Monday, November 10, 2008


If you are the type person who loves to learn, can actually learn just about anything, but when it comes to output you fail, meaning demonstrating your knowledge, you may have some form of neurodevelopmental dysfunction. If you have this as an adult or you have a child who may have this, I strongly recommend you read, Mel Levines, A Mind at a Time. It will be like an awaking from a life long nightmare.

We are not going to solve the problems related to special education and mental illness impacting education in Brownsville until we address the underlying causes. A complete and total lack of education on the issue on the part of parents, educators, and administrators is the primary cause. Secondarily, I blame UTB/TSC for failing to adequately educate the teachers and future administrators on the issues. Thirdly, I blame BISD for not doing a better job using in service training to address these issues.

I started with a learning disability issue. The teachers are not doing their job in identifying the children in need. In the area of mental illness, middle school is a time when a lot of adolescents manifest symptoms of biologically based mental illnesses. Here is a good web link with information related to children.

One of the most treatable mental illnesses is schizophrenia. If the child is seen by a pediatric psychiatrist, not a family practice psychiatrist, the disease is very treatable. 2-3 out of every 1000 children will develop schizophrenia between the ages of 13 and 19.
If teachers were equipt with basic training they would be able to know when a child needs to be assessed. If the teachers know the kid is basically a good kid and then the child starts to act out for no apparent reason, then the presumption should be something is wrong. Maybe they were molested at home. Maybe they are being verbally abused by their mother or father’s new love interest. Maybe they are hearing voices. In schizophrenia the voice will subside if the child does as the voice is telling them to do. If the voice says, call the principal an XXXXXXXXXX - once the child does as she is told, the voice will go away. This is 100% controllable with medication. This is not so complex that teachers cannot separate normal behavior from aberrant behavior.

It is simply too complex of an issue to lay blame on one source for the failure of the education system in Brownsville. It seems to me at each level there is complete failure. The first level of course goes to the parents. It is up to the parents to bring to the attention of the school officials things they notice about their children. If a child spells tiger, trieg, we have a problem. And while I am concerned that a 13 year old boy cannot spell tiger, I am compelled to ask how did a child get to age 13 in BISD and no one noticed he has some form or variation of dyslexia? The parents should be the first to notice this, but unfortunately, far too many parents are ill equipt to identify learning disabilities or challenges being faced by their child.

A quick side note before I continue with special education. There are numbers and then there is reality. BISD can submit any numbers it wants to any state or federal agency, but those numbers will not change reality. The parents know their children are failing. Parents know their children are dropping out. Parents know that their children are reaching UTB/TSC and having to take remedial courses because they were not properly prepared at BISD. Parents know their children are failing the remedial courses and dropping out of UTB/TSC. In the end, reality checks the BS numbers being put out by BISD.

These numbers are going to get worse sooner than people think. Under new guidelines issued by the Secretary of Education the base drop out rate will be calculated by measuring the difference between the number of 9th graders going into high school and the number of 12th graders graduating. The Secretary of Education is not going to buy stupid excuses from BISD like, students are moving away. The Secretary is going to ask questions like, "okay, then why is the number only going down between 9th and 12th, and not in other groups like 6th and 8th?
Another stupid excuse is, well 10% or more are taking 5 years to complete high school. That’s cool. But here is where BISD’s lame excuse falls apart. In hypothetical numbers only - lets say 500 students who enter 9th grade need 5 years to complete high school. So if, 5,000 enter 9th grade then based on those who need extra time only 4,500 will complete high school in 4 years.

Those 500 are in 11th grade when then should be in 12th. This means you will have 500 more students entering 12th grade the following year who were not part of the original 9th grade class. These 500 should compensate for the new 500 who will be delayed in their graduation. My bigger point is BISD will not get away with their lame excuses when it comes to the Department of Education.

A good portion of the students dropping out are special education students. Part of the problem, which Sarah Palin pointed out, is the federal government is providing insufficient funding to cover special education. Also, and more importantly the State of Texas is failing these students. I’ve never understood if education is a state issue, (Texas Constitution mandates the state shall fund education) why is it the job of the federal government to provide funding.

I am providing a web link for anyone interested in general information related to special education. So part of the problem can be put on the federal and state governments for a lack of adequate funding.

Another part of the problem is the parents failing to bring the problems forward. I grow bored with BISD officials and Board Members who want parents to go to the internet to learn the rules. The children most in need have parents who have no idea what the internet is. They have no idea they can go to the library for help.

This is an area where the City of Brownsville is failing its residents. The Library System needs to launch an aggressive program to bring the parents into the system and teach them how to use the internet, how to obtain an e-mail, how to register with BISD to have their child’s daily attendance and progress reports e-mailed to them. BISD and the City of Brownsville library system should have a partnership on this issue.

The next institution I blame for the special education problems facing BISD is UTB/TSC. They get an "F" in the training of future teachers when it comes to identifying who needs and in referring children for special education services. For all practical purposes UTB is doing nothing along these lines. Once BISD knows its teaches are ill equipt to address these issues, it should have in service training on the issue of identifying children with special education needs. On this issue BISD gets an "F:" The Board Members have broad policy making authority. They can mandate such in service training. We shall see if the new Board is willing to do its job on this issue.

Another problem facing special education students in BISD is a BISD Administration unwilling to do its job. The principals are being asked to perform miracles with no resources. If once a principal is able to identify the problem and bring the teachers under control, they are still left with trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose.

Later in the week I will continue this discussion with more information and ideas where UTB/TSC, the City of Brownsville, BISD and Valley Baptist need to form a partnership to address these issues.


Anonymous said...

BISD graduates students illiterate in two languages and sends them to UTB where that diploma mill pushes those same BISD grads out the other end and back to BISD as teachers. Quality of education is never a factor at BISD or UTB. If students can't meet the standards to graduate with a teaching certificate...then alternative certification is an "end around" to allow less qualified persons into the classroom. BISD and UTB talk a great game...but since their finances depend on warm butts and pushing out graduates...that has priority over quality education.

BobbyWC said...

Unless something has changed in the last few years you are wrong about the alternative certification program. In both programs you have to pass the Composite Social Studies exam, for example, and the Professional Responsibilty Exam.

The difference is, someone with maybe a BS in Biology decides they want to teach. They go for the alternative certification wherein I think they take 12 course hours of education courses.

To be quite frank with you I would prefer my child be taught by someone with a BS in Biology, than someone with a general education certificate in science. The biology BS candidate has a lot more training.

Bobby WC

Anonymous said...

What actually was happening for many years and was still happening in the last five years is they major in Spanish or Law Enforcement then go the alternative route. They all chose one of the private ones where they pay for classes that are a joke. They have to pass one test the first year then the subject test. Many choose Sped as there were many vacancies in that area in the past. That professional test is not that difficult. The problem is that they know nothing about Special Education and nothing about teaching and have never had many advanced classes in academics. This makes for a bad situation for the student who need the most help.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Levine was in Brownsville when Brownsville Reads was in operation. I think he talked to the principals and the doctors. I heard him at a conference out of town and he is great. Of course BISD didn't pay for any of my expenses to go to the conference. Unfortunately most of the teachers in BISD only hear the same things over and over from each other. Listening to a lecture or a workshop does not qualify you to teach others.