Time for Reflection

Special Needs Topics with Don PeekThis post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.com.






It’s April and with less than two months to go in the school year, it’s time to do a little reflecting. Yes, I know that you have an IEP for every child you teach, and the growth each student has made will be measured in relation to that IEP. However, I want you to think of each student’s growth in a little different way.

The federal government says the average cost of educating a student is around $11,000 per year (this of course varies by state and by individual school district). You, the people in your county and state, and others around the country are paying the taxes that go into that $11,000 per year.  It really doesn’t matter if teachers babysit their students or if they work as hard as possible to educate the students in their classes. The cost is still about $11,000 per year.

What I want you to consider whether you are a teacher, administrator, or a parent is if taxpayers are getting their $11,000 worth for each student for which you are responsible.

What you have to do is think about what each student will know or will be able to do when school ends that he/she did not know or could not do at the beginning of the year. I started looking at each student this way when I was an assistant principal in high school. Taxpayers were paying about $44,000 for the education of each individual student over the course of four years. I have to tell you that most taxpayers would not have been happy with the return on their investment at our school. Most students simply did not know enough or were not able to do enough things differently from the time they entered ninth grade until they graduated to be worth $44,000.

Don’t get me wrong. Educating students is a tough business. When they have disabilities, it makes it doubly tough. I have been a teacher and an administrator responsible for the education of special education students. I am also the grandfather of an autistic student. It simply is not easy to educate most students, and it is even more difficult most of the time when a student has one or more disabilities.

But even with all of that said, you still need to look at every student you teach and decide whether the changes in each student has been worth the $11,000 that someone has paid for that year of education. If you don’t think it is worth the money, you may want to concentrate for the rest of the year on helping each student make changes that would be more in line with the cost of his/her education whether those changes are in the IEP or not.

If you don’t think even a concentrated effort with get the growth you want to see, you might recommend that certain students go to a summer program. Sure, that will increase the cost of educating each student that you recommend, but it may help the student gain some valuable skills.

In the business world, each individual business must make money or eventually go broke. While it’s true that a portion of the education that students pick up each year is hard to measure, the fact sadly remains that many, many schools would go broke with the amount of growth (profit) they show each year. Even in schools that show good average gains or in classrooms that show good average gains, you still have individual students who do not get the growth they should. Those are the ones on which we need to center our attention.

It’s a fact that we spend more on educating students with disabilities than we do on other students. That tends to increase the pressure on teachers and administrators to make sure that a majority of these students are growing at a pace that will at least make them competitive in the work force once they graduate.

Again, I know that educating students with disabilities is a rough task in many cases. That still should never keep us from trying to get every ounce of growth possible out of these students so they can be both productive and competitive for the rest of their lives.


Grant Name:   Standard Charitable Foundation Grants

Funded By:   Standard Charitable Foundation

Description:  Areas of funding interest include Community Development, Education Effectiveness, Disability and Health.

Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education

Recipients:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  May 1 and October 1

Website: http://www3.standard.com/net/public/!ut/p/c1/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3hHIx8jH2czY0N3d1dLA0-zAE9Tk0ADL1cPM_2CbEdFAFT6ULU!/

Availability:  All States

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