I have a few questions for Barb and the other members of MPIE. I hope one or more of them will take the time to answer.
As I look over the course catalogs for the four high schools, I see that each school has both a Special Education Department and an English as a Second Language Department (although they may not be called exactly that at each school). Each of these departments in each of the four high schools offers an extensive range of courses for students who qualify and need the specialized educational experiences offered within these departments. Many of the courses offered by these departments fulfill graduation requirements and so can be used as curriculum replacement for the “regular” courses.
Here are my questions:
- Does MPIE advocate having the District dismantle the Special Education and English as a Second Language Departments in our high schools? (I assume the answer is “no.”)
- Does MPIE advocate having the District deny high school graduation credit for any and all courses offered within these departments, so that truly ALL students will be required to take 9th (and — at West — 10th) grade core courses at our high schools? (Again, I assume the answer is “no.”)
- If MPIE advocates full inclusion, why aren’t the answers to the above two questions “yes — absolutely, yes”?
- Does MPIE advocate getting rid of all advanced, honors, accelerated, TAG and Advanced Placement classes at our four high schools? In 9th grade? In 10th grade? In all four grades? What is your vision with regard to advanced and accelerated classes?
- Please help me understand the logic that says it’s O.K. to have entire departments within each high school devoted to the specialized educational needs of some groups of students (not to mention adjustments to high school graduation requirements designed to meet those students’ needs), but it is not O.K. to have even a few sections of classes aimed at meeting the specialized educational needs of other students? (IMHO, this way of thinking is really best described as a belief in “selective inclusion.”)
- Can you see the inherent illogic, inequity and unfairness of that position?
- How do you decide which groups of students with specialized educational needs get to have their educational needs met and which groups of students do not?
- It seems to me that a big part of the answer to that question should come from the research done from the perspective of the group of students under consideration. Do you agree or disagree with that premise?
- Are you aware of the consistency (of findings, of conclusions, of recommendations) within the literature on how best to meet the needs of high performing students (a.k.a. “best practices”)?
- Why does MPIE prefer the policy of getting rid of advanced high school classes over the policy of working with all K-8 students (and their families) in such a way as to increase the diversity of the students in those classes?
- What do some middle and upper middle class parents of children with special education needs find so threatening about the thought of having their schools meet the educational needs of high ability, high performing, even academically talented students with the same thoughtfulness and commitment that they meet the needs of students with other special educational needs?
- Are you aware that MMSD and national data indicate that approximately 20-25% of high school dropouts are academically gifted and have a demonstrated history of high academic performance? (In our District, that number is significantly higher at West HS than at the other three high schools and a disproportionate number of the “high performing” dropouts throughout the District are poor and minority students.) How do you understand those data and what do you think should be done about the situation?
- Have you read this American Psychologist article on “the two tails of the normal curve,” co-authored by nationally recognized experts on the educational needs of students in each of the two “tails”? http://psych.wisc.edu/henriques/papers/two_tails.pdf If so, what do you think of it?
Would any of you would be willing to meet over coffee to talk about how we can work together on these issues and to see if we can find common ground?