Sunday, June 15, 2008

LRE and FAPE are going to bite us in the butt, peeps

LRE = Least Restrictive Environment
FAPE = Free Appropriate Public Education

These are the two ten-ton gorilla acronyms which have spearheaded all the special-ed reforms that have taken place in the public schools. No matter what the disability, the public school system is required by law to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education to any child, and that education must by law take place in the Least Restrictive Environment.

These have always been intended for children with disabilities. Parents have fought -- and won -- many court battles declaring their children's RIGHT to a FAPE in an LRE. What the FAPE and the LRE actually looks like, well, this is where the battles get all picky and lawyers get to write public education policy.

I can foresee, however, that parents of gifted children may have a beef with the public education system for the exact same reason... and I expect our societal tendency to grant blanket rights will then dictate that schools MUST provide gifted programs that meet all the needs of every individual student regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.

Schools, Facing Tight Budgets, Leave Gifted Programs Behind

Before her second birthday, Audrey Walker recognized sequences of five colors. When she was 6, her father, Michael, overheard her telling a little boy: ''No, no, no, Hunter, you don't understand. What you were seeing was a flashback.''

At school, Audrey quickly grew bored as the teacher drilled letters and syllables until her classmates caught on. She flourished, instead, in a once-a-week class for gifted and talented children where she could learn as fast as her nimble brain could take her.

But in September, Mountain Grove, a remote rural community in the Ozarks where nearly three in four students live in poverty, eliminated all of its programs for the district's 50 or so gifted children like Audrey, who is 8 now. Struggling with shrinking revenues and new federal mandates that focus on improving the test scores of the lowest-achieving pupils, Mountain Grove and many other school districts across the country have turned to cutting programs for their most promising students.

''Rural districts like us, we've been literally bleeding to death,'' said Gary Tyrrell, assistant superintendent of the Mountain Grove School District, which has 1,550 students. The formula for cutting back in hard times was straightforward, if painful, Mr. Tyrrell said: Satisfy federal and state requirements first. Then, ''Do as much as we can for the majority and work on down.''

My kid is a super genius and your classroom doesn't challenge her... she's acting out and is bored out of her mind. You had better meet her needs. I don't care how many other kids are in the classroom with their own needs...

The time is coming. Keep a sharp eye. When parents as a whole gave over their responsibility for the education of their own children, and when individuals ceased to take personal responsibility for their OWN education, this is what we get: requirement upon requirement upon unfunded requirement heaped atop struggling public school districts.

Whatever happened to being so determined to get an education that you self-educated? Whatever happened to parents, realizing their children's limitations or special abilities, tailoring their child's educational experiences themselves?

Public education can -- and should -- give a solid framework for young citizens to then build upon in a way that befits their unique gifts. When we start demanding that public education provide the whole building, you're going to get the cheap shoddy gray Communist apartment buildings that institutionalization produces. If you start demanding granite countertops and large balconies for every single person, the system will collapse under the weight of that granite.

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