Pretend that I posted this a week ago!
Today was the training for Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) for a bunch of us in the high schools. A bunch of administrators were also there, thus reinforcing the seriousness of all of this. At stake is AYP. It took Magnolia High School all of 2 years to get off the needs improvement list and no one wants to go back on it. No teacher, including me, wants to be responsible for the entire school not making AYP. The special ed administrator and the testing administrator were both there as well as administrators and the severe teachers from other high schools.
The Big Boss, our county special ed coordinator was the main trainer although other county education administrators were in on it. This was not the first training, as middle and elementary school teachers and administrators have gone through this earlier. However the anxiety level amongst participants had to be noticibly higher, as evidenced by the frustration of the presenters. And this is justifiably so, because of the gap between performance of some students and the grade. For instance, the presenter wanted to use 3rd grade examples because that is what the knobs at the state department used. The difference between a student functioning at an 11 month old and an 8 year-old is very significant. However it is nothing compared to the gap that exists between a student functioning at an 11 month-old level and a 17 year-old. This is the distance many of us high school teachers have to jump. Elementary and middle school teachers are not necessarily getting a bargain here, but we are talking about getting someone functioning no higher than preschool meeting the same standards as the high school graduation test. Granted it is the GEORGIA high school graduation test, which can only be so rigorous. But there are still some pretty high standards compared to what most profound kids are used to meeting.
I had a chance, during a break, to talk to the secondary special ed coordinator who used to be at the state DOE when they were rolling this out. She just came out and said that the folks in Atlanta really had no thought of the severe and profound kids when they were developing this thing. They were thinking more about kids who were reading on a 2nd or 3rd grade level; kid who were simply way behind, not kids who were lower than a preK level. The thought just never occurred to them.
The morning consisted of loads and loads of discussion about the procedures, all of which were outlined in something called a “Procedures Manual.” The procedures consisted of what order to put the paperrs in, when they were to be submitted, which forms we were to make copies of and which ones we were forbidden to make copies of. Each subject was to have its own folder and its own cover sheet. Each had to be clearly labeled. They went over what the evidence was we were to use, primary and secondary.
I was sitting between the two other high school severe teachers in the county. The Southside teacher, who is new this year, was remarkably creative and seemed to adapt quite nicely. This was the first time I had a chance to spend a lot of time with her, and she is pretty sharp. The Northside teacher, OTOH, was having teething problems with this entire process. I know the kids he has to do this for, and he has a tough job ahead of him.
In the afternoon, we broke into groups and the 3 of us worked together to work out plans. And there were some good suggestions that came out of that, and I have a good outline of a plan. Fortunately, much of it includes things I am already doing or things that can be done fairly easily. My biggest challenge is the area of reading comprehension. How do you demonstrate reading comprehension to someone with the reading comprehension skills of a 2 year-old with 11th grade materials?
I’ll share more details of what I’m doing as I go along. Anyone else out there following along? I’ll take any suggestions for 11th grade ELA teachers. In the meantime, I’ll be consulting some from my own school about the materials and standards that are being used. Maybe I WILL turn Taz loose in one of these classrooms!LOL! No, we are averaging one teacher who quits per week at this school as it is. No sense in further increasing the attrition rate.