Teacher Professor

January 27, 2012

Change in Education- Why, What, How

Filed under: Schools — Teacher Professor @ 7:30 pm
Tags: , ,

Notes from a First District RESA session with the GA State Superintendent- Guest Speaker

Willard Daggett– January 27, 2012

CEO of International Center for Leadership in Education

We need to be looking at countries with growth- not those who are already on top.  During the past 5  years, even in a global recession, there are countries with double digit growth:

  • Vietnam
  • Indonesia
  • Brazil

We are used to a Euro-centric model of education- and the Asian model is eating us alive.

Problems with cultural differences- they do not accept special education and they do not allow all children to live.  His daughter, born with epilepsy and developmental differences would have, by state policy, received no medication until age 3.  Survival of the fittest.  Not a perfect comparison- we see potential in the underdog- but we also have to focus on developing all of us.

Change is hard in American schools:

  • Just try to change the bell schedule of a high school
  • Just try to change the room where a teacher teaches.

We are this close to losing public education and everyone else thinks they know how to fix it except those in public education.

Myth:  It is a myth that schools are failing. More kids graduating  %, scores are up.  Even with:

  • Standards: Georgia has never seen a standard it didn’t like.
  • More tests
  • More diversity.  Long term is a strength.  Short term is a challenge.

But: World changing faster than schools.

Schools are improving but we’re worse off than ever because of the increasing skill gap.

Action:  With funding from Gates Foundation, they found the 25 schools which had improved the fastest.

  • Did not say highest performing.
  • Those that were the fastest improving- who moved from the bottom 5% to the top 10%.
  • None did it the same way. But there were certain trends.
    Stage 1- Why- got a sense of purpose
    Stage 2- What- set a goal
    Stage 3- How- Decided how to do it

No one believes they are the problem. Until you feel you are part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.

Change is hard.  If you go too fast, you feel like a cat among dogs. (Picture shown)

World is changing


  • Semantic web:  Analyze documents through keywords – Google– old technology
  • Meaning concepts- Wolfram Alpha
    -verbally and visually connecting information

    • Implications:
      Term papers

Goal for growing up: using resources and working with others.
Why don’t we let kids use smart phones: look up answers and text each other?  We call it cheating.

Technology is changing:

  • Projection keyboard and projector. No more keyboards or monitors.
  • Technology going into watches and jewelry. In 2-3 years, computers going into clothes and buttons. Solution? Naked tests!
    Coming soon – medical molecular devices.  Examine colon polyps, kill cancer cells- Personalized medicineIs this chemistry?  Biology?  Physics?  Where do we teach this content-connnected information?

Financial word is changing

  • US is borrowing 41 cents for every dollar we spend.
  • Everyone agrees until we have to make changes.  Stalemate in politics

Same with schools: Everyone agrees we need to fix schools until a change impacts some grownup.


  • Example: Shenzhen. Fishing village 1980. Olympics 2016
  • The US has 9 cities with a million people. Europe 36.
  • China has 160 cities with over a million people.
  • Even more: there are 168 million preschoolers in India- they would be the 4th largest country in the world.
  • Both India and China have moved to a 270 day school year.
  • China graduates 86% of its 18-year olds. The ones that live, true- but still 86% is an impressive number.
  • US- 5% of population 24% of consumption. We are a nation of shoppers. They own us.

Gridlock in political arena. We seem unable to be able to make the changes that are needed.
We have the same problem in schools. We can’t figure out how to heal ourselves. If we don’t, we will lose public education.  

WHY do we need to change?
Until you create a real level of anxiety, people won’t accept any form of solution.

Research is crystal clear- teaching reading in the content areas improves scores in the content.  Teaching how to read math problems raises scores in math.
Study- 75 high schools lexile levels. The higher the score, the higher the reading level. Average levels: (My visual guess from chart detailing the highest point of the middle 50%- #s are approximate)

  • Junior/senior level English Language Arts classrooms- 900.
  • College literature courses – 1100.
  • High school content (math)- 1150.
  • Career and Tech Ed has the highest reading requirement. Have to be able to read- and write!- those manuals.
  • College textbooks- 1350.
  • Military- 1250.
  • Personal use (taxes, forms, etc.)- 1350.
  • Entry level workers- 1360.
  • SAT, ACT-  1200.

Academic skills for entry level jobs have surpassed college readiness skills.

We have been looking in the rear view mirror at where we’ve been and planning where to go.   We can’t do this anymore!


State comparisons- Standards and Reading
Massachusetts is the only state looking at job required skills.
Georgia is the lowest state for proficiency on NAEP data.  Used to be Mississippi in 2005, but by 2009, Georgia is the lowest. (My note here: I can’t find this data- GA looks like we’re in the middle of the pack according to the NAEP site)
State has to dump standards for depth. Everyone will like it until you mess up someone’s laminated lesson plan.

Have to raise standards- fewer and different.
Kids have to function to application to real world unpredictable situations. Test at knowledge within a content area.

Takes time to get there.

Rigor and Relevance Framework
Rigor= Blooms taxonomy.  From Awareness to Evaluation

  • A= low level knowledge, low level application. High school
  • B= low level knowledge , high application- career tech
  • C= High knowledge, college prep
  • D= real world, good paying jobs. In an effort to get to D we drove them to A.

*Relevance makes rigor possible*
Ex. Teaching degrees of a circle through football. School in NC involved the coach in teaching degrees of a circle to 2nd graders. Playing football with degrees.
Ex. Adopted child with EBD. We are taking kids out of what they like and doubling them up in what they’re already failing at for the convenience of adults.  We MUST integrate music and art. Must teach rigor and relevance through integration. It is critical to teaching to a child to find out what the kid likes.

Where are the jobs?

  • Routine jobs are giving ways to non-routine jobs.
  • Routine jobs
    • Rules driven
    • Require Problem solving
    • Use Algorithms- If… then.
    • Can be digitized and outsourced.
    • Non routine jobs. Ex. Building principals- like pulling a slot machine.
      • Results driven.
      • Require Decision making.
      • Require More innovation creativity.
      • Cannot be outsourced.

Quad A are preparing them for routine jobs.
Quad D prepares kids for non-routine jobs.

We have the highest unemployment in history but the highest number of unfilled jobs.

We have to teach decision making, not knowledge and problemsolving.


  • Develop a Culture of high expectations
  • Relevance of instruction
  • Integration of multiple disciplines.
    • Ex: One school got rid of their chairs of departments- gatekeepers of the past.
    • Strong relationships.
      • Ex. Looping classrooms.
      • System wide focus on literacy
      • Focused and sustained PD

Recommendations- Next navigator. Next steps. Road map… his programs

  • Use the data from National Essential Skills Study  Focus only on those skills that are relevant.
    • Ex. Skill: Give clear directions. Rank #2 for business. Rank #28 for ELA teachers.
    • We must use the data to drop 40% of state standards.  Focus on Common Core

End of session- lots of quiet chatter, lots of concerned looks.  General look of being stunned…

Oh wow… I have my work as a teacher educator cut out for me…

January 24, 2012

Fighting Fog

Filed under: Bipolar,Gifted,Home Things,Medication issues,Tourette's Syndrome — Teacher Professor @ 12:14 am

This evening, holding my son- who has been quiet and subdued all evening.  

Me: What’s wrong, Ray?


Me: Anything you want to talk about?

silence- the silence gets to me.  It’s not a loaded silence.  Just a still.  

Ray: What do you want to talk about?

Me: Any words in your head?

Ray: No

Me: Any feelings in your head?

Ray: No


Me: If you were a color, what color would you be?

Ray: Gray

Me: If you were a shape, what shape would you be?

Ray: A sphere

Me: If you were weather, what kind of weather would you be?

Ray: A cloud

Me: A stormy cloud, a gray cloud, or a big puffy cloud?

Ray: A rain cloud.


Me: What does the rain cloud want to do?  Feel better?  Get some sleep?  Feel happy?

Ray: You know.


The problem is that I don’t know.  I’m never quite sure what son I’m going to have on a day-to-day basis: Do we get the angry, resistant, black mood Ray; the quiet, not-really-there Ray; the run-around and talk a mile-a-minute Ray; the anxious and wring his hands Ray, the focused scholar and look-how-smart-I-am Ray?  While all kids go through “moods”, his are intense.  Even when he’s gray.

Jess, from Diary of a Mom, talks about fighting “dragons with rubber swords”.  I feel like I’m fighting fog with pointed sticks.  We have the “stick” of medication, which nibbles around the edges of issues– creating other issues in the wake.   We have the pointed stick of therapy, in which he refuses to engage- or worse, pretends to be completely normal (a play therapist told us that it was our problem, not his when he was 4).  We have safety and structure in our house, which leads to agoraphobia.  We sortof have labels: Anxiety Disorder, mild Tourette’s, mild giftedness, not quite autism, not quite bipolar, not schizophrenia. In dark times, James and I have to remind each other- he has special needs.  And just because there’s no good label doesn’t mean that the needs aren’t there.

I’m grateful for many things: I’m grateful that he has never tried to hurt himself or anyone or anything.  I’m grateful that he has never talked about not wanting to be here.  I’m grateful that he’s smart and funny and that he can do academics well enough that everyone around him is frustrated that he’s underachieving- but not failing.  I’m grateful that he has a few good friends.  I’m grateful that I have enough background to have consistency, behavior charts, and metaphors to help him.

But I’m terrified.   I feel like I’m keeping him from falling off the edge through pure will- and he’s only 9.  I’m terrified of adolescence.  I’m terrified of his genetics.  I’m terrified of losing my child to alcoholism, to suicide, to a place where he won’t let us help him. I’m terrified to speak possibilities aloud for fear of them coming true.

And I don’t know what to do about the monsters in the fog that never quite reveal themselves enough to fight.  If you can’t see something well enough to fight, it can’t be vanquished.  It just shifts and morphs.

Into the gray.

Ray, I have no idea what to do.  But I’ll do anything to help you.

January 20, 2012

The Cure That Hurts

Filed under: Autism,Twice-exceptional — Teacher Professor @ 2:48 pm

My daughter is “cured” of autism. She was identified as having PDD-NOS at the age of 2, and lost the label at the age of 5 after a tremendous amount of therapy and her verbal skills reached within age appropriate levels. She does not qualify for services or meet the established criteria anymore. She’s “cured”.

However, although her verbal abilities are within age-appropriate levels- which actually means about a year behind her peers-

  • Her visual memory is approximately 2-3 years ahead of her age peers.
  • Her ability to visually disciminate is 2-3 years ahead.
  • Her mathematical skills are 2-3 years ahead.
  • Her ability to decode and verbally read aloud are 2-3 years ahead.
  • Her logic and problem-solving skills are 2-3 years ahead.
  • Her social skills… are about a year behind age peers.
  • Her ability to comprehend what she reads is about on grade level.
  • Her processing speed for verbal information is about a year below.
  • Her subtest scores on IQ tests look like a mountain range- high to low.
  • Her overall IQ? Slightly higher than average.
  • She has significant sensitivities to texture; and she fixates on subjects.
  • Her interest in fashion? Completely typical

She is a classically “twice-exceptional” child- gifted in many areas, with a disabling condition in others- but not low enough or high enough to qualify for much of anything.

Does she have autism? Legally- no. But in our day-to-day living? Yes. She works around her autism with no educational support, although a Section 504 for social issues is being discussed. Does being “cured” mean that she’s now magically typical? Heck, no. We struggle with the same issues we did before she got “cured”- but they’re much less intense now. Taking away the label did not mean that the problems vanished.  But the intervention then helped with the management of them now.

According to the New York Times, scientists are just about to dramatically reduce the recent “epidemic” and “cure” autism. No- there have been no magical interventions. No, there have been no sudden scientific breakthroughs. They’re going to define it out of existance. Because we all know that if you don’t label it, it doesn’t exist, right?  Right?

The old definition required that a child exhibit characteristics in 6 of the 12 criteria in the areas of communication deficit, social deficits and repetitive behavior.  The proposed new definition requires that a child exhibit at least 3 deficits in communication and social behavior and at least 2 in repetitive behaviors.   3+2=5.  While 5 may appear more inclusive than 6, the issue is that the new definition requires that a child be more level in their areas of challenge.  The distinctions between “Aspergers”, “PDD-NOS”  and “autism” will become submerged into a high/low continuum. Some people fear that children who are less diffuse across the spectrum, but more intense in particular areas may be left out of the definition.

This, by the way, is similar to identifying gifted children and requiring them to be strong in everything.  In the gifted education field, we have worked really hard to not leave out children who are really strong in one area, recognizing that few gifted children are that “level” in their abilities.

When we were Googling the issues associated with Elizabeth, we had the word “autism” to look up, to find out information.  We had a label to use to explain her differences- and to seek remedies.  We had information to read and we had understanding of her differences.  Without that label, she would have been perceived as a difficult child, a spoiled child, a child who wouldn’t talk.  I wonder how many parents will try to beat their child into submission because they perceive the behaviors as the child’s fault, as their fault.  Without a label, behavior becomes very personal.

Because of her label, Elizabeth received therapy- lots of therapy. Daily speech and occupational therapy through the publically-funded Early Intervention services were provided, and I was able to research ideas and things to do at home.  With no label, there are no services, and with no services, there is no determinant of growth.  With no label, parents are dependent on dealing with symptoms, not understandings, and a child’s ability to receive help is dependent on a parent’s ability to pay for interventions of fuzzy problems, rather than a more cohesive set of services.  Without a label, developing a child becomes even more dependent on socio-economic status.

One of the most critical issues is the issue of funding.  With autism being “cured by definition”, there are no services and if there are no services, there is no funding  With no funding, the progress that has been made in the causation and treatment of autism dwindles.  There is still an awful lot we don’t know about autism.  Ignorance is understandable- ignoring is not.  Without a lot of labels, there is no reason to move research forward.

Elizabeth was fortunate.  She was “cured” of autism- after intensive therapy, after intensive research.  She had to get a label to learn how to live with her issues so that she could be “cured”.

I fear for the children who will be “cured” of autism by changing definitions- who will find that there is no help for their issues, and there is no cure at all.

I want to end with a call for action- but I’m not sure of the direction to go.  Certainly, it is important in the development of autism as a field to have more and more cohesive understandings- for funding purposes, for research purposes, and for intervention purposes.  If the label means nothing, then the research can find nothing.  More recent studies are finding that the impact may be less than expected.   However, it must be realized when examining a change in a definition that the problems faced by individuals with autism are real problems- and redefining them doesn’t remove them. 

January 19, 2012

Cut from the Team

Filed under: Autism — Teacher Professor @ 1:52 pm
  • We can be the kings and queens of anything we believe
  • It’s written in the stars that shine above
  • A world where you and I belong
  • Where faith and love will keep us strong
  • Exactly who we are is just enough.
  • There’s a Place for Us“- Carrie Underwood

There’s that stark, crystalline moment where you realize it-  “I just don’t fit in here- and they’re asking me to leave.”  I first distinctly remember it at my last waitressing job in college- a fancy seafood restaurant.   I got to wear nice black pants and I was supposed to stand quietly and solemnly as the diners made their selections.  From the beginning I had problems- I confused the types of fish, we had an enormous number of tables, and the rhythm of the place was so different from the informal hubbub I was used to at Bennigan’s.  We were supposed to work as a “team”, but from the beginning, I never could get the timing down.  I would be running someone else’s food, which would make me late for my own tables, which would mean that the other waiters would often be getting my tables their drink orders.  I never could catch up.  When I apologized for making my “team” members wait on my tables, my explanations were perceived as excuses and there was a lot of eye rolling.  A lot of smiles that never quite reached the eyes.  Until one day- after about a month, my manager pulled me aside and said that “It’s not working out.  You’re fired.”

I was devastated.  It was the first time I had ever truly failed at something I was trying really hard at.  Now, of course, I can look back at it and learn several things from it.  First of all- the restaurant business was not for me.  I left waitressing and took a job as a paraprofessional.  And discovered teaching and special education. A potential career path closed and another one opened.  I won’t thank him, but it worked out.

The second is that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they’re not going to like you.  Sometimes, it’s not me; sometimes, it’s the “team”.  I’ve worked with enough great teams to know that when the you’re on the right one it can be magic.  The curriculum development team at William and Mary, the CCGA program development team, heck even the bartenders at Bennigan’s… these teams all worked with me.  And I had an awful lot of fun.

The only thing I enjoyed about the fancy fish place was the shark marinated in teriyaki sauce.  Mmmm…

It happened again when James and I lived up in the Northeast.  They kept asking him to do things, and he was drowning, doing two people’s jobs as they kept promising him that they would hire someone else, but never did.  They would ask him to do something and then complain that it wasn’t right, but couldn’t tell him what he needed to do to fix it.  He learned to check in with his boss until he was perceived to be “pestering”.  We never did “fit in”- what ever that magic chemistry is – in my case, I was told is was because of my semi-Southern accent.  And in both cases, rather than taking time to fix it, both “leaders” just asked us to go.  James tried- really, really hard- and it just didn’t work.  He’s moved on, too.  We wound up here and although we won’t thank them, we’re so glad to be away from snow and ice.  And James is having a ball with the Leadership Team at CCGA.

The only thing I enjoyed about the Northeast was the clam chowder.  Mmmmm….

And now it’s happened to Elizabeth.  On an athletic “team”.  A team on which she was accepted for the whole year. She started off behind because they held a get-together before the season started; a get-together in which the parents made the carpool setups and in which emails were exchanged.  A get-together we missed because we were visiting family- family not from around here. 

Our frustration at missing key pieces of information because we were not on the email list was perceived as–whining.   When we told another parent that we didn’t think that there was practice because we didn’t get any times or dates– lying.  Her tiredness from ongoing illness — lack of commitment.  My trip to Africa and my inability to take her to practice– excuses.  Her inability to discuss conflict with a “team” member– bad attitude.  My offer to facilitate discussions and problem-solving– interference and pushiness.  Her withdrawal from the social exchanges- which led to few people giving her the ball– poor sportsmanship.  Her lack of growth in athletic skills– laziness. 

And last night, we got the phone call “This just isn’t the right place for her”. She’s off the team.  Blindsided, by the way- there is a policy that she could not be cut until next season.  But the coach decided that she wasn’t going to be part of the team–no warning, no information, no feedback, no instructions about what she could do to improve. 

I can’t help but feel that there’s a subtext here.  Although autism has not explicitly been stated, it’s there.  It’s there in the ability to know that you’re messing up, but not know how to fix it.  It’s there in the difficulty finding words to explain.  It’s there in the hoping that if you try hard enough, show up enough, and do enough, it will all work out- but it’s not enough.  It’s there in the voices of “Well, I know she’s differentand the flinches of fear- fear!- when she expresses unhappiness.

It’s the fear that gets to me- and blinds with me with rage and anger and hurt.  They should be afraid- of me, a protective mother- not of her.

She’s 10.  I was devastated at 22 when I encountered the subtle interplay within a “team” that tells you that it’s not working- and you really, really want it to.  James was devastated at 45.  We had enough experience to know that sometimes teams do work out.  That they can accept and love you and you can be productive and deal with adversity and move forward.  That there are leaders who can communicate effectively. That there’s a place for you.    That sometimes it’s not you- it’s them.

But she’s 10.  And getting cut from a “team” sure emphasizes “different”.  She’s devastated.

I can’t think of anything that I enjoyed about this.

January 17, 2012

Getting Back In the Water

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 2:05 pm

Getting Back in the Water

From: Claire E. Hughes-Lynch, Ph.D.

To: Autism Science Foundation

January 17, 2012

I am a translator. Not of languages, but of viewpoints. Any autism information that I ever encounter is filtered through two lenses- my role as a parent of two children on the autism spectrum and as a professor of special education. I am always looking for information to share with other parents, but also, to share with teachers- both special education and general education. When I first began researching autism as a desperate parent, I soon found that there were parent voices, and there were scientist voices, and there were educator voices. My knowledge as a “teacher of teachers” with a Ph.D. in education meant that I was very able to translate from one perspective to another. I have a blog www.professormother.com that captures this dual role of mine and it has led me to write two books “Children with High Functioning Autism: A Parents’ Guide”, and “Teaching Children With High-Functioning Autism: Strategies for the Inclusive Classroom”. I have presented to parent groups and to teacher groups and to autism researchers the differing perspectives, needs and concerns of each group. I am a translator.

I am hoping to go to the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) as a parent, and as a special education professor. I have several goals that I hope to meet through this meeting.

1) Acquire information that I can share with parents. As a blogger, as a speaker, and as an author, I try to have the latest information available to share. I view information as leading us in a direction for decision-making– not necessarily a straight line, but a process of fits and starts. It is through science that we can “test” information. Parents are always looking forward, whereas science is looking backwards and making sense of the stories. I want to hear about the information that can help parents continue to look forward continue to make good decisions. There is so much misinformation out there, it is important that the “good” information be shared as much as possible and the various dialogues be presented. In order to do this, I need good data.

2) Acquire information to share with teachers. I work directly with beginning teachers in Georgia and present to experienced teachers around the country. In all cases, their lack of understanding and awareness of the diverse needs of children with autism is stunning. There are “stories” that are shared, but little information that takes the situation of the present-day classroom into consideration. I attempt to share the perspectives of parents and students, and to share what tested and effective strategies are out there and what are some promising new directions. In order to do this, I need good data.

3) Acquire information to begin my own research agenda. I have been so busy being an “autism mommy” and presenting to teachers, that I have had little to contribute to the scholarly community myself. I have studied and presented on what factors impact the satisfaction of the IEP process of parents, but I would like to really begin to determine effective intervention practices that are based on good scientific data. I have begun some preliminary work into the study of the management of anxiety and have begun searching for grants, but such attempts are in their infancy. In order to do this, I need good data.

4) Acquire information to help my husband, my family, and myself. Lastly, and certainly not least, my own children are pre-teens, and heading into adolescence. While I can talk to parents of newly-diagnosed children, I am at a loss about issues that are upcoming in my own children. I want to be able to chart a path for myself and others who are looking at how autism impacts the life span– fancy words for “How the heck do we navigate middle school, high school and adulthood, when it feels like we just barely navigated through the first 10 years?” In order to do this, I need good data.

As you can see, autism is very personal to me on so many levels. I firmly believe that as different groups- scientists, teachers, and parents- dialogue, we will find connections between strands of research and viewpoints that allow us to make good decisions, and enables people with autism to function in a society that understands and respects everyone. I have begun contributing – but In order to go on, I need good data.


Claire E. Hughes-Lynch, Ph.D.

College of Coastal Georgia (www.ccga.edu)

Parent, Professor, Part-time Blogger

Blog at WordPress.com.