Education Week - November 29, 2017 - 19
LETTERS to the EDITOR
Inclusion Helps All Students
Only practice with
complexity can provide the
experience our children need
to survive in the
unpredictable world ahead."
people do with that content. What do humans
need to survive in a world undergoing rapid, continuous change? They must creatively generate,
connect, organize, communicate, and act upon
ideas. Perhaps most importantly of all, they must
integrate new information to change their ideas.
Instead of all our current learning standards,
I propose three simple questions to drive our
instruction every minute of every day in every
school. For every lesson we teach our students,
they should be able to answer the following:
1. What are the most important ideas here
2. How can I communicate these ideas to
3. How can I solve this problem?
We would still begin with the ends in mind-
just different ends. Now the Pythagorean theorem, process of mummification in ancient Egypt,
punctuation mark usage, and phonemic awareness become the inputs to this far more important, simplified set of three guiding questions.
Whether we teach in 50-minute courses packed
into 180 seven-hour days with a break for lunch
or organize lessons for the kind of flow that is
best for knowledge workers-it should be framed
around these asks. Imagine how that will sharpen
focus for educators and their students.
Picture greeting students on day one (or parents at Back to School Night) and saying, "In algebra this year, we will look at a wide variety of
problems, identify what's important about them,
learn how to solve them, and communicate our
How would our standardized tests look if we let
these three simple questions guide all learning?
Different. How would we grade them? Differently. But rather than let those tests dictate how
professionals design education, we should turn
the tables over and insist on meaningful ends
for teaching and learning. Let the tests adapt, as
Movements create change, but as the world
that spawned them keeps changing, every movement becomes obsolete. We're no longer teaching
students how to comprehend the manual to hook
up their VCRs. That makes no sense in today's
world. Our charts of skills and knowledge divided
for every discipline are not designed for a world
where convergence matters and where complex
problems demand creative interdisciplinary solutions. It's time to simplify our standards with a
more complex end in mind. n
JENNY FROEHLE is an educational consultant and writer.
Previously, she has been a teacher, instructional coach,
college instructor, school principal, and, most recently, the
chief academic officer in Zionsville Community Schools in
To the Editor:
On Nov. 3, 2017, the On Special
Education blog published "Does
Inclusion Slow Down General
Education Classrooms?" The post,
which covers a recently released
survey of teachers, presents a complex
picture that goes beyond inclusion,
but conveys an underlying tone
that inclusion has a negative effect
on general education students. The
National Down Syndrome Society, of
which I am the president and CEO,
maintains that inclusive education
for students with Down syndrome
benefits all students, not only those
with Down syndrome.
There are some inherent deficits
presented in the post. First, as the
special education population in
a U.S. public school is roughly 13
percent, there shouldn't be classrooms
with more than 30 percent special
needs-the threshold above which
the study found teaching time to
decrease. The researcher behind the
study also pointed out that within
these classrooms, there was a greater
number of students with other
disadvantages. This is not inclusion.
It's segregation and tracking.
When you look at a class with a
more average population of students
with special education needs, the
impact on teaching time becomes
much less pronounced. Furthermore,
the survey didn't show any correlation
between the inclusion of students
with special education needs and
the achievement among the general
education students. Students in
inclusive environments get a richer
NDSS stands behind the more than
30 years of peer-reviewed research
supporting the benefits of inclusive
education both for students with
disabilities and general education
students. Students with special
education needs have as much right to
a quality education as their peers.
We believe that through inclusive
education, students will become
independent adults who reach their
fullest potential. Education, and
especially inclusive education, is not an
easy. However, the benefits to students
outweigh any difficulties achieving
inclusivity. NDSS will continue to
support families and school districts
to ensure student access to the best
possible inclusive education.
Ed. Dept. Pick Is Selectively
Opposed to Big Government
To the Editor:
I appreciated the profile of retired
U.S. Army brigadier general and former
South Carolina schools superintendent
Mitchell "Mick" Zais ("A Polarizing Pick
for Education Department's No. 2 Slot,"
Nov. 1, 2017). But does Zais actually
believe in a "smaller footprint for the
federal government" when it comes to
K-12 education, as the article suggests?
According to a recent study by the
RAND Corporation, South Carolina
public high schools have the highest
concentration of U.S. Department of
Defense-sponsored programming in
the nation. Sixty-two percent of the
state's public high schools offer the
Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps
program, whose national footprint
requires roughly $370 million in federal
funding every year.
Teachers in the training corps
are retired military officers, and the
defense department subsidizes their
salaries, the cost of textbooks, uniforms,
and other expenses. General guidelines
for training corps are overseen by the
federal government. And the content
of the program's "military science"
curriculum is controlled not by states
and school districts, but by individual
Who is benefiting? In messages to
Congress, defense chiefs often tout
the program's recruitment benefits.
Research shows that around 40 percent
of students who spend three years or
more in the training corps eventually
end up in some form of military service
after high school.
So, maybe it's more accurate to say
that Zais is opposed to no-stringsattached funding from the federal
government-unless it happens to
benefit his former employers in the
Education Week takes no editorial
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President & CEO
The National Down Syndrome Society
WHAT DO YOU
develop an interactive learning tool to
teach others how to reduce personal risk
of cyber threats. I encourage them to not
only use technology to solve a problem,
but also to invent new technologies that
fit their needs.
Who knows, maybe someday my students
will be in the news for uncovering, or, better
yet, stopping, the next big malware strain. n
DEB HARDING is a computer science teacher at
STEM Launch, a K-8 public school in Thornton, Colo.
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EDUCATION WEEK | November 29, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 19