Election 2008 Roundup

by Katie O’Neal

The commercials are now off the air, the yard signs are in the garbage and President-elect Obama prepares to take the oath of office on January 20, 2009.  While the economy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will likely delay any significant changes in educational policy in the immediate short-term, many electoral changes will take place within the states in which we work.  Here are some highlights:

North Carolina

  • Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue was elected the state’s first female governor.  Governor-elect Perdue, Lt. Governor-elect Walter Dalton, and June Atkinson, who won re-election as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, are all supporters of our work.  The House and Senate in NC continue to be controlled by Democrats.

Oklahoma

  • Republicans continue to hold their majority in the state House with 61 seats (40 seats are held by Democrats), however the state Senate is now majority Republican also.  (Twenty-six seats are Republican and only 22 are Democratic.)

South Carolina

  • Republicans continue to maintain their majorities in both the state House and Senate along with Republican Governor Mark Sanford.  State Superintendent Jim Rex, a Democrat, was elected in 2006 and continues to show many signs of positive support for the work of the Institute.

Post Election Issue #1

The most pressing issue for all newly elected officials is that of the economy and its impact on state funding priorities.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that at least 41 states are facing shortfalls in their budgets for this and/or next year; and more than half the states have already cut spending, used reserves, or raised revenues in order to adopt a balanced budget.

While many states were planning budget cuts within fiscal year 2010, many are forcing serious budget cuts even now.  Current estimates are that mid-year gaps total $24.3 billion – but these will almost certainly widen as the continuing economic turmoil causes revenues to decrease.

The 31 states facing mid-year shortfalls are Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Stay tuned for more details on implications of November’s historic election and its impact on the work of All Kinds of Minds.  As President-elect Obama chooses a new Secretary of Education, Congressional committees take shape and the nature of the national domestic agenda forms within early 2009, we’ll continue to update you on details of interest and support for our work together.  We have forwarded to our sales and delivery team a more detailed roundup that’s of interest to our specific designated territories.  If you would like more information or have specific input for our work – please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Independent School Leadership

As noted in the last entry, an independent school’s administration plays a role in developing a climate that welcomes students with diverse learning needs. Most administrations probably fall into one of these three categories:

  • Willing and able – can promote an atmosphere welcoming to the needs of individual learners
  • Willing but unable – promotes the ideal of a comprehensive learning atmosphere but lacks the understanding of how to achieve it
  • Unwilling – recognize that the school’s mission is to serve a certain segment of the student population

As a solo practitioner, I love working with the first group, and appreciate the honesty and integrity of the third group.

The second group is most interesting, and where I find great opportunities for growth.  These administrators want what is best for all students, but have too often relied on a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to learning interventions and missed out on opportunities to make a real difference for their students.

One size may fit most, but only guarantees that there will be students who fall through the cracks.  Often these students are bright, talented, and outstanding school citizens.

I welcome the opportunity to work with an administration that is open to learning more about how to serve all kinds of learners, for they will foster teacher growth and student achievement.

Consulting in Independent Schools

Many of the students I work with attend private, independent schools, and the Philadelphia area is blessed with a large variety of high-quality schools.

For students who learn differently, the atmosphere of the school they attend has much to do with their sense of success. It has been my observation that atmosphere is established in either a top-down or a bottom-up manner.

The students I currently work with are all in high school, and this is what I have observed about their teachers:

  • they have generally been open to ideas and suggestions for better serving struggling students;
  • at the secondary level, they typically have had interesting and enriching experiences with developing their abilities to teach content to students;
  • very often, they have had little training or sustained professional development about learning differences.

Sometimes, the experience of working with a struggling student has inspired teachers to promote greater faculty-wide understanding that how students learn is as important to consider as what students learn. These teacher-leaders are critical to creating the right atmosphere for students.

As a private tutor, it is gratifying to serve as a link in the chain. Consulting with a classroom teacher provides an opportunity to spread the credo that kids have ‘all kinds of minds’.

Next time, we’ll look at the role of a school’s administration.