PART ONE RESOURCE ROOM EXPECTATION – PART 1
What do parents, other teachers, school administrators, DOE leadership (State and Federal), politicians, corporations (because they seem to have a very large influence on education policy today), really want us to do with the students who walk through the doors of my Special Education Resource Room? Most Resource Room students have had difficulty being successful in school without significant academic and/or behavioral supports.
At the same time Special Education Resource Room students are human beings who laugh, cry, have “aha” moments, “interesting” behaviors and have identified disabilities. They are also individuals with hopes, goals, dream and needs just like everyone else. All many of them want is a decent life with a chance at happiness once they leave school (at whatever level they get off the bus).
Those students who walk through my Resource Room door are or become “my” students and these are children who I spend so many hours each school year attempting to reach and teach. I seriously give a damn about each and every one of them, otherwise I would not work so hard at pushing, pulling and leading these students to realize that they can learn and continue to work to get them excited about learning (I even put up with preparing the Special Education paperwork to be able to teach them).
I get to see them at their best and I get to see them at their worst at various points throughout the school year. I am lucky because I get to know them as individuals, not just the reputation that precedes them, which may or may not be reality. To me, my students are not just a number, they are not just a score, and certainly not just another face walking by me. They are real people and I want them to have a good life after they leave my Resource Room.
I get to know my students strengths and weaknesses pretty well and in my experience, most of the students in my Resource Room classes are significantly (years) behind their same-age peers abilities in most of the following areas: academics, intellectually, behavior and maturity.
I am not saying this to demean Resource Room students, it is just the way it is and I believe that most other Resource Room teachers have the same experience. So what are we preparing these students for? What are the expectations that all the people I have listed above have for my Resource Room students?
I get a lot of conflicting information on those expectations. Right now the expectation du jour is that we supposed to prepare allstudents for college or a career while adhering to their Individual Education Plan (IEP).
How can we prepare a student who is academically challenged enough to require Resource Room services academically; who has never received any score higher than partially meets standard on any Standardized test and may still be learning basic academic skills in high school, to realistically prepare them for college or a career.
Accommodations and Modifications only do so much and do not automatically make a student successful or ready for either. I understand that high expectations go a long way towards improving academic performance, but reality can be a real bitch sometimes. This expectation preparation of college or a career for Resource Room students is contradictory to me, when many Resource Room students are working at the third to fifth grade levels on the IEP goals while in high school.
The truth is most Resource Room students will not attend any school (college, community college or technical schools) right after high school (I worry more if they will even finish high school) and in all likelihood be performing a variety of lower paying jobs. That is the reality and my experience, this may not be other Resource Room teachers experience, but I have a feeling it is.
I have attempted to find statistics on
(1) how many Special Education students who were Resource Room students attend college after high school and (2) then go back to college for a second year or even a second semester.
I must be looking in the wrong areas, because with all of the statistics out there I can’t find any statistics on those two questions, if anyone reading this blog knows the answer or where to look, I would appreciate the information.
What is the reality? No number of laws or regulations, court decisions or administrative directives are going to change the actual abilities or interests of an individual. Most Resource Room students are not prepared academically for college level work when they receive their High School Diploma. Many of them are still working on basic skills and basic concepts academically, because their IEP properly identifies their actual level of performance – not the pie-in-the-sky view that so many seem to have today.
Yet the expectations are that they take the same Standardized Tests (what gets tested, gets taught mentality) and be pushed toward going to college irregardless of their readiness or actual ability.
I wish it was different and that all of my Resource Room students will be reading at grade level at the end of their year with me, but that is not reality. No matter how hard I try or how well I teach the limits of what will be learned is dependent upon individual skills, attitudes or abilities and getting these students to read grade level expectations is extremely difficult at best.
The reality is that we are presently subjecting our Special Education students to two sets of educational priorities that are like a set of railroad tracks that will never meet. One that requires individualization of the curriculum to meet the student’s individual needs and on the other side is a set of standards and assessments that emphasize the norm, not the individual. How we reconcile these apparent disparities in the re-authorizations of NCLB, IDEA and ADA will determine the future of Special Education in relation to Regular Education.
However, in today’s educational reform climate and its focus on the “norm”, I am not optimistic about the direction that Education and in particular Special Education will go.
This end part 1 of my Resource Room Expectations: Part 2 will be what I am actually doing in my Resource Room this year to attempt to help my students improve academically.
“Do the right thing for the right reason”