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Posted: Jul 6, 2009 12:22

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By: Lon Woodbury

Back in 2006, I wrote an essay titled "Under the Radar." My point then was that the days were gone where private parent-choice residential schools and programs for struggling young people operated largely unknown to the public. By 2006, states were struggling to develop oversight and regulations (often in collaboration with well known and effective programs) that were reasonable for these fairly new and unique schools and programs.

The media was noticing our existence by publishing an increasing number of articles about success stories and criticisms of the schools and programs in the network. The number of parents calling schools, programs and educational consultants to inquire if their child might be helped continued to increase. With the hearings in late 2007 by Congressman Miller, our growing network received national attention and the gaze of Congress.

The schools and programs in the network have responded to this changing societal environment in several ways:

  • There has been a significant increase in Research and Outcome Studies, and many more are being undertaken currently. I will publish them online as soon as I receive them.

  • There is a concerted effort throughout the network to require staff to be experienced and credentialed.

  • More schools and programs have fine tuned their screening process to screen out those students who were inappropriate so they could be served at a place more appropriate for their needs.

  • New techniques and philosophies are being tested by experienced staff that left their previous employment to establish their own school or program. As the needs and problems of young people change, this network is becoming a hotbed of determining what works best and sharing what they learn with others.

  • Professional organizations closely associated with this network are rapidly becoming more sophisticated in explaining the strengths and successes of this network.

  • The Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) has been increasingly active in statements to the press and communicating with other professional organizations.

  • The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) has learned from being blind-sided by Congressman Miller in 2007. They are now becoming increasingly effective by aggressively presenting their perspective to Congress and the public.

As an example of a NATSAP activity, I just returned from a trip to Washington DC in mid-June where I participated with NATSAP in presenting a positive perspective to the staff of several Senators regarding the Miller legislation. The Miller legislation passed the US House of Representatives earlier this year and has been received by the US Senate for consideration.

In anticipation of possible Senate action sometime this year or next year, we talked with key staff of about a dozen Senators. The representative of a Washington DC law firm was very efficient in setting our appointments and escorting us around the Senate Office Buildings. The staff politely listened, with some already quite aware of some of the schools in this network. For others, this was the first they had heard of this type of school and program.

With a similar exercise next month in Washington DC, NATSAP is aggressively making sure the Senators are aware of the need for this network in serving the needs of parents and their children with problems and the dangers of draconian regulation.

In addition, NATSAP is coordinating research efforts, increasing its public relations efforts and raising standards for membership.

As I said earlier, we are no longer "Under the Radar" but are actively engaging the public.

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