Thursday, September 28, 2006

FAPE 'em

Recently I noticed a colleague heard FAPE used as a verb. Free appropriate public education (FAPE) is mandated in IDEA for students with disabilities. This was the first time that it was made explicit in federal law that students with disabilities had to be educated at public expense in an appropriate manner. And remember, IDEA was passed in 1990 so...rather recently. As noted elsewhere, the word "appropriate" is rather, well, inappropriate because it's so open to interpretation. However, what might be even more inappropriate is the use of FAPE I have recently heard at meetings of the special ed teachers in my district. The usage went like this:

"So what happens when a student attending private school does not come to the nearest public school for his special education services [as mandated in our state guidelines]?" asked one special ed teacher.

Replied the special education program manager, "You FAPE 'em. Send the FAPE letter [a district-wide standardized letter] indicating that we stand ready to provide FAPE whenever he might begin to show up for his services."

And that made me think that's what we're doing to our students all the time - FAPEing them. Modified your curriculum! You've been FAPEd. Provided alternate setting for your test! Consider yourself FAPEerized! FAPE up to the facts!

Note on 10/6/06: Earlier this week at a district training of all SPED teachers and related service providers the phrase "Fape 'em" was used repeatedly by folks at all levels. So clearly this is part of the lingo that as a newbie I'm just not familiar with.

Most Convenient Environment

A major section of IDEA is the Least Restrictive Environment clause (LRE). LRE is defined as the educational setting where a child with disabilities can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) designed to meet his or her education needs while being educated with peers without disabilities in the regular educational environment to the maximum extent appropriate. This means that we can't have self-contained classes of students with disabilities unless less restrictive settings are inappropriate. You can seee that you've got that mushy word "appropriate" in there which can, and does, cause all sorts of problems. It seems to me that "least restrictive" is often reinterpreted to mean "most convenient" and not for the student but for the teachers. It's inconvenient to have a student in your class that learns differently and/or acts differently from most other students because that means you might have to change your teaching. It's that or move the student to a different class. Which one happens most often, I wonder?

So, in my district, it's no wonder that there is a good deal of resistance to the push to include students with disability in mainstream classes by ending self-contained classes that took students away from their home schools and relegated them to spending the whole day with one teacher and a bunch of other "high needs" students - a recipe for disaster if there ever was one. That and the district office keeps reminding everyone that we have to do this because it's part of No Child Left Behind that is being enacted this year and the district got in trouble last year from the state department of ed. for having too many students in self-contained classes. Notice that no one mentions that inclusion is more ethical, leads to better educations for all and the LRE for the vast majority of students.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Special Paperwork

So I had to change a kid's transportation from the mini-bus to the regular bus today because his very upset mother called me at school today to request this. He was riding the mini-bus to another school last year because it wasn't his districted school so the regular bus didn't go there. This year he goes to his districted school, with his brother, so the regular bus works for him. The busses all arrive and leave at the same time from the same spot at the school. So theoretically he would just follow his brother to his new bus without an issue. Easy enough, right?
Below is what I had to do to officially change his transportation placement:
- speak to the vice principal that manages this kid's team to find out how to make this happen
- speak to my special ed mentor in order to figure out the official process for doing this
- fill-out a special ed action prior notice form, send the one to the district office, one to his parents and add one to his permanent file
- fill out a request for transportation form, send one to the district office and add the other to his permanent file
- rewrite the first page of his IEP to reflect this change and send one copy of this home and add another copy to his permanent file
- call the district office twice to get advice on how to do this properly.

This was, literally, hours of work. I didn't see a single student in their general education classes today. Not a good day for "servicing" students.

How to Flirt in Portland?

I must preface this by saying that as a married man I don't, as rule, flirt.

In NYC, the slightest interest you showed in another person would properly be construed as either A) flirting or B) confirmation that you're not from these here parts. For example, if you go to a coffee shop, a typical, non-flirtacious interaction would be as follows:

You (standing in front of the counter waiting to be served: ....
Barista (standing behind the counter, looking bored and not showing any real interest in you): ...
You (giving a clear motion with your head that your attention has now been turned from the menu to the barista): ...
Barista (spoken with a carefree inflection): Hey.
You: Hi. Could I get a large soy latte?
Barista (nodding slightly and walking to espresso machine): Yup.

This, mind you, is an example of a rather friendly barista.
The following is an example of an extremely flirtacious and almost aggressive barista:

You (standing in front of the counter waiting to be served): ....
Barista (seeing you she/he shows a hint of a smile): How's it going?
You: Not bad.
Barista: Alright.
You: Could I get a large soy latte?
Barista (nods slightly and walks to espresso machine): Yup.

In the above situation, the barista has made it clear that she/he is in to you. However, I have found that in Portland it is common for a barista to ask you all sorts of questions about yourself with real interest and...a full-on smile! At first I thought I was being flirted with ceaselessly. But then I figured out that it's the near excessive niceness of the people in Portland that causes baristas, and everyone else here, to act this way. Which is fine. Until you start wondering about how actually to flirt with someone. It was so easy in NYC. You could just ask how someone was doing with interest and you'd have made it obvious what you were thinking. Here, that's common practice with everyone you meet any where. I began to think you had to ask really probing questions or be super forward in order to make your intentions clear. However, my new theory is that you have to show some disinterest. If you act cool and distant you may seem intriguing to someone who has learned to be open and kind at all times. I hope someone can try it out and get back to me on how it works.