Sunday, January 3, 2010

Special Education vs. Programs


Bandaid
Originally uploaded by Mimi_K
This weekend, I have read a lot about education reform. . . changes that should be made and changes that shouldn't. . . changes that will and changes that won't..... and yet, not many of the articles or blurbs I read reflected the impact any of these changes actually have on the students, teachers or parents.

We are in the age of No Child Left Behind, yet this is now combined with a Race to the Top for state education departments. Doesn't a race mean there will be some left behind? Using the word competition indicates that there will be a loser.

According to Dictionary.com, education is

the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

When your child comes to you with a boo-boo, some part of them is broken. You assess the damage to determine what is needed to heal that damage. We even have doctors and emergency rooms for the damage that is too big to support at home.

Emergency rooms have a triage process to determine what type of help is needed once you get there and you don't get surgery just because you happen to be at a surgical hospital or the neurologist happens to be on service that evening. A doctor will also give you a referral if you have an injury that is outside their area of expertise.

The process to develop educational supports is, in theory, an educational triage. Educational specialists respond to the fact that a learner is broken and try to determine what is needed to correct the damage. Unfortunately, educators or social workers, or speech pathologists, or whichever fortunate soul is in charge of a child's IEP meetings, are part of the education system, not educational triage.

Special education is used to support students with disabilities who are not progressing in a general curriculum. As we in the trenches work with students, teachers and parents, we try to help teachers adapt lessons and classroom management to support all learners. We sit through Child Study meetings, conferences, read research journals, advise parents and attend IEP meetings. Those of us in the trenches see first hand what the true impact of the education system can be. Some kids make it, some don't.

The creation of Individualized Education Plans (IEP) tend to be meetings to explain to parents what programs are available and whether or not their child fits any of those programs. A one-size-fits-all-because-we-don't-have-funding-for-specialists-and-we-cannot-refer-or-we-have-not-done-our-jobs approach. For those who run those meetings, their hands are often tied. They can only follow the procedures set by their districts if they want to keep their jobs. They often become reduced to having the power to do nothing more than pass out a band-aid program to support broken learners even if they know the learner requires the educational equivalent of crutches or surgery.

Band aids now come in different colors, sizes, and shapes. You can get colored casts for broken limbs and surgery can be performed as an out-patient procedure. Why are educators still required to operate under the philosophy that One-Size-Will-Fit-All-You-Just-Have-to-Try-Harder?

3 comments:

Kansas Sped Teacher said...

I really enjoy your post, and completely agree with what you have to say. I especially agree with you about how competition in education means someone looses. Whether or not we are talking about special education, I wish more so-called "education reformers" would realize this when promoting competition in education.

Sandy said...

I apologize for taking 2 weeks to comment on this.
It is very good. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Technology said...

I really enjoy your post, and completely agree with what you have to say. I especially agree with you about how competition in education means someone looses. Whether or not we are talking about special education, I wish more so-called "education reformers" would realize this when promoting competition in education.