I have been a special education teacher (resource room) for 12 year in the Portland area. No Child Left Behind has a serious stumbling block for special education. Our school with an impoverished, transient population is expected to achieve 69% special education students passing benchmarks. The consequences of not doing so are punitive. We work our tails off for the every day needs of our students. The most pressing needs include adequate sleep, safety, healthcare, nutrition, mental health, etc.. Only after all these needs are met can we begin to approach academics. We push and push and put the kids under pressure to PASS THE TEST OR ELSE. In the old days we could use our professional judgement to exempt a child from the test if we thought that it was in the child's best interest. Now the school in punished for doing so. Testing is taking too much of our time. I would like to use my discretion to teach the necessary survival skills vs. test taking skills without putting our school at risk of losing essential services.
We can readily agree that No Child Gets Ahead
is a cruel joke which does much harm to many
and little good to any.
It is sad that you must deal primarily with needs which should be taken care of outside of school.
I find it totally unreasonable that a kid
who shows up sleepy and without breakfast (etc.)
should be expected to perform as well as kids who come ready to learn.
If the kids who do want to learn are held back to the speed of the slowest, least-ambitious or least-well-cared-for students,
MANY (most?) children are being left behind in their education.
It is doubly troubling that a kid who brings extra state funds makes such
poor use of the opportunity. Don't just leave them behind: throw them out.
There's got to be a more cost-effective long-term care strategy which is better for the kids and which does not dilute what schools should be doing. (Education)
Children should not be penalized for the failures of their parents, the school district, state policy or implementation of federal law. Children with disabilities are guaranteed a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment -- and that is the general ed classroom for the vast majority of students receiving special education services. According to federal law, the only reason a student should be removed from the regular educational environment is if, "the nature and severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily." This does not necessarily mean that they will be learning the same thing, in the same way, at the same pace as their classmates.
This is a complicated matter, and students needs must be evaluated and addressed on a case by case basis. Implementation will vary from district to district and even school to school, depending on policy, philosophy, funding, school climate, classroom size, and the support and collaboration, or lack thereof, between classroom teachers, special ed teachers, and parents.
Regarding "dealing with needs which should be taken care of outside of school": why are we seeing more and more aggressive, violent students in public schools? As an Assistant in Special Ed., I have seen my job change from helping students who have difficulty with math/reading, to dealing with violent autistic students who try to beat me up everyday. The district says it is their right to attend, but what about the employees' rights to a safe environment? I am scared to go to work every day
Amazing stuff,Thanks so much for this!
One of our young friends has Asperger's.
The school has him in special ed, and schools have the economic incentive to keep him there.
He's VERY good in math, but seldom gets to be in interesting math classes
(this is true for most kids who are very good in some subject(s), but the TAG show was earlier)
He does not need special help in math, but he wants to go to advanced classes because he gets along well with peers. It is easy for him to communicate when talking math. The kid is good.
He's also decent in sciences.
He has to spend much of his time with a special ed group where he really does not fit.
He does NOT need remedial help with reading, at least not the kind he gets.
There are categories of literature which are hard for him to decipher: he knows the words, but does not connect with the hidden themes, morals, and all the literary devices which the English teachers expect of his age-peers.
He can't write worth beans.
He does not fit in the regular language classes.
But he can read technical and scientific writing just fine, and then discuss it. Fellow geeks can handle a pause while he puts together his thoughts.
Sitting in the special ed room really does not serve his needs for developing communication skills. It frustrates the H___ out of him. But the school gets paid extra for that.
His kid-friends (including one of my kids) think it's unfair.
His parents do not want to make waves.
I think he might blossom into a functional-enough adult if the schools did not make such a "special" deal out of him.
Schools should encourage him (all kids) to learn as much as they can, especially where they excel, and be realistic where a kid is lacking.
We don't all need to be poets, physicians, artists, jocks, and mathematicians.
Being good at only one of those is still ... good.
Between the extra funding of special ed and the constraints of NCGA (No Child Gets Ahead), we've got a system which is leaving our friend behind.
He will almost surely never be a great communicator, perhaps never even meet those darned benchmarks in language, but he has potential which should be nurtured.
Interesting that these parents "don't want to make waves" (BardlyG's comments). It's the parents who DO make waves that get the greatest response. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" certainly applies to special education. There is a whole population of lawyers out there to defend special education law. Do people realize how much school district money is spent on due process? IEPs and all of the paperwork involved in the IDEA Act consume an amazing amount of teacher time, but this time could be spent teaching children. I realize that these laws are designed to protect the right of family's and children, but I don't think that the time and resources spent by the district are really what the true intent of the law was when passed.
I am the parent of a special education student. My student has participated in special education programs since before pre-school. He is now 18 and a junior in high school. The educators and other professionals who work in the public school system in the special education departments have been great. Over the years there have been many changes in the programs and approaches. Jumping through the federal NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND hoop has probably made the most recent changes more visible. Clearly a major problem in education is the need for everyone to prove they are accountable, this insane approach to rating every piece of output and putting a score on every head, including students and educators and schools alike. The NO CHILD mandate has created and supported a less tolerant attitude in our education system, which ultimately affects all those around us, not just those who teach or have school age children. It particularly points the finger at SPED students and they, in the end, are less tolerated and not as accepted as before.
Here are a few things I would like to share:
1) There is more mainstreaming done now in PPS since the structured learning classes were discontinued. Some of the core classes are taught with a peer group (at perhaps a more remedial level) however the electives and many of the classes are open to SPED students. SPED students in GENED classrooms are supposed to receive materials that are modified, that is, same subject matter however modified so that they can understand the material. This is rarely done for SPED students. They are supposed to be tolerated within GENED classrooms but GENED teachers are not required to have any credits in Special Education so usually the teachers of the GENED population are not as interested in our student. This is also further complicated by the classroom size. Let's face it, they don't really have time either. But as a parent it is sometimes like traveling in steerage class.
2) I am surprised that there is surprise that SPED students do not pass the tests. Test taking is a unique and specialized skill. Not only do you need to know the subject matter, you need to learn how to take the test. If a SPED student has a communication disorder label or is being educated under the autism label it would be difficult for that student to take the test without major modification. Many SPED students could pass these tests however the format would have to be different, maybe oral instead of written, maybe computerized instead of auditory. The reasons are as unique as the individual student. Just because a student is educated under a label does not mean that there is a list that explains all the differences and challenges facing the student.
3) I am not sure that the public knows that upon entering high school SPED students are asked if they want to switch to a modified diploma. Sometimes this happens at the 8th or 9th grade IEP but sometimes it does not happen until it becomes obvious that the student cannot keep up with GENED curriculum. It really depends on the student however under the modified diploma a student can qualify for more services. They can get more training with regard to living skills. Currently there are no basic classes such as home ec, nutrition, consumer math so students never have a chance to learn these things in a classroom setting. Under a modified diploma they do receive more support in these areas. I also know many students under IEPs that do not want to switch to a modified diploma because if they do it will limit the higher learning institutions they want to attend. Many college, including 2 year institutions will not accept students who graduate with a modified diploma.
4) Another comment with regard to the modified diploma. It is important for everyone to know how unfair this diploma is. There is no uniformity within Oregon as to what the modified diploma is. In some school districts if you graduate under a modified diploma you don't even get a diploma, you just get a certificate of attendance. A student could attend every class, work their very hardest, excel beyond all expectations and yet they cannot get a diploma. Why? Because the only way they can be educated is under a modified diploma and there is nothing governing this diploma in state. In other words, you graduate from high school and all you get is an attendance certificate because you are a SPED student. This causes a lot of students and parents to lose confidence & interest in the education system. In order to talk about how many SPED students leave the system before graduating you should see if they were really going to get a diploma in the first place.
The fact that there are only five responses to call for input on this program is a direct reflection of how little priority is given to children with disabilities in this state. I recently moved to Oregon from a state which valued all children. This was reflected in legislation and state initiative, in schools, and in the tax system which provided funding for education. As a professional in the field of Early Intervention, I have been frustrated that even at the lowest level of education these children are recieving seperate and unequal education(which leads into another discussion about the quality of early childhood education in this state).
In Multnomah County there was no llisted data for ECSE( for children three to five years old) despite the large number of ECSE classrooms and the State mandate of 32% of children in this age group recieving services in typical settings(meaning with peers who are typically developing in their age group or in the home). There are professionals out there working really hard and who have exceptional training and gifts in the classroom as teachers. However, there is not enough funding to get them out into community preschools to support the teachers and children there. Additionally, there are not enough quality preschools in the county to support the great need of all children in the Portland Metro area. I could go on and on...As an educator, it makes me incredibly sad though that these children are being looked over because they are differently abled. These children are every much our future as their typical peers. They need our help...advocate for universal preschool and inclusion. It's what's best for all children!
I am curious what state you moved from?
Double the usual funding seems like a lot of priority.
They might not be smart, but they've got great lobbyists.
I have several learning disabilities. I was in special ed for part of grade school, in Washington state. My grades were poor and I even got in trouble. As soon as I was moved into the mainstream classroom I started doing better. The stigma of being in special ed did not help.
I am wondering if the state special education system is aware of and/or utilizing programs that are based on current brain/neuroscience research?
There is a Utah company that has developed a training program for students with learning disabilities that is quite successful. It "reprograms" or "rewires" the brain much like stroke rehabilitation methods - resulting in incremental increases in neurological development in those areas of the brain that are essential to effective learning. If you are interested in learning more about this program, visit www.LearningTechnics.com This program is available to students in the Central Oregon area on a private basis and has been quite successful in improving their learning performance. This program is currently being developed for school delivery.
The grade is clearly "F" for another group of "special needs" students - those identified by state testing as "talented and gifted". They are mandated to receive instruction at their level but in reality are in most cases merely assigned more homework to supposedly "challenge" them. These students are at high risk of dropping out when they reach High School, often wasting their talents in a time when the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in academic achievement. Other states have programs and even whole schools which address these needs . . . why not here?
As a former public school teacher in Oregon, and a parent with one IEP student and one gifted student, I think we are spending way too much time on 'measuring' and 'measuring up.' My children have paperwork identifying special needs, but nothing specific really seems to be happening in any serious way to help them meet their goals. The goals are written down, but then they are tossed into the regular classroom, with the regular expectations and so far as I can tell, few modifications made to help the situation be more relevant and appropriate for their needs. Where did the common sense go in this process? It's like we've thrown developmental appropriateness completely out the window.
My brother, who has a "learning disability" graduated from a Salem/Keizer public school special education program in 2007. He was given a diploma not being able to read. He later went on to get into trouble, has spent years in prison, and is now in a GED program.
I wonder if he had actually been given "special" education if things might have been different for him. It's hard to find your place in society when you have'nt been educated.
As a 20 year teacher, I am listening to this and thinking of all the hidden issues related to accessing education services. To suggest that master teachers or masterful people are the solution to systemic problems is very depressing to me. With the size of classes in Oregon (mine have always been at over 30 students in core skills English courses) and the limited curricular support teachers get, the assumption that I can meet the individual needs of every student is soul killing to me. Primarily because that is precisely what I want and am trying to do. There are real structural problems here and putting the solution on the backs of your 'best' teachers will maybe meet the needs of some kids for a while - until those teachers burn out and move on.
I wholeheartedly agree with Julie. The attrition rate for teachers is high enough as it is and if the bar is continually raised by the "powers that be", many of whom have never spent a year in front of a 30+ student classroom, the exit rate for all teachers will also go up. Higher pay to match the workload is the only way you can keep all teachers teaching.
My granddaughter has FAS but was just babysat during her first 6 years of public schooling. I finally put her into a private Christian school figuring that she would only be able to get a secondary diploma when her teacher informed me that she was very smart but that she just learned in a different way. She graduated with a regular diploma and is now in her 2nd year of college with a 3.5 GPA. If I had left her in public school, she would be now considered a person with a learning disability.
My child has not been medically diagnosed ASD but the MESD did diganose him under the educational aspect, and I was told it was to get him in special services. But now I'm dealing with them not contacting me, trying to get him in services that he should not be considered a candidate, and not following the IEP. I worry my son will get caught in a label net and not be able to shake it. I am not happy with the system and think changes or choices should be made. I felt badgered by the group when they were making the "educational diagnosis". Also I have spoke with other moms and they agreed and told me you have to be a squeaky wheel to get anything out of the service division. I also feel that they are only out to get the federal money.
I'm not clear on who you mean by "they" when you say "they are only out to get the federal money". Most special education professionals are not in it for the money, they are in it because they care about the children. It's unfortunate that you've had a negative experience thus far, but please spend some time talking with and listening to these professionals and they may be able to persuade that their motivations are not around money.
As a parent of a special needs son, who has gone through the entire system, I can say, it doesn't work.
I have done the IEP's, I have spend thousands of hours and dollars...mainstreamed...ILC...all the buzz words you need.
My son, now 20 has a modified deploma from Westview. Everyone was 'soooo' kind...
Net, my son can't write fast enough to take notes...
My son is and has been unemployeed. We are on our 3rd attempt at dishwashing for a living...
and things are not going well...
The bottom line is the Specical Ed services are not working to provide our children with the tools and assistance for the real world.
My son is pretty disabled...but he can work, and wants to work.
YEARS of effort...with nothing to show, is NOT a sucess...
OH, and yes, we did it ALL...
Greg M, Beaverton/Portland
There are many concerns about Special Ed programs in Oregon. One concern that I find very significant is a lack of standardized training not only for teachers and providers but also for parents. I want to talk about solutions. State of Oregon Addiction and Metal Health Services (AMH) is putting significant funding behind an Evidence Based Practice (EBP) called Collaborative Problem Solving. More Information can be found at http://www.explosivechild.com/ . This approach is detailed well in a book called "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene Ph.D. This skill set applies to all students as opposed to just those with special needs. Parents can join other parents in learning to teach these skills by contacting Oregon Family Support Network. More info is available at www.ofsn.org.
One change I have noticed over about the last 8 years, seems to be the growth of various kinds of "contained" classrooms. It seems that the benefit is that where, a few years ago, a student might have received a specific aide (Special Ed 1 on 1 position-more costly) to assit in meeting their needs, that same student might now go through an assessment process, and end up in a "contained classroom" for many of their core subjects, and then attend "regular" classes for other various subjects. The range is vast...from a student requiring contained class instruction for everything but, math, due to an amazing mathematical ability...to students having all core subjects in a contained classroom, but attending elective classes, such as P.E., music, health, or Homeconomics (for those middle schools that are lucky enough to still have that class) with the mainstream school population. The loss of classes that lend themselves directly to the possibility of some future vocational opportunity (home economics, auto shop, wood shop) is an unfortunate loss of quality instruction for not only special ed. students...but for all students who still need basic life skills to succeed.
The common senario for problems with todays education system, which runs nationwide is, the student to teacher ration. This happens to be the most difficult issue in any Special Education programs of school. Parents and their students want "individual" time spent, which is not realistic as long as the numbers are so out of balance. Even with teacher aides and student aides, the growing number of special needs students makes any individual school or school district almost helpless to make everyone happy.
In my 27 years as a high school counselor I saw the numbers grow and the paperwork requirements and meetings put on the staff, mindboggling. In my observation years, I thought that there were many students who did not need nor qualified to be classified with an IEP. The most flagrant misuse of the system often happened when parents and students learned that if they could be classified as having ADD or ADHD, they could get special consideration with extended time on tests and assignments or even lessened expectations. There was a period of time where a large "contingent" of families...which will not be specified here...who, with in a short period of time, all submitted documentation that their child had ADD or ADHD. All diagnosed by the very same doctor!!! It became a trend. I knew these students to be capable but not willing to give an "extra effort" to succeed. They were all looking for an edge. Therefore, the paperwork, the meeting and the extra time and space were consumed by these students. Time which could have been better spent on those of "real" need. A more secure screening process needs to be considered.
I was fortunate to be asked to be a guest on the live show this morning. I was very honored to speak on such a controversial topic. My experience is vast...I have been an ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter for the Lincoln, Benton, and Linn Counties since 1988. As an Interpreter I have had the privilege of covering IEP Meetings for Deaf Consumers. My consumer was either the child with the IEP or the parents of the special needs child. Either way, because I was able to participate in IEP's as a third party, I was able to learn from these encounters. What I learned was shocking, but a true reality. Most IEP meetings are done with in a hour, and most of these meetings happen immediately after the school has been dismissed. The instructors and mediators that come are tired and with an extremely short attention span because they have two or three more IEP scheduled after the current one. The parents come prepared to hear complaints and weakness about their child, and some of the parent come not knowing how to participate. I have witnessed intimidation from both parties, teacher, specialist, and parents as well. I have witnessed conversations where the parent has no idea what the idioms mean or what the terms that are being used relate to, and instead of asking a question for clarification, they feel intimidated and unschooled and ashamed of their own limited background and do not actively participate in the IEP allowing the teachers to make all the recommendations and agreeing to each goal. When my daughter was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of four, I already was prepared for her IEP and her testing,and her special academic progress. I was already educated in the protocols on these meetings, on what to advocate for and what to disagree with. I am a strong advocate of my daughter, who is now 17 and will graduate a semester early because she has done so spectacular, and with a normal HS diploma, not one based on her abilities. She has been mainstreamed, and because of this mainstreaming, she has learn to adapt to real life challenges, and real life circumstances, and she has grown. I think the real education begins at HOME. Find ways to help each parent that gets a diagnosis of a learning disability or any type of special education need a way to get resources. Find other parents to help, find community members with children of the same school district and learn what has been so successful. COMMUNICATION must happen from all parties, parents, teachers, specialists, inclusion specialists, etc. Parents need to feel a part of the team, not talk down too, or ignored, or ashamed of their child. EMPOWER them with knowledge so they can be better parents, and help EMPOWER the schools by enforcing the IEP on all levels of learning. Learning just doesn't happen at school, it is an EVERY DAY EXPERIENCE, and we as parents need to learn to TEACH at home as well as TEACH at schools. Empowering the parents to have better knowledge may help reduce the "Daycare" idealism that is now established by the special education class rooms across the state.
I have been impressed with the quality of dialog on this blog, but I was disappointed with the responses of Mr. Burke (the policy officer who spoke on the program) and what it says to me about how our policy makers are approaching the problem of special education. The callers on yesterday's show brought up many valid problems plaguing our special education system, issues that I find valid as a part time instructor for the Beaverton school district. I found Mr. Burke's responses focused more on placating the public than addressing these complex issues. For example, when the woman called in about inadequate training for TAs he simply said that training for TAs is important, but made no attempt to address the problems associated with training. I was not able to find one instance where Mr. Burke addressed the failures of the system. I understand that these are complex issues, the educational system in this nation is strained across the board and there may not be any way to make improvements without taking resources from another area or increasing the resources available, but then that is the issue and should be dealt with instead of talked around.
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