Liz King is Legislative Director for Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa). She has worked in this office since 2005, prior to which she taught middle school in Philadelphia with Teach For America for two years. In her current role she coordinates the Congressman’s legislative agenda and advises him on education, health and social policy. She is passionately committed to improving access and outcomes in education and to ensuring that all students’ potential is realized. She is especially excited about the changing American demographics and the potential to bring new thinking and new thinkers to old problems. Believing that there should always be a strong link between practice and policy, Liz volunteers as a one-on-one tutor and as a classroom volunteer. She holds a BA in Government and Religion from Wesleyan University and an MS in Elementary Education from St. Joseph’s University.
In 2002, when President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law, it became official policy of the United States government that all students attending public schools (with the exception of students with the most significant disAbilities) meet grade level standards by the year 2014. For the first time, the basic expectation most parents of middle class, White, typically abled children have of their neighborhood school now applied to all classrooms, schools and districts without adjusting for race, income, first language, or IEP. I believe that this is the most important step towards real equity for all students at the federal level since the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case desegregated schools in 1954. Read more
I believe the key to activating the lives of students with disabilities is not about changing who they are; rather, it is in changing how we listen to them. So let’s begin with a short listening exercise. If you are at our near a kitchen, perform the following steps before reading the blog. If not, feel free to skip ahead.
An Exercise in Listening: 5 steps in 15 minutes.
Beth Ferri, associate professor in teaching and leadership programs, is the coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Special Education. She teaches courses in adapting instruction for diverse learners as well as graduate seminars in Disability Studies, including a course on Race and Disability and a course on Gender, Disability and Sexuality. Her research interests focus on inclusive education, disability studies, and narrative inquiry. In her 2006 book, Reading Resistance: Discourses of Exclusion in Desegregation and Inclusion Debates (Peter Lang), she and coauthor David J. Connor explore how the entanglement of race and disability worked to create and maintain new mechanisms of exclusion after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.
As any educator will tell you, the pendulum of reform rarely stays in one place very long. There is always something new: new ideas, new theories, and new paradigms. Certainly my own field of special education has been at the epicenter of many educational reforms (i.e. inclusion, positive behavior support, phonemic-awareness). Yet, given this penchant for reform, how is it that the more education changes, the more it seems to remain the same?
One reason for pendulum swings, at least in terms of special education practice, is that the foundational assumptions of the field remain deeply entrenched. The idea that students come in two types, one “special” and one “regular,” for instance, remains an unstated assumption across a range of reforms. We know, of course, that students share a range of abilities, motivations, interests, identities, and backgrounds—all of which cannot be reduced to a simple binary. Yet, because we have yet to challenge this core assumption, we continue to assume that students who are deemed “special” or disabled are different in fundamental and essential ways from their non-disabled peers. Read more