Education Should be Based on our Children's Needs

On May 11, 2016, the Office of the Independent Monitor held public hearings and “parents of children with IEPs [Individual Education Plan] and all other members of the LAUSD community [were] invited to provide comments to Dr. David Rostetter”. The following is a copy of my testimony before Dr. Rostetter’s office:

Two of my triplets are on the autism spectrum. One goes to Kennedy High School, which is an LAUSD school, and the other one goes to Tobinworld. The daughter I am going to speak about is the one who goes to Tobinworld, which is a non-public school that has a contract with the LAUSD and the LAUSD runs her IEP. Therefore, her IEP is with the LAUSD’s Special Education department.

On her last IEP, which is her three year IEP, goals for after she leaves school were discussed. The document indicated that she is going to live with us. We objected to that goal as we want our child to be as independent as possible. The response from person conducting the IEP was “well, we asked your student.” The staff of the school tried to correct him but he ignored what they said and doubled down. “That is what your daughter wants.” My daughter is nonverbal and has trouble expressing what she wants for dinner, never mind what her life goals are. This showed just how little this administrator knew or cared about my child.

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The PARCC Test: Exposed

Editor's Note: In reviewing correspondence between Granada Hills Charter High School and the California Charter School Association, I learned that there is an effort to bring the PARCC Test to charter school students within the state. The following is a blog that critiques this test but has, unfortunately, been subjected to censorship on other sites:

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

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Thank you for calling LAUSD

No operators are standing by, as we don’t care what parents and teachers think, so we fired the operators enabling us to hire more administrators.

Press 1 if you wish to complain about the cleanliness of your school.

Press 2 if you wish to leave a message for your school board member. But keep in mind that they won’t return it.

Press 3 if you want to complain about your school needing repairs and the iPad purchases.

Press 4 if you feel that your student’s classes are too crowded.

Press 5 if you wish to complain about school food.

Press 6 if you want to complain about the lack of discipline on your school campus. 

Press 7 if your school’s WiFi is out, making the iPads worthless.

Press 8 if your school is unable to get substitutes, as none of them are willing to go there.

Your call is not important to us and these messages are erased daily.

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#[email protected]$ Chi Minh

Screenshot_2016-04-24_at_10.12.49_AM.pngAs a child the first thing I did when presented with a new dictionary was check for the swear words. I already knew what they meant, but their presence validated the authenticity of the reference; if I could be trusted to know that these words existed, then surely the rest of the contents were worth exploring. Unfortunately, my daughter accidentally found this weekend that her school does not have that same trust in her.

While answering questions for her history assignment my daughter found that her text book did not provide her with the information that she needed for Ho Chi Minh and turned to the web for additional assistance. Using her school issued Chromebook she typed in the name of the former President of North Vietnam into Google. Unfortunately, instead of relevant information she was informed that the search results had been blocked.

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Low Expectations and the Oversight of Charter Schools

“With respect to the reimbursement of any cap and gown fees charged previously, it is the expectation of the CSD that GHCHS will provide notice to all affected parents of students in the 2014-2015 graduating class regarding options for reimbursement or other remedy.”

- LAUSD Charter Schools Division

Month after month, the LAUSD School Board hears from a seemingly endless parade of charter organizations seeking authorization or re-authorization from the District. Even though each one of these approvals will drain students from the public schools run by the Board and reduce funding for the District’s students, most are placed on the consent calendar and voted on without discussion. With very few exceptions, they simply rubber stamp the recommendation of the Charter Schools Division (CSD). Unfortunately, my personal experience with the bureaucrats at the CSD has shown that they have little interest in making sure that charters are conforming to the California Education Code.

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LAUSD--MISIS: the gift that keeps on stealing (our bond money and our tax dollars)

“The cost of L.A. Unified's digital student tracking system rises to $189 million.” 

“Last week, the school board approved $40.3 million for what the technology division says will be the last of six large chunks of bond money needed to fix the problems.”

Add a lawsuit  here, a lawsuit there, paying a former superintendent or two, a wasted program or 100, a superfluous bureaucracy, plus the money for the worthless tests and the test preparation materials that do nothing but enrich the publishers.

What is left for on campus needs?

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Do Not Try to Placate Us with Words, We Need Action

 

On April 12, 2016, the LAUSD School Board considered a motion to recognize Autism Awareness Month. I used the opportunity for public comment to outline the ways that they can move beyond words to actually improve the educational opportunities for those with autism and other special education needs. The following is a transcript of my remarks:

 

Hi, my name is Carl Petersen and I’m here to speak on behalf of my two daughters who are on the autism spectrum and can’t speak for themselves. At last month’s meeting Ms. Garcia said:

When we say $1.4 billion for special ed and we only have $700 million from the federal government and the other $700 million are coming from every child in this district, I’m not about defunding special ed. I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids?

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Send Your Child to a Charter, Sign Away Your Parental Rights?

Our School “is permitted to meet with your child without your knowledge of prior consent.”

-James W. Salin, GHCHS Governing Board Chair

Like a page out of 1984, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) includes stock language in responses to complaints asserting that “GHCHS values your input”, while the actual response shows the direct opposite. In the latest example they ignored my wife’s formal complaint about how our parental rights were violated when the school’s nursing staff tried to return my daughter to physical education earlier than the doctor had instructed and contrary to what she had specified in a note written to the school, with a response that provided a dissertation on the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and how the school complies with these regulations. A follow-up request for the school to investigate the actual terms of the complaint and correct errors within their findings of fact was met with a response that “my April 4, 2016, response addresses your complaints, so no amended response is being issued.”

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Why are LAUSD teachers (and probably most other teachers) afraid of their principals?

"The Power of the Principal."

A principal can make a teacher’s life miserable:

Through harassment;

By giving them the cold shoulder; 

By spreading negative words about them to staff and parents;

By not supporting them in situations with parents;

By not supporting their discipline 

Principals can load up classes with the most difficult and lowest performing students.

Principals can change the teacher’s assignment even though in LAUSD assignments are supposed to be selected by seniority. The on site union representative is most unlikely to stand up for a teacher fearing the above negative treatment. Calling the union is totally fruitless as the union leaders are most concerned about spending the dues and maintaining their perks, privileges, and pensions just like the LAUSD downtown bureaucracy that they totally mirror.

This has been going on forever.

The Kingdom of LAUSD—a top down pyramid (empire) with the serfs—teachers--at the absolute bottom of the pyramid.

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Putting A Face On MS

Nicole_and_Carl2.jpgShortly after my wife and I had met, we had what I now refer to as our “clearing the calendar” phone call. We knew individually that we had hit it off and were ready to take it to a higher level. This involved sharing our feelings and then syncing our complicated calendars. However, before we could do this, Nicole told me there was something that I needed to know first.

For some reason, the first thought that quickly crossed my mind was that I should have never watched the Crying Game. After all, what other plot twist could justify the gravity in her voice? I already knew that she had triplets and that two of the girls were on the autism spectrum. If I was willing to accept these challenges, what else could she possibly tell me that could cause me to run?

And so she cautioned me, “Before we go any further I need you know that I have Multiple Sclerosis. M.S.

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