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Our Kids Deserve Better

Is this Important to Share with ALL Voters Before the Election?

Lots of people have learned about the issues on this blog.

Here are some stats for the ten days ended this past Thursday:

  • More than 1000 visits to this Blog
  • More than 600 unique visitors
  • More than 4,500 page views
  • The average visit is more than 6 minutes

People are definitely interested in the issues on this blog, and several people have begun to share real stories of their experiences.

But that’s only a Small Portion of the entire district.

Only a small percentage of district residents received a postcard highlighting the issues on this blog. Countless people still don’t know about these issues. Does the whole district need to know?

Is it an Election Issue?

We’ve asked board candidates to answer six questions concerning issues in the posts and comments on this blog. We’ll publish their responses next Monday. Is it important all district residents are aware of the issues and candidates’ responses before the election? Does it matter? Will it matter?

What are your thoughts?

Are You Willing to Help?

If you think everyone in the district should be made aware of the issues, are you willing to help? Are you willing to contribute to help cover costs?

If so, shoot us a message using the contact form.

4 Comments

  1. I definitely think all EGR residents should be aware of these issues. Before reading this website, I had no idea that getting help was so difficult for special needs students at East,

    I have had two children in the school system, and (other than issues with the laptop program) I have always felt very fortunate to be in the district. That said, I have also been fortunate that my kids have been decent students who ‘fit the mold’ and haven’t really needed any extra help.

    After a friend sent me a link to this website, I forwarded it to several other parents and have discussed the content with some of them. Many had stories to tell about how their child (or a friend’s child) was denied an IEP, and/or help from the district.

    With all of the advantages we have at East, I find it incredibly disturbing that we are not doing a better job of taking care of students that need that extra help.

  2. Thank you, Pioneer Parent, for your comments. It makes me feel relieved to hear a parent of a “fitting the mold” child commenting on this specific issue.

    We struggled for 2 years within the EGR system attempting to get the support for our child that the Pediatrician and the Occupational Therapist believed he needed. Our needs for our child were multifaceted, but I will share just one example at this time. We pleaded for reading support in the first grade. We were told that he “just wasn’t the lowest of the low” in the class and that there was not space for him to receive reading support. We were seeing frustration at home after school, but told “everything was fine” during school. Ultimately, we had to pull our child from EGR schools and choose a private school that would support him learning to read, among many other needed supports.

    When he started the new school year at the new school, he was tested in reading as performing in the 31st percentile as compared to peers nationally; and that was only after working with him nearly two hours each day and thousands of dollars of private help. So…if he was the NOT among the lowest of the low at EGR, that is a frightening statement.
    I have been impressed with the Gen Ed teachers at EGR, but how can they adequately meet the needs of the broad variety of learning demands if they don’t have the specialists to support the students that need it. If their bench strength is SO THIN that they can’t support a student reading at the 31st percentile, then can we even say we have adequate educational supports, much less excellent?

    In the new school, and in schools that I visited in the Forest Hills district, I witnessed innovative delivery of reading supports and other supports for at-risk learners. These schools have MUCH better defined intervention and evaluation strategies than EGR. The students in EGR deserve more creative, innovative strategies than are being delivered by the current administration. And in my experience is struggling with the EGR to support our child, this is a top-down problem in our District. Asking parents for more $ is a no-brainer and should not be confused with creative leadership.

    We continue to be property owners in the District, and we are eagerly awaiting improvements in the District. The ONLY way this will happen is if families stand up and peacefully demand better for our children.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    I am confused as to why, while I have been contacted personally twice by this advocacy group, once at my home address and now at my work email, both of which can be found on public record, I cannot find any information about the people who are leading this movement, not one single group member’s name has appeared on any communication, post card, email or website. I teach my students and my own children to identify and examine the source of any information in order to make an informed and intelligent judgment about the content, and would never condone their use of material from an unidentified source, and yet you are asking an entire community to do exactly that.
    As an educator, one that you claim to support, I also recognize the importance of working through the process of change; it is my stock and trade. When students come to me at the beginning of a school year, it is my job, my responsibility and my privilege to assess their strengths and areas for growth, guide them through a process of modeling and instruction, and work beside them with constructive criticism, encouragement and support. We tackle each area of growth individually, building upon each step to reach larger and larger goals. At the end of the year we are able to celebrate together the growth and development in that student. The only part of this process I see reflected in your work is criticism. If I were to follow the model of change and growth that your public statements suggest, I would assess the student, present a long list of all that I feel is wrong and tell them to go and change. Admittedly I would work far less hours than I do now (yes, I am still in my classroom working at 5:00pm on a Friday afternoon.) I would save myself the time of trying to find effective, flexible and perhaps even creative solutions to support student growth. However, I would certainly end up being a highly ineffective teacher, one that nobody your committee or any other would want as a teacher for their own child.
    So. The advocacy model that EGRPS.info is following to affect change in the field of education goes against everything I’ve learned about the best way to educate. Instead it follows the sort of political rhetoric that I and many people I know have come to tune out. If you want to be heard you should be open; you should be ready to be part of the solution.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Bridget Rieth
    Teacher, East Grand Rapids Public Schools

    • Dear Ms. Rieth

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I’m glad you took the time to write a comment, and I’m glad you offer a teacher’s perspective. You mention a lot of good points. I’ll try to respond to all of them.

      Anonymity—Purpose

      We understand the desire to know which parents contribute to this blog and are associated with it. There are reasons those involved desire to remain anonymous. First and foremost is the concern for their children. It’s very difficult to publicly raise awareness and offer criticism of special ed issues and then try to negotiate services or eligibility with those same people who control whether and to what extent your child receives services. We go into much detail regarding this on the “About” page of this blog. These parent have consistently tried to be part of the solution, to no avail. They have exhausted the normal channels of advocacy. They have met with staff, the administration, and members of the board, often over the course of years. They are told time and time again that nothing is wrong. As rational people, they look around at other districts and compare their experience with that of parents in other districts. When they find their personal experiences very different from those in other districts, they begin to look for reasons for those differences. We believe the data from the State provides a substantial level of explanation for parents’ unique experiences in East. Unfortunately, this blog is one of the only ways these parents can safely give voice to their concerns without putting their child’s best interests at risk. For these reasons and others explained on the “About” page, we hope you can understand our desire to remain anonymous.

      Anonymity—Consider the Source

      “I teach my students and my own children to identify and examine the source of any information in order to make an informed and intelligent judgment about the content, and would never condone their use of material from an unidentified source, and yet you are asking an entire community to do exactly that”

      I would agree we need to look to credible sources.

      The source of the information, the data, which is what nearly all of the posts on this blog are about, comes from the State of Michigan and is comprised of what East Grand Rapids Public Schools and other districts around the state report to the State. As such, the data and stats do not come from unidentified sources. We take significant time to research the data and present it accurately. We also ensure we cite the specific sources used, providing links to the information from the State, so readers can verify the information. In fact, we encourage them to verify the information. We are not asking the community to respond to conjecture. We are asking that people make informed, intelligent judgments about data, and the source of that data is the State.

      This blog is not the source of the information; it is the vehicle for it. We are simply the ones presenting the data. The important matters are the data. Would the State’s data change based on who we are? What streets we live on? Our professions? Our incomes? Whether our kids are geeks or jocks? Our religions? No, this would not change the data. It would, however, provide opportunity to focus on the people delivering the data, rather than focusing on the data itself. It would open the door to all sorts of ad hominem arguments, rather than wresting with the data and what it means.

      Change and Criticism

      These parent have consistently tried to be part of the solution, often for years, to no avail. When they try to work with the administration to create change they are often greeted with indifference, sometimes hostility. If the environment were appropriate, I think there would be a large number of parents eager to engage with the administration in creating positive change. However that environment doesn’t exist presently.

      The purpose of the blog is to raise awareness of what’s happening in our district concerning special education and academic performance compared to other districts and the State as a whole. All of the data on the blog comes from publicly available, verifiable sources, from various reports and websites run by the State of Michigan. Our sole motivation is to improve the District for the benefit of the kids, the parents, and the teachers in the District.

      It’s important that people know how our district compares to others. And, yes, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable. Are we critical? Yes. And I think we should be. We need to take a hard look at the data and be honest about what it tells us.

      There is an incredible amount of things that are outstanding about this district; but we have to be honest enough with ourselves to know that not everything is, and that there are some specific, significant problems that need to be addressed.

      There’s a tendency in East to say everything’s great, and we don’t have any problems. Lots of people seem to believe that. So, before we talk about solutions, people—parents, teachers, special ed staf, and members of the administration and board—need to become aware there even is a problem that requires a solution. That’s part of the mission of this Blog.

      The solutions will ultimately come from (and need to come from) a variety of stakeholders. However, where possible, we have indeed offered some direct and easy solutions, such as specific changes the District’s eligibility policy on Specific Learning Disabilities. For broader solutions, however, there will need to be substantial investigation into why special education has been cut 45% to the lowest levels in the state; why, for instance, out of 246 seventh-graders last year, there were only 5 receiving special education services; and the extent to which such practices contribute to the wide achievement gaps that earned the district Focus School designations. These things are happening even when we know that early intervention yields the best long-term outcomes. The solutions aren’t simple ones; and for the solutions to be effective, we need to better understand the current situation and how we got here.

      I don’t think we can simply toss seemingly easy solutions out there without further study. To do so would be merely guessing at what might work. Also, more people need to be earnestly involved in the solution, including members of the administration, members of the Board, special ed staff, teachers, and parents. We need to have open, honest dialogue and a true desire to change. To date, the administration has said nothing is wrong. Based on the data and our related personal experiences, we think otherwise. So, we’re trying to raise awareness of the data and the issues. And we’re more than ready and willing to be part of the solution when others honestly recognize there is a problem and a need to change it.

      Regarding Teachers

      I’m really glad that you, as a teacher, offered your opinions; and I appreciate the thoughtful way in which you did it.

      I rarely hear anything negative about teachers at East. Instead, parents regularly witness the skills, quality, willingness, and dedication of the teachers at East. No one I know sees teachers as the problem here. To the contrary, most parents I know have respect, empathy, and sometimes even surprise when we witness everything you do for our kids. If anything, we want you to get more help to make the great job you do easier and more effective. When classroom supports are reduced, and when kids who need extra help don’t receive the ancillary services they need, it makes teachers jobs even harder. This hurt not only those with special needs, but also the general ed students and the gifted and talented students.

      Thank you for what you do; and thanks again for being willing to talk.

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