Tag Archives: administration

Teachers Who Cheat & Why They Do It

Click here to download the podcast version of this article.

The whole country has been watching the shameful activities that have been going on in Atlanta, GA, for weeks now and my point in today’s posting isn’t to repeat what’s already been said ad nauseam about the Atlanta achievement score cheating scandal. My point today is to acknowledge the reality that people from all walks of life cheat and that public education is not exempt from this sordid side of human nature.

That’s not anything I haven’t said before, but I’m hoping that the enormity of what has been identified in Atlanta thanks to tenacious investigative journalism will help drive this point home for the people who have heard me over the years but didn’t really believe that things can get that bad, much less on such a huge scale. In a way, I feel kind of vindicated, though this is totally the kind of thing about which I wish I could be proven wrong. The world would be a much better place if I was just a hysterical nut-ball falsely accusing the sky of falling instead of the truth being what it really is.

And, the truth is that there are lots of teachers who cheat. Granted, I don’t think they make up the majority of teachers. Even in Atlanta Public Schools, which is a huge school district with thousands of employees, it was only about 250 educators who were implicated in the achievement score fraud, which dates back to at least 2001.

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When Schools Call the Police on Parents

Most parents should find the subject of today’s article shocking and I hope that this remains the case for a long, long time. The reason shocking topics are shocking is because they’re about things that don’t happen that often and stun us when they do.

However, it is not unheard of for schools to call the police on parents when special education disputes arise. When this happens, either the parent legitimately did something wrong for which police action is warranted or somebody at the school did something outrageous and got caught by the parent, resulting in power struggle in which calling the cops is a childish trump card played by a power-tripping school site administrator who has become hell-bent on coming out on top without concern for the damage that will otherwise be done.

I’m not going to dwell on the former possibility because it goes without saying that our children should safe at school and sometimes that means that calling the police on a parent who is being dangerous and disruptive is necessary. I’m going to focus on the latter possibility, instead, because this is an evil that has no business in any free society, much less America’s public schools.

I’ve been dealing with such a situation this week and am really disgusted over the whole thing. This topic also falls right into line with our on-going series on the negative influences that undermine the special education process, which we’re identifying so that all of us who are working so hard towards appropriate outcomes can do so collectively and collaboratively to right these wrongs and make special education actually work.

It has been my observation that single parents, low-income families, and ethnic minorities tend to be the ones most targeted by this unseemly form of retaliation. Heaven help the single, low-income, minority parent who gets faced with a triple-whammy of discrimination on top of the discrimination that is frequently inherent in being the parent of a child challenged by disability. The School to Prison Pipeline involves undermining parents’ advocacy efforts as much as anything else, and calling the cops on a parent from a marginalized population who is insisting on appropriate intervention for his/her child with special needs is exactly the kind of abuse of authority that contributes to the funneling of children from these families out of the classroom and into a prison cell.

Our founder, Nyanza, and I had our families together for a KPS4Parents social event several years ago and I remember that she had to admonish her own son for doing something pretty typical for a kid with ADHD (but that he still shouldn’t have been doing). I don’t even remember what it was exactly, just that it was relatively minor in the grand scheme of the cosmos but it had the potential to call serious negative attention to him if he didn’t knock it off. As much as Nyanza and I are like-minded and practically finish each other’s sentences, it’s the day-to-day life stuff that makes it clear just how racially defined modern American life still is and how different her family’s experiences are from my own.

What stands out in my memory is what she said to him after she looked him in the eye to gain his attention, pointed out what he was doing wrong, and told him what he should do instead. She told him that, statistically speaking, young black men between the ages of 12 and 25 are the most feared people in America and that, as unfair as this was, it was the truth. So, anything he did that was inappropriate for any reason would put him at risk of being treated unreasonably harshly because of this irrational fear. What was obviously an ADHD-related issue was not generally identified by society with his disability but, rather, with his race. That concept makes my mind spin even now.

Fast forward to this past week and I’m working with a single, African-American mother of a handsome little boy with ADHD. He’s a really sweet kid by all accounts, but he’s impulsive, wiggly, and easily provoked by his peers who have totally figured him out and set him up to get in trouble over and over. He’s also in an economically depressed, urban community in a school district that, by reputation, is mediocre on its best day. His elementary school principal has created her own little slummy fiefdom where she can throw around her Caucasian weight and intimidate the parents, most of whom are low-income minorities. You could fit what this principal knows and cares about special education compliance on the head of a pin.

I’m not going to assert the position that I am in any way qualified to speak to the black experience. I’m so white I glow in the dark and I was raised in the racially segregated South. I don’t abide by the really perverse ideas I was exposed to as a kid, but I haven’t lived what black families in America have lived, so I can’t speak with authority on the subject. However, if the amount of stand-up comedian material produced in the United States is any kind of barometer for what goes on in our society, that combined with my personal experiences through the friendships I’ve forged with the African-American women I know, black women have a tendency to speak their minds and God help you if they get mad.

This is a gross over-generalization of course. I know when somebody has crossed the line with Nyanza because she gets really, really serious, looks them dead in the eye, and says what she has to say extremely eloquently. But, I’ve also known a number of opinionated, strong African-American women who, if provoked, will come completely unglued. Amongst their friends and families, this way of reacting to injustice is perfectly acceptable. In elementary school offices, not so much.

Which brings me full circle back to the business of police being called on parents. In this week’s moment of drama (which was another first for me – after over 18 years of this you’d think I wouldn’t encounter anything new), I just happened to return this parent’s phone call as she was sitting in her car in the elementary school parking lot after “having words” with the principal over an improper disciplinary measure taken by school site staff regarding her son. She was just starting to tell me what was going on when she stopped and said, “The principal’s coming.”

The principal approached the parent in her car and began to say something to her, but stopped when the parent put me on speaker phone and identified me to her. I introduced myself, as awkward as the sudden introduction was, and the principal advised the parent that she needed to talk to her. The parent asked “About what?” The principal wouldn’t say anything at first, but upon the parent’s insistence, the principal finally said “Your behavior.” The principal said that if the parent didn’t leave, she was going to have the police escort her off the campus.  And, then the powder keg blew.

What was weird was that even though the principal told this parent that she needed to leave, the principal wanted to first talk to the parent at length about her alleged behavior before letting her actually leave the campus. I realized the principal was up to something.

The parent was very upset, insisting she hadn’t done anything wrong and it took a few moments for me to get her attention, but I did. I got her to take me off speaker phone and told her, “She said she wants you to leave. Leave! Leave now!” I guess my tone was compelling because she stopped insisting that she hadn’t done anything wrong and said, “My advocate is telling me to leave, so I’m leaving.”? Then she drove away. After leaving the school’s parking lot, as she was driving down the street, she saw in the distance in her rear view mirror a squad car pulling into the school parking lot. It took me a half-hour to calm her back down again.

I’m not going to say that this parent didn’t disrupt the school environment. I honestly don’t know.? I wasn’t there. I didn’t see or hear what happened prior to my call with the parent. It is entirely possible that her voice was raised high enough while in the building to cause concern. If that’s the case, then the only argument I have against the request for her to leave was that it came after she had already left the building and was sitting in her car preparing to drive away followed by a delay tactic that was clearly meant to keep her there long enough for the police to arrive and escort her off the campus she was already in the process of leaving.

It was plainly evident to me that the principal was deliberately provoking this parent into an outburst with the intent of having the police pull up in the middle of it.? Even if the principal’s only purpose was to make the record that the parent had to be escorted off school grounds by the police and not actually have her arrested, there are a thousand things wrong with this situation, starting with the fact that the basis for the entire incident is that this parent’s child is not receiving a FAPE and when the parent first approached school site staff for help to resolve the problem, they responded to her with disrespect and refused to help her.? Nyanza’s admonishment to her son about how young black males are perceived sprang to my mind when I first accepted this case because that’s exactly what is happening here.

School districts, or even just individual school sites, that are run by unethical people have a fairly predictable way of doing business. A parent raises a concern and the school site administration discounts it and condescends to the parent. The parent then goes on the internet and researches his/her rights, then goes back to the school and demands an appropriate response, which is not forthcoming. If the parent is unsophisticated, the exchanges are entirely verbal and the only record being kept is whatever is written up by school site staff and placed in the student’s file after each trip into the office by the parent. This cycle repeats for a while, with the parent getting more and more agitated each time around.

If the parent eventually gets outside help or files a complaint with a regulator, the school is suddenly at risk of having its dirty laundry aired to people who might actually have the authority to do something about it. The fiefdom is suddenly on the line. So, an active campaign to discredit the parent is waged and all hell breaks loose. This happens everywhere with parents from all walks of life. But, it is particularly harmful to low-income, minority, single parents whose word has to stand against that of someone in a suit with a Master’s Degree.

A few months ago, I added another tool to our toolbox here at KPS4Parents that may actually turn out to be useful after all. I wasn’t sure how we could exactly use it but it had potential so I went ahead and added it to our collection of resources. I have to be careful how I present it here because I don’t want what I say to be misconstrued as an unauthorized advertisement for something for which we are contractually obligated to seek prior approval to advertise. You can see our approved web content for this possible solution by clicking here.

A friend of mine turned me onto this legal planning solution a few months ago.? While my initial thought was to provide it to parents as an option for due process representation or even estate planning when special needs beneficiaries are involved, there was a whole bunch of other stuff that came with it that I really didn’t think was all that relevant to what KPS4Parents does.? Until the cops got called on my client the other day.

Had I not returned her phone call when I did, my client would have been unwittingly detained by the principal long enough for the police to become involved.? The record would have been made in a manner that misrepresented the situation to the detriment of my client’s case and personal well-being.

That night, I lay in bed thinking: “What about the other parents who will find themselves in similar circumstances but who don’t have an advocate who will just happen to call at the most opportune moment possible?? What would have happened to the sweet little boy I’m representing if his single mother had been taken into custody?? What’s going to happen to him now that he has to go to school at what is clearly now a hostile environment?”? (I’m working on that latter issue, actually.)

If parents who find themselves in situations like these had a 24-hour hotline to call for immediate attorney support when approached by the police, which is one of those things available through that relatively recent addition to our toolbox mentioned above that I never really thought as being relevant to our work until now, that would be a very powerful resource indeed.? So, I’m now rethinking the application of this new tool now that this new situation has developed.

The most useful advice I can give to parents, regardless of who they are and where they live, is to never, ever, under any circumstances, let school site staff goad you into an outburst.? If they try, recognize it for what it is and, if necessary, leave before things get worse.

If you are worried about your child’s welfare in such a hostile situation, and you think the threat is severe enough, remove your child from school and file a suspected child abuse report.? If you determine that your child is not at risk and you send him/her back to school, do not discuss what happened with your child in intimate detail.? You will make your child unnecessarily fearful, which will only make things worse for your child.

If things have gotten so far out of hand that the school has gotten the police involved, it’s time to seek legal representation.? Walking that landmine field alone is just a bad idea.

Click here to download the podcast version of this article.

Anti-Student Practices Involving Teachers’ Unions

I want to talk about a subject that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves due mostly to political reasons. Because I am not employed by any public agency, I can speak freely about this subject as a taxpaying registered voter as is my First Amendment right and the unions that represent teachers and other public education agency personnel have no legal authority to shut me up. I’m going to be candid on this subject because it is the source of an awful lot of problems that public education agency officials are prevented to a large extent from successfully addressing.

First, I want to make it clear that I am not taking a pro- or anti-union stance per se. I’m just telling you what I’ve seen and the problems I’ve witness arising from the current state of affairs. What we all collectively decide to do about it is something we need to discuss and figure out. As much as I’m sharing my observations, thoughts, and ideas here, by no means do I think I have all the answers. But, problems left undiscussed remain unresolved.

Unions are formed for a reason. People feel like they are being exploited or being taken advantage of by their employers and believe that collectively, they are more empowered to bargain for better working conditions, better pay and benefits, etc. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with people protecting themselves from exploitation and sometimes it takes the power of numbers before someone doing wrong gets the point. If this weren’t the case, KPS4Parents wouldn’t be trying to rally all of you together to effect positive change and achieve appropriate educational outcomes for children with special needs.

Within the public education system, there is a body of rich history that has led to teachers’ unions and unions representing other public school personnel, and it is rooted in the Industrial Revolution. In a nutshell, during the Industrial Revolution, large families moved from farms to the cities to work in the factories. At first, this included the children. The children had worked on the family farm and it didn’t occur to their parents who were seeking better lives for them all that any less effort would need to be put forth once they relocated to the cities. The idea that all of them could be earning wages seemed incredibly fortuitous.

However, everyone was quick to discover that six-year-olds really shouldn’t be handling heavy equipment. The factories were largely first-generation technologies, devoid of appropriate safety standards. Until people got maimed and killed by the equipment, the gravity of the situation hadn’t really sunk in and during an age where people had done most of the work in the absence of machines, the preservation of all human life was not nearly as valued by many people as it is today. In short, the most common, uneducated of us were considered fairly expendable by the elite. It was a very turbulent time.

Not being entirely backwards, however – it wasn’t exactly the Dark Ages – politically active child advocates expressed horror and outrage over the injuries and deaths experienced by children in the factories loudly enough to get child labor laws passed. Prior to this time, child labor laws were pretty much non-existent. Children were prohibited from working in the factories and all the child advocates sighed a huge sigh of relief. Forget the fact that there was no childcare available to their families and their parents still had to go work in the factories every day.

Shortly after the child labor laws were passed, juvenile delinquency in the inner cities rapidly increased. Unsupervised youth roamed the streets and did as they pleased in the absence of any oversight or guidance. Their parents had no idea what to do about it. Half the reason for taking their children to work with them had been to keep them occupied and out of trouble while the parents worked, as well as to teach them discipline and the value of hard work, just as had been done on the farms. One problem was solved by child labor laws, but now a new problem developed.

Looking to the prevalent business model of the day, which was designed around the assembly line process of mass production, child advocates developed a new solution: compulsory education. But, with that many children being compelled to attend school, there had to be a systematic way of organizing everything or the whole endeavor would have been a disaster, which is where looking towards the assembly line process comes in.

Children were organized into “grades” – an industrial term that previously had been used to refer to types or qualities of raw materials, such as Grade A lumber or Grade 1 crushed stone. In public education, the arbitrary application of a child’s age was used to categorize them into grades, regardless of previous educational experiences or lack thereof. They had to start somewhere. Children were passed from grade to grade based on the acquisition of knowledge and the arbitrary application of their age.

Teachers had to be hired en masse and there weren’t enough qualified candidates to fill all the positions needed to instruct that many children. Teacher quality and effectiveness was an issue from the very beginning. Plus, mandatory schooling was just as much about getting juvenile delinquents off the streets as anything else, so behavior modification was an expected outcome as well.

Being modeled after the manufacturing process, public education developed a quality control measure of issuing grades for academic accomplishment. As was expected in mass production, there was the expectation that a certain percentage of the “products” of public education would fail QC. There would be rejects. This where the whole “teaching down the middle” thing first began. That’s a whole conversation in and of itself, and I’m not going to belabor that point here.

The point is that as the public education system got off the ground, there was little to no understanding of children as individual learners. Everyone was treated like identical products on an assembly line for all practical purposes and when outcomes were not to the administrator’s expectations, the criticism often fell on the teachers, many of whom were inadequately trained. This is when many more women entered the field of education, as well, leaving dangerous and dirty factory jobs for the relative safety of the classroom.

Caring for children had been considered “women’s work” for centuries. They gravitated towards school teacher positions as men gravitated towards the factory jobs. In many instances, the teaching positions paid less than the factory jobs, but the women were not getting their long skirts caught in gears or having their long hair fall into weaving machines by accident in the public schools.

At the time, women were less assertive of their rights and, quite honestly, they really didn’t have that many. They were easily exploited by almost entirely male administrators and school boards. They were being blamed for poor student outcomes when the truth of the matter was that the system was flawed all the way around, as “modern” as it was at the time. It wasn’t all their fault. Not enough research had been conducted regarding behavior, learning and memory, and childhood development to better inform the process. Even if more teachers had been trained, the training was grossly inadequate in many regards.

Following the lead of their factory worker counterparts, public school teachers unionized to combat the mistreatment they were experiencing at the hands of school boards and public agency administrators who knew even less about child development and learning than they did. At the time, it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. But, because the system was flawed from the get-go, it naturally spun out of control and over the span of 100 years, it has become what it is today – a broken, ineffective system with poor quality control measures and people employed within the system who seek to avoid any kind of accountability.

The unions originally formed to protect the earliest teachers from exploitation and abuse have become behemoth organizations that exist for their own political and financial benefit, using school district personnel as pawns to strong-arm the government-operated public schools into ridiculous concessions. Even when the unions themselves are not advocating for outcomes that are detrimental to children, teachers and other school personnel who volunteer as union representatives have been known to grossly abuse their positions within their unions to exact revenge against co-workers for petty grievances, harass students and parents with zero accountability, and undermine the special education process, which brings us full circle back to the point of today’s posting and podcast.

I’m not going to assert that all unionized public education employees engage in bad faith behavior. That would be an entirely untrue assertion. I know teachers who greatly resent being forced to join the union if they want to teach, only to see money deducted from their paychecks for union dues they have absolutely no desire to pay and lobbying efforts and political stances being publicly taken by their unions with which they wholeheartedly disagree.

I’ve also directly dealt with teachers who refused to make regular education accommodations for students struggling in their classrooms because their unions told them they didn’t have to provided any accommodations unless compelled to by a legally binding document such as an IEP or 504 plan. Where special education is only supposed to be provided after regular education accommodations have failed, this becomes a problem. I’ve dealt with teachers who refused to implement special education accommodations and attempted to involve their unions when both the parents and the district’s administration came down on them, only capitulating (and with a huge chip on their shoulder even then) once a compliance complaint had been filed against the district in response to their non-compliance.

On more than one occasion, I’ve filed complaints and requested due process just to give school district administrators legal leverage over unionized employees who had dug in their heels and refused to conduct themselves in a compliant manner to the educational detriment of special needs children. The compliance complaints and due process filings trump the union grievances. As a taxpayer, this should make you sick to your stomach. In an effort to comply with the law and properly educate children with special needs, administrators encourage litigation by parents against their public agencies so that they can make their unionized staff perform their legally mandated duties.

Children with special needs have no friends in partisan politics. Conservatives generally don’t think it’s the place of any public agency to assume the responsibility of educating children with handicapping conditions, particularly given the cost per child to do so. Either they don’t consider the far greater costs that arise later on down the road when these children become adults with disabilities who can’t support themselves or they realize the consequences but don’t think the government should be responsible for the problems caused to society by millions of adults with disabilities and no resources, either.

Liberals are too busy protecting the unionized employees to pay too much attention to the consequences of entitling people with paychecks without expecting them to perform in return. While this is gross over-generalization, you get the point. Both sides are right and both sides are wrong on a multitude of considerations. It’s not a black-and-white issue. It’s very messy and gray.

The point is that we, as a society, have determined the need for public education and we, as a society, have insisted that children with special needs receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education. The system as it stands is failing to deliver and to an unhealthy extent, there is tremendous opposition to trying to fix it coming from unionized personnel. There is an utter abandonment of the regulatory requirements going on every minute of every school day due to a combination of ignorance, incompetence, apathy, egocentrism, power-mongering, and out-and-out malice.

These undesirable human qualities crop up amongst all the stakeholders, which includes parents, school district personnel, union representatives, compliance officials, the judicial system, legislators, taxpayers, and voters. No one group is entirely to blame. So, while we as a society have determined it necessary to educate children, including those with special needs, we as a society have failed to a large extent in meeting the needs we’ve determined we need to meet. And, one of the most central components in all of this is the role played by unions and union members in public education.

While every group needs to get a grip and start working collaboratively with all the others to improve student outcomes, the focus of today’s posting and podcast is the pitting of student needs against the rights of unionized employees. I am asking you to think long and hard about this because until this critical piece is successfully addressed, all the other pieces are compromised. So long as unions continue to perceive their function as elevating their members desires above the obligations of the public agencies that employee them, the public agencies are grossly impaired in their ability to effectively serve the public, which is the whole reason these agencies exist in the first place.

Click here to download the podcast version of this blog article.

Podcast: Emotions Part 3 – Administrators

On November 15, 2008, we originally published  Emotions Part 3   Administrators  as the third in a series of text-only blog articles. As we begin to move into the new school year, KPS4Parents will be recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click Here to download the podcast,  Emotions Part 3   Administrators.