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Hope is not an action word

By DNW Contributors / 2022-02-01
Posted in
I am attending a mini-writing retreat today and tomorrow and just wrote this from a prompt.
Thinking about Rosemerry Watola Trommer’s poem, “Hope.”
I hate the word hope. I always have.
This could be a reflection of my lifelong battle with clinical depression or my adult life as the mother of a now 33 year old son with special needs and his daily roadblocks to “hope.”

Contributed by Marcie Lipsitt

This could be my decades of advocacy and activism fighting for children, teens and young adults with disabilities, public education and civil rights.
What I do know is that “hope” is not an effective action word that creates urgency and commitment to the changes I have tirelessly worked and fought for. Hope is a weak, wishy-washy verb that can’t make up its mind.
I have never seen hope lead to meaningful action. I could hope everyday for public education to provide a globally enviable education to ALL and Every child. I could hope for Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act to be implemented and enforced. I could hope voters across Red and Blue states would vote for civil rights, children and the institution of public education. I could hope parents would organize in their communities, states and at the federal level for students with disabilities to have measurable expectations of growth that would lead to them reaching their potentials. I could hope as a nation we would hold the institution of public education in the highest regard and put it at the very top of our domestic agenda.
I did more than hope in 2008 when I filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over Michigan’s alleged violations to the “highly qualified teacher” provision in both the No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A complaint that took nine months to investigate and led to Michigan having to change the teacher certification requirements for all secondary special education teachers.
Yes, so much more than hope. I researched the teacher requirements for secondary special education in all 50 states having stumbled upon the Michigan Department of Ed’s and being outraged that a secondary special ed teacher in my state only had to pass the MTTC Elementary Teacher Exam! Seriously? So pushing aside the “hope” that I could sprinkle magic fairy dust to create truly highly qualified teachers, I researched the requirements in all 50 states. Only Michigan had removed the requirement for our secondary special education teachers to also be endorsed in subject matter content and they pulled this stunt without requesting a formal waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.  It has always angered me that teachers and school administrators assume students with learning disabilities cannot learn and master the content standards in Algebra 1. Then when I uncovered Michigan’s dirty little secret, I started shouting from my roof-top, “how can our 9th graders with learning disabilities master the content and pass Algebra 1 when their special education teachers staffing resource rooms and co-taught classes can’t?”
“Hope” as a verb or a noun did not push me to research 50 states, or to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Ed. Only my outrage and anger at the poor outcomes of Michigan students with IEPs and especially those with learning disabilities that were losing their educations and legal right to be prepared for Post-Secondary, an eventual vocation and life of independence fueled my actions and commitment.
Fast-forwarding to December 10, 2015, yes I lost hope for the dream of Michigan and America having a globally enviable teaching force. This died with President Obama’s signature on the reauthorization of the Elementary-Secondary Education Act, now regurgitated as the Every Student (won’t) Succeed Act as just saying “No Child Left Behind” resulted in name-calling and anger from misguided parents, teachers and education advocates and activists.
“Hope” in any definition of the word just made me angry during the four hellish years of Trump and DeVos.  From January 1, 2017 to January 20, 2021, I fought my way through 1440 days of maintaining my intractable commitment to America’s children, public education and civil rights. Did I on any of these 1440 days “hope” for better public schools or an overhaul to archaic, ineffective teacher preparation programs or implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act? No I did not because “hope” in any sense of the word lacks action and forward motion. I hear weekly from some kind or considerate person, “You need to slow down because you are going to burn out.” My response has never wavered. I respond and say, “I have not burned out over my lifetime. I don’t burnout because my passion for children, public education and civil rights is not built on anything other than my tortured mission that children deserve everything we can give them to become happy and successful adults and as independent as their brains and bodies allow.
People can hope all they want. What does it really get them? So going back to Rosemary Wahtola Trommer’s poem, yes hope has holes that can be crater-sized and filled with hot-air and inaction. Hope can lead people to say, “this is too big for me and I will leave it for others to do.” Hope can lead to Don Quixote-idealism and “tilting at windmills.” I do believe we put one foot in front of the other from the moment we get out of bed until we get back into bed after another day of fighting for whom and what we believe in and in my case knowing I won’t live to see an institution of public education worthy of America’s K-12 students and seven million with IEPs; and a Federal Office of Civil Rights with the dollars and leadership needed to enforce civil rights. Still, I will forge on and ahead in the spirit of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s breathtaking musical Hamilton, “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”  A depressing way to spend my days as an advocate and activist? Yes it is. Is there any other choice? Not for me there isn’t.


By Steve / 2021-04-27
Posted in ,

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is under imminent threat as the US responds to the COVID epidemic

A provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed that requires the U.S. Department of Education to issue recommendations 30 days from March 27 to Congress on what wavier authority the Department should be granted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Voc Rehab).
This means that some of the protections mandated by these laws could be waived during this time when our children are some of the most vulnerable.
The provision in the CARES Act does not provide any immediate waiver authority to the Department, and Congress would have to act to provide any such waiver authority. However, we are concerned about what waiver authority the Department may recommend and need your help to begin to educate Members of Congress about why waiving requirements under IDEA or the Rehabilitation Act will be harmful to children and individuals with disabilities.

Policy Recommendations (from The Century Foundation)

Accessible Technology

Schools and districts should prioritize platforms, content, and curriculum that embed universal-design for learning (UDL) features. UDL is a framework to embed multiple means of engagement, recognition, and instruction into curriculum broadly, and technology provides an opportunity where this can be accomplished more universally. For instance, ensuring online content and platforms embed features, including screen-readers, to help support students with disabilities such as dyslexia and visual impairments. Having this feature in advance reduces the need for educators to adapt content later.

During the selection process, school leaders should test platforms and curriculum for accessibility and UDL before making decisions. For instance, assistive technology specialists can help identify possible barriers. School leaders identifying which content and curriculum to use can utilize the National Center on Accessible Educational materials’ POUR principles when evaluating new materials: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, Edutopia, and the National Center on Systemic Improvement have compiled lists of accessible digital learning platforms, apps, and other resources for accessible digital learning that are available for educators. If platforms, content, and curriculum are not sufficiently accessible, school leaders should not select those tools.

Provisional IEPs with Comparable Services

States and districts could consider proactively creating guidelines for virtual IEP meetings and the possible implementation of provisional IEPs. Using the model of transfer students applied in other emergency situations, the U.S. Department of Education could issue guidance permitting states to interpret students as transfer students as they transition to distance learning. Educators along with parents could consider identifying services comparable to those in a student’s existing IEP to be offered in the virtual/telecommunication format to ensure the student can access and make progress in any distance learning program. Provisional IEPs allow for short-term implementation of required services within the new distance learning context. Educators and parents should also consider if any additional supplementary aids and services, parental communication, and assistive technology will better support the student during school closures. Any such provisional IEPs should stay in place only until schools reopen, at which time the original IEP should be reinstated and compensatory services should still be considered.

Extended-Year Services

Even with the best intentions of teachers and school leaders across the country, this temporary adjustment to distance learning will likely result in lapses in services for students with disabilities. Districts and states need to be ready to remedy this by implementing extended school-year services (ESY) in addition to considering compensatory services. It is imperative to proactively plan for lost time by creating systems to allow more students access to ESY. In the development of provisional IEPs, parents and educators should consider whether extended-year services will be beneficial to ensure comparable services to the current IEP. States and districts can work together to advocate for funding from the stimulus package to be used to expand access to ESY and compensatory services.


Given the timeline restrictions for evaluations, policymakers should be proactive in relaying additional guidance to districts, educators, and parents. To ensure students are sufficiently supported, schools should be expected to complete as much of the evaluation that can be completed in a distance format adapting to virtual or tele-evaluation procedures, when possible. Acknowledging that this may not be feasible in all circumstances, the U.S. Department of Education should align flexibility to the guidance for highly mobile students—districts should be permitted to extend the sixty-day timeline if they continue to make sufficient progress toward the evaluation and agree on an extended timeline with the parents. If evaluations are unable to be completed during the duration of school closures, districts should complete the evaluation process on an expedited timeline when schools reopen (for example, thirty days). This gives schools the flexibility needed to complete the evaluations in a timely and meaningful manner without requiring blanket waiver provisions on evaluation policies.Resources


COPAA Statement on Student Rights Under IDEA During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities (US Department of Education – 21 March 2020


COVID-19 School Closures and Services to Students with Disabilities (California Department of Education – April 2020)
COVID-19 Educator Resources (National Center for Learning Disabilities) – COVID-19 has catapulted us all into a new reality: Workplaces are closed, social distancing is the “new normal,” and kitchen tables have replaced classrooms. The sudden shift from in-person to online learning has not been easy for all parents and kids. And for those who are entitled to (and depend upon) specialized instructional services and supports to deal with disabilities, the transition is even more complicated.