A Warning to ‘Teach for America’ Noobies from Mercedes Schneider concerning special-needs students

Mercedes Schneider gives a serious warning to members of ‘Teach for America’ concerning grandiose plans by its current leadership to have untrained TFAers be in charge of diagnosing and treating special-needs students. Here is a small part of it and a link to her article:


“Do not place yourself in a position to damage the vulnerable via a naivete exacerbated by an inflated ego.

“You could harm students. You could be harmed by students. You could be held legally responsible.

“Do not mistake enthusiasm for invincibility.

“If you really want to assist special needs populations, make the appropriate investment. Return to school and treat your decision as an honest, long-term career move.”



Part 3: Enrollment Trends In DC’s Public Schools and Charter Schools

I notice some interesting trends when I look at these three charts from the Washington, DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, or DC OSSE.

Do you see what I see?

This first one is enrollment by grade grouping for all DC’s publicly-funded schools, that is, both the regular public schools and the charter schools, combined:

The next one is just for the regular DC public schools:

and the last OSSE graph is just for the charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run:

One thing I note is that in preK-3, and in Adult Education, and in Special Education schools, there are now more students enrolled in the charter schools than in the regular public schools.

(Not so in the other grade strands.)

The Carlos Rosario adult education school is a charter school,  and apparently well-funded, may be part of the reason for the surge in Adult Ed students in the charter realm. It’s located near the home of a family member, and seems to have a lot of students. I am not sure what’s going on with the special education schools (though as I’ve noted before, it’s awfully weird that nearly every single special education student at these schools, whether charter or public, tests either “proficient” or “advanced”, when a substantial portion of them are unable to feed, dress, or bathe themselves, much less read).

I do not know why the overall enrollment for grades 4 and 5 is down for all publicly-funded schools in DC as a whole, and I am not at all sure why the number of DCPS students in those two grades is down by five percent.

I had sort of expected that the small, one-percent rise in regular DCPS population would be mostly from growth in Pre-K. That turned out not to be the case. If you just count “traditional” enrollment in grades Kindergarten through 12, enrollment went from 37,927 to 38,397, which is an increase ofr 470 students, roughly 1.2%; and that’s about the same as the corresponding change in DCPS as a whole, i.e. 1.5%.

In the charter schools, too, the enrollment growth in grades K through 12 is about 11.1%, not really different from the overall charter school growth of 11.0%.

That’s what I see.

What do you see?

One Way to Raise Test Scores: Get Rid of the Special Education Students

The easiest way to raise average test scores in a class or a school is to eliminate the ones who present problems: those requiring special education services, recent immigrants with little English ability and little education in their home country, and so on. If you eliminate the students who are often difficult to teach and who tend to have low scores, then you can look like a winner, because your average scores will rise — and those of your “competitors’ will fall. Without doing anything about our national problems.

(Ain’t educational competition grand?)

Judging by what the for-profit Tesseract/EAI company did in Baltimore back in the first half of the 1990’s, when they were awarded a contract to run seven elementary schools, it looks like they may have done just that. (But their scores STILL weren’t anything to brag about!).

Why do I bring this up? Because recently-departed Chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, supposedly performed various miracles in one of those Tesseract schools, starting in 1992-1993 and going through SY 1994-5. The name of the school? Harlem Park.

See for yourself:

As you can see, the percentage of students eligible for Level 4 special education services in the two official comparison groups of regular public schools, grades 1-5,  stayed pretty constant during the entire 4-year experiment: somewhere between 6% and 8% of their students were identified as Level 4 special education.

Not so in the seven Tesseract schools, though. The percentage for the entire group of EAI schools went from 8% SPED to 2% SPED, which means that the proportion of students in those schools eligible for special education services dropped by three-fourths!!!

At Harlem Park, too, the proportion of students in special education during that time period dropped drastically – by 70%.

Did this weeding-out of Special Education students have anything to do with Chancellor Rhee’s alleged miracle? (remember: she claimed on her official resume that she

“[t]aught in Harlem Park Community School, one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in Baltimore City, effecting significant measurable gains in student achievement. Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90% of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher.“) [emphasis added by GFB]

Stay tuned for more results.

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