Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Low Expectations Derail Student's Chances to Be Ready for College

In the Kansas City Star, there was an article about a high school senior, Dustin Villarreal, who, his parents argued, had received inadequate preparation for taking college prep exams with special-education support services so that he could get a good ACT score and be ready for college. The school argues that they had given him adequate tutoring with the Huntington learning Center, but that they were not required to provide him with a guaranteed ACT score.

In a hearing requested by Dennis and Dee Ann Villarreal, parents of 18-year-old Dustin Villarreal, the family alleges the district failed to provide “a free and appropriate public education” by failing to provide an annual Individualized Education Plan goal of “a favorable ACT score that would facilitate his transition to a four-year college. The district, however, contends it has no legal obligation to ensure that any student, with or without disabilities, achieves an appropriate ACT score.

Dustin has Apert Syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by malformations of the skull, face, hands and feet. Apert occurs in one per 100,000 births.

Dustin’s physical abnormalities affect his speech, hand coordination and manipulation, upper body strength and range of motion, vision and hearing, all of which affect his ability to learn in an educational setting, his parents said.

But Dustin wants to go to college and hopes to becoming an elementary school teacher. Other goals include securing a financial future and, eventually, having a family.

So, is it so wrong that the school should say they've done an adequate job? I would argue that there's a big problem with this view. First of all, if the student is not achieving at least at grade level, the school should have examined whether their specialized tutoring was adequate to meet his needs. I would argue that, it did not meet his needs because he did not make sufficient academic progress compared to his age peers. Secondly, Huntington Learning Centers are private franchises geared toward providing generalized homework help, not public school individualized remediation.

I would also argue that it is highly probable that the student has faced subtle discrimination and low expectations for his ability based solely on the physical characteristics of his Apert's Syndrome. His teachers may not realize that they had low expectations for him, but there is plenty of research supporting "Pygmalion Syndrome" whereby teachers' unconscious expectations have a greater impact on students learning performance than the students' actual abilities.

I believe our great country should radically change how we view the necessary educational experiences that will prepare our children for productive adult lives. Instead of stating that schools are only required to provide a mediocre or adequate education (the current legal contention of deep pocket public school legal teams funded by their local taxpayers), I believe that students should be provided ample opportunities to MAXIMIZE their learning abilities. This means screening every preschooler for learning challenges and talents, and providing customized education that is validated by rigorous research, not the good ole boys' pet reading projects.

This radical change also means that, in addition to maximizing potential (right away) with rigorous specialized "remediation" the school needs to be providing technology to access reading and writing right away (in preschool if the child is identified then) if the student cannot keep up with his age peers. Such technology as text-to-speech and voice recognition allows students to read the same curriculum and demonstrate what he or she has learned by writing (via dictation) his or her thoughts at a similar pace as his or her age peers.

This radical change also means providing bountiful exposure to rich vocabulary found in classic books as well as award-winning current authors and sophisticated Internet literature and database resources. Every child of every age should have daily exposure to listening to these books in the classroom setting and every child of every age should have the opportunity to utilize technology to read or write. Homework should be limited to high school aged children with the exception of having children listen to readers reading or recordings of books with rich vocabulary. There should be no time spent on test preparation until later high school ages, and such test prep time should be done after school, not in lieu of curriculum.

Thomas Edison's school had very low expectations of him, pronouncing him "addled." His mother refused to believe the school and taught him at home. Our great country cannot afford to lose any children, whether a future innovator, inventor,artist, or faithful and loving son or daughter.