Posts tagged ‘special education’

Something to Talk About…Part II

 Headmasters and their assistants need to know every child with an IEP. They need to carry on a continuing dialogue with the children about their strategies to overcome obstacles. Each child should come to expect that their principal will take a private moment to ask what goals they are working on, how it’s going, and what their back-up strategies are. And this could happen at any time, so they should always be ready. This is not a pop quiz, but a way to transfer ownership of the learning process back to the child. Knowing that school leaders value creative responses to learning challenges will motivate the children and their teachers to work together to find compensatory strategies. They will no longer be going through the motions of Special Education on a treadmill of lowered expectations.

 The plan…

  • Take charge of the situation.
  • Provide professional development to ensure robust strategies are in place and readily articulated.
  • Open a dialogue directly with the children.
  • Ask for help from SPED teachers and the children as collaborators.
  • Streamline the IEP process and create data banks that track real progress over time.

 There is no Get Out of SPED Free card. Children must know that they will have to work harder than their peers sometimes to overcome obstacles. They have to want it. And they have to know that there is a good chance of success. Having the head of their school recognize their plight and show interest in their progress takes the battle out of the closet and elevates the reward for accomplishment.

(to be continued…)

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February 10, 2011 at 2:39 PM 1 comment

Something to Talk About…Part I

Among the things that “everybody knows” is the fact that Special Education is the cause of all the trouble in education finance. This budget buster is the thing of entitled teachers and under-funded mandates. School administrators complain about it to Everybody!

 “You guys are killing us. You are where all the money goes. I don’t know what you do in there, but it is costing us a fortune…” Special Ed teachers worry a lot and try to please their bosses. With a death grip, they hold onto their classrooms and try to manage them as tightly as possible. It is the least they can do. Meanwhile, the children, far from understanding what all the worry is about, sit in class with heightened anxiety (as if learning has not been stressful enough for them already) and try to follow the assorted learning strategies that their teachers recognize as best practices..

The trouble is…nobody told the kids what is going on or why they are doing what they do. They know there is an embarrassing issue about which dozens of adults have met and   held lengthy discussions. Confidentiality is so well protected as to obscure the process, to keep it hidden from the child. Counterintuitive strategies meet protests, motivation is uneven, and unknown achievement benchmarks are missed.

In business, managers know what their real budget busters are, and they monitor them closely. This is rarely the case in schools. Special Ed department heads and teachers are entrusted with the care of the Students with Special Needs according to the letter of the regulations. Is the child making reasonable progress at this time? Is the child in need of services? Is the child in the least restrictive environment? These questions are answered according to a schedule, and the child is re-evaluated periodically. However, longitudinal information is not tracked. Funds are available regardless of progress over the long haul.

One could hypothesize that these factors contribute to children becoming SPED for life. Critical intervention opportunities are missed and childhood learning issues become entrenched patterns of dysfunction that pervade the adolescent’s world socially and intellectually. Persistent concrete thinking yields naïve decision-making and impulsive behavior. Processes that are rational in the abstract appear random in the concrete. Acting out behavior is a natural outcome that is misdiagnosed as a discipline issue. Social learning is truncated as rigid rules replace sheltered exploration. Academic success becomes more elusive. Students seek failure as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 (to be continued…)

February 10, 2011 at 2:10 PM 1 comment