Friday, October 8, 2010

Mine is the unpopular educator opinion

Or is it?

I'm going to go against the grain and say I think some (well, most really) kids who have a special education label should be back in separate classrooms. So shoot me.

There are exceptions to the rule so I hope people hear me out on this.

In the last two years that I've worked with kids who are 'special education' (and I'm an aide who works with them specifically and directly each day) and when I was in the Wild West I had "special ed" kids in my regular classroom. The majority of the kids I worked with should have have been 'inclusion-ed' or 'mainstreamed' back into regular classes, but they are.

The kids who are 'special ed' either have a medical reason, a learning disability that has been documented through testing, or a psychological reason. Kids can be special education because of Turrets, OCD, visual impairments, ADD, ADHD, autism, developmental delay, etc. These kids are then given an "individual education plan (IEP)" that makes accommodations for them in the regular classroom. For example, one popular accommodation is having a test or quiz read aloud or having the test modified (having 3 choices instead of 4 on a multiple choice test). Something else schools do is place an aide in the classroom to help the kids, keeping them on track, providing them extra attention, helping them take notes and just provide extra services to the kids according to the needs of the IEP.

Sometimes these plans work fine for the kids. Sometimes these accommodations are enough and special ed. kids can have success in a typical classroom.

BUT, in mist cases and instances I've seen there is no success. These kids are floundering and struggling. They don't have the capability to keep up. It could be because of the ADD or because the kids have an 'emotional disability'. It could be because the kids who struggle so much with just regular reading (they aren't reading at grade level or have poor reading comprehension) they can't do most of the classwork. They could be embarrassed to have an aide and don't want to use the services. There are lots of things in play here but most of the time these kids are struggling in class and don't do well.

I think it would be okay to have the kids in a separate classroom to have science, social studies and language arts. I think they could also come there for math, but often times many special education kids struggle with anything reading related but are great in math. I think it's not fair to the kids. They need to be able to feel successful and having them inclusion is not helping.

I have one senior girl who is reading at a third grade level. She struggles in all her classes and is failing everything except for PE and home economics. No wonder she struggles- she can't freakin' read. There are lots of kids like this. If a student decides to NOT be on a diploma track but would go on a completion track, the kids can take no math and no English and take "life skills math" and "life skills English." They can take shop and study hall and Home Ec. and music. They don't need social studies or science.

It may be old school thinking and I do know all the logic and reasoning and "educated" reasons for going to an inclusion route for special education students, but I. don't. think. it. works. There was nothing wrong with licensed teachers teaching the special education students at a level in which they could learn.

And if I'm frustrated, think how the kids must feel.



Mellodee said...

This is a prime example of what happens when "theory" has no connection to reality! How are these kids supposed to get anywhere when they are set up to fail?? It's heartbreaking!

Jimmie Earl said...

In my career as a "teacher" I have had students that didn't have a bit of trouble staying with the regular classes as long as I was there to keep them on task, and aid them in their IEP area(s).
Then I have had the students who were so learning disabled for numerous reasons that they had no business in a mainstream classroom whether I was in there with them or not. They couldn't read well, or at least not at grade level, they had no idea how to take structured notes, and couldn't sit still long enough to concentrate. Some were ED, ADD, MIMH, or autistic. (Really, I had better luck with my autistic kids than I did any of the others.)
Most of these students (excluding the autistic ones) will never be able to graduate, and will get a certificate of completion, if they don't get too discouraged and quit. By putting them in special individualized classes, they would progress slower, but they would also gain a feeling of success. They should be being taught some life skills, simple home management skills, and how to cook, clean, and do laundry. Some of these students will no doubt end up in group homes, too, so they need some social skills. They know who they are, and they know they are different, so most of them are not embarrassed to be in special classes. In fact they would prefer it.
Maybe someday, school admin. will wake up and see where the problems lie and save these kids.