Sunday, April 19, 2015

Arne Bumbles Dyslexia Grilling

Oh, it just hurts.

Here's a link to a clip from 2016 Budget grilling of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In it, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) asks a simple question: What specific programs do we have in place for helping students with dyslexia?

And it just goes south from there.

The answer, pretty clearly, is "none." But Duncan is bound determined not to go there, so he tries, "Well, students with dyslexia have special needs, and we have a special needs fund, so they fall under that--"

Cassidy bores in, citing studies and facts and figures to elaborate on his point which is that students with dyslexia make up 80% of the students with special needs and as much as 20% of the general student population, so wouldn't it make sense to have programs directed at that particular issue?

Let the flailing begin. I would put together my usual summary-deconstruction of a Duncan word salad, but this is the mouth noise equivalent of a large-mouthed bass thrown up on the creek bank and trying to flop his way back to some water.

Cassidy tries again. Does Duncan have any sense of the quality of dyslexia programs out there? The answer, again, is "no," but Arne can't form that word, so instead he starts making up some sentences that boil down to, "I suppose there are some good ones and some bad ones and some in between ones" which is not exactly an insight that required the United States Secretary of Education to deliver it.

Here's Arne's problem-- he absolutely has an idea about what the approach to dyslexia should be. He's been very clear about it in the past. Let's go back to his conference call about new USED special needs policies

We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel. 

Or the explanation from Kevin Huffman in that same call. These words didn't come out of Duncan's mouth, but he didn't say, "Well, that's not quite what we mean" either.

Huffman challenged the prevailing view that most special education students lag behind because of their disabilities. He said most lag behind because they're not expected to succeed if they're given more demanding schoolwork and because they're seldom tested.

So, Senator Cassidy, that's the USED plan-- we will expect those students with dyslexia to do better, and then if they don't we'll get rid of their teachers and replace them with teachers who are better at expecting things. That's it. That's the plan.

But Duncan was smart enough not to say that out loud to a man who 1) has clearly done his homework about dyslexia 2) cares about dyslexia and 3) is a US senator.

Cassiday found a few more ways to make his point, comparing the USED stance on for-profit colleges (we're going to be all over that) to their stance on dyslexia (someone will either do something about it or not). He even offered some concrete solutions, noting that research indicated you need the entire teaching staff to have some understanding of dyslexia to address it, and maybe we could direct some money toward programs that would provide that broad level of training.

Cassidy starts a great question--In your dream of dreams, what would be done for the screening and intervention of students with dyslexia?-- but then it turns into a bit of a rant-- we're worried about the 1% of gifted students who will probably succeed no matter what, but what about the 20% that won't succeed unless we do something-- and he loses the thread, so that by the time Arne gets to talk, he can dodge the real question.

Well, I think our office that looks at this is doing really good work there [which office would that be, exactly?] Again, it's a fair critique. Do we have enough resources put behind children whether they have special needs or whether they're extraordinarily gifted that we're not investing enough in either population, and for us to invest more we clearly need your help and support.

I skipped all the "ums" and grimaces. Arne is just trying so hard to find his way back to his standard talking points and you can just hear all the tension go out of his voice when he finally makes it back to "we clearly need your help and support."

It's a pretty excruciating six minutes-- Sen. Cassidy is closing his eyes and massaging his own forehead by the time it's done-- and just one more example of where Duncan is in way over his head. Show it to all your friends who care about dyslexia.


  1. This is the stuff that absolutely makes my head explode. And this is what we deal with at the local level too. My decidedly sparkly district has nothing in place, does not teach reading to SWD's and that's with NJ's dyslexia law!

  2. ZOMG.

    At the VERY beginning, Senator Cassidy thanks Duncan for "the call." And reminds Duncan that his special interest is dyslexia.

    THEREFORE, Duncan should have been prepped for this back-and-forth discussion. If THIS is what he looks like when he is prepped (and surely it is), that fact makes this embarrassment that much worse.

    I'm appalled.

  3. I just want to say that I have always enjoyed your posts on my favorite Frat Boy Arne Duncan. They are well written, accurate, well documented...and....simply funny as hell.

    Me? I've stopped hammering Arne not only out of fear of have a Drone fly over my house in tiny Draper, Utah, but this man is literally so completely idiotic, that I have wondered if he may be suffering from some sort of cognitive disability.....making light of someone with possible disabilites does not fly well in our field of psychology. :)

    More than likely, Mr. Duncan is just plain "evil".

    Keep up the great writings! I enjoy reading you very much.


    Dr. Gary Thompson