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How About “Occupy” LD?

What Is A Parent Advocacy - Parent AdvocacyAt the end of each year, TIME Magazine devotes its last issue to the Person of the Year, and this year, it selected “the protester” as the focus of what was an especially exciting and tumultuous 12 months. In a matter of a few weeks, the word “occupy” took on a whole new meaning, with protests erupting across the globe (sometimes with violence, more often peaceably) to give voice to people who want the world to be a better place, who feel that governments are not representing their interests, and that a privileged few are benefitting at the expense of the many. For the most part, the gatherings here in the USA were not rooted in politics but rather in an effort to proclaim a sense of disappointment and worry, about the economy, about the economic and social stressors that threaten our national well-being, our quality of life, and our collective future.

Engaging Parents and Educators in Revolutionary Thinking

So here’s a question: What if spontaneous gatherings of parents occurred in cities and towns across the country, ordinary people who were concerned, confused, or upset about their child’s educational journey? These are parents who feel deeply about their child’s rights to a free and appropriate education and their access to highly qualified teachers. They hold firm expectations that that their child will graduate from high school with a regular diploma and will be prepared for a successful transition to post-secondary education and/or gainful employment. And they want to go public with their assertion that no one person is to blame, and everyone is responsible for the education, nurturing, and support of every child, those with and without learning disabilities (LD).

No, I am not suggesting that parents set up tents in school playgrounds or commandeer lunchrooms as meeting places to distribute free food and medical attention. But the positive energy of the “occupy” movement has it’s appeal and I am intrigued by the idea that parents and educators could seize the coming months to engage in (and act upon) some revolutionary thinking around a different set of “three Rs”: re-evaluation, re-invention, and renewal.

Envisioning Possibilities

Back to my “what ifs”:

  • What if parents and educators, as partners, took a close look at the gap between school and home and engaged in strategic planning that resulted in even greater numbers of students meeting and exceeding learning expectations and enjoying social and behavioral success in school?
  • What if schools were to create and maintain parent-friendly online communities where questions and answers could be exchanged and a collaborative sense of responsibility for student success could be cultivated?
  • What if parents were deeply involved in the formulation of changes to school policies and procedures (think RTI), and were enlisted to convey this information to other parents in ways that fostered confidence and invited feedback and ongoing participation?


A Call to Action

And now for a reality check...

On October 20, 2011, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed legislation that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (more commonly known as No Child Left Behind), addressing its shortcomings since the law's passage in 2001. The revised version seriously jeopardizes the law's focus on achievement of students with disabilities and other disadvantaged students. The current version of the law, without question, would turn back the clock to a time when achievement outcomes for students with LD were allowed to remain under the accountability radar... let’s not go back there!

Please ride the “occupy” wave and let your Congressional representatives know that the No Child Left Behind law needs to be fixed so that students with disabilities remain a priority, and that schools are held to academic performance targets, graduation goals, and a requirement to achieve and maintain high performance standards

Occupy LD? Take action, stay informed, stay connected.