Those responsible

The reforms, according to this article, were precipitated by research published by the Gazette-Journal about a reality I never heard mentioned at any time in the College of Education. That the COE is not mentioned in the article is astonishing as one would think that the special education people would be on the front lines to insure that special education programs were effective and that problems in special education programs, the terrible graduation rates of students in special education programs, for instance, would be a part of the ongoing conversation. Again, while the COE likes to boast about the quality of its research and teaching, it has, for as long as I was associated with the organization, never taken any responsibility for the poor state of education in the state, never even had the kind of discussion that would have allowed for identification of problems and the development of research based solutions. The people who work in the College have regular contact with people in the school district. They have to know something about what is going on there, what is working and what is not, this the sensible basis for at least some of the work they get payed for doing. I attended many a meeting with people from the school district and in those meetings and never was much said about problems or the possibility that it might be district people and district policies what were causing the problems. Instead, those attending from the university were always very careful as not to upset those with whom they were speaking, the College of Education-WCSD relationship so important that not a critical word was to be said, even when it was plainly apparent that district people were badly in need of honest advise from those whose job it is to study education and help to develop means by which all students receive a good education.

I am now, in terms of where I do my work, detached from the College and the University. But I truly care, as I always have, about colleges of education doing what they should be doing, the work that leads to truly good schools. Colleges of education, college of education people know, are hardly ever well respected entities on the campuses where they reside or, for that matter, in the general scheme of things. My entire career at UNR I heard colleagues complaining about this reputation, saying it was unfair, that those in other disciplines did not understand well enough what the people in the COE did. I heard those boasts within about high levels of achievement by faculty, the wonderful teachers faculty were and the great research that was taking place. But out in the world beyond the walls of the COE, COE work to actually bring about necessary change in the schools was, if it was actually taking place, not very visible and the results not very compelling. The CEO was surrounded by schools that at best nominal and, as so many reports by people outside the COE or the district show, really, not very good at all. When such reports did appear in the press, the usual response by COE and district was to deny the credibility of the studies or argue that the reports did not properly reflect the better reality that was the school district’s. Never, no matter how bad things looked, was the bad admitted and, thus, the kind of work that serious problems should trigger never happened because the district was concerned more with appearances than the welfare of students and the College more concerned with getting along with those who were about appearances than shedding light on the problems affecting the lives of students so that quality of instruction could be improved.

I, of course, write out of spite, my comments intended to be malicious without any desire to actually make things better for the human beings who attend public schools. I write to show that I was not the failure and that you were, that is, the college of education was the cause of the problems I had as a faculty member in the college was others and not myself. I write to beat down those who I want to believe beat me down. I write because I am too stupid to understand the realities those who are truly good members of a college of education  and unwilling to understand and sympathize with their plight. I write because I got the cold shoulder, deserved because of a lacking in the quality of work I did and do not want to admit that it was deserved. I write because I don’t want to admit that, it was for the sake of the college and the sake of society, I was pushed out.

But maybe, just maybe, it is possible I am sincere in the hope that someone will begin to take responsibility for the state of education in this state that properly includes Washoe County, that someone will understand that I am not out to get anyone, that I have this manic desire to see schools improved because I am scared shitless about the current state or our collective intellect, about the path we are on to the end of a democratic society and its replacement by popularly elected strongmen who can only thrive if the public is an ignorant one.

From: e-Edition <>
Reply-To: Stephen K Lafer <>
Date: Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 10:20 AM
To: Stephen K Lafer <>
Subject: Reno Gazette-Journal Digital Edition Article sent you this article.

Reno Gazette-Journal
12/11/2016 – Page A01
District plans special ed reforms

Washoe County students with disabilities should see major improvements in system



Washoe County’s 8,700 students with disabilities will soon see major improvements in their education, according to a policy 15 months in the making that will likely receive school board approval within a month.

The proposed policy will require more inclusion of special education students into regular classrooms, stricter standards for teachers working with special education students and better instruction enabling students to graduate college- or career-ready.

All these changes mark a departure from the low expectations long held for these students in the Washoe County School District.

District officials unveiled the p roposed policy to the Washoe County School Board on Tuesday, about six months after the Reno Gazette-Journal published a series detailing how the district fails to educate students with disabilities.

The RGJ’s two-year investigation found that while the district is celebrating a record graduation rate of 77 percent for all students, it has shown little improvement in educating children with disabilities. The average graduation rate for students with disabilities has been 29 percent over the past six years. That’s less than half the national average of 63 percent.

The RGJ also found that the district has 200 classrooms segregating special education students from all other stu-


dents. The district also relies on 100 substitute teachers for students with disabilities, records showed.

The district’s goal is to reach a 90 percent graduation rate for all students by 2020.

“We can’t do that without addressing the needs of our students with IEPs,” said David Frydman, executive director of special education programming and compliance for the district.

About 13 percent of the district’s students have disabilities, ranging from learning disabilities to autism and physical impairments.

Each student must have an IEP, or individualized education program, which is a legally binding document telling a schoo l how it must treat, educate and evaluate a student with a disability.

Over the past few years, the state has cited the district on several occasions for breaking students’ IEPs.

The district has corrected those issues, according to state officials.

The district has set a goal that special education students reach a 60 percent graduation rate by 2020.

Higher expectations is what “parents and the community want,” said Frydman, noting that the policy was written with input from 200 people involved in special education.

“We’re going to have high expectations for ourselves and our children,” said school board member Lisa Ruggerio.

Board President Ang ie Taylor acknowledged that all special education students won’t meet the goal of graduating ready for college or career.

“Will all students get there? No,” she said. “But it should be our focus.”

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

2 replies on “Those responsible”

I am way out of the ivory tower having resigned my position in June. As for your concern that I am not being fair because I am not in the classroom, I can tell you that that is a fair criticism although I have worked in schools and studied education for the last 40 years of my life. I have been a proponent of the common core because it calls for exactly the kind of thinking oriented classroom instruction I have been advocating in my courses at the university and to the school district and to the federal government for long before the common core came along. I advocated too for teachers who would like to do the right thing but have been prevented from doing what they know best and I call for those who are not really capable of doing what good teachers need to be and should be doing to do what is best for kids and get the hell out of the way. That the schools in the region I live have not been doing a good job is evident in assessment after assessment. So, if you want to tell me to bug off, you will not convince me to do so with the very weak argument you present here. Maybe if you were to tell me what actually is going on in the classrooms that is so much different from the tell and test variety of “instruction” that I have been used to seeing in the schools I will be informed. Prove to me with some evidence that I am irrelevant and only have an ivory tower perspective or, if you are willing, I would be happy to buy you a cup of coffee so that you can make your case to me in person. You can send me a note to such effect at Until then, stop accusing me of what you know nothing about and do not tell me that I cannot have the proper understanding to criticize because I am not in the classroom. That is a bogus argument for too many reasons to discuss here.

Maybe, just maybe, its the University who is so out of touch with what is going on in schools. When was the last time you taught in a classroom? Do you even know the changes in Common Core Standards. Are you familiar with how teachers are even evaluated? In order to improve schools, you need to get out of your ivory tower and be relevant. The way universities teach their students is one of the biggest reasons why schools are failing.

Leave a Reply