The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Why are students failing if schools are required to provide a free and appropriate education?

I continue to struggle with the concept of allowing students to FAIL, especially students with disabilities. What I mean by fail is - failing to be taught, the student failing to learn, failing grades, failing to protect a student's self-esteem,  failing appropriate educational strategies/curriculum...  Parents should not have to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for outside tutoring (this is very true - I have proof if people don't believe this).

I do NOT understand how people who work with students do not know what a 'free and appropriate education' means.  I was in a meeting recently trying to explain what it is like to live in the learning disabled student's shoes (and parent's shoes) to educators.  They became very defensive claiming that they fully understand and took offense to my comments because this is what they do for a living.  

Well, I take offense to educators blaming and shaming students (all students). When an educator puts in writing that a student with learning disabilities is "unmotivated" and "unwilling" that is proof these educators lack empathy and have no idea how hard it is for a student with disabilities to learn in a classroom setting where their disabilities are ignored.   Yes, it can be frustrating for a teacher to have to explain the directions to a student 20 times, but if that is what is needed for the student to understand, then that is what they need to do. 

A 'free and appropriate education' (FAPE) means that every student should be taught. Allowing a student to fail is not teaching them.  I have seen high schoolers who read at elementary school levels.  This is evidence that the school did not provide the student FAPE, especially if they did not qualify the student as a student with a disability.  I have evaluated a number of high school and college aged students who had very low reading skills that have never even been evaluated for a disability.  How could teachers, year after year, fail to teach these students to read?  Why were they passing a student who could not read (or write in some cases).   Not one teacher or other educator noticed this child was struggling with academic skills?  If the student received any kind of support from the school then that is enough evidence to think there might be a disability and therefore the school is legally required by law to evaluate that student to determine if the student does have a disability (Child Find Law).  Some students are not evaluated because educators blame the student or parents for the child not learning.  

If the student is evaluated many times they are not found eligible for special education services that will allow them to receive specialized services to help them learn.  Again, the student and/or parents may be to blame. Also, students don't qualify because schools do not fully acknowledge hidden disabilities and some outright ignore hidden disabilities.  The district now has proof that the student doesn't need specialized educational support and therefore it is the student's fault.  Parents are then left to pay for outside tutoring and educational support while the student is left feeling helpless and stupid.  School districts are then creating a bigger problem - student Learned Helplessness (this post is very important to understand). 

If school districts really did care about making sure all students were educated then they would not allow teachers to fail students.  Administrators would tell teachers that they MUST make sure the student is learning the curriculum - this means all students not just the ones that are easy to teach.  This means the students that are difficult to teach.  The ones who have difficulty staying focused in class, the ones who cannot read at grade level, the ones who cannot spell or write, the ones who have anxiety and therefore do not willingly participate.  

Students do not have the brain maturity to make adult decisions so adults need to help guide them- no matter how long it takes.  Students do NOT want to fail but some students would rather others think they are 'lazy' and that is the reason they are failing because it is too painful to fail after putting in effort (these students have spent years putting in effort & getting poor results). 

Students are not "unwilling" they are actually unable.  Students are not "unmotivated" they lack the skills necessary to do the work so they are lost.  I just heard a parent say to me that even if his child was offered a million dollars to do the work the child still wouldn't be able to do the work - it's just too hard.    

Don't believe me?  Orlando bloom, who is dyslexic once shared that his mother used to try to bribe him to read.  He wanted a motor bike really bad and she told him if he would read 50 books she would get him that motor bike.  He never got that motor bike.  

So, the bottom line is - if educators really had empathy on what it is like for the student who has a disability they would NEVER allow them to be excluded from learning.  Educators are excluding them by not providing them with an appropriate education & accommodations.  

This picture is an example of what is not appropriate and I know most educators would NEVER do this but they do it every day when they allow a student to leave their classroom without fully understanding the material they are expected to learn (such as knowing how to read).  They do it when they blame the student for not being prepared, for not studying, for not passing a test... Would you blame this boy for not being able to stand with his peers on the bleachers?  Is HE being "unwilling" or "unmotivated" to join the group?   

Here's a picture that really resonated with people with disabilities- they said this is exactly what it is like.  Here's the blog post to go with the picture:  Why We Should Help Students With Learning Disabilities .  If teachers had empathy then no student would ever drown!   This is unacceptable!