Seeing the Elephant

The 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates, among other things, that each child with disabilities as defined by federal regulation receive an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). The IEP is produced by a panel consisting of the student, the student’s parents or guardians, a special ed teacher/case manager, at least one regular ed teacher, a representative of the school or district, and one or more specialists who are able to interpret the instructional implications of the student’s evaluation results.

The IEP itself includes an evaluation of the student’s present level of academic and functional performance, measurable annual goals of academic and functional performance, a description of how progress towards the goals will be measured and reported, the services which will be required to achieve the goals and a schedule of those service, least restrictive environment data, along with a few other requirements.

While I have little doubt that students who don’t meet the federal definition of having disabilities under the IDEA could benefit from such an individualized program, I think that holding that up as an objective of the educational system is frivolous. It simply won’t happen.

This approach to education is expensive but I don’t begrudge it to kids who are genuinely disabled as the federal government has defined it. Spending on a special needs kid is at least twice as expensive as that on a kid without such needs and may be as much a ten times as much.

We’re already spending on the order of a trillion dollars a year on education in the United States. It should be obvious that spending ten times that much simply isn’t in the cards, however desireable it might be.

There’s been a debate ongoing in comments on our educational system with some maintaining that the problem with our educational system is unions and other maintaining that all that is needed is more money. I think that while there’s a kernel of truth in each of these positions they’re only grabbing a part of the elephant.

Our educational system has reached a situation of bureaucratic displacement. We are spending three times in real terms on education what we did a couple of decades ago even, as in Chicago, as the number of students receiving an education declines. That spending is coming largely in the form of more administrators receiving higher total compensation with little measurable improvement in performance. Our problem is less unionization or insufficient spending than that we’re not getting value for the money that is being spent.

21 comments… add one

  • TastyBits

    I have offered an actual case study instead of theory and talking points, but I have intentionally stayed out this debate.

    I am philosophically opposed to these type programs, but my sister works in one at a crappy public grammar school. @michael reynolds touched on some of the positives in an earlier discussion. In crappy schools, these classrooms provide an environment where the students can learn.

    I think it is that they are separated from the other students. They do have disciplinary problems, but not as many. The long term success rate is probably low because eventually they will exit the program.

  • michael reynolds

    The long-term success is low because the educational system overall doesn’t know any goal other than college. Trying to wedge a kid with an 85 IQ into a mainstream college is a waste of time. Sending them to a trade school might work.

    I agree we’re unlikely to decide to spend a whole bunch more money. But you asked, Dave, and using intensive intervention with at-risk kids would probably have some positive effect. But as I pointed out in that thread, the choices I see are either do that, or change society so that we no longer have vast populations of poor kids – something that just about every other developed nation manages to accomplish — or admit that we don’t really give a damn about schooling poor kids.

    I assumed the answer around here would be C. In which case maybe we can all stop pretending to give a damn and admit that we intend to have a society in which eight Wal-Mart heirs own more than the bottom 40% of society and there is no economic mobility. If so, then let’s also stop the dishonest b.s. about the “American dream,” and the rest of that outdated mythology we deploy to give false hope to life’s losers. We can all just learn to vote with our class. That should work pretty well.

  • Trying to wedge a kid with an 85 IQ into a mainstream college is a waste of time. Sending them to a trade school might work.

    That’s a good, succinct statement of what I think about the subject. If you look back at my posts under the subject heading “Education”, you’ll find my emphasizing it again and again.

    However, there’s another implication. We can’t continue to subsidize jobs that can only be held by people with IQs over 125 and put roadblocks in the way of producing jobs that can be held by most other people. But that’s the present policy.

  • michael reynolds

    Dave:

    Employment for low IQ folks has a distinct tendency not to be sufficiently lucrative to sustain human life.

    Fortunately, we can now be reasonably certain they’ll have access to health care, thanks to Mr. Obama, and despite the best efforts of his opponents to deny them access to doctors and mental health professionals and the like.

    Does lowering barriers to employing low IQ folks mean letting them work 40 hours a week and live on the street without means to pay for a home, or means to buy food? Does it mean offering them jobs with a high likelihood of injury or illness, far from regulatory oversight? That’s certainly the Republican vision of a future America.

    Personally I think unless we plan to enforce some eugenics law or outlaw technological development, we’re going to have to face up to a minimum income situation.

  • Fortunately, we can now be reasonably certain they’ll have access to health care, thanks to Mr. Obama, and despite the best efforts of his opponents to deny them access to doctors and mental health professionals and the like.

    Sadly, that’s incorrect. We can be reasonably certain they’ll have access to healthcare insurance and could have healthcare insurance if they wanted it, not a slam dunk. Without increasing the supply of healthcare their access to care remains in doubt.

    Just as a quibble, 85 isn’t “low IQ”. It’s within one standard deviation. That’s normal.

    And once upon a time in the mists of the distant past a minimum income was a conservative idea. That was before we had open borders.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    If the US begins to increase the production of goods, the problem for the kid with an 85 IQ will go away. The US continues to add jobs that add no value.

    While the teller performs a nice to have service, the ATM machine is an asset that has value. When it becomes outdated, it can be sold to somebody else or scrapped. Selling or scrapping a teller is usually frowned upon.

    You add value with your books (paper and electronic). The cashier at Barnes & Noble does not. Adding new books will increase the economy. Adding more cashiers will not. (I realize this is economic blasphemy.)

    Creating loans, repackaging those loans, slicing the repackaged loans, selling the slices, and starting the process all over does not add any value. @Dave Schuler needs to break out the “Three Hat” story.

    The US consumes things of value far more than it produces things of value. The US needs to produce enough things of value to be able to afford the other services – teachers, firefighters, and policemen.

    Adding more valueless dollars into the economy without increasing the production of things of value results in the present situation. There are lots of dollars to purchase Chinese goods. The Chinese have lots of dollars to lend the US government and consumer.

    The consumer borrows dollars to purchase more Chinese goods. Some of these dollars are temporarily diverted into jobs to service this loop, but eventually they make it back. There are another portion of these dollars that make it into the rich guys pockets, but free is always a little freer for some.

    When it comes to “Free Market Capitalism”, I will out-Rand Ayn or Paul. I am ready to go full blown anarcho-capitalism for any conservative ready to live their principles, but I am tired of the bullshit from you, them, and everybody in-between.

    I do not like most of the US regulations, but if US manufacturers must adhere to these to sell their products in the US, I see no reason why everybody should not play by the same rules. In essence, the rules have been relaxed for non-US manufacturers.

    In another thread, I proposed a surcharge equal to the costs a US manufacturer would have incurred. I would take that money and use it to fund a R&D facility for robotics. All patents and technology would be open sourced for US manufacturers and companies. I would set aside 1-5% for a legal fund, and it would be structured to provide an incentive for lawyers to keep US patents in the US.

    The robots might be manufacturing everything, but there will still be lots of things for humans to do. Robots are never going to replace the stupid shit posted on Youtube. Actually, would a robot ever think of creating Youtube?

    Also, where these countries without poor?

  • If the US begins to increase the production of goods, the problem for the kid with an 85 IQ will go away. The US continues to add jobs that add no value.

    Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying for, perhaps, the last twenty years and, especially, in this blog.

    Sometimes it’s hard to identify whether a job is adding value or not. Most of us aren’t involved in direct production any more. We’re involved in indirect production. That doesn’t mean value isn’t being added. It’s just harder to tell.

    However, you can’t raise the costs of producing stuff here, import large number of workers that compete in the low end, construe free trade as letting other countries do whatever they jolly well please in terms of tariffs, quotas, subsidies to their industries, etc. while abandoning tariffs, quotas, subsidies, etc. here and expect robust job growth, particularly for jobs that ordinary people can do.

  • michael reynolds

    The 85 problem never goes away, unless you propose eugenics, a national Luddite law, or accept a permanent underclass of workers who have to be subsidized by government – as Wal-Mart employees are subsidized.

    Bear in mind that a permanent underclass still has the vote, and sooner or later the GOP’s racial blame-shifting games will begin to wear thin and people will vote their class. When that happens, we get real, serious, hardcore income redistribution. People with votes won’t live in cardboard boxes for long.

    Or we could begin the process of adjusting to a future in which substantial portions of the population are simply never going to work.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    There are lots of jobs, but they are not in the US. Either figure out how to move the jobs to the US or move the people to China.

    I suspect that the real problem is that you and the other rich liberals do not want to be bothered with the undesirables. You all have effectively warehoused the poor out of sight, but the unemployed middle class kid may wander into your neighborhood.

    Americans are quite capable of making sheetrock that does not rot your house, pet food that does not kill your dog, and children’s toys that do not poison your kids. If a rural Chinese kid can assemble an iPhone, I am sure that the youths of CA can do the same.

    If CA would only get rid of the environmental and labor laws, the unemployment rate would drop. That would still leave the actual 85 IQ problem – monster truck races, wrestling matches, twelve pack or 40 oz beers, American Idol, GTA V, Duck Dynasty, low riders, guns, grammatically incorrect English, etc.

  • ...

    Selling or scrapping a teller is usually frowned upon.

    Are you kidding? Slashing headcount is one of the sure-footed ways of getting a bounce on Wall Street. You must have been tired when you wrote this.

  • ...

    However, you can’t raise the costs of producing stuff here, import large number of workers that compete in the low end, construe free trade as letting other countries do whatever they jolly well please in terms of tariffs, quotas, subsidies to their industries, etc. while abandoning tariffs, quotas, subsidies, etc. here and expect robust job growth, particularly for jobs that ordinary people can do.

    Yes, but this is exactly what both parties are proposing more of, with denunciations as ‘haters’ of all who oppose the destruction of the American middle class.

  • ...

    Bear in mind that a permanent underclass still has the vote, and sooner or later the GOP’s racial blame-shifting games will begin to wear thin and people will vote their class. When that happens, we get real, serious, hardcore income redistribution. People with votes won’t live in cardboard boxes for long.

    LMAO! And who’s side do you think you are on, rich man? LMFAO!

  • TastyBits


    LMAO! And who’s side do you think you are on, rich man? LMFAO!

    Like his political opponents, he does not think. None of have an original thought, and none of them question the crap they are told to spout. They tout their high IQ’s, but most of them are sure that 1 + 1 = 10 is the 85 IQ answer.

  • ...

    TB, the best part is that he wants to throw table scraps to the underclass while consigning them, and their progeny, to permanent underclass status, and expects that this inoculate him from any criticism, as it makes him a Good Person ™. Totally fucking oblivious, except for the fact that I suspect he knows it and revels in it. Leftists are all secret (and occasionally not-so-secret) aristocrats, and love doing the Marie Antoinette routine.

    Here’s to the revolution coming sooner rather than later, and being as bloody as fucking possible.

  • TastyBits

    @Icepick

    I just do not get it. Every now and then, he seems to make a breakthrough, but he quickly runs back to the tribe. He is not the only one, but liberals have their heads shoved up their asses.

  • ...

    I left this in the thread about counties in recovery, but I think it has a certain pertinence here as well. On that map, Osceola County (FL) was shown as recovered. Here’s a bit from the local paper.

    Near Disney World, number of homeless families soars

    In the shadow of Walt Disney World, Osceola County has one of the highest rates of homeless families in the nation, and the problem continues to grow at an “astonishing” rate, officials told more than 300 community leaders Wednesday.

    The number of homeless school-age children and parents rose by 54 percent to more than 5,000 in the past year alone, according to a new report commissioned by county government. Current programs aimed at helping those families get back on their feet have enough funding to help fewer than 10 percent of them.

    “These families are not getting out of homelessness on their own,” said Andrae Bailey, executive director of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, which co-hosted a conference on what Bailey called the “single largest social issue” facing Osceola County. “A lot of these families have working parents. The whole concept of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ doesn’t apply.”

    Makes me wonder exactly what the Hell “recovery” is supposed to mean….

  • ...

    Meanwhile, government in action!

    MPAA & ICE Confirm They Interrogated A Guy For Wearing Google Glass During A Movie

    I’m guessing they didn’t want the guy to post anything to YouTube that might get an ambassador killed or something, thus making the world safer.

  • ...

    I just do not get it.

    Assume bad intentions and everything becomes much clearer. Much of what the elites DO becomes clear if you just assume they pretty much want to rape the country for their own benefit. Such as use “Homeland Security” to bust a guy that MIGHT be clandestinely filming a movie in a theater when that movie is probably already for sale on DVD in Hong Kong.

  • TastyBits

    A few at the top have rigged the game to benefit their interests, and I have no doubt that they have convinced themselves that “what is good for US businessmen is good for the US.” The truth is that the final US should be lowercase.

    The remainder are mostly useful idiots. They do not have a clue.

    In the movie case, we have already lost one ambassador to a peaceful protest that got out of hand. It makes far more sense to arrest Americans for perceived crimes than to arrest Muslims for actual crimes. Americans are Christians, a religion of bloody conquest. Muslims are a religion of peace.

    Make sure Timmy checked Countrywide’s balance sheet, take two hits, and pass the blunt. Apparently, the smartest people in the whole wide world could not get this right. Maybe the President should have appointed Snoop Dogg to the Fed and Jay-Z To Treasury.

  • ...

    Given how well Jay-Z has done for himself, I wouldn’t mind having him at the Treasury or the Fed. His business empire isn’t just about hitting it on the mike.

  • TastyBits

    I wonder how many families from the New Orleans projects were taken in by Marin County families after Katrina, and I wonder how many of those Osceola County homeless families would be welcome in Marin County. The answer is none, but it would be because the racist police. Of course, they pay the racist police, but they never seem to fire them.

    I see where the rich liberal New Yorkers are complaining that the poor slobs got preferential cleanup for this last snow storm. For years, these rich liberal bastards have been claiming solidarity with the “poor man”, and as soon as they get fucked-over like the “poor man”, they whine like bitches.

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