Still Depressed; A casualty of NCLB

22 Aug

The list just seems to keep growing, doesn’t it?

I have talked about NCLB and its effects upon the severe population ever since the it forced everyone to align with it through the use of the alternate assessments.  While I have always had individual lesson plans attached to data sheets, I’m now required to turn a set in every week that includes standards, standard numbers and eventually I will have to follow some sort of centralized mandated format.  The all-wise powers higher up the chain are busy deciding what format we all have to follow.  Heaven forbid that we actually have anyone be an individual or deviate from enforced conformity!  Novelty, creativity and originality are frowned upon in this new paradigm of education.


The biggest casualty has been community-based instruction.  The high cost of diesel along with NCLB have successfully obliterated this last vestige of relevant instruction for students with severe disabilities.  Those with moderate intellectual disabilities are the biggest losers here.  When I began teaching, we had many moderate students in my program and we went to actual jobsites where the students did actual meaningful work.  Some of those students managed to get actual paying jobs right out of high school as a result of their successful experiences.  However, those days are gone.  NCLB, at least as our students have interpreted it, mandates teaching the core academic subjects on grade-level with grade-level materials.  There is no time for job training or community-based instruction (CBI).  When I started 8 years ago, we went out every single day.  Now, we have not gone anywhere yet, and school has been in session for 3 weeks.  There seems to be no real urgency to begin CBI for these students.  They will be required to learn literature, algebra, history, economics, biology, geometry and chemistry just like everyone else.  And when they leave this institution, they will be dumped back on to their parents or on to the street with no employable skills.

Those that I teach today are on the most severe end of the intellectually impaired spectrum and they have always been shunted off to the side and marginalized.  However I have felt an increasing marginalization myself, as the shift toward the standards and academics has taken over.  My students are not helping to increase test scores or increase the graduation rate.  So as a teacher, my role as a teacher has become increasingly isolated.  The self-contained setting has always been a somewhat desolate and lonely condition.  But I’m feeling it even moreso this year.  It just hit me all-of-the-sudden this week, as I was trying to get my “advanced” group to identify their own names and pictures of themselves that this academic crap is just a huge joke.  At first, I had mixed feelings about being irreplaceable.  “Hey!  I’m important!”  But that isn’t the case at all.  The reason why I can’t be replaced isn’t because of the stellar job that I’m doing.  It is because no one else wants it.  And that is singularly depressing enough.

I do feel the administration has been as supportive as they can be given the fact I only have 7 students while everyone else serves close to 100.  I don’t blame them for keeping me in place for another year even though I requested a move as it is a good strategy for the short-term.   They figured that it wouldn’t be too disastrous, as I’m likely to put student interests ahead of my own.  I would do the job and do my best, no matter what sort of students I’m serving. 

They all can learn, but not at the same pace, the same time or even the same content.  These kids with severe cognitive impairments; we need to look at reality and admit that they are not going to college.  We need to admit that there are plenty of very happy people who have never gone to college and quit trying to guilt parents, teachers and the students into conforming to a standard that fails them.   My kids will not be reading on the 12th grade level no matter how rich of a literacy program I expose them to.  No matter how highly qualified their teacher is, they are not going to solve for X.  But they might learn how to answer the question “What is your name?” or respond to “Do you want more?”

I feel fairly confident with what I do.  I pretty much know how to deal with most of these students even though I still get nauseous from all the noise.  A poopy diaper barely phases me anymore.  It is just a significant part of what I do and separates me from the folks who can’t hack it.  But I am ready for a little different life to choose me and since it won’t be at this school, I need to be looking at other schools.

Anyone else ever had to effect a transfer like this, where your present supervisor/employer is reluctant to let you go?


7 Responses to “Still Depressed; A casualty of NCLB”

  1. Michele at 2:10 pm #

    I hear you loud and clear. I’ve worked with kids with autism of all ages for 27 years. Luckily (and I do say luckily) most of those years were spent at a residential school. We have to do alt assessment, but have managed to fit as many functional skills into the standards as possible. In addition, the kids have just as many residential IEP goals as they do school one. No standards necessary for those, but the data collection/ABA teaching is just as rigorous. When will the powers that be figure out just what these kids are like and what they need?

  2. Tavie at 9:33 pm #

    I am a student doing research and I stumbled upon your site. I can hardly believe that the standards are the same for your students as they are for all other students. That just seems so unfair and sad. I really think that America has embraced education as their God, don’t get me wrong I am an education major and I feel it is very important, but I agree with what you have said, these students are not going to college, why make it so hard for them? They need to have job training if it is possible for them and it will give them self esteem and a purpose instead of setting them up for failure. I wish you well in your search for other employment and a different calling.

  3. Daniel Dage at 8:55 pm #

    The powers that be never gave our kids a second thought when they passed these laws, Michele, because they were “low incidence” at the time. I’m convinced they’ve been making it up as they go and have no idea what to do. It’s just like those dunderheads from around here in Georgia who tried to convince everyone they had a Bigfoot. They knew it was a fraud but once the media got hold of it they didn’t have the guts to say “Sorry! It was just a joke!” NCLB is a similar joke and no one will have the guts to apologize for it until 2013 when every school is either a failing school or a lying school. I think I’d take a failure over a liar any day, because trust is just that important.

    Thanks for stopping by, Tavie! I think the concept of “education” needs an overhaul. It is more than a degree or diploma. Right now, there’s enough material on the internet to become knowledgeable on every topic under the sun without paying a dime in tuition of buying a single textbook. NCLB is about 80 years too late.

  4. Emily at 2:18 pm #

    I’m a brand new teacher and getting more and more apprehensive about NCLB. I’m not in a CBI classroom right now (though I hope to be someday) but I am still worried about the effects this might have on my students. I have what’s basically a self-contained ED classroom, and i f the students can prove to me that they can maintain good behavior, they can go back with their peers (I didn’t invent the program, by the way). I’ve had no training in this either. Anyway, my point is, this post makes me sad. I did half of my student teaching in a classroom similar to yours and I loved how it worked. WAs it all up to snuff according to all the new laws? Well, probably not. Did it work? Absolutely. I’ve not been asked to do anything extra (besides things like keeping track of their academc progress and keep up on behavior goals on their IEPs and have data sheets on those) but I’m sure this will come to bite me someday.

  5. Daniel Dage at 7:28 am #

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Emily!

    You have the hardest job in your school, no doubt. No one is going to give you much brief as long as you can keep the peace. You’ll want to do a lot more than that, though, obviously because you want to be a good teacher! Right now, survival is a big part of your life but I’m here to say it does get better with time and experience! Keep up the good work!

  6. Sarah at 5:45 pm #

    Hi Daniel,

    I am a high school teacher and have a class of 9. All of my students have severe disabilities. I am also a parent of two children who have autism.

    Personally, I believe that part of the reason why some individuals reach me at the secondary level with so few skills is because of low academic expectations throughout their educational experience. There is much value in the alignment of IDEA 2004 and NCLB for students who have moderate to severe disabilities. For example, it can facilitate access into general education classrooms where they can learn many functional skills and develop relationships with peers who are not disabled while for the first time in their life be challenged to progress in grade level curriculum. I think the challenge is for us as educators and for parents, administrators and policy makers to reconceptualize “access and progress” in the core curriculum for students with significant disabilities. Yes, our students can not achieve grade level state standards as stated, but they can learn functional communication, social and problem solving skills while learning key concepts within the general education curriculum. And this endeavor needs to be balanced with taking measured steps to support student’s to acquire the skills they need to be as independent and successful as possible in their adult life.


  7. Daniel Dage at 3:11 pm #

    You’re right on a lot of levels and this has inspired a post saying as much. NCLB has redeeeming qualities, but they are few and many of them are mixed. If you consider the scope of your last two sentences, you’ll see that it is an ambitious agenda. Something is going to be left behind and it is those functional skills that you talk of.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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