Monday, November 26, 2012

Social Justice Warrior or Sycophant?

Tonight, we may get to hear Superintendent Starr's vision for special education. Or we may not.

The last time that the Superintendent spoke with the special education community, a year ago, we heard a lot of "feel good" talk: "good teaching is the best behavior management", yadda yadda yadda. He did a lot of listening, and I think everyone was encouraged that, hey, he CAME, and he talked about special education! Already, a massive improvement over the last superintendent.

But it has been a year now. I think a year is a long enough period of time for him to show us what his vision is for the 12% of students in MCPS who have an educational disability.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen his vision yet. Here's what I have seen: Dr. Starr tweeting his approval about other educators and administrators, calling them "social justice warriors" or "equity warriors," Dr. Starr praising administrators for this-that-and-the-other, pictures of people giving and receiving awards, and of course the "State of the Schools" presentation (described by the Patch as "lush") which omitted any mention of special education.

Wouldn't you think that "social justice" included students with disabilities? Instead, we've seen "warriors" all right: MCPS has declared war on special education families, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars since Superintendent Starr arrived to litigate against parents trying to advocate for an appropriate education for their children.

We don't need a superintendent continuously telling us how wonderful MCPS is. (We have the overpaid public relations department for that). Instead, how about a superintendent who gets his hands dirty, so to speak, with the tough problems in MCPS special education:
* overrepresentation of minorities in special education
* overrepresentation of special education students who are suspended
* the Gaithersburg Bridge programs
* how to plan for the increasing numbers of students with autism
* teachers who think students with LDs are "lazy" (see today's Post article)
* lack of self-contained classes for students that need that level of service

And I'm sure that you can think of a few more.

I've been advocating for special education for about 20 years now. I haven't given up hope that MCPS can become a school system where students with disabilities and their families are treated with respect, where parents are equal partners in IEP meetings, and a full continuum of placement options is available, and offered to students. Let's tell Superintendent Starr tonight what WE want. Try it our way. And knock it off with the continuous flattery of all things MCPS. Spend some time in our shoes, and get to work fixing problems.

Lyda Astrove


  1. The BOE- that you elected - is getting exactly what it wants. As with Weast, all the attention is focused on the super and none on the BOE. I would ask that people please focus on the elected BOE. Starr is just their employee. He does what they want. Voters just re-elected two incumbents, Chris Barclay and Phil Kauffman. Do they respond to these questions?

  2. Well, we got just what you predicted. A lot of talk about putting the flesh and bones on his strategic plan and admission that there were significant gaps and a long way to go, but not much specifics.

    1. We got more than that. We found out that Mr. Starr is either gullible or making up stuff.

      He made an amazing statement about the MCPS 7 Keys. He said that they were the result of "research" when in fact they were Mr. Weast's personal "vision". Does Mr. Starr really think the 7 Keys were based on some research? Is he just parroting what he has been told by Weast's staffers? Can we really afford to have a superintendent who is that sloppy with facts? Especially when the 7 Keys guide the entire school system?

  3. "The BOE- that you elected - is getting exactly what it wants.... Voters just re-elected two incumbents, Chris Barclay and Phil Kauffman."

    Paula - not all of us voted for all the current Board members. At least two people for whom I voted are NOT on the Board. Just for the record.

  4. As I understand, last night Starr essentially laid out for a group of Sp. Ed. parents some kind of new litmus test for an IEP. That test is based upon those who are and those who are not expected to be successful with the "7 Keys".

    Now Now Dr. Starr. Wake Up and kick yourself for that pile of crapola. No where in the Federal Law for Sp. Ed. does it make even a vague reference to MCPS's "7 Keys". Please stop making it up as you go. You are harming children. Time to share a real plan with the community. This time how about sharing one that complies with the federal laws on Special Ed. Lets get your silly litmus test off the table.

    Thank You.

    Bob Astrove


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