To: Members, Michigan State Board of Education
Date: March 11, 2013
My name is Kathleen Kosobud. I am a “temporarily retired” special educator working on my dissertation, and offering technical support and advocacy to parents of students receiving special education all over the state. I am here today to speak to you about the impact of “school reform” and the ever more rigid standards that affect these children.
Almost two years ago (May 26, 2011), I addressed members of the Board about the effects of withholding a Personal Curriculum option from students with disabilities, until their senior years. Since then, I have had two more years working with students who have experienced exclusion—in the name of “improving education”. Some of these actions are against Federal and Michigan law, some are merely immoral:
- I heard from a student’s parent in an EAA school who is trapped in the school where he is being bullied because his IEP is not current, and his new public school won’t accept him without a current IEP.
- I was contacted by a parent whose child was suspended from school for three months on a disciplinary issue, and is not being allowed back until the parent has him evaluated for emotional/behavioral problems.
- I have been called by parents who can’t keep their children in charter schools, because their children’s needs don’t fit the services at the charters.
- I represented a child in foster care who had been suspended for a year, placed in a virtual high school, and had been stripped of the other services that his IEP called for because the virtual school claimed that they didn’t offer those services.
- I have represented several children whose parents have requested evaluations, only to be told that they must wait for a “response to intervention” program before they could be evaluated…even though their children are failing academically, or have behaviors that are so severe and frequent that they are missing countless days of school.
- And finally, after leaving school, I was contacted by an adult who was told by the local adult literacy organization that his entry test scores made him unsuitable for literacy instruction—he was unlikely to make enough progress to support the literacy organization’s funding.
I am worried, and I think that I have a right to be worried that school reform is nothing more than code for “reform school” for these children and adults—who are destined to leave school because they are not supported—by dropping out, or being pushed out through a steady diet of “we don’t serve people like you”.
Having recently read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, I am left to wonder if our weak Michigan economy is being bolstered by feeding the School-to-Prison Pipeline, a growing economy that starts with the alienation of disempowered youth. And what more disempowered group than students with learning and behavioral disabilities, left unattended by our schools?
About N Kathleen Kosobud: Kathleen Kosobud is completing her dissertation at Michigan State University focusing on family-school relationships in special education. Kathleen has blogged for LDA of Michigan at http://ldamiexchange.blogspot.com/, and for her own amusement at http://backburner-nkk.blogspot.com/. She was one of the contributors to restructuring of the teacher education program at Michigan State University’s School of Education through a project to infuse inclusive content into all teacher education courses for the preparation of new teachers, under the guidance of Susan J. Peters, Ph.D. After achieving National Board Certification as an Early Adolescence/Generalist as a teacher of middle school mathematics in a special education resource classroom, she served as a teacher-in-residence for Assessment Development at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She is the parent of two adult children with learning disabilities, and identifies as a person with learning disabilities, herself. You can reach her by e-mail.