Category Archives: Special Education

Successes and Failures of Success Academy.

Successes and Failures of Success Academy.

Any great school has its successes and failures.  I’m not saying we need to pick on everything that happens in every school, but when something does happen, we can’t stay quiet.

Full Disclosure.

I root for Success Academy like its no one’s business. As a charter school leader who wouldn’t? They boast some of the highest test scores in the state. For Black and LatinX parents, Success presents a strong argument that kids in the inner city are just as good if not better than affluent neighborhoods throughout the state of New York. I even send my teachers to their campuses every year as a part of their professional development. My thought process behind sending teachers to Success Academies to observe is, please don’t tell me Black and LatinoX students can’t achieve when we see it first hand that they can.

Eva as the Face of the Charter Movement.

Eva Moskowitz’s methods almost take away from everything that Success has accomplished. We can say, when you’re a top school, people are going to “gun” for you. I don’t buy this argument because other high performing charter schools manage to stay under the radar. Those charter schools aren’t as politically connected and don’t have a CEO that calls the mayor out every other week. Like it or not, Eva Moskowitz is the public face of the charter school movement.

The Current Controversy.

At current, Success Academy is embattled in a special education Civil Rights Violation scandal. In a complaint filed with the NY State Education Department, SA allegedly changed IEP’s without parent knowledge. If you know anything about the special education process, you know parents are an essential component and deciding determiner of the outcomes of IEP meetings. The mere thought of a school changing an IEP is implausible. In my mind and heart, I hope that there is a counter-narrative to explain these actions.

The Coverage.

All things being equal, I would not say I like writing bad things about charter schools. Charter schools already face an uphill battle contending with the anti-choice animus. However, if viewed as having an inability to police, and call out our own, that’s nothing short of hypocrisy. If we’re doing something wrong, it should be everyone’s business to call it out and offer suggestions as to how to improve things.

My Suggestion.

The work going on in the charter sector is too important for there to be one face. Eva is a constant target for charter school pundits. SA’s network is enormous and has a ton of talent. It may be time for the schools’ leaders to step into the forefront and be the faces of SA.

Eva’s work is too valuable on the grand scale of things, for her to continue to be the face of the organization. My advice would be to yield to the school leaders.

Moving the Work of Charter Schools Forward.

We have to call a spade a spade. If someone in the sector, no matter who it is, albeit CMO or Single-site charter is doing something wrong, we must all voice concerns. To remain silent is to stay complacent. I understand some of you are walking on eggshells. It’s okay if I lose followers or supporters for speaking about what’s right, those people were not the kind of folks that should be following me.

Black Boys in Sped, Why?

There are too many Black boys in Sped classes.

Sped Used Correctly:

In fact, Special Education, when used to its real intent, is an excellent resource. Teachers identify the challenges exhibited by students and help parents put methods in place that will assist in student learning. The special education process, when used to it’s the real intent can be an invaluable tool for student learning.

Consequently, the problem that I have with Special Education, and I’m sure this rings true in communities with PoC is when race plays a role in determining placement. As it stands young black males, simply started are overrepresented in Special Education classes.


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Black Boys in Sped:

Moreover, in the 2011-12 school year, black students were 14.4% of the student population in schools in the US. In the same time frame, Black students were also 19% of the 6.1 million students served under IDEA. More specifically, Black Males represented 12.8% of the 4.1 million males served under IDEA.

 

The Dirty South:

The South is the most egregious. Some of the statistics are unnerving. In the following states, the percent of their Special Education populations are staggering. They are as follows:

  • Georgia 50%
  • Louisiana 52.4%
  • South Carolina 43%
  • Maryland 45.2%

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Some of you may be surprised by these numbers. Unfortunately, many of us are not. Given the shameful history of white supremacy, these numbers make sense. The figures also become eerily correlatable to the school to prison pipeline, a concept that I will address in the future.

Some of the areas that Black Students have been over-identified in special education services are as follows:

  • Emotional disturbance
  • Intellectually Disabled

Reluctance to Address the Stigma:

The obvious answer and I’m walking on eggshells as I type is that there is a disconnect between the ways Black kids learn and the way teach Black kids. One can’t help but think that whom they are educated by plays a role in students being over-identified as intellectually disabled students.rrr-or-2015-black

Black parents are resistant to Special Education talks. They have personally had bad experiences, or they know of others who have had lousy experiences. So when a Black parent is apprehensive to your suggestions, it’s not because they don’t care about their kid, it’s the opposite.


Ways to combat Sped Stigmas:

  1. Cultural relevant pedagogy: make learning interesting to all students. Don’t be afraid to learn about cultures that may differ from your own.
  2. Relationship building: Understanding that kids don’t work for people they don’t like or trust.
    Building authentic relationships with families and students is a surefire way to start to break down existing barriers.
  3. Sensitivity to past trauma: Although these students may not have directly experienced slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Mass Incarceration, they are descendants of those that have. They carry a sense of lived trauma that has not and sometimes we will never atone.

I chaired a parent meeting recently in which we went through the process of identifying a black male student for Sped Services. As I spoke to this grandfather, I could see the lived pain on his face.

I was cautious and deliberate with the words that I talked to him. I could tell it was more comfortable for him to take in because that message came directly from me, someone he knew cared, and would operate in the best interests of his grandson, a young black boy.