This is to announce my endorsement for Sheri Ann Farinha as NAD President. I will tell you why.
Swift Response and Passion.
On Sunday, June 3, 2012, I wrote a letter to NAD headquarters and some of the board members regarding concerns about a very specific document that was released on February 29, 2012 written by Dr. Melody Musgrove, who is the Director of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
Dr. Musgrove was invited as one of the session speakers for Alexander Graham Bell’s Listening and Spoken Language Symposium on July 22, 2011 (which is almost one year ago), and her presentation was about improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts. For more information, please go this link here.
UPDATE: Dr. Musgrove was invited to give a presentation at the CEASD Conference (Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf) in Hartford, Connecticut in April 29, 2012. Barbara Raimondo, Esq., wrote a blog about her presentation. I was wondering if CEASD / NAD knows about Dr. Musgrove’s letter?
Dr. Musgrove grew up in Mississippi, the child of public school teachers. She worked as a classroom teacher, school administrator, district special education director and assistant superintendent before serving as State Director of Special Education for the Mississippi Department of Education until January 2007. From 2007 to 2010, she was Director of Business Development for LRP Publications, the nation’s leading publisher of legal and regulatory guidance for educators.
Dr. Musgrove’s career is distinguished by her commitment to collaborative frameworks that find creative solutions to difficult educational problems. She is focused on improving outcomes for all children and experienced in using data to influence systemic improvement decisions. During her tenure as State Director of Special Education, students with disabilities achieved improved results in reading and math, schools implemented more inclusive practices, graduation rates increased, and drastic steps were taken to halt disproportionate identification of African-American students for special education.
Did you see I highlighted these words, “schools implemented more inclusive practices”, and now let me explain bit more about the document I mentioned earlier.
In this document, Dr. Musgrove wrote a letter emphasizing the meaning of Least Restrictive Environment for ages two to five (Preschool ages), and in this states that all disabled children are expected to be placed and must be educated with children who are not disabled.
Nothing in this paper talks about language considerations.
UPDATE: According to Barbara Raimondo’s blog, Musgrove was quoted at the CEASD Conference in Hartford,
“Any setting that does not meet the communication and related needs of a child who is deaf does not allow for the provision of [a Free Appropriate Public Education] and cannot be considered the [Least Restrictive Environment] for that child. Just as the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] requires placement in the regular educational setting when it is appropriate for the unique needs of a child who is deaf, it also requires placement outside of the regular educational setting when the child’s needs cannot be met in that setting.”
If Musgrove quoted this in April 2012, and why it be included in that letter dated February 29, 2012? I would like for her to include this quote in letter correspondence among all Special Education Directors so that they can follow this – especially for preschool-age Deaf children.
Dr. Musgrove wrote, “Futher, special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment may occur only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”
There is a real trend happening at Deaf schools. They are facing the drastic decrease of referrals for deaf preschoolers going to Deaf School, and major increase number of referrals for deaf preschoolers with additional disabilities (orthopedic, autism spectrum disorders, cognitive impairments, and other severe health problems) to Deaf School. Currently many Deaf children were placed in their local school system with “supplementary aids and services” provided to them. Sign language interpreters and American Sign Language instruction are not considered as supplementary aids and services. Many preschool-aged Deaf children attend preschool for a half day, instead of full-time, and they don’t always get the full access to language, therefore causing them more delays with language development.
Dr. Musgrove’s letter has been distributed to each state to follow this mandate.
What about language considerations?
There is another paper posted on Ed.gov with this link:
This paper explains about Deaf Students Education Services, and it emphasizes the need for deaf children to be placed in the environment that will meet their needs. This paper was written in October 26, 1992 and it was ‘buried’ in the website.
With Musgrove’s recent letter, it was worded so strongly that educators, special education directors and local school systems will follow to what Dr. Musgrove said, without taking into any consideration of 1992’s paper about Deaf Students Education Services.
Now you get this picture?
I emailed to NAD headquarters and some of the board members on June 2, 2012 of my concerns. I waited for their response. I waited. I personally asked the board members if they did receive this letter. They acknowledged that they did receive them.
The only person who responded back personally, not in behalf for National Association of the Deaf.
This person is Sheri Ann Farinha.
Her response to me is…
Thank you for bringing this letter to our attention. I apologize for the delay in responding. I believe Howard and Bobbie Beth may be tied up working on important NAD items. I know that this is such an important issue for many, and will respond to the best of my ability until Howard is free to elaborate further.
I agree we must examine ways to help educate folks like Musgrove understand that LRE does not mean the local school placement is best. That is what’s usually focused on first, for the child to fit the existing mold, instead of looking at the child’s language needs and ways for further success!
LRE has been an widely misused term not always applicable for Deaf children for a good long while. In fact at the last board meeting in MD, I shared that way way back when I was chair of the NAD’s Education Section due to the fact that no one in SPED was “listening”, we orchestrated a national protest, under President Larry Newman’s time. In California we successfully were able to change the policy to state LRE for SpEd “except for Deaf Children”, LRE could mean any of the placement options, starting with the state school for the Deaf first. Other states followed suit. The problem is on the Federal level they do not have this same understanding of the LRE policy. And now so much time has passed, that the people who changed the LRE policy for us back then are no longer working for the Dept of Education. States like Atlanta likewise are looking to the Feds for direction and Musgrove is definitely not helping with her letter either.
With NAD CEO participating in the Child First Campaign and setting up meetings with Musgrove and others, I hope we will see the beginning of real changes. A lot has been done, but there is always more that is needed.
I agree this should be shared with the Education Committee. As Board liaison to the Education committee I would be glad to pass this on if Howard agrees. He may have other areas he wishes to discuss with the Education Committee on this topic.
Thank you again for bringing this concern to our attention.
Sheri responded on Wednesday, June 6, 2012. That is a swift response, and it shows passion.
For a very long time, NAD has been focused on accessibility issues, and they did post their inclusion positon paper on their website here. . It was first published in 2002. That was not enough.
The Council of Representatives voted on priorities in Philadelphia in 2010, and the top priority was:
Priority Code: 2010-PA-PUB-010
2010-2012 Priority: Protect Schools for the Deaf
NAD shall work to protect schools for the deaf, such as residential schools of the deaf, deaf day schools, and deaf charter schools, by establishing a task force focused on reaching the deaf community about the risks of deaf schools closing and lobbying to redefine how deaf and hard of hearing students are placed according to priorities set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Ranking: 1 (95 votes)
Vision 2020: Objective 1.2
Board Assignment: Public Policy Committee
Status: In progress
It is been two years. Dr. Musgrove was invited by Alexander Graham Bell Association in 2011, and did we contact her? She wrote a letter in February 2012, and what happens?
Sheri, you got my vote. I’ll tell my delegates to vote for you.
Amy Cohen Efron