Evolution of Autism in Public Schooling

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Autism, a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts, has been a controversial topic in schooling for all of time.  (Webster).  Throughout history, the concept of Autism has come to mean different things.  Initially, Other Learning Disabilities was the broad category that encompassed all types of disabilities.    In response to a vague category, public schools dealt with these disabilities in various ways that are different than strategies often used for children with Autism today. How did the teaching strategies for this population change from the 1930’s to the present and why did these changes occur?


Prior to the 1960’s, children with disabilities were often neglected and excluded from the public school system entirely.  Moving forward, the sixties was a time period where the disabilities were more widely accepted; although, there were still few disabled children in the public school system. In the 1970’s, the passing of a federal law permitted disabled children to obtain a free public education however; the treatment of the children in the schools did not change directly due to the law.  This did not occur until outraged parents made a splash in the public sphere through a series of lawsuits.


In the 1930’s, disabilities were just beginning to become recognized. In America, children who were disabled were often instituted, ignored, or neglected.  Language for the time described these children as “mentally retarded”, “daft”, or plain “stupid”.  (Quinn 1).  Families in this time period who had disabled children moved downward in social status, were frowned upon, and were socially ostracized. Disabled children were religiously viewed as Satan’s children and were a result of the parents’ sins prior to childbirth.  (Ravensbergen 1).  The life expectancy was no more than twenty years of age and they were very empty years of life for not only the children but the families as well.  Often children were shipped off to institutions, which resembled prisons.  (Quinn 2).  They were left to rot away and were intentionally meant to be kept out of the way of those who were “normal” in society.  Due to the lack of compassion, care, and acceptance of the disabled children, early public schools were never forced to create a program to educate this part of the population.


The term “Autism” did not come into our country’s common vocabulary until the 1960’s.  (Googlegram).  However, while the term became prevalent, it was extremely rare for children of the 1960’s to be diagnosed with Autism.  (Connecticut State Department of Education 97).  All disabilities during this time period fell into the category of “mental retardation” and therefore were dealt with extremely poorly or not dealt with at all within the public school system.


Change did not occur until the 1960’s when disabilities became positively visible in the eyes of parents.  In order for a disabled child to be educated, the burden laid on his/her parents.  The only real options were home schooling or extremely pricey private institutions.  (specialednews 6).  In 1961, John F. Kennedy created the presidents panel dealing with mental retardation.  This was instituted as a result of parents who began to protest the rights of their disabled children.  (specialnews 8).  His panel called for the state to be aided by the government in order to provide an education for disabled children.  Continuing on the timeline, in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was created.  This act allows for accessibility of a free education.  (OSPI 1).  In the early 1970’s, one in every five students with a disability was educated in the public school system.  (USDE).   America was now in a period of special education innovation and parents were eager to make progress.


In 1971, Janet Taggart, Katie Dolan, Cecile Lindquist, and Evelyn Chapman (four moms from Washington State who were tired of the way their children were being neglected) were able to create a law, which would later be passed in congress.  (Johnson).  The law was titled Education for All and it provided students with disabilities equal access to a public school education. The work of these four mothers would later serve as a blueprint for IDEA.  (Johnson).  This is the first account where we witness parental involvement and action in order to provide a better life for disabled children.


It was not until 1975, that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was approved.  This was a law which stated that all local public schools must provide a free education for all disabled children without any additional cost to the parents.  It was intended to provide a basis for disabled children to survive in life past primary schooling.  IDEA contained six principles, all of which allowed disabled children and their parents to have rights for the first time in public schools.  The first was Zero Reject, which basically eliminates the possibility uneducable children failing to receive an education. (Heward 1).  Nondiscriminatory Identification and Evaluation refers to the testing done in order to identify a child as being disabled.  It must be culturally and economically fair for all children.  Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) “protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including federal funds”.  (Russlyn 1).  The fourth principle is LRE or Least Restrictive Environment.  This means that the disabled child should be in class for the longest amount of time with nondisabled children until it becomes disruptive for either party.  (Heward 3).  Next, Due Process safeguards are a set of guidelines to ensure the parent’s rights in the entire special education process.  Lastly, Parent and Student Participation refers to the necessity and encouragement of making decisions together for the benefit of the child.


It was not until after IDEA was passed that the percentage of disabled children receiving education in public schools in comparison to nondisabled children increased.  (ed.gov 32).  “About 95 percent of school-age children and youth
ages 6–21 who were served under IDEA in school were enrolled in regular schools” (ed.gov32).  “Third, with one sweeping motion more than one million children were added to the public school system.”  (Hoskin 1).  It is important to note that even though IDEA was in effect, this did not separate different disabilities within the school just yet.  They still all fell under the broad category of retardation.  Autism identification was still rare at this time.


While the public schools were mandated to adopt these terms for all disabled children, this did not mean the practices changed within the classroom.  Yes, disabled children were now allowed and accepted in public schools and yes, there was now a plan for them.  However, it did not mean they were respected.  The term IEP came into effect a few years after IDEA was introduced.  IEP stands for Individualized Education Program.  (specialednews 4).  It is unique to each child’s needs and is reviewed yearly.  It contains things such as goals, objectives, current levels of functioning, and time schedules for the child.  It contains techniques used to help the child as well.  During the 70’s and up until the mid 90’s, public schools used techniques such as scream rooms, restraint, and verbal abuse.  Scream rooms were often rooms with a single color wall, contained a chair/desk, no windows, and a door.  They were used for children with disabilities as a form of punishment.  A characteristic of children with Autism is self-infliction of pain.  The children would be kept in these rooms for hours at a time and would often scratch the walls, hit their heads, or cause harm to their bodies as an escape from insanity.  Verbal abuse was utilized to deal with these children because teachers lacked patience and did not necessarily care about the children because they were still undervalued in society.

Typical "Scream Room" in Connecticut Public School 2012 Jordan Fenster
Typical “Scream Room” in Connecticut Public School 2012 Jordan Fenster


What aided IDEA to truly change the strategies used in schooling?  The answer is parental involvement.  Unfortunately, it took several devastating occurrences, which led to lawsuits, ultimately allowing the public to put pressure on the public school system to change its tactics. The use of restraint was a common practice all the way up to the twenty-first century!  An article written in 2004 tells the story of a boy named Cedric.  Cedric was fourteen years old and was classified with a disability.  He had a history of violent behavior and which was unknown but the special education teachers were using restraint techniques in order to control his meltdowns.  His teacher had put him in a hold on the ground after a dispute about lunch and when his mother was called to come to the school, he had already been pronounced dead.  This raised controversy in the court and raised the question as to how many children were really being disciplined in schooling with this technique?  Was it allowed because the children were in special ed? Cedric’s mother did not let her son’s death go unnoticed and did not let schools go unpunished.


In 2004, well after IDEA, parents of nine-year-old Jan Rankowski sued Falmouth school for banning their son.  Jan was a young boy with Autism and was enrolled in school with a placement in special education.  There were complaints about Jan bothering other children in the playground and possessing “autistic-like” characteristics.  This ultimately led to the school banning Jan until a professional evaluated him.  Jan’s form of Autism severely altered his social skills and made it very difficult for him to carry out an appropriate conversation with anyone he came into contact with.  The only thing that helped Jan’s conditions was to continually socialize him with others.  With this being said, his parents could not understand how the school thought a ban would be keeping their son’s best interest at heart.  “By banning the kid from the most social part of the day, you’re ensuring that he won’t be able to learn social skills. It’s almost like saying, ‘You don’t know math, so we’re not letting you in the math class,” said Wayne Gilpin of Future Horizons.  The article written by Sarah Leitch proceeds to explain how ultimately Jan had to be home schooled and was banned from playing in his playground.  “The boy’s parents say they hope their lawsuit will force schools to treat disabled or home-schooled children the same way as other children. Others across the country are watching the case as the number of children diagnosed with Asperger’s continues to climb”  (Leitch).


It was a combination of cases like the above and many more that pressured scientists and schooling systems to create alternate methods.  Shortly after several very public lawsuits came out, ASD was discovered.  ASD is Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This resulted in a scale of assessment used to determine if a child had Autism and if so how to go about intervention.  (Rell 7).  The spectrum was very significant because it raised the number of children who were diagnosed.  This proposed a problem for the public schools.  Ultimately, it forced them to create a separate learning program and strategy for children with Autism.  Technically, children who diagnosed as having ASD qualify for IDEA.  However, it is treated quite differently than an emotional disorder, which was once in the same category.


Shifting to the present time period in public schooling, there is a list of techniques proven to be most effective for children with Autism.  Early intervention is the earliest and can be provided federally for children after the age of three.  Individualized and Intensive programming has been implemented in schools and parents must be notified for each PPT (Planning and Placement Team) meeting in order to determine an appropriate IEP for his/her child.   Teachers must make sure the assignments are clear and on point.  If there is a change in schedule, it is important for the teacher to tell the children because children with Autism are meticulous about their schedule.  There are vocal devices to help children communicate.  Often teachers create a picture book with basic labeled functions for the children to point to and aid in verbalization.  As a teacher or paraprofessional, it is required under the public school system, to be certified in ABA training.  The number of children diagnosed with Autism has risen to about one in every eighty born.  This can be attributed to a number of reasons however, a large one is that more research has been done and more appropriate classifications are now able to be made.  Children are correctly diagnosed and can now receive the help they need in the public school system.  There is no question that there is more work to be done and the public school system will forever be evolving in an attempt to eliminate all flaws.


Not too long ago, The Atlantic published an article called How My Autistic Son Got Lost in the Public School System, by Amy Mackin.  This article was published recently in January of 2013.  The article relates the brief history of a young boy named Henry (not his real name for privacy purposes) who was diagnosed and treated for his Autism Spectrum Disorder.  His parents were extremely on top of their game, started with early intervention, provided necessary resources, and their son still managed to slip through the cracks at school.  Part of Henry’s disorder was his ability to strictly follow rules.  Mackin explains how the teacher had certain bathroom breaks for the children allotted during certain times of the day.  In an attempt for Henry follow the rules, he would pee in his pants.   “When he had an accident, he was too ashamed to tell anyone, so he sat in his own urine for hours. Not one staff member at the school ever noticed.”  (Mackin 3).  The article goes on to tell more stories of how Henry was mistreated, not necessarily on purpose, but because public schools were not trained to deal with such disorders.

“The problem is that public schools are mostly worried about academics and test scores. They have to be—their success in those areas dictates the percentage of state and federal funding they get. Few schools have designated psychologists (most often, multiple schools share the same one). Teachers aren’t psychologists, and asking them to be is not fair.” (Mackin 6).

Ultimately, Henry’s parents chose to home school him because they could not sleep at night worrying about their boy at a public middle school.  His mother worked to make this story public and widely known.  Her hopes were to change another child’s experience in middle school and allow other parents to send their children to school without apprehensiveness at all times.  As alarming as the date of this article may be, it helps us realize that the public school system is still far from perfect and parents will continue to push for quality.

These strategies may have never been discovered or put into place if it were not for persistent, active, parents willing to dedicate their lives to correcting the system and pressuring schools to treat disabled children with the respect they deserve.  The law of IDEA surely aided in the appropriate action but it was much more that allowed our public schools to take steps in the right direction in terms of educating those with disabilities.  Parents serve as the primary advocates and catalysts of these movements.  The public school system has shifted from not even accepting children with disabilities, to putting up with them legally, to treating them with disrespect, to caring, and finally improving techniques day by day.  It has been a long road to the creation of equality but the hopes are that one day children with Autism will be equipped with skills to lead healthy, normal lives.  The shift is bittersweet because it has been paved by sad stories of disabled children and the passion of their parents to create a different destiny for other children.



Works Cited


Connecticut State Department of Education “Division of Teaching and Learning Program and Service” Bureau of Special Education July 2005


“Education.” Restraint Can Dispirit and Hurt Special-ed Students. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-05-18-restraint-special-ed_n.htm>.


“Education for All Handicapped Children Act.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_for_All_Handicapped_Children_Act>.




“Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).” Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://www.k12.wa.us/Esea/default.aspx>.


“Euthanasia Program.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 10 June 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005200>.


|Johnson, Scott F. Esq. Special Education & Educational Standards. NHEdLaw, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2007. http://www.nhedlaw.com/special%20education%20and%20standards.doc


Leitch, Sara. “DISABLED CHILD BANNED FROM PLAYGROUND, PRAISE GOD! – Islam/Christianity/Judaism Dialogue.” ShiaChat.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. <http://www.shiachat.com/forum/topic/41073-disabled-child-banned-from-playground-praise-god/>.


Mackin, Amy. “How My Autistic Son Got Lost in The Public School System.” The Atlantic. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/how-my-autistic-son-got-lost-in-the-public-school-system/266782/?single_page=true>.


“National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education.” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://nces.ed.gov/>.


Quinn, Pat. Public Health IL. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.idph.state.il.us/timeline/history1930.htm>.

Ravensbergen. “The Family with a Handicapped Child and the Congregation.” Spindle Works. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.spindleworks.com/library/ravensbergen/hand.htm>.


United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. History: Twenty-Five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA. Date of Publication Unknown. http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.pdf


“The History of Special Education in the United States.” The History of Special Education in the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://www.specialednews.com/the-history-of-special-education-in-the-united-states.htm>.


“History of SPecial Education Law.” Wrightslaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wrightslaw.com%2Fbks%2Flawbk%2Fch3.history>.


Public Schools: A Compendium. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.



Weber, Mark. (1992) Special Education Law and Litigation Treatise (Horsham, PA: LRP Publications,


Research Proposal 2014

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Question:  How has the education of Autistic children in the public school system evolved over time in relation to the education of children with other learning disabilities?


Relevance:  Autism is a prominent issue in today’s world because the amount of children being diagnosed is constantly increasing.  Rather than find cures, another option is to educate them to the best ability.  The school system structure is constantly being critiqued and new ideas are always being discussed as we learn in our class.  However, we tend to study the broad reforms throughout history.  There were not always classifications of children with disabilities.   In the past they all fell under the category of “mental retardation”.  I feel it would be interesting to research how the school practices dealt with these children throughout points in history.


Research Strategy:  When beginning research for this project I was not exactly sure where to begin, but I knew I wanted a variety of sources.  In class I really liked the way back machine and I am going to pick a specific region (West Hartford Public School District) and look at the school website.  As well, I am going to find old IEP’s (individualized education programs).  This term was not created until 1975 in the National Handicap law but it was modified before hand.  As well, I will do extensive research in the area of scream rooms, isolation, and discipline tactics used for children with disabilities.  Another aspect I will look for on school websites will be the classification process of identifying children with a learning disability.  I want to compare it to all the documents that I have found from today.  I also want to compare aspects such as due process and parental involvement throughout history.  In order to do this I will try to find average working hours of parents.




A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut




The Basic Special Education Process Under IDEA 2004




IEP Manuals and Forms




Evaluating Children for Disability




The History of Special Education: From Isolation to Integration





“I Believe in Inclusion, But…”: Regular Education Early Childhood Teachers’ Perceptions of Successful Inclusion





The Legislation and Litigation History of Special Education





Mentally Retarded Citizens: Challenges for the 1970’s




National Autism Prevalence Trends From United States Special Education Data



Harsh Realities of an American Teacher

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American Teacher is a heart-warming, yet heart-breaking, factual documentary dealing with the everyday lives of school teachers in America.  Our country, in general, does not respect our teachers.  The film delves into the lives of four teachers and shares their hardships and struggles with its viewers.  The goal of the documentary is to influence the viewer’s opinion on what it means to be a teacher in America.  Other countries place more value in the teaching profession. In America, being a teacher is associated with low economic status.  Americans need to be aware that our teachers are instructing the future of our country and is a vital profession!  American Teacher is an attempt to improve our educational system by changing the stigma associated with the American teaching profession and in turn, increasing the number of qualified teachers who can be proud of their personal accomplishments and socioeconomic status.

The documentary begins with an odd, yet disturbing, scene of an explosion; a perfect depiction of what has happened to the American school system.  (McGinn, Roth 0:00:08).  Personally I believe this was one of the most crucial scenes of the movie.  It foreshadows what is to come, which would be the demise of the school system.  The first of four teachers is introduced and is interestingly shown walking out of her small, run-down apartment in Brooklyn, New York.  Jamie Fidler begins her story by explaining how every expense from her classroom comes from her own pocket.  Jamie is pregnant and later on in the documentary, we learn more about the hardships of maternity leave because no one expects the spouse, also a teacher, to be the “money maker”.  Next, we meet Rhena Jasey, an enthusiastic young teacher, who eventually leaves her school to follow a program called the Tep Project to earn more money.  Erik Benner’s story is a bit sadder because he needs to teach, coach, and work at a tile store in order to support his family.  His ex-wife speaks in the course of the film and explains how she basically felt like a single parent because he was never around.  Lastly, we learn about a teacher named Johnathon Dearman.  Dearman has a passion for teaching just like the other three, however, due to the lack of a decent salary, gives up his teaching career to join the family real estate business.  All of these teachers tell a story and struggle with the career they love.  In order for the producers to portray their problem, they use very important charts that are extremely simple and easy to comprehend.

To elaborate on a major theme of persuasion, TEP, The Equality School Project, is an alternative to the current view of teachers in America.  TEP is designed to redistribute and shift money around to bring teachers to schools that need them, and pay teachers a better salary.  As well, TEP works to ensure the best quality teachers for a low income student body.  It is not only a series of investments, but the hopes are to keep the teachers not to just attract them.  In the film, TEP is seen as a very tempting alternative to the long work day in a poorly paid environment.  When looking further into the philosophy behind TEP, it becomes evident it was well thought out and personalized for its audience.   “TEP uses a three-pronged strategy that it terms the 3 R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, & Revolutionary Compensation.”  (Tepcharter 1). By implicating the TEP method, this is another attempt for the producers to persuade viewers view on what the profession of teaching should be.

American Teacher does more than just warn us about our country.  It relates the story of dedicated, intelligent educators.  These teachers love what they do, put in extensive hours despite popular belief, and in turn they receive little monetary reward.  The deeper rooted issue, embedded in the script of the documentary, is the lack of respect for the profession as a whole.  In other countries such as Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, aspiring teachers’ training is paid for.  (McGinn, Roth 1:05:29).  That means these teachers do not begin their careers in debt.  These countries value their teachers in society.  They have a very low rate of teachers switching careers.  The simple statistics which show the abandonment of the profession in the US serves to show the Nation’s view of its importance.  There is little emphasis on the profession as a whole if the passionate members are able to walk away from it.  Whether it is their personal choice or not, out nation makes it difficult for them to stay in comparison to other nations around the world.

Percentage of Teachers Who Leave the Teaching Percentage in Other Countries (1:06:15)
Percentage of Teachers Who Leave the Teaching Percentage in Other Countries (1:06:15)

This is due to the fact that their culture recognizes the importance of having strong teachers to educate future generations.  American Teacher points out the flaws within the American system.  After all, children are our future; so would it not be important to take pride and give respect to those responsible for the education of this precious resource?

However, Americans are taught to aim for higher paying jobs.  Rhena Jasey is a Harvard graduate and was told that being a teacher was a waste of a degree from Harvard.  In turn, she responded with a remark along the lines of “Would you not want your children to be taught by someone who went to Harvard?”  These four teachers embody the qualities that all teachers should have regardless of what country they live in.  Dearman is described as a teacher who holds all of his students to the same standards.  He told them what they needed to do, what they needed to learn, and who he wanted them to be by the end of his class.  These are the type of qualities parents want their children to be influenced by.  American Teacher shows the epitome of a quality teacher.  Once again, TEP is an attempt to ensure these types of teachers are available to those who are less fortunate and ensures they will stay with those children in underprivileged schools.  However, American Teacher also shows how difficult it is for these passionate individuals to stay with their profession.  How do we get these teachers to stay?  The answer in incentive other than pure joy of helping children.

The role of a teacher in America is highly influenced by gender roles.  There is a clear lack of respect, low pay, and something called the “burnout circle” as described by the teachers.  To begin, the society we live in is based on the assumption that the man in the relationship is meant to be the provider.  Therefore, in teaching, being a predominately female dominated field, it is “okay” to pay them less because their spouses will supposedly bring in more money. With this being said, males have existed the teaching force in order to live up to the stereotype of the “bread winner”.  It would be very difficult for a male to fully support his family simply on a teaching salary.  As well, it is thought that women have a maternal instinct that is better suited to teach children.  Truthfully, males and females can be great teachers but our society is socially constructed, which makes it difficult for men to stay in a “female profession”.  In addition, these teachers work more extensive hours than everyone believes.  On top of working ridiculous hours (most 7 to around 6), many teachers are in desperate need of a second job.  In fact, 62% of American teachers have a second job.  Does this really allow them to give their all in the classroom?

Percentage of Male Teachers (00:13:47)
Percentage of Male Teachers (00:13:47)

As well as having these compelling arguments as to why living the life of a teacher is quite difficult, I think the creators of the film make significant choices to make the audience feel even more sympathetic.  The teachers were chosen wisely.  There is one of Latino descent, one African-American descent, one white female, and one white male.  Most of the population was targeted which ensures the viewers will all relate to the issues and hardships these four underwent.  In addition, it is impossible for viewers to not have sympathy for a woman who just gave birth and a man who lost his wife and children in a divorce due to his low salary from teaching. The music is peaceful and coincides with the intense scenes to truly let viewers feel as if they are a part of the teachers’ lives.

Outside source, rotten tomatoes allows for outsiders to comment on the documentary.  Comments such as “Terrific, uplifting and heartbreaking study of what it’s like to teach in America today should inspire intense admiration and even more intense anger over what is revealed.” (David Noh).  However, while I think it is unanimous that this film is hear-breaking and heart-warming, there are also negatives to be noted.  The film is entirely one sided and does not look into an entire economic view on available money.  The movie does not tell the story of the rich, white, upper class.  It does not account for private schools and for children who are paying for their educations.

American Teacher’s original name started out as Come Back Mr. Dearman.  I believe the title was broadened to reach a wider variety of audiences.  Originally, the film was debuted in New York City and was praised for showing the public how hard the educators in our country work.  However, economists and other scholars followed by completley disagreeing with the movie’s plan.  They believed they should be able to hire any teacher regardless of their educational background and only raise his/her pay if test scores improve.  (Goodwin 1).  There is also research to show that merit pay does not necessarily correlate with an increase in school performance.  This would prove the entire movie to be false.  As well, teachers with high educational resumes appreciated and enjoyed this film.  This in itself, has sparked an intense criticism of Obama’s policies which benefit merit pay.  (Goodwin 2). I think it is also important to note, Matt Damon promoted this film and was the narrator.  He is one hundred percent part of the upper class and this has a large impact on the film’s audiences.  The entire film was funded by the Teacher Salary Project. This is a project to ensure “teaching becomes the prestigious, desirable, financially viable, and professionally exciting job we all know it needs to be.”  (TSP 2).   I think it is interesting to not TSP is a non-partisan organization, technically this should be the film would take no side.  However, this proves to be false.

Fortunately, American Teacher gets the main concern across which is, if we continue at the rate we are going, America will have few people willing to be educators and few quality educators to teach our future generations.  It reaches the hearts of every lower class American parent who wants the best for their children and it is easy to become very biased while watching this film.  Once again, the upper class is not accounted for and while it may alarm the parents there is little hope and opportunity that can be gained because they are not represented within the film.  The two audiences will definitely take different aspects away from the film.  An upper class parent may watch this film and be unaffected by the educational realities because his/her child is receiving a quality education.  To an extent, the emotional scenes will reach everyone, but the overall message is only alarming to those being affected by the lack of money.  Without looking at external factors, these facts seem troubling and appalling.  When watching, it is important to note there is a whole side of an untold story.  However, I think one point that all sides can agree on, is that the profession of teaching needs to be more nationally respected.

Epitome of American School System (0:00:08)
Epitome of American School System (0:00:08)


Works Cited

“American Teacher (2011).” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

“Full Cast & Crew.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

News, Liz Goodwin Yahoo. “‘American Teacher’ Film Argues Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough, but Ignores Merit Pay Debate.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

Roth, Vanessa, and Brian McGinn. American Teacher. Video documentary, 2011.http://www.theteachersalaryproject.org/.

“TEP Charter – Philosophy.” TEP Charter – Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.tepcharter.org/philosophy.php>.

“The Teacher Salary Project.” The Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <http://www.theteachersalaryproject.org/about-the-project.php>.



Committee Meeting Turns Out to Be a Bust

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On February 10, 2014, the State of Connecticut’s Education Committee held a meeting in the Capital Building located in Hartford, CT. Room 2C was a beautiful room with a large mahogany, crescent shaped, table filled with representatives who overlooked the large turnout, which sat in front of them. The audience was dressed in business attire and everyone in attendance appeared to be eager to learn and start off the new session.  At around ten thirty-five A.M., the meeting began, however more people and representatives trickled in past the start time and sat down to open their computers in an attempt to miss not a thing.  The Chairwoman and Chairman were both announced and began the meeting in a very official manner.


Senator Fleischman began by welcoming everyone and briefly mentioned there would be a large focus on pre-schools this year.  Senator Stillman followed and quickly got to business.  She began with briefly speaking about the new tiles for bills and encouraged everyone not to try and look them up because the language for them did not currently exist.  Next she referred to the handout every attendee picked up on his/her way in.  She first touched on item three.  Item three, a large one to chew off, consisted of AAC Minor Revisions to the Education Statutes, AAC the Recommendations by the Legislative Commissioners for Technical Revisions to the Education Statutes, AAC Authorization of State Grant Commitments for School Building Projects, AAC Education Issues, AAC State Education Resource Center, AAC Uniform Regional School Calendar, AAC Education Mandate Relief, AAC the Technical High School System, AAC The Minimum Budget Requirement, AAC Boards of Education, AAC Academic Achievement Gap, AAC Special Education, AAC Magnet Schools, AAC School Safety, AAC Chronic Absenteeism and so on.  Stillman did not read the list she only referenced item three and left the reading for the audience to do.  As the list was mentioned, attendees delved into their laptops and notepads, hoping not to miss anything important.  The thought of sitting there to listen to every single one of these issues was agonizing.  Stillman proceeded to ask everyone to view item four on the list and then everyone came into an agreement they would discuss these lists further.  After a brief introduction to item four and a quick recitation of its three components, everyone in the room seemed ready for the intense, detailed, material to begin.  However, Stillman then thanked everyone for coming and dismissed the meeting leaving everything for “next time”.


A moment of silence followed and the other three journalists and myself were quite stunned.  Senator Stillman had just read four things off a piece of paper and then casually ended the meeting.  We were unsure if people were taking a break to go eat and then they would return, so we sat and waited.  After about ten minutes we noticed attendees were not returning and we had really attended a fifteen-minute meeting.  Unsure what to think, we rethought details that led us to believe this meeting would be somewhat important.  The room was beautiful, everyone was dressed to impress, and the list of items was very hefty.  Naturally, we thought the meeting would last a tad longer than what it had.


With everything going on with school reform policies, it would have been nice to learn about some of efforts being made in order to implement certain policies.  The only beneficially thing taken from the meeting was that I now know there will be a focus on pre-schools.  How?  Nobody at the meeting would be able to tell you.  For folks who have a jam-packed schedule filled with meetings and appointments, this committee meting was a waste of precious time and merely a joke.  Anybody can read from a list or open an attachment in an email and it would have been just as beneficial as attending.  As well as students in Professor Jack Doherty’s class Education Reform Past and Present, there were other Trinity students in attendance as well.  All which seemed to take time out of their day, put on a nice outfit, and all who I am sure would have liked to gain some form of knowledge from a meeting wishfully longer than fifteen minutes.


Our hope was to learn more about policies being implemented in pre-schools particularly or any policy in general for that matter.  My fellow classmates and I who attended all are looking to work with children and were left with many questions and a lot of confusion.  As and Ed Studies major, we understand it is mandatory to attend events dealing with policies and how these policies will be implemented.  However, it is neither beneficial nor time-

Trinity Students Christina Raiti (left) Biance Brenz (right) in attendance at Connecticut Education Committee Meeting
Trinity Students Christina Raiti (left) Biance Brenz (right) in attendance at Connecticut Education Committee Meeting


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Step 1:  The value-added scores also fluctuate between years. A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.


Step 2: However, it is very hard to have trust in any performance rating if you have a better shot at a coin toss rather than getting the same rate the next year.


(But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.) original


Step 3:  Any teacher who winds up in the forty-third percentile in comparison to his/her peers could technically be somewhere in the middle of the fifteenth and seventy-first percentile. (Ravitch 270).


Step 4: In a study to determine teacher’s in New York City margin of error, economist, Sean Corcoran found their margin of error was a little above or below twenty-eight points.  (Ravitch 270).


Step 5:  It is very unlikely that a teacher will have the same rating consecutively and there are always other aspects and variables to be accounted for.  “But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.”  (Ravitch 271).


Works Cited

     Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System(New York: Basic Books, 2011), pp. 270-71.

Learning Goal

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There are several things I hope to achieve in Ed 300.  To begin, I would love to learn about the old educational system.  I would also like to learn how the reforms in the past lead to the reforms that followed.  Finally, I hope to learn why the policies are the way they are today and what people are currently working on for new reforms.