A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…

Two Tier Education System For Higher Technical Education in India

IntroductionWith ever increasing use of technology and the internet in India and ever growing demand and need for expanding the coverage of Higher Technical Education there is a wide scope of introducing technology in the way the Higher Technical Education is imparted in India. In today’s environment mostly the methods employed are labor intensive, limited to class room interaction, access to which is not available to students in the event of they missing out the classes due to certain reasons. In addition there are difficulties in explaining and demonstrating the complex subjects involving three dimensional figures/models. More over it is an accepted fact that it is difficult for the students to concentrate on a subject in a typical classroom environment for more than about 20 minutes. The best of students have often been found to be losing concentration after about 20 minutes of classroom teaching which mostly becomes monotonous in traditional class where teacher mostly resorts to one way transmission without initiating interactive discussion. Though interactive sessions offer little improvement but it is not always possible to initiate the interaction till the time the students have developed certain level of understanding of basic concepts and fully understand the prerequisite required for a typical course.BackgroundIn order to improve teaching learning process it is important that we go beyond the boundaries of classroom and fixed timetable limits. The teaching material must be delivered to the student at a time, pace and place which provides best learning environment for him. This may have lot of variation depending on individual students needs. The EDUSAT program launched at the initiative of the government has also not achieved the desired success though large numbers of terminals have been established all over India and best of Professors are delivering lectures in real time environment. The root cause of failure can be attributed to the fact that it is still not getting out of a typical class room environment. Though virtual classrooms have been created but still it is limited to formalities of a classroom.Use of technology in improving the teaching learning process normally termed as Educational Technology – also known variously as e-learning, instructional technology and learning technology – is the use of technology to support the enhancement of learning process. It impacts upon the learning process, e.g. in delivering learning materials, facilitating communication and providing assessment and feedback. This technology can effectively be used to enhance and supplement the classroom teaching wherein the material is once again made available to the student at a time, pace and place that is best suitable for his needs. It will fill in the blanks which he must have drawn while he was in the classroom and could not clarify his concepts due to certain reasons. More ever certain other things like tutorials, tests, assignments etc can also handled effectively on line thereby saving the valuable time of the competent faculty members which can be used for other more useful activities.Course management systems (CMSs), which are online systems, were designed and developed to support classroom learning in academic settings, such as universities and other Educational Institutes. CMSs provide instructors with the ability to perform the following tasks:• Place course materials online. Most CMSs provide pre-programmed buttons for the course syllabus, course schedule, and course materials linked to specific lessons, such as copies of readings and PowerPoint slides from lectures.• Track student progress through assessment features, which enable instructors to give quizzes and tests online, and an online grade book, where instructors can post student grades.• Discussion board, where instructors and students can discuss readings and continue class discussions between formal class sessions.• Other communications tools, which let instructors send announcements to classes and communicate individually with students.• Lock box for students, where students can store class materials in a safe place-either a presentation to give later in class or backing up class assignments in a safe place.• Course statistics, which provide information on the use of the course site, including who used the course site and when.• Examples of CMSs include the commercial products Blackboard and WebCT, and the open source system like Moodle.MotivationWith ever increasing need for automation in the education system and the Government having decided to go for decentralization in Higher Technical Education in a big way there has been mushrooming growth of Engineering Institutions all over India. Good faculty members with thorough understanding of basic through advanced topics are difficult to find. With the current system of the faculty resources being utilized only for the benefit of the students enrolled with the Institute/University employing the concerned faculty, the scarce resources are not being utilized optimally. With the current developments and availability of Information Technology tools it may be possible to share the rich experiences of the distinguished faculty resources of certain key institutions in a typical University by other inexperienced faculty members of the same university engaged in teaching similar or same subjects.The basic idea will be to introduce two tier system in the higher technical education. The first tier will involve a continuous and consistent effort made to train and educate the fresh and inexperienced faculty members by using real time interaction with a group of experienced faculty members located at a center of excellence. This will involve creation of a “Nodal Center of Excellence” for each of the course being offered by the university. Such nodal center will design and develop a course by using the best suitable and simple to operate tools available in course management systems to perfection. This course will compulsorily be subscribed to by all faculty members engaged in teaching same course all throughout the University. They can share the expertise available at the nodal center and also clarify the intricacies of the subjects on a day to day basis as the course advances in the semester.The second tier of the system will involve Individual teachers who are already subscribed to the first tier discussed above. Such teachers will run their own course management systems for the benefit of the students attending their lectures.In this manner all the center of excellence established everywhere can be shared by all the institutes affiliated to the university and also the university campus colleges. This will result in:-• Uniformity in the coverage of the syllabus and its standardization.• Discovering the shortcoming of the syllabus and a common platform for discussing the same for future revision.• Clarification of the basic through advanced concepts through the chatting/tools offered by concerned selected service of the CMS.• Standardization and sharing of the grading and assessment of the students without significant variation form teacher to teacher.• Moderation of the grading centrally.• Readily available standardized course material which can be developed by networking of teachers sharing same subject in the university but at different institutions.• Standardization of reference books and the topics to be covered.• Standardization of the depth of individual topics to be covered for each subject.• Typical standardization of question bank.• Development of reference standard study material at the center of excellence which can be shared by all other institutions.• Automation of tutorial submission, FAQ answers, question paper generation, and response to earlier similar question asked.• Provision of authenticated links to related and useful material for further higher study for research.The System can be Implemented in these steps:Conceive, design and develop a two tier education system based on nodal concept of center of excellence in Engineering Education (Higher technical education) typical to Indian Universities by selecting the best suitable tools offered by Course Management Systems (CMS) available and demonstrate the viability of the concept.(1) Step one:(a) Identify the essential and desirable features which should be offered by the nodal center of excellence, in typical Indian University environment, to make it effective in sharing and updating its resources.(b) Carry out comparative study of the available course management systems world wide and selecting the best suitable system for this purpose.(2) Step Two: Developing a comprehensive module in selected course which should preferably support following features:-(a) Learning Tools• Book marking• Student Area• Library and Information Access• Annotation• Glossary• Course Index/Search Engine• Learning Exemplars/Guidance• Access to Grades• Student Guide• Self-Assessment Exercises• Study Skill Building• Student Web Pages(b) Collaboration Tools• Discussion Options• File Sharing• Work Group Areas(c)Faculty Tools• Course Planning, Design, Templates• Automated Glossary• Automated Course TOC/Index/Search Engine• File Management• Instructor Guide/Course Exemplars• Web Search Tools• Multimedia Capability(d)Course Management• Course Pages• Student Management• Automatic student assignment reminders (currently none of the CMS offer this currently)• Course Archive/Backup/Replication• Course Revision• Online Help/FAQs• Administration Tools• Automated Registration• Security• Student Transcript(3) Step Three: Implementing the nodal concept of center of excellence in real time and initiate the process for demonstration purposes.Milestones completedNodal concept has widely been applied in service, telecommunication and repair & maintenance industry wherein certain nodal centers are created with all the facilities and expertise available at easily accessible place which can be accessed by the prospective customers. In telecommunications wherein certain communication nodes are created and users can hook on to these nodes for getting the desired services. In education system the concept has widely been applied in various admission management systems and placement services.The concept of creating the Nodal center of excellence has been experimented in India by EDUSAT which is based on real time lectures in virtual classroom environment. However it has not invoked much enthusiasm. The root cause for this can be attributed to the fact that the lecture tends to be monologue and is not at a place, pace and time as may be required by the perspective learner. More over it lacks personal contact between the teacher and the students. The proposed two tier system of education involving nodal concept is intended to supplement the classroom teaching. It will be designed to optimize the contact time between the teacher and students in a way that the most important tings are attended to during the contact period and things of lesser importance can be attended to by the course management system like tutorials, class tests, assignments etc.This concept can be related to the service industry where in a nodal point, which can be termed as centre of excellence, is established which caters to the training needs of service engineers who are placed all over the operational areas. These service engineers in turn provide service to the customers. In case they find they are not able to address the problem they consult the nodal point for further advice. Almost same concept is applied in case of maintenance support provided by most of the companies for maintenance cover provided to their customers.The defense forces are known to have been using multi tier system for their training, maintenance and repair needs, though their system is not automated but the nodal concept is well established. In the proposed system we intend to use the two tier system with automation by using Course Management Systems.

Statistics Programming – Easing the Pain

Different sets of software are being developed everyday just to ease man with some of his technical works such as in the field of business. These programs are specially designed to make high speed calculations and analysis of the data and come up with a soft copy of information output that can be used instantaneously after the software processes it. Statistics is one of the most complicated clerical works of anyone who is studying or working in the field of economics, politics and even social matters. Statistics is deemed to be of importance because it gives a type of descriptive conclusion or interpretation that can be very precise depending upon the quality of data that has been gathered and the competence that is given to organize, interpret and represent that data. But even with the level of competence that a person has with regards to his statistical skills, there is still a probability that a miscalculation might be made and alter the holistic outcome of the statistics.

However, because of the rapid advancements of technology and the evolution of the functions that can be performed by the humble computer software developers has come up with a certain software program that can make ease any statistician of all their statistical tasks. The development of a program that is able to perform the task of organizing and interpreting statistical data was q revolutionary breakthrough when it comes to statistical analysis help. Statistics programming is defined as the systematic calculation of all the numerical data that has been downloaded into the system wherein it is organized basing upon the categories. These categories are classified upon the nature of the data that has been downloaded. After the process of organizing the data, it will be then interpreted numerically. This function of statistical programming helps to lessen the burden of work and also to maximize the output of a statistician.

Statistical program is composed of sets of languages. There are a total of 17 categories in a statistical program and these are the following;
• Analytica, ADMB
• Gretl, GAUSS
• Mathematica
• OxMetrics
• Quantum (Programming Language)
• Programming Language, SPSS, Symbolic Data Analysis, Sysquake, SAS (software and language), Speakeasy(Computation), SHAZAM (Software)
• World Programming System
• XLispStat

Each of these categories of Statistics Programs has their own unique sets of functions. Each one of it is capable of performing specific functions about statistics. The MATRIX LAB is one of the statistics programs that are widely used today. It is a program that is provided by a certain company that is said to be fully capable of solving ad coming up with solutions with regards to any mathematical or numerical problems that are fed into it. The MATLAB assignment helps not only statistics but also other aspects that majorly require the use of mathematical equations and solving. Because of these software programs, statisticians are given more time to pay attention to other details of the data and leave the organization and the interpretation of it to the statistics software.