A letter to my special needs son's school's principal
School has failed my son, who struggles with ADHD and Tourette syndrome. But here's hoping 7th grade in your special education program can turn it all around.
October 3rd, 2012
03:59 PM ET

A letter to my special needs son's school's principal

By Christina Janssen, Parenting

(Parenting) Dear Mr. Principal,

My son, Aden, started seventh grade today. He's the one who often sits in his guidance counselor's office because he's too nervous to go to class.

Remember, the kid who got two days of suspension because he broke your "personal space" rule by touching another boy's necklace he thought was cool? I want a fresh start this year, so it's time you heard who Aden is.

His trouble with school started early. He cried every day in kindergarten until nearly Thanksgiving. His teacher, on her last year after 36 with the district, put him at a desk alone, facing the corner. To keep us from figuring this out, she moved his desk back on open school night and parent-teacher conferences (during which she lamented his high-energy and "incorrigible" attitude). We found out in May, when my husband walked into the room unexpectedly with a forgotten snack.

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The diagnosis of ADHD came as third grade started. We gave him the meds, which his teacher appreciated. Still, homework was a battle. The teacher sent us notes, full of obvious tips she must have thought we were too incompetent to have considered, like setting up a homework spot and providing a snack. These rubber-stamp homework success tips did nothing to address the elephant in the room: the fact that a kid who reads at a level several grades below the one he's in is not going to be able to do, say, the social studies homework which involves reading a textbook.

Soon the medication's effects wore off. And the thing was, it was too late for any pill to make him love to learn anyway.

The next three years proceeded in the same way: We spent the first half of the year being scared by threats of his being left back, predictions of his never graduating high school if he didn't read more, even becoming a "troubled teen." Then with spring came the state tests, which he passed, literally, by a point or two. I was mystified, considering that he flunked nearly every in-class test. I asked how this was possible, and never got a straight answer. We pleaded for him to go to summer school, and the answer was always "He's fine! Summer school is only for the kids who don't pass the tests. See you next year."

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Filed under: Special needs • Voices
My View: Help young Latinos succeed in STEM fields
October 3rd, 2012
04:10 AM ET

My View: Help young Latinos succeed in STEM fields

Courtesy Thomas G. LeoBy Lorelle Espinosa, Special to CNN

Editor’s Notes: Lorelle L. Espinosa, Ph.D., is a senior analyst with Abt Associates, a global research and program implementation firm, where she contributes to the evaluation of higher education and training programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

(CNN) - The recent Mars landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity — and the stunning images it is sending back from the Red Planet — will hopefully inspire a generation of students entering college this fall to pursue an education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet for many students — particularly Latinos — those very valuable STEM degrees remain out of reach, practically ensuring that America’s growth in these important fields is stifled.

Despite being our fastest growing demographic group, Latinos remain practically invisible within the STEM workforce. According to the Department of Commerce, Latinos represented just 6% of STEM workers in 2009, in large part due to the fact that only 14% of Latinos hold bachelor’s degrees —  the credential most in demand by STEM employers. Given recent Census Bureau estimates that show Latinos making up nearly one-third of America’s population by 2050, it becomes immediately apparent that Latinos are quite literally our largest untapped pool of talent.

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Filed under: College • Policy • Practice • STEM