Fixing Special Ed, Conclusion

The 'average brain' myth bites the dust

It is increasingly clear that mankind is only beginning to understand how different we human beings — as individuals — actually are.

A 2002 study by UC Santa Barbara neuroscientist Michael Miller is a prime example. Intent on identifying the location in the human brain of verbal memory, Miller recruited 16 individuals to lie down in an fMRI brain scanner and be shown series of words. Whenever they recognized a word from a previous series, they were to press a button. At that point, the machine scanned the individual’s brain and created a digital “map” of its activity.

After all the participants were processed, Miller averaged together all the brain maps, as neuroscientists have long done, in order to generate a map of the “average brain” during a retrieval of verbal memory.

However, when the neuroscientist more closely examined the individual brain maps before him, he noticed that none of them actually resembled the composite, “average,” brain map. Moreover, the differences were not subtle, but extensive.

And when Miller brought back many of the original testees and subjected them again to the exact same procedures, the differences held up.

It turns out that such extensive differences between human brains aren’t limited to verbal memory, writes Todd Rose, director of the Mind, Brain & Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. the “average brain” myth biting the dust

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Fixing Special Ed, Part 8:
‘Right of exit’ found key to
genuine special-ed progress

School-choice programs for special-needs kids:
Popular with parents, save states money

In the late Sixties and early Seventies, when American courts — citing the U.S. Constitution — began flogging states and ultimately the U.S. Congress in the direction of what became the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, such remedial action was profoundly needed and long overdue.

Today, however, IDEA is significantly behind the times and, as the different stories in this series have documented, struggling everywhere.

Unfortunately, the program’s problems are intrinsic, as a little reflection on the two main categories of the goods and services we use will show.

One set has, for years, been marked by regular and reliable improvements in price and quality. Many are high-tech goods, such as our smartphones. But others are just everyday necessities — on which we spend much less of our incomes than did our parents just a generation ago. Indeed, even the poor today own better shoes, clothes, motor vehicles and entertainment systems than did the middle class back then.

On the other hand, some other goods and services we all use seem either stuck in stasis or to actually decline in quality, while growing more expensive. These would include health insurance, education and many other basic government services.

What characterizes the first set of goods and services is that, in these sectors of the economy, we all have what is known as the “right of exit.” If you don't like a product or service you are free to decline it. No government-imposed monopoly or regulations have been able to block or kneecap potential competitors. Thus, all of us can follow our individual, personal, preferences.

Remarkably, it is this fact — that we all can follow our preferences — that makes these goods and services constantly improve.

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Education

Fixing Special Ed, Part 7:
Autism, dyslexia, societal changes
reveal a broken special-ed system

Foot-dragging school districts face
future of increasingly costly settlements

Once upon a time — say, back in 1975 — the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was, at least on paper, the very model of customized, personalized education.

Not only did it promise individualized public education for millions of children who until then had been barred from public schools, but it also appeared to give parents an explicit, legal voice in that education.

Nevertheless, today more and more parents of special-needs children are turning away from their local school district’s implementation of IDEA as they seek better solutions to their children’s learning needs.

Why is that?

Generally, it’s because millions of parents by now have had their own personal experiences with this too-frequently dysfunctional system, or, more fortunately, had already learned of others’ experiences. And this knowledge, in turn, has fueled the broad rise of an active desire — indeed, a market demand — for something different and more effective.

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Fixing Special Ed, Part 6:
Special-ed has a fundamental problem: Government rigidity blocks innovation

Leaves school administrators stuck within
a system-corrupting dilemma: kids vs costs

Fixing Special Ed, Part 5:
2001: CCSD, State of Nevada lose
precedent-setting Amanda J. case

Apparent shift in district's strategy follows:
Fight until jury trial looms, then settle with parents

Fixing Special Ed, Part 4:
CCSD asked for special-ed audit
then attempted to hide results

Revealed: Records tampering, state and
federal law violations, illegal IEP changes

Fixing Special Ed, Part 3:
School systems have circumvented
federal special-ed law for decades

Los Angeles, Texas, New York exemplify styles of noncompliance

Fixing Special Ed, Part 2:
New, higher special-ed costs
looming for State of Nevada

9th Circuit signals lack of patience with ploys
school districts have used to suppress costs

Fixing Special Ed, Part 1:
Supremes’ decision on special-ed
sets higher standards for care

Called ‘a recipe for financial disaster’ by
unhappy public-school administrator groups

What is IVGID so intent on hiding?

IVGID management keeps financial information from its governing board
so that the public can also be kept uninformed, says board chair Wong

IVGID officials caught in false testimony

State’s top authority refutes district’s compliance claims.

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