What About Special Education in the Age of Corona?

As so many rightfully praise classroom teachers for quickly adapting their instruction for a new, virtual environment, advocates need to be sure that such desperate times do not provide school districts the opportunity to shirk their duties when it comes to IDEA and students with learning disabilities.

Big kudos to Emily Richards and USA Today for placing a spotlight on this important issue, and for speaking with dear illl’ Eduflack about his district’s decision to suspend IEP and 504 meetings for an undetermined period (read until next fall).

For students who already receive accommodations and special services to catch up because of the years their families fought to get them the adequate educations they are guaranteed under the law, lack of leadership by the US Department of Education and adversarial relationships with school districts that have denied special needs learners is a potential recipe for disaster.

“I get that this is the first week. But everything we have fought for in my son’s (individualized education plan) now gets put on hold,” Riccards said.

Read the full article here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2020/03/19/coronavirus-online-school-closing-special-education-teacher-distance-learning/2863503001/

Are We Up to Online Learning?

This week, tens of millions of students transitioned from traditional classrooms to virtual learning environments. This is the new normal of the coronavirus era.

But with high-speed data deserts and a decade of anti-Common Core parents failing against technology-driven instruction, are we prepared to make the most of this new normal?

We explore the topic on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen.

Learning In the Moment

If the first month of the year is any indication, 2020 is going to be a doozy of potential learning opportunities. Yes, we have a presidential campaign. We also have lessons of impeachment, caucuses, immigration, trade, socialism, and many others that haven’t yet shown themselves.

Our collective instinct may be to shy away from the controversial when it comes to classroom teaching. But with such a focus on the news of the day, we may be missing golden opportunities by not using these current events as the impetus for teaching and learning.

How so? We explore the topic on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

Civics Falling by the Wayside?

Yes, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is absolutely correct. Civics education, in general, is falling by the wayside, and it is happening at a time when civics ed is more important than ever.

But before we rush to fill the gaps, we need to be mindful about today’s students, how they learn, and what interests them. The answer isn’t just more textbooks, read longer and louder. No, the true answer is experience-based learning, active education, and other such activities they engage and encourage students to pursue more.

We explore this topic on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

Do We NEED a Teacher in Chief?

In her pursuit of the White House and the teachers unions endorsements to get there, US Senator Elizabeth Warren recently pledged that, when elected, she would insist that her US Education Secretary would be a union teacher.

It makes for good politics with union teachers, but is such a pledge good policy? Are the skills needed to be an effective educator the same skills needed to successfully manage a multi billion dollar federal agency that has the highest percentage of political appointments in the government?

We explore this topic on the most recent episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network, noting that one of the most effective EdSecs in history (Dick Riley) was not a teacher, while one of the most disappointing EdSecs (Rod Paige) brought just the experience Senator Warren is promising. Give us a listen!

Federally Subsidized Teachers?

There is little question that public school teachers deserve to be paid better than most are. After all, the job is more demanding than it has ever been, and we are asking more and more of educators each and every year.

Today, we expect teachers to be instructors, counselors, nurses, and psychometricians. And we do so as we increase classroom sizes and cut back on other school supports.

So it is no surprise that when someone like US Senator and presidential aspirant Kampala Harris calls for significant teacher pay raises funded by billions in new federal funding, we take notice.

But before we go embracing the latest plan, let’s consider it for a second. For decades, we have insisted that education policy was to be made at the state and local level, now we want greater federal involvement. And at a time when the US Congress has never been more dysfunctional, we now want teacher pay to be part of the annual federal budget process?

We explore these questions on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

Basic Skills for Teachers?

For years (and years and years) now, we have been hearing horror stories about the teacher pipeline and an inability to get good educators in the classroom, particularly in those classrooms that need them the most.

There are almost a many ideas for addressing the pipeline issue as there are Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination. Dear ol’ Eduflack has been involved on several of them, including the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program, an effort that had transformed teacher preparation in six states and at 31 universities, and the creation of a new, competency-based graduate school of education focused on teaching mastery.

With efforts like these, the focus has been raising standards, hiking expectations, and ensuring aspiring teachers are spending as much time as possible in k-12 classrooms. At no point did we consider eliminating accountability or dropping the bar.

Yet that seems to be what Florida is currently looking at, as the state legislature explores eliminating the basic skills test for teachers to be. <insert shaking head and face palm here>

As Jeffrey Solochek reports in today’s Tampa Times:

Patrick Riccards, chief strategy officer for the New Jersey-based Woodrow Wilson Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers several teaching fellowships, found it ironic that Florida would consider lowering its criteria to become a teacher at the same time it touts its efforts to fill classrooms with the “best and brightest.”

In Texas, he said, some teacher preparation programs have become adept at reducing expectations as a way to find more educators. The problem, Riccards said, is those new teachers don’t always last very long. 

Then schools have to go look again.

Teachers want to be treated as professionals, he added. Not passing a basic skills test doesn’t seem to match up with that goal.

Give the full article a read. And let’s share a collective weep for the future of teacher education in the Sunshine State.