Oh, the Ingratitude, Latest Chapter

Did you know that Rhode Island spends more than twice as much per pupil on special education students than on non-special education students? From Jennifer Jordan in today’ Projo

It costs about $22,893 a year to educate a special-education student in Rhode Island compared with $9,269 a year for a regular-education student.
Yet despite the fact that Rhode Island taxpayers are being more than generous towards special education, advocates for special education choose the rhetoric of conflict and division to describe how they feel about the support provided by Rhode Island taxpayers and Rhode Island government…
“Unfortunately in my experience, especially for this population of kids and their families, they’ve had to fight for everything they get for those kids whether the [services] are mandated or not”, [said Dawn Wardyga, program director for Family Voices, a family information and health center affiliated with the Rhode Island Parent Information Center]. “So it’s hard to enter into this with an open mind that the system will truly do what’s best for these kids and their families.”
The rhetoric of conflict is doubly worrisome coming from a leader of Family Voices, an organization’s whose “fight” last year included a decision to join the coalition supporting the elimination of Governor Carcieri’s science education initiatives from the state budget. Apparently, to Family Voices and the Rhode Island Parent Information Center, fighting for special education can mean fighting against non-special education.
It’s really Rhode Island’s non-special education students who have more reason than anyone to be skeptical that their state legislature and lobbying class are looking to do right by them.

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johnb
johnb
14 years ago

ahhh special education…what a mess. here’s a fun fact: “special ed” designations aren’t uniform across the state. rather, it’s up to each school system to determine who/what meets the criteria for special ed.
36 different school systems; 36 different special ed criteria.

frank
frank
14 years ago

Special ed determinations not uniform across the state or across the country. RI leads the country with 19% of students classified as special ed. This leads to the double whammy of extra #s of students receiving this designation and the extra cost per designated student.
If all this extra effort and money being devoted to the special ed kids was apropriate it should have shown up in superior public education performance. But that didn’t happen.
The real losers here besides the taxpayers are the average and gifted students. They no longer get the programs that have had to be cut as a result of the high total cost of education.
The way things are going they may close the education gap betwen the high achievers and the low achievers by bringing the higher performers down, not by bringing the low performers up. Too bad.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
14 years ago

>>If all this extra effort and money being devoted to the special ed kids was apropriate it should have shown up in superior public education performance. But that didn’t happen.
Yeah, but it puts many more hacks on the payroll, and thus into the NEA dues stream. There’s a method to the special ed madness.
>>The way things are going they may close the education gap betwen the high achievers and the low achievers by bringing the higher performers down, not by bringing the low performers up. Too bad.
I had a conversation a couple of years ago with someone heavily involved with public education. I said that we should go back to tracking, wherein students of like ability and motivation are placed in classrooms together (note that qualified / improved students can be transferred up).
I mentioned that my junior high / high school experience straddled both, and from what I observed, the intended result was the opposite of what actually occurred, i.e., that the “good” students didn’t pull up the “poor” students, but that the “poor” students merely pulled everyone down.
That was back in the 1970’s.
This person was horrified. “But the disadvantaged students will be stigmatized! There would be inequality!” Blah. Blah. Blah.
This same mindset underlies today’s education establishment and the “mainstreaming” special education students.
In other words, typical “progressive” thinking – better that everyone be equal and impoverished in a “workers paradise” like the Soviet Union than be far better off (but “unequal”) in a capitalist / meritocracy / competitive and opportunity-enabling system.

frank
frank
14 years ago

Well said Ragin.
In RI’s education system this is just one more example that unless it benefits the teacher’s union, it doesn’t happen.

crowd surfer
14 years ago

I can understand your frustration with special education. But traditional tracking is not a reasonable solution. In the elementary grades, instruction should be tailored to the individual learners. A teacher standing in front of a room with a blackboard behind shouldn’t exist anymore. Instead, students should be working individually and meeting in small groups of like ability students within a single classroom. It will require more training of, and a greater time commitment from teachers, and a restructuring of a what a typical school day looks like. But it can happen, and is happening at many charter schools across the country.
As to secondary levels, there should be a core curriculum of which all students must demonstrate competency (like humanities courses at the college level). Beyond that we must offer various models of instruction within schools. The arts, sciences, humanities, business, etc. become schools within schools, where students can use their God given talents to explore, grow and learn. We must stop trying to educate all students the same way; it’s clear that the multiple intelligences of our students mean they all don’t learn the same way.
School must exist to education ALL students, and we should be judged not only by the students who get accepted to Harvard and Yale, but by all who succeed to the next level of their education…even those who go to Brown 🙂

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

I would rather have my tax dollars spent on educating a skilled and knowlegeable future plumber instead of a future Brown psychology major any day of the week.
The plumber will contribute more to society than the psych major.
Of course, we’d risk losing some of the cultural contributions provided by the psych major such as the Sex Power God party, but I think it’s a risk worth taking.

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