Near Criminal Activity

My administrative intern and I have been examining the data of the current Juniors in our Special Education program at our high school. We uncovered some disturbing things. Our special needs kids – who are required to take the state exams like everyone else is – have not been afforded the opportunity to take part in the supplemental skills support classes provided by the English and Math departments for students who scored low on early warning tests. They are not enrolled in the classes because of a “scheduling conflict”.

 

 

What we unearthed was damning; our special needs students have been doubled up in maths rather than placed in the support classes. My colleague researched each of our Junior special needs student’s schedules and found that these students are also doing average or sub avgerage work in both math classes. Ethical dilemma to say the least.

 

We composed a memo to the Supervisors of Guidance, Math, English, and all of the Guidance Counselors. We are meeting with them next week to discuss this travesty. They were not happy people, to say the least, when the memo showed up in their mailboxes. Apparently you can’t divulge problems in memos – it hurts feelings. No time for feelings… my intern and I have errors to correct. Feelings be damned.

 

I have been in three districts as a teacher. Each of their SPED programs was nearly criminal in execution, expectations, and support. Our high school has, by far, the most well designed and well-meaning SPED program I have been exposed to. But it has its flaws (as noted above). Just last year, I discovered that our special education students were not eligible to apply to four year institutions because they lacked two years of lab sciences; rather than be placed in CP (college prep) sciences with labs, they were placed in G (general) classes that did not afford lab time. They were non-lab science credits. After voicing my concern at a curriculum meeting in May of last year, that has changed. I felt embarassed for the Science Supervisor and the Guidance department, but what was going on was in direct violation of all IDEA standards.

 

What have your experiences with Special Education been? Are we all providing “the least restrictive environment” for our most needy students? Or are we doing what is expediant and fulfills the minimum standards of IDEA? What does a well designed Special Education program look like?

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

2 thoughts on “Near Criminal Activity”

  1. I co-teach 3 inclusion classes with a special ed. teacher, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

    My main experience has simply been a lack of the support, resources, and professional development necessary to do this right. We do our best, but I don't know enough about how to meet my students needs. We do what is expedient, not what is right.

    I'm not sure what a well-designed SPED program looks like. I've never seen one, that's for sure.

    A lot of the elements present in my building are the right idea, but don't quite work because of the people issue. How is a SPED teacher supposed to co-teach 3 classes, teach 3 more and manage a caseload of students well? How is a once-a-year IEP review actually enough to keep track of how well a student's accommodations are working?

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  2. Penelope – I empathize with you. As a supervisor, I see my SPED teachers supporting three other teacher, teaching their own, and having no time for collaborative meetings with their support teachers. I am trying to change this.

    We are also seriously considering mainstreaming every SPED student. We are looking at the research now and visiting full inclusion schools. We think that our students would be better served being taught from a content oriented teacher rather than one who has a pedagogy specialty. We are investigating using our SPED teachers as true ICS teachers; monitoring, evaluating, assisting, and collaborating with the lead teacher. I'll keep posting our progress and decisions.

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