Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I Hate Special Ed

I'm not calling for a second chance, I'm screaming at the top of my voice,
Give me reason, but don't give me choice,
Cause I'll just make the same mistake again
James Blunt

Background for those of you who are not special educators:
Every student in my class has what's called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). It's reviewed every year by me, the parent, and any other staff that works with the student (speech therapists, counselors, etc.) Once every 3 years students are re-evaluated to see if their current environment is still appropriate given their academic and social emotional progress. As part of their IEP I have to evaluate where they are currently (both academically and social/emotionally) and set goals that determine the progress that must be made throughout the course of the year. IEPs are legal documents. What's written in them MUST happen. Part of kids' IEPs is their promotional criteria. Kids can either be expected to meet standard criteria (the same as regular ed kids, only they get the services provided to them as a result of their IEP), or they can be expected to meet a modified, or lower promotional criteria, meaning they are passed on to the next grade not having met all of the previous grade's standards. I am SO aganist this, feeling like it sets kids up for failure and that it's social promotion. I also feel like it gives teachers an excuse to be lazy. (Point in case the teacher before me.) Exceptions are severely learning disabled students and other students who, because of their diagnosed disability, are not cognitively capable of reaching that grades' standards. THOSE are the students for whom modified criteria is meant. I do not teach any students like that.
Half of my students are emotionally disturbed and are capable of performing on grade level. Some already do, and some, in certain areas, actually perform above grade level. As a result, their promotion criteria is checked as standard.
And today...
However, today we were told that we are not to have any of our students with standard criteria because if they are capable of meeting standard criteria they should be in general education. I brought up the point that many emotionally disturbed kids are academically gifted but need a smaller setting (and in fact are usually in more restrictive settings than mine) and I was told that they should be in general education.
So last year special ed was all about bad behavior, and this year it's all about low academics. Kids continue to be shuffled around like pieces of paper instead of living, breathing beings. They're trying to send Adony to another school because someone somewhere typed a number wrong - boy did I throw a fit about that. You will NOT send my baby to another school because someone does not know how to proofread.
And now, I'm going to send my 5th graders to middle school with IEPs that say they only have to meet 65% of grade level standards to pass? Why are you telling me I have to set them up to fail when it's taken me a year and a half to get them to believe they are as smart as everyone else?
One thing is for sure - they will never see that IEP. I will have one page that I present at the meeting to the parents and the child and one page that goes in the "official" file.
Something is very very wrong with this system and I do not understand how something that is so obvious to a second year teacher is happening in such a seasoned school.
I wish the people that made these decisions would actually spend time in good classrooms.
I must advocate.
I must fight.
But most of all, I must put every single thing I have in to moving these kids as much as I can because I may be the only person that ever cares enough to do so.
Part of me wants to scream and kick and fight and be that person, but then the other part of me sees my kids - screaming and kicking and fighting to just be taught - now - and I just want to shut my door and ignore all of the things I can't control and just....TEACH.


ms. v. said...

Heh. At least you HAVE IEP's for your kids. We have only 8 IEPs for a couple of dozen kids who are supposed to receive services. Schools won't send them, can't find them, never wrote them, etc. etc. It's a freakin' disaster, and totally illegal, and is driving our brand-new special ed teacher up the wall.

Miss G said...

A student can not be placed in a 12:1:1 environment at my school if they do not have an IEP. If they're coming from another school, they have to have their paperwork or we don't accept them. Period. There's a huge waiting list for my class - kids could never get in without an IEP. (Partially because we got in so much trouble for situations like yours last year - the region is ALL over us this year.) I would say the kids should be re-evaluated and the IEPs need to be re-written (which is totally not fair to the new teacher, but is something I had to do last year).

Zuzuzpetals said...

Oh, the ED trap. Maddening. And when these students are mainstreamed, they are often, sadly, not the only ones who have trouble learning. Are there, is there any hope for team teaching in an integrated classroom - students who are on IEP's but deemed capable of standard level work?
We have had the best situation at my school - no more than 30 students (secondary) with two certified teachers, one special services, in the classroom.
Plan B is to have a paraprofessional. Not as effective as the "best situation," but better than one regular classroom teacher with 5 or more suddenly influxed ED students.
Flexible grouping, last resort, with another teacher experiencing similar struggles, can be another possible option.
I shudder to think of the regular ed classrooms at miss g's school, if the situation (huge waiting list?!?) is as she describes it.
Not to excuse, but it certainly explains some of the teacher burnout we see.

Zuzuzpetals said...

duh, you are miss g.
didn't mean to refer to you in 3rd person like that.