Tag Archives: Education

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.

The Education System in America

The role that the educational system should play in the live of people is to educate them to be conscious, critically thinking individuals who do not passively accept knowledge but question the knowledge that is being taught to them. Education should be taught to give students the skills and intelligence they need to understand the world and how the world works in order to survive in it. However, the American educational system has been known to produce students whom are woefully ignorant about the world and different cultures. One of the reasons is because the educational system in its current state does not leave much room for critical thinking but trains individuals to be docile, worker bees in a global economy that keeps the status quo wealthy and “others” barely making it. The problem becomes evident if we look at the varied curriculums and subjects that are being taught. There is a lack of emphasis on academic learning, and the only thing that matters is high stakes testing. The schools in this country have become swamped with fuzzy curriculums that assume that through constant testing, students will be prepared for life in a new global society . . . whatever that is.

I recently had a conversation with a co-worker and we were discussing how African-Americans were treated forty years ago and I was amazed by her naivety about the subject, considering the fact that she was a college graduate and an African-American. From the moment I entered college, I was eager to explore the history of African and African-American history from a view point that did not make them seem sub-human and college affords students that opportunity. I could not help but wonder what type of history and sociological classes she had taken; from her conversation, none. But the sad truth is that when most people make the decision to attend college, it is for the purpose of reaping economic rewards, not for expanding one’s consciousness.

In order for the educational system in this country to produce students who are not clueless about its history and the world surrounding them, it should be restructured in several ways. Parental involvement should be mandatory, just as school attendance for students is mandatory for graduation. Lack of parent involvement is an enormous contributing factor to the current failing educational system. Parents need to instill in their children just how detrimental a lack of education is to their future. Teachers are wonderful people who can take students from the top of Mount Olympus to the cold and desolation of Antarctica but they are there to teach, not parent. Many teachers spend a great deal of their class time disciplining children and playing babysitter, two things that are not a part of their job duties. Teachers need involvement from parents in order for the educational system to work and education begins at home.

Funding for the educational system should also be restructured. Public schools are traditionally funded by property taxes which results in a very unequal distribution of educational opportunity. Communities that are wealthy have more funding for their local schools than those who do not. This situation directly affects the quality of education that children in urban and poor rural areas receive. The No Child Left Behind Act will only make it worse because of the required testing and public reporting of results. When parents are buying a new house, they want to live in a school district that has strong test scores. This drives up the property values in those areas, meaning that only affluent families can afford to live in the top performing school districts. This means more property taxes to those areas, while the lower performing schools lose their funding if they do not meet federal standards. There should be a fair tax system for education that is not based on property taxes of homeowners. Government funding, for the most part, is distributed to the various schools by state and local governments and there is huge disparities in this funding based on race. According the text American Education by Joel Spring, there is a gap of more than $1,000 per student nation wide based on race, with large states like New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, who lead the nation in their unwillingness to fairly fund education (Spring, pg. 77). Children should not suffer because of their economic background or ethnicity and public education should make no distinction between rich and poor, or black and white. Every child attending a public school should be granted an equal education. Equal funding would grant teachers the proper resources to better educate students. School choice and the privatization of the public school system would not be a factor because under my plan, the educational system in America would be fully and equally funded by the federal government and closely monitored. With the influx of money pouring into the educational system from the government, schools would change dramatically for the better because that is the biggest issue in most public schools: lack of money.

The educational system’s curriculum would be changed in order to fit in with the nation’s melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. From elementary to high school, students are bombarded with facts and figures about wealthy, white men as if women and other minorities do not exist or contribute anything worthy to the history of America. No wonder so many students blank out historical facts: they do not care these fact because they cannot relate to the actors in the story. Student should be required to take courses that have will give them a more in depth understanding of the world surrounding them, courses that will discuss the history of marginalized and oppressed individuals in this country and around the world. They should be required to read books that make them think, not just process information for the next test. If more students understood the values and cultures of people unlike themselves, it would not be easy or maybe even possible for the government to lie and use propaganda techniques to lull the masses into believing everything was okay and its leaders competent. High stakes testing would be eliminated because most of the tests are designed by people who do not have a clue about the demographics, ethnicities or economic backgrounds of the students who are to be tested and these tests are biased against minorities and the poor. If students are to be tested, extra tutoring would be available to students, at no cost to the parents.

Having competent teachers, board members, and administrators are also a vital part of restructuring the educational system. Having qualified administrators and board members who know and enforce standards and guidelines is important. What are the qualifications for an administrator? Are there required qualifications? These are the questions that need answers. Just because someone has obtained a degree does not make this person the best for the job. Board members should not be chosen because they golf with the mayor; all board members should have a Master’s degree in Education or have an extensive social justice background. As for teachers, the educational system should make sure that the best teachers are chosen for the positions and evaluations should be given frequently. This would give parents and the educational system a chance to find out what is wrong and what is needed to correct the problems. Public education needs teachers and board members that actually care about the children and their education, not individuals who want the perks of working for school system: summers and holidays off, steady raises and a fat compensation package. American children are suffering due to the inadequacies of the individuals involved with the educational system.

The “culture of poverty” theory that has been used by several politicians to explain differences in learning between different ethnicities would be exposed as a blatant attempt by the status quo to “blame” individuals for their poverty if the educational system was restructured to meet the needs of all students, not just the wealthy. Huge educational gaps between poor students and wealthy students do not occur because the poorer students have adapted to their poverty-stricken existence but because they do not have resources needed to succeed in school. If students have to deal with textbooks that are outdated, lack of toiletries, and computers from the late 1980s, their opportunity to advance academically is dismal and their chances of dropping out of school likely.

In a just and an equal society, the educational system I have discussed would have already been implemented decades ago but it has not and more than likely will not. In a hierarchical society such as in America, there will always be someone on the low end of the totem pole and the best way to do that is through the mis-education of its most vulnerable: the children. The neglect of the educational system in the US threatens the economic well being of the entire nation. Unless the inequalities in education is diminished and its system totally restructured, the wealthy gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen and the US will be infamous for being the nation of the undereducated. Spring, Joel. American Education. (2006). New York: McGraw-Hill

Do Special Education Success Stories Exist – And How Do I Obtain This for My Child?

As a parent and advocate for over 25 years, I often become frustrated by how long it takes to successfully advocate for one child (even my own children)! Sometimes it seems like I am banging my head against a wall (giving myself a concussion), with little to no outcome. I was recently reminded that advocacy is difficult by its very nature, but even when it seems like I have not done much or the parent has not done much—the child can really benefit!

1. I was helping parents in another state with their high school son’s education. Things had gotten very bad at school for the young man, and the school wanted to send him to an alternative school. I immediately began working with the mother and educating her on IDEA 2004 and discipline laws. I read letters, helped her write letters, worked on a settlement with the school, and encouraged her to keep fighting despite how bad things were. The situation worsened, and the young man left school-which was frustrating for his parents and me! Imagine my surprise when a few months later I received an E-mail from his mother with a picture of his high school diploma! I am so excited for the young man, and I realized that if his parents and I had not fought for him, he probably never would have graduated! Great outcome!

2. I advocated for a child with autism for over a year. The young man could not read, was delayed in all academic areas, and had developed school phobia. In my advocacy, I had to do a lot of educating of the school staff about dyslexia; research based instruction, as well as extended school year services. Another issue is that the school district insisted on bringing their attorney to all IEP meetings; even after giving them a copy of the OSEP policy letter to Clinton discouraging this practice. After a year, we had made some inroads, and the parents (and I) decided they would try on their own (with me helping them by phone etc.). After I stopped coming to meetings the school district stopped having their attorney attend IEP meetings—and the treatment of the parents is somewhat better. The young man is learning academically and no longer has school phobia-awesome!

There are success stories in special education advocacy; and here is what you can do to increase the chance of success for your child:

1. Assertive and persistent advocacy for as long as it takes. Sometimes advocacy is like a long journey, rather than a short one! Hang in there and you will be glad you did!

2. If your child is having difficulty with reading it is critical that you find accurate information on dyslexia, to use in your advocacy, and research based ways to deal with the disability. Try this link to the International Dyslexia Association ( http://www.interdys.org/ ).

3. Learn about best practices in special education for your child’s disability, and advocate for them. For example: ABA is still considered best practice for children with autism.

4. Call your states PTIC and ask about free or low cost advocacy trainings. You will not only learn lots, but you will be able to connect with other parents!

5. Consider the use of a qualified experienced advocate-this can often go a long way in advocacy success! Make sure that the advocate has experience with your states dispute resolution processes.

6. If the school continues to deny and/or delay needed services consider using the dispute resolution processes (due process, mediation, and state complaints).

Advocacy success stories to exist and this article has given you a few examples. You have also learned some dragon slaying tips to work toward your own child’s success story! Good luck!

Diversity Pioneers In The History Of Diversity Education

Introduction

Diversity education is becoming a solution for many businesses. In the European Union, it is offered to small and medium-sized businesses to develop their capacity to include people of across states in the union and cultures. Australia’s government utilizes diversity education to end a history of discrimination against Aboriginal and Islander people. Asia finds it useful for increasing productivity in multinational companies, and for addressing the historical challenges of achieving harmony between Muslim and Hindu citizens. South Africa has implemented diversity education to adjust to the removal of the Apartheid system. The United States has offered diversity education for decades, although the rationale for its use has changed over time.

This article is limited to characterizing the history of diversity education in the United States. A history of diversity education in other countries and continents will follow in future issues.

Diversity Training and education in the United States

Many organizations, communities, military sectors, and higher education institutions have been conducting some form of diversity education since the 1960s in the United States. Businesses used diversity training in the late 1980s and throughout the 90s to protect against and settle civil rights suits. Many organizations now assume that diversity education can boost productivity and innovation in an increasingly diverse work environment. The assumptions about the value of diversity training, as a result of its changing functions and uses, have evolved over the decades.

Diversity education basically started as a reaction to the civil rights movement and violent demonstrations by activists determined to send a clear message to Americans of European descent that black people would no longer remain voiceless regarding their treatment as citizens. Social change in order to achieve a more stable society prevailed was the rationale for the education, which primarily focused on training to increase sensitivity towards and awareness of racial differences.

Encounter groups became a popular training method for bringing white and black Americans together for honest and emotional discussions about race relations. The military employed encounter groups in what is perhaps the largest scale diversity education experiment ever conducted (Day, 1983). Many of the facilitators viewed the “encounter” among racial group participating in diversity training as successful when at least one white American admitted that he or she was racist and tearful about racial discrimination and white supremacy.

Employing a black-white pair of facilitators was considered essential for exposing participants to the two race relations perspective and to model cross-racial collaboration. The facilitators were typically men, and the white facilitator was most valued if he could openly show emotions about his own journey in discovering his deep-seated racism.

Facilitators saw their work as a way to achieve equality in a world that had historically oppressed those with less social, political, and economic power. Confronting white Americans who made excuses for, or denied their racism, was common in this diversity training approach. The goal was to increase white American sensitivity to the effects of racial inequity.

White American participants tended to respond to confrontation in sensitivity training in three important ways. One group of whites became more insightful about the barriers to race relations as a result of being put on the hot seat during the encounters. Another group became more resistant to racial harmony as they fought against accepting the facilitators’ label of them as racists. A third group became what the military referred to as “fanatics.” These individuals began advocating against any forms of racial injustice after the training.

H. R. Day’s (1985) research on diversity training in the military indicates that the Defense Department Race Relations Institute reduced the amount of training hours and curtailed the use of the “hot seat” techniques in response to negative evaluations by many participants who completed the training. Diversity training in corporations also began to change as Affirmative Action laws were being curtailed by the federal government.

While gender diversity education began to emerge during the 1970s and 1980s, diversity education in the United States expanded in the 1990s to focus on barriers to inclusion for other identity groups. Ability difference, ethnic, religious, gay, lesbian, and other worldviews began to appear in education and training.

Some diversity pioneers argue that the broader view of diversity has “watered down” the focus on race to the extent that it is no longer seriously dealt with in training. Their assumption is that focusing on prejudice towards other groups does not activate the visceral reaction needed for individuals, organizations, and the society as whole to deal with core discrimination issues.

Recent research shows that people in the United States have more negative reactions towards people who are gay or lesbian (Devine & Monteith, 1993). It seems that many Americans share an anti-gay and lesbian attitude, primarily based on religious beliefs. However, even the attitude towards gays and lesbians is becoming more positive way, as indicated by the success of the movie Brokeback Mountain about two cowboy lovers, and the introduction of legislation that protects their rights (Vaughn, 2002).

Multiculturalism refers to the inclusion of the full range of identity groups in education. The goal is to take into consideration each of the diverse ways people identify as cultural beings. This perspective has become the most widely used approach today in diversity education. The inclusion of other identity groups poses the challenges of maintaining focus on unresolved racial discrimination and effectively covering the many different identity groups.

The current focus on white privilege training in one sector of diversity work maintains a place for racism in diversity education. White privilege education involves challenging white people to consider the benefits they reap individually as a member of the racial group with the most social, political, and economic power.

While white privilege, multiculturalism, and racism work are each very important, diversity professionals must keep in mind that organizations vary in diversity education needs. Determining how to meet these needs requires the trainer to possess critical thinking skills and an ability to facilitate issues outside of her or his cultural experience. The capable diversity professional has the ability to determine when race education is the suitable intervention, when gender orientation is called for, when addressing homophobia is necessary, etc.

Discussions about gender differences, sexual orientation, Native American identity, Latino empowerment, white privilege, etc. provide a rich context for understanding the complexity of American diversity. Today’s savvy diversity trainer has the expertise to take a multicultural perspective in facilitating and training, and he or she commands knowledge of the range of identity groups. Giving each identity group the attention it deserves is no small matter as a result.

The reality of global mobilization has required an even broader view of diversity work due to working with an increasingly cross-national audience. The use of the label African American, for example, is complicated by white and black Africans immigrating to the United States. An organization may have employees from the former Yugoslavia, refugees from Somalia, guest workers from India, and people with limited English-speaking skills-just to name a few modern diversity challenges. Religious diversity accompanies globalism, which is also included in modern diversity education.

It is likely that this complexity of identity group needs prompted diversity professionals like Judith Katz to focus on promoting inclusive organizations. The objective is to remove the barriers to productivity for every member of the organization with particular concern for historically excluded group members.

Another recent change is the emphasis on diversity education, rather than diversity training. While the use of one term versus another is regularly debated, it is a valuable exchange of ideas. From the author’s perspective, the term diversity education both broadens the view of what diversity programs within organizations are about and manages the often negative connotation diversity training activates. Perhaps more important is that the term allows us to distinguish between diversity training and other programmatic activities among diversity practices.

In addition, diversity expertise has changed over time, which partly reflects changing demands and the growth in the field’s body of knowledge. A description of the profession before the rise of the chief diversity officer tells us a lot about what diversity professionals faced as consultants.

Diversity Pioneers

Diversity professionals are hired on staff in organizations that understand that diversity is capital and harnessing it in the service of productivity requires a long term commitment. An in-house diversity professional is responsible for leading a diversity initiative within an organization. Some have the title chief diversity officer or vice president of diversity, while others are considered diversity coordinators or steering committee chairs. Regardless of what they are called, these positions are becoming increasingly prevalent in organizations. Not long ago, a human resource officer would hire a consultant or trainer to handle a diversity matter with sensitivity-awareness training as the expected the solution.

Diversity pioneers laid the foundation for the emergence of today’s diversity leaders. A diversity pioneer is someone who has been in the profession for more than twenty years, which includes those who have served either as an in-house or consulting professional. The in-house professionals are activists for diversity, inclusion and fairness. It is the contributions of external consultants and trainers that is the focus in this article.

Here is a list of diversity pioneers in the United States:

o Elsie Cross

o Price Cobb

o Sybil Evans

o John Fernandez

o Lee Gardenswartz

o Lewis Griggs

o Ed Hubbard

o Judith Katz

o Frances Kendall

o Fred Miller

o Patricia Pope

o Ann Rowe

o Donna Springer

o Roosevelt Thomas

The list is based on data collected a couple of years ago by Diversity Training University International students. An editorial staff member brought to the author’s attention that he began his diversity teaching and consulting career in 1986. His initial reaction was feeling intimidated by the thought of placing his name on a list with such an esteemed group of pioneers.

Few diversity pioneers had specialized training when starting out in the business. Louis Griggs, for example, is a Stanford MBA. Judith Katz had a more closely related background with a doctorate from University of Massachusetts that focused on race relations. She also taught in the University of Oklahoma Human Relations Program for ten years prior to entering the business sector as a fulltime consultant.

The author is trained as an applied research cultural- cognitive psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. After receiving the doctorate in 1986, he taught cultural competence for nearly two decades. Each diversity pioneer had had to learn about how to navigate the landmines in diversity work while on the front lines as consultants, trainers, and educators.

What the pioneers may have lacked in credentials specific to the diversity profession, they more than made up for with the bumps and bruises they endured in the trenches of just doing the work.

Raising the Bar

Judith Katz was a student activist for social justice in the late 1960s. Judith began her diversity profession by focusing on racism from a white American perspective. By the mid 1980s she was working for The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. Affirmative action was at its height, and many companies utilized independent diversity professionals to provide programs to help increase the numbers of African Americans and women employees. Some organizations utilized diversity training to safeguard against civil rights suits during this period of time. Much of the training “focused primarily on black-white racial issues and sexism”, according to Judith, “with little if any attention given to, Latino, Asian, sexual orientation, age or people with disabilities.”

Judith also noticed that the business case in those days emphasized diversity as doing the right thing, rather than as a business imperative. People were expected to fit into the existing organizational culture. It was difficult at the time to effect real organizational change.

“The major change is that diversity is now accepted as a key business driver, rather than diversity for diversity’s sake.” This was accompanied by a shift away from the confrontational approach common in the early stages of diversity education history. According to Judith, “for some folks diversity was about compliance (the concern about law suits) for others it was about increasing individual diversity awareness. The confrontational approach to raising individual awareness did not create systems change in the long run. Some individuals became more aware but the very systems, structures and processes often remained unchanged. Judith notes that many organizations still approach diversity from a compliance perspective but, more and more organizational leaders are going well beyond that. They understand that “if you are not leveraging diversity, you are not in the game of business today.”

Judith is concerned about the challenges that continue to face diversity professionals as well as chief diversity officers. The following is a list of some of her concerns for in-house professionals who lead diversity initiatives:

o Diversity leaders must contend with organizational leaders who give lip service to the diversity initiative without putting their hearts and souls into it or offer it the necessary resources for success.

o As a result, diversity leaders too often shoulder the full weight of the diversity initiative.

o They can get too buried in the work to be effective.

o They are expected to partner with many different parts of the organization, which contributes to additional stress.

o They work alone and are expected to single-handedly get a very difficult job done.

o They are expected to manage a highly political role while getting their job done and legally protecting the organization.

The result is that leading the diversity initiative can be a very difficult, demanding, and lonely job from Judith’s perspective.

Judith believes that leaders of organizations need to “raise its bar” for expectations in delivering results from the diversity initiative. This is the best way to support the diversity officer. A good example is to make people in the organization accountable for contributing to promoting inclusion-especially managers and supervisors. Linking bonuses and merit pay to clear diversity and inclusion metrics is seldom given serious consideration in even the top fifty diversity companies. But this obviously raises the bar of expectations and performance.

Thanks to Judith, diversity consultants and trainers have a role model. In the author’s opinion, she is one of the few who can successfully engage business leaders in serious discussions about organizational inclusion.

Valuing Diversity

Valuing diversity is a term that’s used quite a bit these days in making a case for diversity and inclusion-Thanks to Lewis Griggs. When he coined the words during the early 1980s, his clients thought it was “too touchy-feely.” It wasn’t affirmative action or equal employment opportunity language. One African American male colleague told him that the terminology was downright dangerous because white America was not ready to value people for their differences. But, fortunately for us, he had a vision.

Lewis is a European American who came to diversity work through his own individual growth experiences. Griggs says “While doing international training during the early 1980s, I realized that people from other countries had more knowledge about me as an American than I had about them. This meant the ‘other’ had more power over me in our interactions. I discovered how ethnocentric I was.” Griggs figured that if he was ethnocentric about people from other countries, then “Could I be ethnocentric here in the United States?”

Griggs continued to do ground breaking work. He developed a series of valuing diversity videos. Then he developed one of the first online diversity training programs. The annual diversity conference offered by the Society of Human Resource Management was created by Lewis. Thanks to Lewis, increasing numbers of organizations have embraced the idea that we need to value differences.

Avoiding a Backlash

The higher education sector started offering diversity courses in the general education curricula during the 1980s. Stanford University and the California State University at Fullerton, for example, dared to offer mandatory cultural diversity courses to fulfill general education requirements. There was considerable debate among academicians about whether or not the canon needed protection against including diversity courses.

The author found himself in the middle of the cultural wars as a new assistant professor with a joint appointment in Ethnic Studies and psychology. His training made it easy to interweave cultural differences into developmental, social, and cognitive psychology courses. He also taught mandatory general education diversity courses. The primarily European American, politically conservative students were very resistant to the required courses.

Students resisted less as the courses integrated into the curricula over the years, but many continued to struggle with the material due to difficulty with accepting values and beliefs different from their own.

Recruitment of historically excluded group members, especially students of color, was the primary focus at most universities. No one would seriously listen to ideas about creating an inclusive organization before increasing the numbers of students of color. The attitude was “let’s just get as many students of color in as possible and worry about how to retain them later”. Retaining and graduating these historically excluded students became major problems as the numbers of recruits increased.

The author also witnessed incredible gains in attracting students of historically excluded groups and creating an inclusive environment-only to see those gains undermined by changes in the leadership and economic climate. The lesson learned is that sustainable diversity and inclusion initiatives require an on-going commitment to remove all the barriers that can lead to reverting to old ways of doing business (Fenn, J. & Goforth-Irving, C., 2005). Diversity and inclusion must, for example, be part of each and every new initiative that comes along in order to protect the organization from moving back to earlier inclusion stages.

As economic, political, and global changes required new ways of solving old problems, the pioneers experienced many bumps in the road. This brief history suggests that their sheer determination and commitment built an invaluable foundation from which we all can draw meaningful lessons. This magazine is designed as a solution for building on the pioneers’ foundation so that we can better manage the impact of inevitable environmental changes that impact diversity work.

Future Education In The Age Of The Implanted Brain Information and Communication Chip

Not long ago, I was discussing with a future Think Tank member his concerns about how education in North America and around the world is not keeping up with technology, or ready for the future of computer-brain interfaces. This may sound like an esoteric topic, however when you consider the speed of these technologies, I am sure we’ve already all thought about how in the future, your smart phone will be nothing more than a brain-chip with full Internet Access that works with your organic brain in real-time. Want to send a thought, just think it, think about whom you’d like to send this thought to, and it’s sent, post on social media and you are done.

Want to learn a new topic, no need, you have instant access to all human information, and it will feel as if it is all in your own memory, just think a question and viola, you have the answer. My think tank acquaintance noted that we are a ways off from that future, and if the past is any indication of how we might handle that future, then we are in big trouble. Education is broken already, and it will not be able to adapt to something that different. He noted we need to fix all the rote memorization teaching, it isn’t working. And, I would submit to you that it will be even worse in the future, in fact; why memorize anything if you have full-time unlimited access to all the information ever created and stored in the cloud of humanity?

So what he is saying is that we have to teach people to THINK, not just put the students in rows, open their skulls and pour information in to them, which is what pedagogy has been for most of the 20th century and now to for a lot of this century. I of course agree. If we integrate the brain-chip or implanted information, or access to all human information in real time to the brain, it will only work if the human user has enough foresight to ask the right questions, and cross-pollinate the information in an innovative and creative way. This is something that humans are good at, when they practice it, and as of yet, AI computers are not so good at. Together (AI + human brains) it will be smarter than either on its own, smarter than today’s human and smarter than a future AI computer chip w/instant access to all human information to date and up on all new information in real-time.

The increase in IQ wouldn’t matter. Everyone would be super smart and retain unlimited information in the cloud storage device or set of distributive cloud computers around the planet. The best and most creative minds would use this information in the most novel ways, ask the best questions and have most of those questions answered to pose new ones. The speed of innovation would be so intensive that Ray Kurzweil’s “Singularity” theory would be realized in short order.

Researching Special Education Schools for Your Child

Research on learning disabilities strongly supports early intervention in children who struggle academically. Children with a learning disability who receive proper attention and support to develop their weak areas are just as likely to be successful students as their peers without a disability, so long as their weaknesses are discovered early. Parents of students who need extra attention might want to consider special education schools. Learning about options in your area can help you select the right program.

The first place to start your search may be with an independent evaluation. A team of psychologists and social workers can evaluate your child to determine his or her eligibility. These learning experts may also recommend additional testing if they suspect that the student falls along the autism or language-based learning disabilities spectrum. Further evaluation may help pinpoint your child’s weakness or give some indication of the type of remediation that may be beneficial.

Once you have an idea of your child’s needs, start looking at the options your area. Making a list of priorities for your family can help narrow down your choices. Your list should include practical matters, such as location, transportation, availability of after-hours care and financial requirements are some examples.

Additionally, academic programs and resources should factor into your decision. Consider whether your student will benefit from tutors, assistive technology and smaller class size. Research the school’s policy on extended time or other accommodations for testing whether classes can be scheduled in a flexible manner. Many people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. Opportunities to participate in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses or a gifted program may be an important consideration. On the other hand, others learn best in a non-competitive environment in which lessons are project- or theme-based.

Finally, take the campus facilities and culture into consideration. Participating in extracurricular programs and sports can teach teamwork and sportsmanship to students who have trouble with social interactions. Conflict-resolution programs or a firm discipline policy may benefit some students.

Parents should also visit special education schools before making a decision. During your visit, sit in on a class to make sure that students receive enough individual attention. If the special education school utilizes a particular curriculum with which you are unfamiliar, request information about the program’s philosophy and methods. Ask questions about how study periods or homework sessions are structured. Teachers and administrators should have a system for providing regular updates about your child’s progress, so be certain that you are satisfied with the level of communication you can expect. Finally, ask for phone numbers of parents with children enrolled in the school before ending your visit. Speaking with parents of students who currently attend the school is a great way to find out more about the program.

Parents are the best advocates for children with learning disabilities. Exploring the educational options available and selecting the most effective special education curriculum can help ensure his or her academic success.

Digital Devices Driving Autism Education

Computers have always proved to be excellent gadgets to facilitate communication and learning for children with autism spectrum disorder. Now, with the emergence of smart phones and the iPad, autistic children have greater opportunities for improving their cognitive, communication and motor skills.

Various organizations that are engaged in supporting families living with autistic kids, have developed apps and programs like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” that are amazing tools. These autism education apps promote learning among special needs children.

Why digital devices?

Autism apps like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” running on smart phones and iPads provide greater flexibility and portability than a traditional laptop or computer. These latest digital devices utilize touch screen technology which makes them more accessible to autistic children, especially those who have coordination and learning difficulties. Most of the children using an iPad find that the sliding and tapping motions are much easier to execute than typing. Besides, smart phones and tabs can be taken wherever you want to go. They are much lighter than the bulky assistive communication gadgets of the past and that’s a major advantage of using these devices.

Tabs, smart phones, and iPads are great tools for communication and education, which if one of the several reasons why the “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism apps have become hugely popular among special needs children. Apps like these can be customized to the specific needs of the autistic child using them. This helps to make the lessons more attractive and interesting that the conventional learning devices. It has been noticed that many children can use these gadgets better than adults.

The world of autistic children is full of imagery. Words have a lesser importance to them. The “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism education apps freely use images to help children string together words and create sentences, and solve mathematics problems. In this way, special needs children are able to communicate with educators, instructors, counselors, and parents sans any frustration.

The benefits

Autism apps like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences”, running on iPads and tabs, offer huge benefits. The direct touch screen ensures that no stylus or mouse is required for input functions. The most important point is that the apps are predictable, accessible, and easily organized. They help breaking down lessons to discrete topics or chunks that make learning more enjoyable. Special needs and autistic children can learn in a better way through the “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism apps.

Considerations in Distance Education for the Medical Assistant Instructor

Medical Assistant distance education is emerging to meet the demands of a new generation of students in the twenty first century. St. Augustine Medical Assistant School distance education program for medical assistant presents a good model for this integration of technology with medical assistant education. Distance education, particularly in its most recent form, online education, is being integrated into even the most cautious and conservative of educational institutions. Yet the impact of these alternative forms of teaching and learning on students, faculty, and institutions has yet to be broadly or deeply studied. New models such as that at St. Augustine Medical Assistant School are immerging. St. Augustine Medical Assistant School is available at: http://www.medicalassistant.us

Distance education is not new, and can be traced as far back as the first century. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian churches, instructing them from a distance (even when he was under ‘house arrest’ in Rome). This was probably the first type of ‘correspondence course’, which was the only method of learning at a distance until the advent of the telephone. Today, distance education and in particular online medical assistant instruction calls upon an impressive range of technologies to enable medical assistant instructor and the medical assistant student who are separated by distance to communicate with each other either in real time (synchronous) or delayed time (asynchronous). Currently and asynchronous model used at St. Augustine Medical Assistant School to instruct medical assistant students. This has proven to be a very effective model however the medical assistant program is currently investigating the benefits of synchronous online medical assistant instruction and the benefits it may have for the medical assistant student.

Medical Assistant distance learning epitomizes the move away from institute based learning to a more direct, student centered approach. As a concept, distance learning has existed for over a century, notably in the form of paper based correspondence courses including the less formal correspondence education for medical assistants. Now however, distance education is depending increasingly upon technology for its success and technological innovations ensure that distance learning for the medical assistant continues to evolve and grow as a valid and potent force in all forms of education for the medical assistant.

The task of the medical assistant distance educator is therefore to obviate these problems as much as possible by mixing and matching techniques, creating and maintaining a stimulating environment, and offering opportunities for medical assistant students to communicate with each other and with the medical assistant teaching staff on a regular basis. The medical assistant educators will also need to change their traditional role as well. Many remote medical assistant students need a great deal of social support, and medical assistant distance educators may find themselves spending more time offering one-to-one tutorials and less time lecturing. St. Augustine Medical Assistant School at http://www.MedicalAssistant.us is leading today’s technology in medical assistant education.

When designing medical assistant educational systems and materials for medical assistant distance in delivery the medical assistant teacher must consider not only learning outcomes, but also centered requirements and technical constraints for the medical assistant. Also to be considered are the needs, characteristics, and individual differences of both the students, the teachers and future medical assistants.

Medical assistant distance education for the medical assistant then, should not be viewed as a means of reducing costs, but as an opportunity to raise standards. It is also about providing quality medical assistant learning opportunities for those who, for one reason or another, have previously been excluded from this basic human right. Medical Assistant distance education will quickly become the norm and not the exception for the twenty first century medical assistant. St. Augustine Medical Assistant School distance education program for medical assistant presents a good model for this integration of technology with medical assistant education. The St. Augustine Medical Assistant model can be reviewed at: www.medicalassistant.us.