional college course where didactic presentations, monolithic lectures, and static learning environments permeate. Not to say these don’t have a place within the toolboxes for practiced professors who easily transition between strategies and not anchored to one. Nevertheless, I choose to turn the ownership of the knowledge and learning over to the students. After all, it is theirs in the end to do with what they wish – forget or apply. I hope for the latter.

In addition to these ideals, I do not think the classroom should be a vehicle of disparity and inequity. If fact, it should be a conduit of choice, equal access, and openness; open in every way possible to anyone willing to learn, participate, and contribute.

I believe these statements reveal my beliefs and philosophies on teaching. I also hope they fall on the intellect of like-minded teachers. If so, let's connect and share the experience. Namaste.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is full inclusion the least restrictive environment?

Image result for wheelchairThis is probably the most difficult response thus far because full inclusion of a disable student in a regular education without regard to the cost and determent of learning for the other students is absurd. I do not harken to the days before the early 1970’s where students with disabilities were vilified, marginalized, and abused. Quite the contrary, I fall upon the jurisprudence that has both rallied the equality of disabled students and supported logical pleas of school districts to find the least restrictive environment. The ultimate goal for every child should be and is a shared goal between schools and parents – full inclusion as the least restrictive environment as deemed appropriate by all stakeholders and sometimes the court.

The inclusion of disable students engaging in shared curriculum with non-disabled students in the LRE is important. Homogenizing students with disabilities can limit growth and development and inadequately prepares these students for the world at large.  However, “it makes no more sense to place every child with a disability in a regular classroom that it did to keep every child with a disability in a special segregated program.” (Stein, 1994, p. 22)

The courts have negotiated the rights of the disabled students with the efforts and capabilities of school districts. One benchmark case finally arrived in the laps of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994.Sacramento City School Dist. V. Rachel H.

Image result for sacramento v rachel hRachel a student of the school district of Sacramento held an IQ of 44 labeled a severe disable student. The district sought to mainstream her instead of providing a full inclusion. The parents thought differently. While in litigation, the parents enrolled Rachel into a full inclusion private school setting where she made significant strides in learning language and other skills from modeling the behavior of the other students in the general education classroom (Daniel, 1997).  The courts sided with Rachel and her parents but not without establishing a four-part balancing test to be applied in discerning which setting is the more educationally appropriate that considered the opportunities for educational benefit of inclusion versus self-containment, the opportunities of the development of non-academic skills, the impact of the disable child within and on the regular classroom, and finally the possible adverse cost of inclusion (Daniel, 1997).

This balanced test is the sensible approach while keeping in sight the goal of full inclusion as a LRE. The courts have defended the rights of the disabled while keeping the interests of the mission of a school.

Dainel, P. (1997). Education students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment A slippery slope for educators. Journal of Educational Administration, 35(5), 397-410. Retrieved from
Stein, J. (1994). Total inclusion or least restrictive environment? Journal of Physical Education, recreation & Dance, 65(9), 21 – 25.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Can IDEA be addressed appropriately to meet the needs of disabled students in Charter Schools?

Image result for ideaThis is a tricky scenario to pin down. As a special education teacher in a charter school, I have, we have a ratio of special education students to general education that is 2% higher than the local public school district ratio. This runs equal to the findings of Lake, Miron, & Noguera  (2014) where 3% is the measured ratio nationally.

Under  FAPE and IDEA, we are required to meet the needs of our students and are under review of federal and state agencies to ensure we are in compliance.  However, as  Estes (2004) points out 3 areas where charter schools can fall short in meeting the needs of disabled students are in basic discrimination, expertise, and funding, I have seen all of these play out within my own charter school.

Students apply, selected through a lottery, and accepted. However, data is quickly collected and reported. Students who do not fit within our framework and capabilities are turned away. This is due to our lack of funding to provide a fully accessible environment to physically disable students and the fact the building’s age allows us to turn those students away under IDEA. Finally, the lack of experience of our special education department of 3 is woefully inexperienced. This includes me in that description. Two of us are emergency certified and only 1 is fully certified. Our overall staff of 17 too lack teaching experiences overall with an average of 4 years of experience.

This withstanding, the students we do serve are well-served. Under the leadership of a well informed and highly trained special education director who understands our culture and situation, thoughtful training and graceful guidance really allow us to meet the needs and demands of servicing a special education population under the federal guidelines of IDEA. So yes, IDEA can be appropriately addressed to meet the needs of disable students as long as the institution is capable of meeting those needs.

Garda, R. A., Jr. (2012). Culture clash: Special education in charter schools. North Carolina Law Review, (90), 656-717. Retrieved October 22, 2015.Mary, B. E. (2004). Estes, M.  B. (2004). Choice for all? Charter schools and students with special needs. The Journal of Special Education, 37(4), 257-267.
Lake, R. J., Miron, G., & Noguera, P. A. (2014). Should charter schools enroll more special education students? Education Next,14(4) .