Category Archives: Education

Special Education Acronyms – What Do All Those Letters Mean?

Do you sometimes wonder what some of the Acronyms in special education mean? Do the acronyms make your head spin? This article will discuss common special education acronyms and what they mean. This will make it easier for you to actively participate in your child with disabilities education.

1. FAPE: stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. Each child has the right under IDEA to receive a free appropriate public education.

2. IDEA: stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; which is the federal law that applies to special education.

3. IDEA 2004: This is the federal law that was reauthorized in 2004. If you see this in an article, it usually means that something was changed in IDEA, by the reauthorization in 2004.

4. LEA: stands for the local educational agency, which is your local school district.

5. SEA: stands for the state educational agency, which is your states board of education.

6. IEP: stands for the Individual Educational Plan, which must be developed for every child that receives special education services.

7. LRE: stands for Least Restrictive Environment. LRE means that children with disabilities need to be educated in the least restrictive environment, in which they can learn. LRE starts at the regular classroom, and becomes more restrictive.

8. NCLB: stands for the No Child Left Behind Act.

9. IEE’s: stands for an Independent Educational Evaluation. These are initiated and paid for by parents, to help determine their child’s disability or educational needs.

10. IEE’s at Public Expense: stands for an IEE where the school district pays for it. There are rules that apply to this, that you must learn before requesting an IEE at public expense. Many special education personnel try and do things that are not allowed under IDEA, so you need to educate yourself.

11. ASD: stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which some school districts use in their paperwork.

12. ADD: stands for Attention Deficit Disorder.

13. ADHD: stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

14. PWN: stands for Prior Written Notice. Parents must be given PWN when the school district wants to change things in the child’s IEP. (such as eligibility, change services, refuse to change services etc.).

15. ABA: stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis that is an educational treatment for Autism.

16. SID: stands for Sensory Integration Disorder. A lot of children with Autism have difficulty with sensory integration.

17. SPD: stands for Sensory Processing Disorder which is the same as above, but some people in the special education field, call it different names.

By understanding the acronyms used by special education personnel, you can be a better advocate for an appropriate education for your child.

Influence of Internet on the Education System

The Information highway or the Internet has changed the way the world goes about doing things. It is one more point in a long continuum of inventions that is set to revolutionize lifestyles. One is inclined to ask, how does the ability of computers to talk to each other improve the learning process in the classroom? How does it make a difference in study of epics like the Odyssey and the Iliad? These questions and more will be answered in the following passages. The Internet has a more pervasive effect than other electronic media and is the modern engine of progress; it is the new form of thinking that will show a fresh approach to online education.

Personal computers and the Information Superhighway are rapidly transforming America. Already, the Internet is making large amounts of information available at unprecedented speeds. When this revolution makes itself fully felt in schools, teachers and students will have virtually instantaneous access to vast amounts of information and a wide range of learning tools. If we guide the information revolution wisely, these resources will be available not only to affluent suburban schools but also to rural school districts and inner-city schools. Broad access can reduce differences in the quality of online education and give children in all areas new opportunities to learn. Used well, this transforming technology can play a major role in school reform.

The new technology will enable students to acquire the skills that are essential to succeed in modern society. Exposure to computer technology in school will permit students to become familiar with the necessary tools at an early age. By using the technology well, they will also acquire better thinking skills to help them become informed citizens and active community members.

The drive to integrate technology into our nation’s schools goes far beyond the Internet. If the Internet didn’t exist, advanced technology would still have so many valuable educational uses distance learning applications, collaborative learning, and so forth that far larger investments than are being contemplated would be justified.

Web resources are excellent tools for researches. Let’s not kid ourselves, however. Even if policymakers, practitioners, and parents did decide what their goals were and even if the research findings supported one of several configurations of hardware and software, deciding when, how, or if to use technology (or any other reform) in the classroom is not likely to be determined solely on these bases. Many other factors–ranging from parental pressure to superintendents wanting to leave their fingerprints on the district to technology corporations promoting their products–shape decisions to buy and allocate technologies to schools.

The Internet is an incredible information resource and a powerful communication tool. The ability to use new technologies is becoming a more important factor in career options, and the future success of today’s students will be more affected by their understanding of and ability to access and use electronic information. The increased use of on-line services in the home by children adds to the impetus for schools to take a more active role in family education regarding their use.

Schools have the potential to be access points and online educational centers for exploring Internet resources. Increased involvement of parents in school education programs can help address community concerns and can improve their children’s overall academic performance. If educators assume responsibility for helping students master the use of technology and educating them about potential risks, students will become more empowered to make intelligent choices.

Multicultural education relates to education and instruction designed for the cultures of several different races in an educational system. This approach to teaching and learning is based upon consensus building, respect, and fostering cultural pluralism within racial societies. Multicultural education acknowledges and incorporates positive racial idiosyncrasies into classroom atmospheres.

The concept of learning styles is rooted in the classification of psychological types. The different ways of doing so are generally classified as: Concrete and abstract perceivers and Active and reflective processors.

There are many academic and psychological issues do minority students encounter such as: low single head of household, low socioeconomic status, low minority group status, limited English proficiency, low-educational attainment of parents, mobility, and psychosocial factors.

Not only do school programs and practices have a direct impact upon student success, but the school and community contexts in which these programs and practices occur also affect success rates. “Context” is comprised of numerous factors. Some contextual variables can have a positive impact upon students, while others work against student success.

The call for total school reform strongly suggests that existing conceptions of education are inadequate for promoting multicultural equity. Unfortunately, these same conceptions have shaped the schooling of prospective teachers. Their education likely has been characterized by tracking (the process of assigning students to different groups, classes, or programs based on measures of intelligence, achievement, or aptitude), traditional instruction that appeals to a narrow range of learning styles, and curricula that exclude the contributions of women and people of diverse cultures. Competition drives this factory model of schooling, in which students tend to be viewed as products coming off an assembly line.

Education is a fundamental human process; it is a matter of values and action. The cluster of technologies called the Internet has the ability to complement, to reinforce, and to enhance the educational process. It will take the focus of education from the institution to the student. The Internet has come to befriend, dwell with, and live beyond, both, the teacher and the student. African wisdom says, “It takes an entire village to raise a child”.

My personal conclusion is that all students, regardless of race, ethnic group, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, language, or disability, deserve equitable access to challenging and meaningful learning and achievement. This concept has profound implications for teaching and learning throughout the school community. It suggests that ensuring equity and excellence must be at the core of systemic reform efforts in education as a whole.

Education: The Foundation Of Everything

As learning is the basis of knowledge, education is the structure from which knowledge flows.

Accumulating information is like having a marble connection, what do you do with it once you have it? The byproducts of education – awareness of varying concepts, appreciation for ideas, understanding divergent philosophies – all are powerful foundations for growth and change.

Intelligence contains within itself the ability to listen and reason, the knowledge to act within reason and the power to create. From education comes wisdom and from that wisdom, solutions are born that propel us forward, whether constructing a building or nurturing an idea.

With Knowledge Comes Responsibility

True knowledge is fearless, made strong by the absence of doubt and fortified by pillars of information. Cultivating it simply requires an open mind and a desire to learn. Channeling knowledge towards meaningful expression is always the challenge.

As William S. Burroughs, American writer and visual artist, once stated, “The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.”

Every physical structure, every scientific achievement, every philosophical advancement, all have one thing in common; they were brought into existence by educated opinions based on knowledge. The evolutionary path of civilization would have been dramatically different had experiments and new ideas been based on ‘guessing’ or ‘gut feelings’, rather than analytical observation.

Scientific Facts Shape Our Future

A great example of education-based evolution is Darwin’s well-known Theory of Evolution. It is one of the most substantiated theories in the history of science. Hard to imagine such a ground-breaking and historical hypothesis being put forth without the benefit of informed analysis from knowledgeable professionals.

During the beginning of his research, Darwin was much more an observer than a geneticist. He could document the pattern of evolution, but did not possess the scientific training to understand and subsequently translate his observations. Without the corroborative knowledge to support his theory, it would have proven difficult to answer the inherent questions of ‘how’ or ‘why’ it happened.

Evidence gathered from various scientific disciplines, including paleontology, developmental biology, geology, and genetics, enabled scientists to advance Darwin’s stream of ‘theoretical consciousness’ into mainstream discussion. Questions were raised and explanations were given. It is easy to imagine Darwin’s groundbreaking theory never becoming more than coffee-table talk in the absence of fact-based science.

Where Learning Leads… Wisdom Follows

The dictionary defines ‘foundation’ as the basis or groundwork of anything. Education is defined as the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge (in conjunction with) developing the powers of reasoning and judgment. Together, they form the bedrock of learning-based understanding… the path to wisdom.

Wisdom is the grand enabler. With it, all is possible. Without it, nothing is achievable. Wisdom created the pyramids and thrust us into space. It taught us to fly and how to come back down to Earth safely. Wisdom is the evolution of education and architect of our reality.

As a child learns and develops a foundation for life, so too, does learning bring forth the knowledge needed to explore the foundation of the universe. Step by step and lesson by lesson, studying the various aspects of life in all its natural and man-made grandeur, establishes a base of knowledge impervious to self-doubt and distraction.

The infrastructure of human existence will forever depend on the strength and wisdom forged from our educational structure.

5 Lies About Special Education Transportation, and How You Can Overcome the Lies and Get Your Child

Are you the parent of a child with autism or a physical disability, that receives special education services? Does your child need transportation services? Do you think that special education personnel are not being truthful about what the federal special education law (IDEA 2004) says about transportation? This article will be discussing 5 lies that are commonly told to parents about transportation. Also, discussion on how to overcome these lies to help your child receive needed, transportation services.

Lie 1: We can keep your child on the bus for as long as we want. While IDEA 2004 does not address length of bus ride, long bus rides can be negatively affecting a child’s education (causing stress, negative behavior).The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) stated in a policy letter to anonymous (1993) that lengthy bus rides may be discriminatory, and may result in denial of FAPE. Why could a long bus ride be discriminatory? If children with disabilities are on the bus longer than children without disabilities, this could be considered discrimination.

Lie 2: No one says that we have to provide transportation to your child, and we are not going to. Transportation is considered a related service and needs to be given to a child, if they need the service so that they can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Lie 3: The transportation director makes decisions about whether a child needs transportation not the IEP team. In a document from OSEP entitled Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation OSEP states “The IEP team is responsible for determining if transportation is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education and related services… ” If your child needs transportation make sure that it is listed in your child’s IEP as a related service (if child not riding regular education bus).

Lie 4: The state says that we can bring your child to school 15 minutes late every day, and take her out 15 minutes early due to transportation issues. Ask the school to show you in writing any documentation that proves that they have the right to do what they want to do. In the above example you could ask for “Please show me in writing where it states that our State Department of Education is allowing cutting short of education due to transportation issues!”

Actually the above OSEP document makes it clear that the school day for a child with a disability should not be longer or shorter than the school day for general education students. Since a child would receive less educational time this could also be a denial of FAPE.

Lie 5: If you want your child to participate in extracurricular activities then you must provide transportation, we do not have to. Actually IDEA 2004 states that a child with a disability has a right to transportation for required after school activities as well as for extracurricular activities. Make sure that the extracurricular activity is listed on your child’s IEP, and also listed that they require transportation in order to participate in the activity.

How do you overcome these transportation lies?

1. Learn about transportation requirements in IDEA 2004 (which is the federal special education law). I use the book Special Education Law 2nd edition from Peter and Pam Wright, which is fantastic. This book as well as a lot more advocacy information for parents can be found at: http://www.wrightslaw.com.

2. Call your states Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) for help with advocating for transportation issues.

3. Bring all of the above information to an IEP meeting to assist you in your advocacy.

Good luck in your advocacy!

Why Is Hunter Education Important?

Hunter education began in the late 1950’s with a very narrow focus on basic safety. It concentrated on topics related to conservation, knowledge of firearms, safety, ethics, and responsibilities. Since its inception, over ¾ of a million youth and adults have completed the course. Initially, it was voluntary, but in 1979 it became a requirement that all first time hunters successfully complete the course in order to purchase a license. This requirement exists in 49 states and all provinces in Canada. Presentation of a valid Hunter Education Card from one state will allow the purchase of a license or permit in other states, however, there may be additional educational requirements for hunting with archery, a handgun, or muzzle-loading equipment.

This course and other conservation activities are paid for by sportsmen. The Pittman-Robertson Act, also called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, was signed into law in 1937. The act provided funds for states to acquire hunting land, conduct research, manage wildlife populations and pay for hunter education programs by placing an excise tax on firearms and ammunition.

The course curriculum includes firearm safety which includes shotguns, rifles and handguns. It emphasizes the four primary safety rules that apply to all arms: (1) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, (2) Treat every gun as if it is loaded, (3) Always be sure of your target and beyond, and (4) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. The course also places a strong emphasis on being a responsible hunter and on wildlife conservation.

These educational programs have made hunting one of the safest of all the outdoor recreational activities. In Ohio, in a typical year, fewer than 7/100,000 of 1% of Ohio hunters are injured with a gun or bow while actively hunting. In fact, you are at greater risk while traveling in your vehicle to and from your hunting location.

There are several ways in which the sport of hunting benefits our society. First, the license fees, self-imposed taxes, and hunting permits and stamps finance many wildlife management activities. Second, wildlife has benefitted from regulated hunting and habitat protection, resulting in more species of wildlife than ever before. And finally, there are the benefits to the hunter himself. For some, it is the solitude or the appreciation of nature, while for others it may be time shared with family or friends. Others may enjoy the challenge presented in outwitting a particular species.

As shown in this article, the Hunter Education Course not only provides instruction leading to safe hunting practices, it also funds wildlife protection, habitat, and management. It provides new hunters with the knowledge to challenge the great outdoors and the skills to do it safely.

A Brief History of Nursing Education

When people think of the history of nursing education many immediately think of Florence Nightingale. However, nursing goes back even further than that. In fact, during the 18th century a slave named James Derham was able to buy his own freedom from the money he earned as a nurse. Nobody knew back then that a nursing education could be obtained in any other way than simply hands on through an apprenticeship. But, today there are many ways to study and learn more about nursing. Great examples of these are online nursing education and nursing continuing education.

But, it took a long time for these nursing programs to develop. And, they are descendents of the first nursing program that was established in the 1850s in London. Japan’s first nursing institute was established in 1885 and the first nursing institute for blacks in the United States followed the next year. The field of nursing was growing rapidly with the influences of individuals like Florence Nightingale and Claray Barton who established the Red Cross.

In the late 1800s the idea of visiting nursing was established by Lillian Wald and she began teaching a home nursing class. The American Nurses Association held its first meeting and the topics discussed helped further nursing education. Nurses began to be regulated on a national basis by New Zealand in 1901 and then other countries around the world began to follow suit.

The first nursing education that was established in the United States on the basis of education rather than the needs of hospitals was at Yale University in 1923. The Yale School of Nursing had its own curriculum and students were required to meet the educational standards of the university in order to graduate. This really set the stage for the future of education and since then universities across the nation have developed nursing programs of their own. Then, in the 1950s Colombia University offered a master’s in nursing and was the first university to do so. This really changed the nursing environment and allowed for nursing continuing education and nurses to grow in their chosen profession.

Now, more than 80 years later, a nursing education is available at college campuses, via online courses, and even through nursing continuing education. Men and women who want to become nurses can do so around their schedule and take advantage of all the study options for this amazing profession. There are many choices when it comes to an online nursing education and prospective nurses should really compare all of the programs to ensure they are studying from the best online university and are learning as much about nursing as possible.

Nothing Wrong With Education Being A Fundamental Right

Everyone has the right to education… Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages… Elementary education shall be compulsory.

If you think this sounds like something written by Americans for Americans, you might wish you had paid more attention in your 12th grade civics class. Of course, odds are you may not have been among the less than 25 percent of students who passed a basic examination at proficient or above level.

Those three lines are from the beginning of a document entitled Resolution 217. The resolution is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on December 10, 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.

But you don’t have to feel too bad if you didn’t know. Fewer than 20 percent of liberal-arts colleges in the United States include a course in history or government as part of their graduation requirements. So much for understanding much of anything about how our government works.

Our Founding Fathers Understood The Value Of Knowledge

As a nation de-prioritizes education, it risks giving rise to a government more dependent on growth and financial manipulation than knowledge. Ignorance and indifference can only foster more of the same. Our founding fathers were well aware of the fundamental truth that knowledge is the cornerstone of self-governance.

Thomas Jefferson and his nation-building colleagues cautioned against classifying any group of people based on color, ethnic background, religion, education level or any other factor deemed unacceptable. For membership in what would become one of the most powerful and diverse societies in the history of the world, an individual would simply have to conform within the same parameters as anyone else.

While drafting the history-changing Declaration of Independence, they didn’t specify that the ‘Truths’ were designated for a specific class of individuals, but rather self-evident for a much broader cross-section of the population – the people.

Wisdom Lights The Path To Democracy

Education does more than pack a brain full of facts and figures. It engages the mind and enhances the soul. Knowledge builds awareness. Awareness nurtures wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge grown up.

In 1787, another founding father, James Madison, acknowledged the importance of education for a young America. Referring to guidelines set forth in the Northwest Ordinance, religion, morality, and knowledge were fundamentally important for a growing nation’s well-being. Listed in the document were words prioritizing schools, advocating that education shall forever be encouraged.

Decades later, Madison’s sentiments regarding the importance of knowledge still echoed in his philosophy and writing. He was firm in his support of intelligent power, stating that a populace must fortify themselves with information and awareness if they desired to live in self-governance.

The argument for education is powerful, informed, and rooted in the very character of our country. To stand idly by while generations of young people fall helplessly into educational obscurity, is an affront to the pillars of our democracy and stands in direct opposition to the wisdom of our forefathers and all they envisioned.

Illiteracy is not a chosen way of life. It is a lifestyle born of inequality, frustration and lack of positive expectations. Our country was founded and built on expectations. The educational system foreseen by those who understood the intrinsic need for literacy is in disarray, struggling to once again offer the promise of hope and opportunity to everyone.

With intelligent debate, we can light the fire of academic promise that will inspire and encourage each of us to assure education remains a fundamental right alongside Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. To do nothing is true ignorance.

Analyzing Issues of Overidentification in Special Education

Overidentification in special education has two potential meanings. First, it can mean that there are too many students being identified as needing special education in a school or district. Estimates of students in need of special education services have ranged from 3% to 8% of total students. Central office staff typically attempt to stay within the 10% range however, it sometimes reaches highs of 13% or more. Second, it may mean that a certain group of students is over represented in the special education population in comparison to their make up in the general population of students. Ideally, the proportion of the subgroup of students in the special education population should be identical to that of the general population.

Overidentification of students in need of special education services results in a number of negative outcomes for the students, the school district, and to a larger extent society. Students identified as needing special education services often don’t receive the same rigorous curriculum as those not receiving services. Therefore, they are not as prepared for the demands of the next grade level as unidentified students. They frequently have lowered expectations placed upon them, may be socially stigmatized, may display greater behavioral problems requiring disciplinary action, and are more likely to not complete school or they complete school with less skills than other students.

Overidentified students place an unnecessary burden on already limited school resources and take away existing resources from those students who are really in need of them. Staff time is taken up in extra preparation for their daily needs, to go to extra meetings, and to complete evaluations. If discipline becomes an issue, then administrator time gets taken away from other duties.

In regard to potential impacts on society, overidentification’s reduced demands, watered-down curriculum, and potential social stigmatization leaves students unprepared to continue with their education or lacking the skills necessary to take a productive role in the workplace and support themselves. When these students are unable to become productive members of society after school then their educational institution has failed them.

Some of the reasons for overidentification include:

  • Poverty and income inequality
  • Inequity in schools funding
  • Inability to access early interventions
  • Lack of training in regard to appropriate referrals to and placements in special education
  • Lack of understanding of diverse populations

Research has found that students from impoverished backgrounds are more likely to be unprepared for the rigors of education and lack the background knowledge and experiences of their more affluent peers. The Head Start Program was developed in 1965 to meet this need, and to provide comprehensive services to low income families during the preschool years. However, while gains have been made, a gap still exists, and many families are unable to access these services for a variety of reasons.

Schools are not always funded appropriately with many schools requiring students to bring in their own work materials, lack resources for paraprofessional support, or lack the funds to have full day kindergarten or hire enough teachers to have smaller classes. When schools are funded appropriately, the district often determines where and when the money is spent, which may not always be on the biggest needs or those that will make the biggest difference in the long-term.

Unfortunately, some schools don’t always make appropriate referrals or placement decisions. Sometimes they wait too long before making a referral and sometimes they make one too soon. The advent of Response to Intervention (RTI) may help in this area as schools should have data about how students respond to interventions before making a referral.

Lack of understanding about different cultures and the way children learn may also lead to students being over identified, especially for behavior concerns. Not every child is able to sit in a chair for six hours a day learning. There are many ways to learn and students need to be exposed to as many of them as possible before being identified with a disability.

Parents and educators need to be aware that over identification of students for special educational services has short and long-term consequences. These consequences affect the student, the school, and, potentially, society. It is the school’s responsibility to keep an open mind, look at individual differences and all possibilities prior to identifying a student as in need of special education services.

Leadership In Education

Leadership in education has so many different dimensions and definitional issues that it’s very elusive, and has become more complicated since the involvement of business and political communities. Principals had for a long time served as managers of schools, but in the last 10 or 15 years there’s been a sea change in their responsibilities. Now, at long last, the focus is on instructional leadership. But the problem facing principals is that their preparatory institutions did not offer courses in curriculum programs until the mid-1980s, and many principals are not prepared for this new role; they need crash programs in instructional leadership. They now also are being asked to make contacts with community leaders and even in some cases state legislators to garner support for schools and programs. It is impossible for principals, as well as superintendents, to handle adequately the managerial, instructional, and political dimensions of the job. It is not surprising that these multiple demands are creating a shortage of educational leaders. It now takes 8-14 months to fill superintendency positions, as opposed to 3-5 months in decades past; and 85% of principals are scheduled to retire within a decade.

So what do we do? We have to find new kinds of team approaches to the job. We need to rethink the role and rethink who is best equipped to provide certain kinds of leadership. It is important to remember that while change occurs from the top down-business and political leaders are pushing change-it also has to come from the bottom up. Unless the teachers, principals, and frontline people “buy in,” not very much will happen. So one of the challenges is to build connecting mechanisms from top to bottom. Leadership will span these boundaries.

The issues of authority and accountability need to be addressed by schools seeking to restructure. To be successful, school-based decision making too must be characterized by coherence in its authority structure and accountability system.

Citizen accountability facilitates the accountability of educators and students. And authority for change must include students, must focus on them as vehicles for change, not just objects of change. Educators and parents need to acknowledge that students have a role in change and should even be on the board for school-based decision making. Establishing coherence is the key to leadership throughout an educational structure; it creates a system of checks and balances, with the community and state united in working towards a common goal: the students’ academic success. All the vision in the world won’t lead to much without coherence. Furthermore, before restructuring can begin, educators must be keenly aware of two principles: Cooperation and collaboration are necessary because they are key to establishing coherence in an educational system; and all students can learn at higher levels. Finally, schools need to focus on beliefs, standards, assessment, and accountability and have a system of change, incorporating in a coherent way all of these factors that are valued. After all, in the end, successful education systems are about values. Schools just need the courage to move and lead.

Education reform now involves high-stakes accountability. If schools are asked to have accountability to this degree, then the schools should be in charge. School accountability involves schools having the power to implement their own policies, which means school-based decision making. Stability in the schoolhouse is critical, and the principal is the agent for change-but in that comes no security. Yet, the principal is charged to rally teachers, who have total security and who have little reason to attend to the vision of a person who holds a tenuous appointment. The principals are finding that the illusion of power is worse than no power at all. Successful school reform necessitates an ingenious interweaving of responsibility, accountability, and authority. Intrusive behavior is a board member’s act of interfering with a school administrator’s assigned operational task(s) that exceeds the board of education’s delegated responsibility. Intrusive behavior can substantially hinder consistency in leadership, which is extremely important to organizational health. The problem with such intrusive behavior is that people in the educational framework become confused and wonder, “Who’s the boss?” and “Who do I listen to?” resulting in a monumental problem with role conflict and role ambiguity. This confusion wastes valuable time that could be spent on matters related to educating children. Instead of inspecting school facilities or instructing superintendents and principals on how to perform their duties, boards of education need to focus on student achievement.

Too often, board members do not have a clear understanding of their role and how they are to enact it unless they are specifically educated about that role. In short, the training of board of education members before they sit on a board should be mandated, and they should be contractually educated, not just taught. The time spent on training should be measured not in hours per year, but in numbers of issues covered in the training.

In a new survey, superintendents indicated principal shortages in all types of districts; there were simply not many applicants for the positions available. Reasons cited for this principal shortage included the following:

– Compensation is not enough.

– Too much time is required.

– Board interference makes the job too stressful.

Since 2004, the principal’s role has changed dramatically. Now, the scope of the principal’s role is exploding, and principals are expected to take on many new responsibilities. Principals have been taught to be managers rather than instructional leaders, but they are now being asked to fulfill that duty as well-along with increased involvement in litigation, in special education, and in preventing school violence.

A Bondage of Education

From a very early age I can remember my parents, teachers, and friends discussing this idea of education. What it is, what it should be, what it could be, but more importantly how I would use it to “further” my life. I had this notion that education was going to school, memorizing what the teacher said, applying it to a test, and repeating the routine for the next twelve years. The term “career ready” is not only what gave me the desire to have straight A’s in high school, but what brought me to a university. I came with hope to finally break away from the restraint that I believed was only a result of what a high school education could do to an individual’s mind, but quickly came to realize that a “liberal education” from college was not that different. Liberal education was designed to free individuals from the bonds that society placed upon them, but present-day education is what holds those bonds together.

I will never forget the first time I failed a test. It was in fifth with one of my favorite teachers. I remember receiving the test back with a zero on the front and instantly covering the test up so no one could not see the sign of failure. The teacher must have seen my shock because I was told to stay after class. She explained to me how I had made a 100 but I did not “take the test right” which is what resulted in the zero. From then on, I developed what college students call “test anxiety.” I worked to follow directions, to be structured, and to never ask a question that could possibly be wrong. I made straight A’s, participated in school organizations, was president of my class, and lived to fill the resume that would be sent to potential colleges. I did what students are expected to do. When I came to college I was excited because I could finally learn outside the perimeters of standardized tests. What I did not expect was to hear phrases from professors such as, “don’t worry this will not be on the test,” or having to spend thirty minutes of class listening to students ask how many questions will be on the exam. Teachers from my high school always told us, “college will not be like this, so enjoy it while you can,” but it was all the same. Listen, take notes, memorize, take test, repeat.

I began to realize that maybe this was what education was intended to be. A system that engrains students with the idea that to conform and restrain one’s mind to standardization is what makes us “successful.” David Brooks discusses how college students are “goal-orientated… a means for self-improvement, resume-building, and enrichment. College is just one step on the continual stairway of advancement and they are always aware that they must get to the next step.” Students go through elementary, junior high, high school, and now even universities not to “free our minds” or truly educating ourselves, but to climb the ladder of social order. One can relate education to Plato’s cave allegory, “they are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them unable because of the bond to turn their heads.” This system of education that parents, professors, politicians, employers, and even students talk so highly about is not about producing the world’s next great minds, it is about producing the world’s next source of capital. Society has taken a liberal education and twisted it to where it will fit students into its workplace.

Everyone says that your first semester of college is the hardest. You move away from home, meet new people, and are thrown into a whole new environment. I knew it would be tough, but never thought I would be the student that curled onto her dorm room rug and cried over a seventy-eight on a couple of tests. I had made back-to-back “failing grades” in my mind and had the mindset that I could never recover. What could I accomplish without a 4.0 GPA and four years on the Deans List? To make matters worse, I received a zero for a homework assignment. Believing that there must have been something wrong, I made my way to my TAs office hours where he proceeded to tell me that I did great on the assignment but had to give me a zero based on a small technicality. That is when I had the realization that a modern-day college education has nothing to do with a liberal education. From then on, every test I would take and grade that followed would no longer determine how I would go about learning. I decided that in order to receive a true liberal education I had to throw away every concept of what I thought education was. In Plato’s book I was reminded that “education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be” and when I decided to make my way out of ‘the cave’ of education I was thankful for the realization that I had broken the bonds that society tried so hard to place tightly around me. Leo Strauss said that a “liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful,” and that is when an individual is truly free.

I sometimes think about where I would be if I had the mindset that I do now about education when I received that zero if fifth grade. Would I have waved it in the air as a badge of pride representing how I refused to conform to the institution instead of hiding it from my friends in shame or would I had done it all the same? A true liberal education is what enables individuals to achieve, admire, and model greatness. So, when I hear a professor repeat the phrase “don’t worry, this won’t be on the test,” a part of me wonders if even they have given up on helping break the bonds placed upon us.