Elon Musk and Vernon Jones asked for advice. Here goes!

Dear Mr. Musk and Mr. Jones,

Amazingly — as I’ve been watching and reading the news, it turns out that both of you have asked for similar advice! So, I hope it’s alright that I’m addressing you together. You want to know how to spend money and promote ideas and policies that will move the needle forward and make a real positive difference for our nation. Thank you for that question and invitation, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, and Vernon Jones, Georgia state representative.

For half a century, I’ve focused on education — first as a teacher, then as a school attorney, and now as a reformer and writer. I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share — most pivotally, that education is the vital key to maintaining our nation and democracy and that we are failing so many of our students and our nation. As an immigrant English-language learner in 4th grade, I experienced how wonderful public schools can be — they were for me. But now, so many of our students are failing and losing out on the opportunities our nation holds for them — especially students in poverty, minority students, English language learners, many students with disabilities, and many other vulnerable groups. Gaps between those students and others are widening. The pandemic has made the situation worse — even dire. …


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School crossing signs. See US in bottom right corner!

Many thoughtful and concerned people are asking this vital question here in the USA — especially now that we have a new administration in Washington and possibly a new Education Department Secretary, Miguel Cardona. Here are my thoughts –as of now. I’ll write more about this, of course.

As a passionate supporter of public schools since the time I arrived as a nine-year-old immigrant who spoke NO English — on an ocean liner that docked in Hoboken, New Jersey and, within months, was lucky to attend New Jersey’s then wonderful public schools, I know that we need to fix special education without delay. …


In this PANDEMIC, let’s be honest — sometimes ART can bring a smile to our faces. How about, medicine bottle art! I hope it brings you a smile!

During this pandemic, we need to be creative! Alas, during this pandemic, we also accumulate many medicine bottles — both at home and among my friends and colleagues. Since I like to “make lemonade out of lemons”, I set out to create Medicine Bottle COVID Art! Walks on the beach in Half Moon Bay give me the shells — whole and broken, driftwood, and the silver dollars you see in these pieces. And walks on the streets give me nuts and bolts and assorted treasures. …


Bureaucracy and Leadership — what I’m learning at the Peter Drucker Forum 2020.

It’s been a long time since I wrote…. The pandemic and some health issues got in the way. Now I’m back! Thanks for staying with me.

I have always believed that it can be useful to attend a conference that is NOT in one’s field. You never know what you’ll learn!

With that in mind, I’ve been attending a conference in Vienna, Austria — alas, virtually. I’m sitting in my own kitchen, sipping my coffee alone — not in a breakout meet and greet. While I wish the conference was actually in Europe — it is not this year. …


On March 19 — at the start of this corona virus pandemic which seems lightyears ago — I published a few of my medicine bottle art items — hoping they’ll bring a smile to your face. People liked them! So here are a few more.

— Hawaiian Sun Rays

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— A menorah for COVID days


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Getty Images/Tomwang112

Published by Fordham Institute: https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/lets-rebuild-special-education-when-schools-reopen

Anne DelfosseMiriam Kurtzig Freedman

6.17.2020

This spring’s school closures have challenged us to look at many things differently and to be open-minded, creative, and brave about moving toward necessary change. As we consider reopening schools in the fall, let’s hold on to that mindset and ask what should special education become? Does the forty-five-year-old federal law (IDEA) need a thorough redo? We believe it does.

There is much to celebrate about all that public schools now provide for students with disabilities. We’ve certainly come a long way since 1975, when the law was enacted. …


Breaking News: On May 11, 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that the University of California President recommended that the SAT be suspended for U C admissions. That is huge! Undoubtedly, as the U C goes, so will the nation.

Yet for some of us SAT-watchers, it was not “breaking” news. We have watched the SAT over the last many years slowly destroy itself as the testing gold standard. Let’s call it a self-induced suicide (an oxymoron, undoubtedly).

Sadly, as I see it, the SAT, which is used all over the world, has lost the right to call itself the gold standard in testing — a benchmark that is valid and reliable. A valid and reliable test is one that measures what it purports to measure and reports scores that others can rely on. There may have been a time when, if the SAT says it — then it is so. But, that seems to have ended a while ago. While the LA Times does not cite the lack of validity or reliability of scores, my sense is that the long sad saga that got us here has been part of the woodwork for a while. …


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Good for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for working on proposals to Congress urging flexibility to implement the primary federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), during school closures caused by this pandemic. The CARES Act requires her to propose, within thirty days, IDEA provisions that should be waived, if any. Notably, and perhaps overlooked, is the fact that this effort is of great importance to many stakeholders, including the wider school community beyond special education. All general and special education students, teachers, administrators, and parents want schools to function as well as possible during this crisis. Secretary DeVos represents them all. …


As just published by Fordham Institute! Please share with others!

Special education in the time of coronavirus: DeVos and Congress need to act!

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman

4.14.2020

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Getty Images/Toshe_O

Good for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for working on proposals to Congress urging flexibility to implement the primary federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), during school closures caused by this pandemic. The CARES Act requires her to propose, within thirty days, IDEA provisions that should be waived, if any. Notably, and perhaps overlooked, is the fact that this effort is of great importance to many stakeholders, including the wider school community beyond special education. All general and special education students, teachers, administrators, and parents want schools to function as well as possible during this crisis. Secretary DeVos represents them all. …


There’s no doubt. We’re all going through tough times across our country and world. Of course we’ll get through it — but it’s tough going. And while we’re going through it, what do people do? — cooped up at home. Puzzles? Write a book? Clean a closet? Contact friends and family on Skype or ZOOM. All good ideas.

Here’s my partial solution. Art! And, I dare say, I hope it brings a smile to your face. IF these pieces do that, they’ve done their job.

Yes, medicine bottle art! In my home these days, there are so many bottles — of all sizes, colors, and shapes. And my friends contribute theirs. I have lots of empty (and pretty, as I see it) medicine bottles. …

About

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman is an attorney, reformer, and author. Her latest book is Special Education 2.0. And, check out her pandemic medicine bottle art!

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