Out There

SLP Caseloads

Posted in SLP, teaching, Uncategorized by Pete on March 14, 2016

I’m copying and pasting something from an SLP forum that I lurk on.  This is about caseloads and thought it was a good perspective and I wanted to be able to access it later so I’m pasting it in here.

I have posted this more than once. My rule of thumb is my caseload cannot exceed the number of hours I work over a week. So…if I work 38 hours, I can’t have more than 38 students. In that 38 hours, you are ALL entitled to 30 minutes of duty free lunch daily, and whatever planning time is given to the professional staff in your school. If you are working through lunch and planning time, you are NOT doing anyone any favors…and that includes the district and your students. You are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.

So back to my rule of thumb. Where I worked, I had 30 minutes of lunch and 30 minutes of planning (planning was averaged out over the week…so really 2 1/2 hours per week) per day. So that left 28 hours in which to do everything else…therapy, testing IEP meetings, consults, classroom observations, report writing, meetings…you get the picture. Even with 28 hours to do all of that per week, I sometimes found myself stretched. When I read about caseloads that are double or triple what I had, I wonder just how FAPE is being met. And I wonder about the real quality of services…and I wonder just how quickly some of you will burn out.

It took me a while to get to the point I was at…that caseload of 30 or so students. Back in 1973 when I started, I had 13 schools and well over 100 students. It was a job that could NOT be done….period. I was at each school once every two weeks. The kids didn’t even know my name.

I immediately became a strong advocate for decent services for my students. NOTE…not for me…for my students. BUT in advocating for my students, I also advocated for myself, and our profession.

Our administration understood that the apraxic, low cognitive student with multiple issues…and multiple weekly consults…took much more of my time than even a multi sound artic case. And I needed to have the time for these things.

I understand that some folks don’t want to make waves because of job security and the like.

But read what you are saying….your admins expect you to make up time with students when you are absent for a day…but they also think it’s good quality services for you to be seeing 60 plus kids per week? I guess I think those are contradictory statements.

If they are REALLY worried about FAPE, they should get more staff…so ongoing services can be better.

Where I am, districts with these larger caseloads also have HUGE turnover in SLP staff…because folks simply move on to districts where the working conditions are better. And yes…that sometimes means a huge cut in pay. But I know a few people who went from having over 75 on their caseloads to under 40 and also lost over $6000 a year in salary. They say…it was well worth the reduction in salary to be able to provide a quality service to their students.

As a profession, we need to stand up and be counted. Do the special ed teachers in your district see 60 or 75 kids per week? How about OT and PT? If you are in a primary school….what classroom has 60-100 kids?

Please…advocate for quality services for your students. And for heaven’s sake…stop short changing yourselves by working through lunch and planning times…and taking hours of work home nightly.

OK…off my soapbox.


And someone replied with:

I think everyone can reply to this question but not much can be concluded.  Numbers do not reflect workload.  I think that is where administrators loose perspective on appropriate staffing.  So much goes into determining workload for any specialists.  Everything from severity of students to universal supports provided in a school system.  I personally could service 30 articulation kids over a couple of days with my eyes closed but give me 30 more involved students and the game changes.

We all need to advocate for reasonable workloads and numbers.  The amount of work, paperwork and meeting time that is required for each student also need to be taken into consideration.  I also find that administrators have little to no understanding of the process of language development nor how decreased language abilities impact academics.

This past year I published a book,  The School Speech Language Pathologist,  An Administrator’s Guide to understanding the role of the SLP in schools along with strategies to aid staffing, workload management and student success.  It’s just a start in educating administration.  Available on Amazon and through my publisher Booklocker.

I think it would also be interesting to know how much turnover occures because of workloads/caseloads that are too high an unmanageable.  My 30 years of experience can also state that staffing levels have not grown over the years but numbers have.  Think about that.

I didn’t write either of these but they are good food for thought, for me at least.  I’ve wrestled since before I became an SLP with the service delivery model used in the Alaska bush (at least in my home district of LKSD) and this applies to that issue.

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Carbon Tax

Posted in politics by Pete on September 11, 2015

I’m not going to actually analyze this giant issue here and now, but an article in the ADN today caught my eye.  It cites a study that found that rural Alaskans would “benefit financially from a proposed national program designed to increase energy efficiency and move away from fossil fuels by charging a fee for carbon and returning dividends to households.”


Dividend payments to Alaska households in the study area would total $5.9 million the first year, which would be $2.2 million more than the cost of the fee. “Given the data we have, people in rural Alaska would fare well,” Colt said.

And the counter argument:

One important caveat found in the study is that while most residents would get more in dividends than they would pay in fees, a minority would not. “That is a concern with every kind of assistance program,” Colt said.

Although I’d heard of market-based approaches to the climate/carbon emissions problem before, I was intrigued enough to check out the org who paid for the study.  Their website has this banner at the top of the front page:

CCL banner

Nice.  And the more I think about it, the more I’m persuaded.  At first blush I like this plan.  I realize that as a middle to upper middle class person using lots of electricity in a village that gets most of its power from inefficient diesel generators, I probably will pay more than I would receive.  But the economist in me believes that an incentive-based approach is the most effective way to get everyone (and utilities) to pay attention and actually change their behavior.  Isn’t it preferable to intense regulation by the EPA that is the most likely alternative??  Doing nothing just kicks the ever-increasing costs and problems down the road to future generations – foolish.  Am I wrong here?  Feel free to comment if you can state your case reasonably with a minimum of a few sentences.

One other thing to note is the comments section at the bottom of that ADN article.  Classic.  In a depressing, mind-numbing way.  Way to think things through and put others first guys.

drug-related death threats in Bethel

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on May 4, 2015


The T-Word!

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on April 8, 2015

Kudos to Rep Paul Seaton and Rep Edgmon for their courageous proposal to bring back the state income tax, and to Senator Bishop for his “education tax” proposal (which I don’t love because it seems to hit the working poor way harder than upper income folks, but at least he isn’t just putting his head in the sand).  These guys are probably getting all kinds of grief from Alaska anti-tax fanatics, but as covered ad nauseum here and elsewhere, just cutting spending isn’t going to take care of a $5B deficit.  Not just politically unlikely but as the state budget analyst David Teal presented, “Alaska could shutter every state agency and still have a $1 billion deficit.”  And yet, our (republican) Senate president says “This session is the session for reduction,” Meyer said. “Next session could be something else.”  Short-sighted, spineless, self serving leadership.  Not just the Rs – many democrats criticized it as well, and even the supporters in the legislature asked that their names not be revealed at this time.


Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on April 6, 2015

This is pretty stomach-turning, but I don’t feel like it’s gotten enough attention.

Charges against Gregory of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest were dropped in exchange for him pleading guilty to harassing Reid. Brown, the attorney for Gregory, is pursuing a motion to withdraw the plea because of the new video evidence.

The city of Bethel thinks it has a financial crunch now??  If a jury ever saw this, the city would get crushed, I would think.  A drunk man was “harassing” an officer?  We can’t see what happened before this, but all I saw was a cop way excessively beating up someone who looked totally unable to defend himself.  Also, maybe there was a kick or two in there?  Like at the 2:19 mark.  Not sure.  Anyway it’s not hard to see why there was a dislocated shoulder and broken collarbone.  (TANGENT:  Also this is the same city of Bethel that is considering whether to allow two liquor stores to open up, driving down the cost and increasing the supply of immediately available alcohol.  That is a whole other post or many posts, but these sorts of behaviors related to public drunkenness are what make the increased tax revenue look like not such a great deal for the city.  The extra costs associated with extra drinking may well dwarf the extra revenue.  I’m for Bethel either going DRY, or to a package store, city-run liquor store with no more legal importation by anyone else.  One-stop shop that allows the public to customize the rules of who they can sell to, and how much you can buy.  Not that many Bethel voters give a flip about what I or other villagers think.)

Also the fact that the victim didn’t lawyer up for damages in the first place is likely the result of the non-litigious nature of the Yup’ik culture that prefers not to press charges or sue, and is very respectful of authority.  This gets taken advantage of by the entities that provide services in this region – where lawsuits, or the mere threat of lawsuits, would normally be a corrective deterrent keeping those institutions from becoming too self-serving, that seems to be sometimes missing here and we’re all the poorer for it, in my opinion.

Anyway, this is a downer of a post, but I’m glad the video is seeing the light of day, despite the police department’s apparent efforts, so I thought I’d help shout it from the rooftops so to speak.

to cover it up.

Another twist in Bethel’s history with alcohol

Posted in grim stuff, politics by Pete on March 30, 2015

Remember in 2009 when Bethel voted to go from damp to wet, ostensibly because they were upset that Sarah Palin had pushed to cut the monthly importation limits (20 drinks per day) allowed per person in damp villages in half, among other things?

“Hawkins gathered names from friends at his backyard steam house. To him, the vote to go wet is about more than the failed attempt to tighten liquor limits. The problem, he thinks, is that lawmakers in Juneau have imposed restrictions on the city for more than 20 years, making them slap “ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE” labels on their luggage, putting their names in a database of booze buyers and trying to chop liquor limits without asking voters.

Quote is from this article from September 2009, and that article was originally in the ADN but can’t find it now, but prompted this post.  A similar quote from that post, about the same Bethelite (Tom Hawkins) is this one:
“We want the citizens of Bethel to be able to choose what they want or don’t want on these alcohol issues. We don’t want the state to continue to flog us with these rules,” said Tom Hawkins, 60.”
Also in the article was the widely-circulated argument by the wet-vote proponents that there would never be legal alcohol sales in Bethel.  That the move to go wet was just about the airline sticker, and keeping government out of our business, etc etc.  I remember several of the organizers going on record that they would be the first in line to oppose anyone who attempted to get a liquor license to sell booze in Bethel.  They stressed that this wasn’t a vote about whether alcohol should be able to be sold in Bethel, just about whether we should allow the government to require the sticker on our checked boxes of booze on Alaska Air, and whether we should allow them to monitor how many bottles we were ordering from Anchorage each month.  See this quote from the same article as the first quote:

“Hawkins says he and other petitioners would be the strongest opponents if the city tried to start selling booze.”


“Opening a liquor store is a “no-no in my” book, Trantham said. He said he’d fight it.”


“The ballot proposition would wipe away the shipping restrictions altogether. Westlake, one of the petitioners who put the question to a vote, says it’s a smaller-government thing. “I don’t want the state involved in our day-to-day life.”  The state’s push to halve limits fueled the backlash, he said.”

So now we get…the rest of the story.  Bethel Native Corporation lost it’s anchor tenant at their gigantic, beautiful building across the street from the hospital when Swanson’s mysteriously and without warning went out of business (which could probably be the subject of a very long series of posts in and of itself – crazy dysfunction on many levels, it appears).  BNC is clearly desperate to collect rent from someone, anyone, and in order to best serve their shareholders…they are pursuing opening a liquor store.  Meetings before city council have begun, and AC is planning on opening their own store too.  But I haven’t heard anything from Hawkins or Trantham or any of the people from 2009 who said they would be the “strongest opponents” on the issue.  When I heard about the liquor store opening, I immediately recalled those promises and had to google it to find what was reported at the time.  And maybe they have spoken up recently in opposition to the liquor store, I really don’t know, but if they have it hasn’t gotten coverage.  I think I’m going to give them a phone call and see what they have to say, 6 years later.  Might have to record it.  : – )

OK, so where do I stand?
I have written a lot of posts over the years on this issue – a byproduct of having strong feelings about it, which is a byproduct of working with FAS kids, comforting freaked out kids in our home village who have fled their house, and other alcohol-fueled heartache.  I get that you can’t stop people from doing what they want to do.  But actually, what the majority of people here in Kasigluk want to do, is have no alcohol available.  They voted.  As did almost all of the 52 villages for which Bethel is the hub.  Think about it – if Bethel was DRY, where would the booze come from?  (newbies remember Bethel and all of western AK is not on the road system)  Suitcases and the mail.  And homebrew.  And the price would skyrocket.  Which means less people drinking.  That’s a fact.  Just as higher cigarette taxes result in fewer people trying smoking.  If the price of illegal booze triples, there is simply less to go around.  So there is some frustration on my end that Bethel voters (mostly out-of-towners) continually give folks in the villages the finger, so to speak, in regard to this issue.
The only other option I could maybe get behind is the “package store” concept the troopers were promoting many years ago.  Basically it would be a large liquor store in Bethel, and it would be the ONLY alcohol option.  No more flying it in and picking it up at ACE air cargo.  And the package store requires picture ID, and tracks your purchases, and obviously won’t sell if your ID indicates you are from an outlying village.  This doesn’t solve everything either, but would at least make it a little tougher on the bootleggers.  Leave a comment if you like – but note that I screen them and it needs to be constructive and not abusive in order to get published.

The “Make Everyone Mad” Fiscal Plan

Posted in politics by Pete on March 19, 2015

The state of Alaska is currently in an economic free fall due to a precipitous drop in the price of oil.  This seems to happen every 15 years or so and the symptoms are becoming a little familiar.  Right now we’re at this part of the ride:


To take the metaphor a little further – the folks who can see what is ahead are FREAKED, while a bunch of other people are still just “enjoying the ride” without a clue about what lies ahead.  I got this pic from here:  https://bettiesparties.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/roller-coaster-scared.jpg

Or if you prefer:

Anyway the Alaska Dispatch has produced a 3-part take on the current fiscal situation that gives a good overview of the historical context of our situation, and the difficult political realities that surround any of the actual solutions.  The piece by Dermot Cole includes these quotes:

Legislators and the Parnell administration signed off on the 2015 the budget last spring, portraying it as a model of conservatism, fully confident oil would stay near $100 a barrel.

While they ran for office last summer and fall, no one warned of oil prices in the $55 range or that a collapse was coming.

The state budget analysis did not include oil price predictions below $90, which seemed reasonable at the time. It’s apparent now they were not.

It’s no surprise some lawmakers have invested more time in marijuana regulations and ending daylight saving time than in preparing for the likelihood that, if oil prices don’t rise, the next step will be a giant one off the fiscal cliff.

It’s easier to fume about federal overreach or hope the problem will just go away than fill a budget hole that amounts to about $5,000 per Alaskan per year.

$5,000 per Alaskan per year!!  The actual total figure is $3.5 billion.  To put that in some context, a state income tax would raise something like $350 million.  And no amount of cuts gets the state anywhere near a balanced budget.  At this point, really nothing is being done other than lots of small cuts that probably are penny-wise and pound foolish in the long run (from that last link, cutting the parents as teachers program seems the dumbest given that the program costs well under $1m per year to operate).

“Some suggest elected officials will wait until the state falls over the cliff into the ‘fiscal gap’ because only then will enough elected officials believe they have constituent support to access previously unused revenue sources such as the Permanent Fund earnings or to reinstate a personal income tax,” Commonwealth North said in a 2007 report, reflecting a sentiment shared by any number of Alaskans over the years.

And I believe that those elected officials will NOT pursue the income tax very seriously, instead just taking money from the permanent fund, which amounts a massively regressive tax on the poor.

The UPSET plan

Sometimes the only fair plan is the one that makes EVERYONE mad. While it is true that taking from the PFD is regressive and hurts the poor the most, others will argue that an income tax is unfair to the rich and hardly affects the poor at all. Which is why we need BOTH.  And more.

  • Understand that we all have to pitch in to work toward a better future for our state.
  • Personal income tax – The income tax as it existed before I believe was a simple 10% of whatever you paid the feds that year so it takes about 30 seconds to figure out.  I believe this would be about $350M, and even more importantly would get people more invested in state government instead of just viewing everything as an automatic benefit without cost.
  • Sales Tax – Add a 5% tax statewide on everything other than food.  No idea what this would raise – probably something similar to the income tax.
  • Earnings from the permanent fund.  Use say 20% of the fund earnings for current year spending (40% to the fund, 40% used as payouts).  This amounts to more than $1B most years.
  • Take 15% from the budget of every state department/program, rather than picking and choosing which to eliminate and which to leave unscathed.  I know some programs can’t be cut for legal reasons so not sure what this would save – probably something just under a billion.

The only really fair way is to hit all of us at once rather than trying to get it all from one source that affects one population disproportionately more than the others.  This is all just “back of the napkin” stuff but probably makes our 3.5B deficit something more like a $1b deficit.  Of course you are free to quibble with the particular numbers but you get the general idea.  Obviously we all hope the price of oil goes back up, but until then something should be done.  Now.

Alaska Politics as Usual

Posted in politics by Pete on March 19, 2015

Sigh.  This isn’t that big of a deal, but wasn’t it just a few years ago that the FBI did it’s big sting operation in our state capitol?  How quickly we forget.  The Alaska state legislature is apparently about to change the deadline for filing annual financial disclosure reports from March 15 to May 15.  Allegedly so that the date lines up better with tax day.  Note that the legislative session runs from Jan 20 to April 19, so that the new date is almost a month after everyone has left Juneau.  Les Gara has it right:

“The public is entitled to know what potential conflicts we have, what business interests we own, during session when the bills are pending — not after session, after it’s too late,” said Gara.

If the concern really has to do with tax day, why not change to April 15, when they’re at least still (barely) in session?  And the truth is that most people have done their taxes by March 15 anyway.  Most people have all the financial information needed to do it by the end of January – March 15th was not an impractical burden.  So it’s tough not to be cynical here.  It seems that the politicians don’t like having people going through their reports and identifying conflicts of interest during the session.  Real-time accountability and transparency are good, but this reduces both.  Maybe we should just get rid of the filing requirement altogether?  Or require a filing 10 years after they quit the legislature?  Sigh.

Responding to Buster in 1,712 Words

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 18, 2015

So I’m not a big twitter guy.  I use it to follow baseball news, but only 2 or 3 times a week or so.  I am into podcasts though, and these 2 things intersect here:

Short back and forth with Buster Olney that prompted me to write this blog post.

Short back and forth with Buster Olney that prompted me to write this blog post.

Oops, just noticed it’s missing one of my 2 responses, here is the other:

buster twitter part 2

I sent that tweet as a part one, with the “maybe I’m hypersensitive” being part two.  Anyway, so to complete the background context, this all started when I was listening to the baseball tonight podcast from 3/16/15.  I like the podcast and all of the guests and generally agree with most but not all of the baseball analysis.  It’s generally fairly light and fun stuff that I just listen to while getting ready in the morning or working on my truck or whatever, along with podcasts from Baseball Prospectus, Freakonomics, NPR’s Planet Money, and several more.

Anyway on the 3/16 podcast there was a segment with Paul Hoynes beginning at 27:30.  He is the baseball beat writer with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  As he explains on the podcast, he played rugby at Marquette and they used to do this “war cry” all the time as teammates.  Then he did it one night at a bar in Tucson Arizona while working as a reporter covering spring training, and it has taken on a life of its own.  Now it has become a tradition that he does the war cry in the press box, during each Friday and/or Saturday home game, and there is a $2 pool to pick which half inning he will do it and the winner gets the $34.  At the end of the segment he does the goofy thing and that’s it.  Later in the podcast Buster and his producer agree that the war cry should end all of their podcasts from now on.  It’s a funny thing, and seems harmless enough.  Until I kind of did a mental double take and realized “Hey wait a minute…he covers the Indians!”  I did this double take actually about 3 seconds after he finished the war cry.  I think it was right after I had the thought that it sounds an awful lot like a stereotypical “indian” war cry from an old west movie or something.  So I did a double take.  He is doing this self-described war cry, in the press box of the “Chief Wahoo” (logo) Cleveland Indians, whose name has come up a lot in the last several years as far as whether the name is offensive, or should be changed, etc.

So here again is what was in the tweets, all of them pasted in order:

12:21  Fan of the podcast. Disappointed to hear native “war cry” by Indians beat writer.

12:34  It’s got nothing to do with that, as is clear from his explanation of its origin.

12:36  I know it stems from his rugby days & there is no bad intention. But hearing about it happening in the Indians press box (1of2)

12:39  Maybe I’m hypersensitive to Chief Wahoo-I live in actual Indian country. It’s something that should have been gone LONG ago.

12:42  I live in an area named for words in the language of Native Americans. If I just yell out loud–any sound–that’s racist?

Buster’s first rebuttal is that it isn’t about Chief Wahoo.  I say I know that wasn’t how it started out and that isn’t what its about for Hoynes himself, but (and this is where the twitter character limit is an issue) it just still seems like making a war cry yell in the press box of an Indians game in this day and age, and talking about it nationally, probably not a great idea.  Then he comes back with a more ridiculous argument the 2nd time that isn’t worth any more of our time.  But it’s interesting that his opening argument was that this has nothing to do with the racism/offensive/chief wahoo angle, then his second argument is focused on minimizing the perceived impact of that same angle.

FINALLY, my argument, in one paragraph.  We don’t get to decide what hurts other people’s feelings.  Sometimes my kids and their friends (or my wife and I) will argue or tease or whatever and someone walks away with hurt feelings.  Oftentimes the “perpetrator” feels like the “victim” is overreacting and making a big deal out of nothing.  And maybe they are.  But if the “perp” cares about that person at all, it is really on the “perp” to adjust their behavior to avoid the hurt feelings the next time.  If they really care about them, they might even apologize.  And this example I have used from my family doesn’t take into account the centuries of baggage and abuse and other crappy seeds that have been sewn to create the current race relations between native americans and the majority culture.  I get that Hoynes and the folks in the press box mean no harm by this silly tradition, and they’ve been doing it for 30 years and its all in good fun.  But this is an inflamed, hurtful issue and a big, big deal for a lot of natives who currently number about 5m in the USA.  Even if you mean no harm by it, basically don’t be a stumbling block for your brother.  That’s it.

Responding to the “People don’t have a problem with it!” Argument

I know that there are a whole lot of Chief Wahoo supporters, including some natives.  But there is no denying there are a bushel-full of those who are against it, from tribal councils to individuals to knitting circles to church committees, who have written blogs and sent letters and otherwise petitioned the Indians to change the name for many years.  They’ve protested at opening day outside Jacobs or Progressive Field for over 20 years I believe.  If you google it or click just some of the links I put up above you will see there is a LOT of heartfelt opposition and first-person descriptions of how it is deeply symbolic and hurtful.  So, to my way of thinking anyway, strip away 90% of the noise about this issue and you still have these facts – a whole lot of people are really hurt by it and the Cleveland Indians won’t change anything…because they just don’t care very much.

The “You’re being hypersensitive” Argument

Yes, of course this sort of sensitivity argument (or political correctness if you must) can be taken too far, as in Buster’s silly argument about not being able to utter a sound.  At some point people DO have to develop a thick skin.  But who determines when that is?  Who determines when a racial caricature is offensive?  Who draws these lines?  Of course it is subjective which is why this debate is happening at all, but I’m pretty sure that wherever that line is, Chief Wahoo (not to mention the Washington Redskins) is well past foul territory and out of bounds.  Let’s try to put this another way:

racist ball caps

This was copied from one of the links above.

I can just hear some Indians fans of Jewish/Chinese descent arguing they have no problem with this, they would wear it, it honors their culture, etc.  But come on.  And this isn’t even a very true metaphor because we didn’t invade the land of the Jews or Chinese, decimate their population, take away much of their ability to provide for themselves (hunt and gather), and forcibly relocate them and take away their way of life.  Yes, I know that is in the history books, but that just means it *actually happened*.  And sure, at some point people do need to move on.   But that is something each person has to do, and our country still has a lot of work to do in terms of justice and reconciliation toward our native citizens.  (If you don’t believe me then check out the comment threads you will find accompanying some of these links and others)  Going back to the hat metaphor, the only thing close I can think of would be like the “Berlin Jews” (or Frankfurt, or Auschwitz) soccer team.  Good idea?  No. Would you tell the protesting Jews to develop thicker skin?  Maybe if the protest was happening a thousand years from now.  But even then probably not.  The ‘Indians’ name should probably go, and Chief Wahoo should definitely go.

DISCLAIMERS!  I don’t spend that much time and energy usually on this kind of thing.  Definitely my first post ever defending what some might perceive as “political correctness.”  But I wanted to respond to Buster in a way that was impossible via twitter due to the character limits.  Buster and his producer Josh put on a great podcast that I enjoy for free almost every day.  Buster is also a really smart guy and I didn’t write this because I enjoy the debate.  I’m not a troll, nor do I get off on engaging with public figures.  I wrote this because I despaired about ever being parsimonious enough to put something that made sense into tiny twitter bursts.  Buster and Josh have to put together almost an hour of entertaining and insightful dialogue about baseball like 250+ days out of the year, and that’s a challenge I don’t even fully understand.  I also have no axe to grind with Paul Hoynes – I’ve heard him on the podcast many times and appreciate his input as someone close to the team.  Also I’m a big fan of the Cleveland Indians front office in terms of their baseball acumen.  Was just reading on fangraphs about how they are, by one measure, #1 in getting the most bang for their limited buck.  Actually this all started when I got on twitter and was surprised to not see feedback about the war cry and figured if noone else was going to say anything that maybe I should.

I know this is a hot button issue that often draws ugly comments.  I moderate all my comments so if you just need to vent your spleen go ahead but it won’t get published.  I’ll publish and try to respond to reasonable comments from any side of the issue, but I’ve already spent way more time on this than I intended.

Kindergarten Truancy

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on February 18, 2015

This is meant as an open letter to the Alaska legislature, Governor Walker, parents, and educational leaders across the state.  Alaska law currently makes school attendance mandatory for kids between the ages of 7 and 16.

Here is the statute:

(a) Every child between seven and 16 years of age shall attend school at the public school in the district in which the child resides during each school term. Every parent, guardian or other person having the responsibility for or control of a child between seven and 16 years of age shall maintain the child in attendance at a public school in the district in which the child resides during the entire school term, except as provided in (b) of this section.

I’ve come to think this is a problem.

All too often I see kids who are enrolled in kindergarten who attend extremely sporadically and are then retained.  Today in one of the rural school districts I work in I was asking the kindergarten teacher about one of the students on my caseload, trying to get a feel for the student’s standing relative to their classmates, their progress this year, and any teacher concerns.  The teacher reported that the child can perform about as well as their classmates when they are paying attention and physically in school.  She mentioned that three kids were retained from last year’s kindergarten class (including my student), and she wants to retain 4 more from this year’s class, and she believes the reason for why all those kids are behind is truancy, with some of her kids attending about 2/3 of the time (40 absences by mid Feb).  I asked if the school has filed truancy reports or anything and she reminded me that until the child is 7 there is nothing the teacher or school can do.  I’ve been involved in education in the bush for over 10 years and I’ve seen this happen with kindergartners time after time.  But today it just struck me as illogical and silly that we go after parents who let their 4th grader or 8th grader stay home, but we allow it with kindergartners.  Truancy is a huge, chronic issue in the bush.  If we allow it to be a habitual thing for the first 2 years of school with no penalty, should we be surprised that it remains an issue for the rest of that child’s life in school?

I believe the intent of the law is to allow parents to decide when their child is ready to start kindergarten, so the state isn’t forcing 5 year-olds to begin school.  I don’t take issue with that.  However, I do take issue when the parents decide it IS time to start school, but then the child shows up half the time.  If it is obvious that it isn’t working for whatever reason, the parents should withdraw the child and try again the following year.  Or at least have a conversation with the teacher where it is acknowledged that they aren’t really trying to go to first grade in the next year and that the school shouldn’t be trying to move heaven and earth to get the child the extra help required to make it happen.

The law in section (b) makes exceptions to mandatory attendance, for things like illness, private school, living far from the nearest school, etc.  Then way at the end there is this:

(c) If a parent, legal guardian, or other person having the responsibility for or control of the child elects to enroll a child who is six years of age in first grade at a public school, after enrollment, the child is subject to the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section. If the parent or guardian of a child who is six years of age and is enrolled in first grade at a public school determines, within 60 days after the child is enrolled, that the best interests of the child are not being served by enrollment in the first grade, the child may be withdrawn from school, and the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to the child until the child is seven years of age.

I think it should be changed to this:

(c) If a parent, legal guardian, or other person having the responsibility for or control of the child elects to enroll a child who is FIVE OR six years of age in KINDERGARTEN OR first grade at a public school, after enrollment, the child is subject to the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section. If the parent or guardian of a child who is FIVE OR six years of age and is enrolled in KINDERGARTEN OR first grade at a public school determines, within 60 days after the child is enrolled, that the best interests of the child are not being served by enrollment in the first grade, the child may be withdrawn from school, and the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to the child until the child is seven years of age.

This is a small change but would help to combat runaway truancy, while not taking away from the spirit of the law which allows parents the freedom to determine when their child begins kindergarten.