Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Can’t Get Silk Out of a Sow’s Ear

Every year at spring test time, this phrase pops in my head. It is because they (bureaucracy) put so much pressure on teachers to bring up test scores.

In some countries the children have aptitude tests and they are guided through middle and high school on the track that suits them. We can’t all be rocket scientist. If the student would be better suited as a mechanic or whatever they are encouraged to be the best they can be and sent to specific schools for each track.

I know this is America and everyone has access to an education and the possibility to go to a university, but really should every student in high school be expected to pass Algebra or for that matter the over 200 Special Education children that may attend a school make progress on an FCAT test or else the teacher’s fail.

We are talking about children who often have IQ’s well below 70 with physical and mental problems that make it a challenge just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get on a bus with many middle school kids who can be downright abusive at times.

We should celebrate each day a special child survives a day at a public school. What an astronomical step these children take, facing the real world challenges navigating through a system where not everyone is kind.  They DO make progress each and everyday they come to school, it is just not percentage points on a test data sheet. The teachers are a success every day just by the fact each child wants to come to their classroom.

The test scores are reflected in what is referred to as AYP or adequate yearly progress along with everyone else. If your school does not make AYP then it won’t be long before they are tagged “F” or Title 1, Title 2 or "Superintendents" school.

Our school (where I currently work) services more special education students ( over 200) then a whole county center. I applaud our teachers. I admire their smiles and determination and willingness to hang in there each day.  I especially cheer the extra curriculum teachers like P.E, Music, and Art who have the students mainstreamed in overcrowded classroom. They all have such patience. Most important, I applaud the special education students.

But here is the kicker for you. I don’t believe in mainstreaming. I believe it does the kids so much more harm being exposed to jeers and tears of the already tough middle school years.

I speak from experience. My nephew went to a special school until he was 22 years old. He was safe, had friends, school functions, proms, field trips and the like. My sister had a break each day when his bus picked him up early to take him on a long drive to a private school. He had the same bus driver for almost twenty years. I am thankful my sister fought the system and won. Public tax dollars had to pay for his private education and transportation. His tuition, transportation etc was cheaper than setting up an appropriate class to meet his needs and paying teacher's salary back in the 1970's. Now laws have changed and every school system must accommodate with special needs so they don't have to fork out for private school. The private institution however was Robert's family, his home away from home, his safe place.

Later, My nephew transitioned into a group home environment where he lives today. He is 46 years old. Yes, he lives on SSI government money but he does work with the others from his group home cleaning office buildings. He saves up his money and goes on vacations each year and did not become a burden to his parents. I often think of him when I walk down our halls. He could have never survived here. At least he didn’t have to worry about taking a test every spring.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with what you said and having 2 sons on disability the story about your nephew is heartwarming and optimistic.
    Thank you,
    Jane R