Grand Traverse Academy made many changes over the summer to make it appear like they have distanced themselves from Dr. Steve Ingersoll. His business partner, Dr. Mark Noss, formed a new LLC to act as management company for GTA. The school has a new superintendent and the person doing the books at Smart Schools LLC, who happened to have the same last name as Steve Ingersoll, has been brought into question for being too closely related to Steve Ingersoll. So far so good, the school is cleaning things up and making it look nice and neat and like a charter school trying desperately to appear as free from any involvement in Dr. Ingersoll’s federal felony fraud case.
Except GTA is still a for-profit charter school being run by an optometrist with close ties to Steve Ingersoll thanks to the Excel Institute, and the use of Integrated Visual Learning at GTA as part of the curriculum. IVL according to Excel Institute cures 90% of ADD/ADHD and greatly benefits people with other disabilities. In fact, in a new white paper available on GTA’s website titled, “Continutity At Grand Traverse Academy”, this report lays out the learning model the school is based on, and cites Dr. Steve Ingersoll as the source of this learning model.
One particular passage from the section on the use of Integrated Visual Learning in GTA’s learning model makes a bold statement on child development and learning disorders:
Eighty percent of the information we receive is processed visually, so the better we learn visually, the higher our achievement. Teachers receive special IVL training for both diagnostic and instructional classroom application. Many of the difficulties that commonly lead to special education can be prevented or solved with IVL intervention.
This passage implies that the only special ed services offered by GTA is IVL, is that possibly true? Education rating website Great!Schools may hold a clue. Parents, students and teachers all leave comments on this website about GTA. Many are good, but many are also bad, and one comment left by a parent in 2008 goes to the heart of what GTA claims in their white paper:
Posted June 16, 2008
Nice school, safe atmosphere. Ill equipt to serve children with learning disabilities. Don’t offer companion programs for learning. All that is available is IVL, which is what they try to put everyone in who is struggling. My daughter was by a private IVL consultant who told us she didn’t qualify for the program but needed other special ed services. GTA only had IVL, so that was all they offered her…a Program that wouldn’t help. It is a nice school, if your child doesn’t need ‘helps’; do expect them to be very helpful with this. It took me 6 months to get my child into a program that wasn’t even going to help her, and it didn’t! The grades 1-2-3 didn’t work either, the teachers seemed to pressured to ‘move on’ to the next grade, no time for errors that children might make. Parent involvement was great.
—Submitted by a parent
A for-profit charter school taking public tax funds and using it to peddle controversial vision therapy that has never been peer-reviewed, but the optometrists who develop and sell it to the public claim it can cure any learning disability requiring special education services. Federal special education law is very specific on how students are evaluated and matched to the services they need. The white paper goes on to explain why decades of education research is completely wrong on how people learn:
In 1970 about 2 % of nation’s students received special education services. These children were severely, often multiply impaired, children. Today, roughly 20% of our students receive special “compensatory” services at nearly 3X the cost of general education services.
This is true, but not for the reason the white paper asserts. Since 1970 special education has improved how children are found, evaluated and assigned special education services. What the federal government requires of special education also changes periodically. The last revision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was in 2005. In public schools, there is no method, therapy or curriculum used with a child receiving special education services that hasn’t been thoroughly researched and peer-reviewed.
The paper goes on to claim that despite all of the research supporting different learning styles, which it calls “education dogma”, that the only people who don’t learn visually are people who are congenitally blind. Other research-based methods of learning the paper claims are completely wrong includes the use of phonics instruction:
Phonetically inventive spelling is an attempt to make sound come out of a pencil. More phonics instruction is as ineffective as hitting 500 more practice shots with improper technique. Both problems are examples of habituated errors. Poor students work much harder (until they give up) than good students. Good students and good golfers use proper technique and expend much less effort to achieve far superior results.
The paper ends with an optical illusion that informs the reader if the circles are moving it’s because you have poorly developed eye movement control. The final analysis the paper ends on is:
… our message is simple and clear; character, consistency, engagement and effort, good science and traditional common sense gives rise to the quality environment that our children deserve.
A single, non peer-reviewed study completed nearly 20 years ago is the “good science” GTA’s educational model is based on. This for-profit charter school appears to function in much the same way as a cult. Tell people the research is wrong, just because it’s what everyone else accepts doesn’t make it true, and they have all the answers to your child’s learning disabilities. Parents of special needs children want what’s best, and these people must work very hard every day raising their special needs child so that they can become as functional in society as possible. Parents need real methods with proven results to help their children. Anything that is kept mostly out of the public eye and requires people to pay large sums of money for their cure should be the first warning sign something is very wrong. Michigan’s tax dollars need to pay for learning methods that will actually help people achieve in school and in society. That is the point of educating people in the first place. The people of Michigan are paying for Dr. Mark Noss and Dr. Steve Ingersoll to peddle snake oil cures to parents looking for real help.
Our education tax dollars should not be paying for this.