This is just how it is…
I’ll give you an example of just how and why NCLB is so absurd disastrous for my students.
Every single day of the school year, our students get off the bus and go through our back door straight into our classroom. Every single day. This door does not automatically lock when it is shut, which is why many other teachers end up coming in through our room. If you push it, it will lock and can not be opened from the outside. It has been that way forever.
I have a student who has been with me just shy of forever. This is year #5 for him with at least 2 more to go. He is also (somewhat arguably) my most capable student. “Capable” being extremely relative in a SID/PID classroom. Each and every morning for the past 5 years, this student has done the same, exact thing. He runs to the door and pushes it shut, thus locking himself out. Each and every single morning, without exception. 5 x 180 days = 900 trials and the boy still has not learned to simply open the door. This is a very basic and functional thing but he still does not get it. This is where teaching these kids are; it takes about 1000 trials to teach a single basic skill, even if it is highly relevant. Sometimes less, many times more.
It’s not that these kids can not learn. They can and they do! But they do not learn at the pace (or for the price) of everyone else. They never will, short of a brain transplant because the brain wiring is simply not there. It is simply a biological fact of reality. That doesn’t mean we give up, but could we please get over the fact that algebra and world geography might be relevant and practical for these kids on any level?!?
These kids could learn algebra, sure. But no one wants to provide the resources necessary to do it. It would take 40 hours per week of 1:1 instruction in order to get them to the most basic concepts. Who is going to pay for that kind of service to teach something that is irrelevant to a lot of “normal” people and totally useless to the ones being taught? No one. No one is going to pay for any more than the basic level of care and instruction! I have 7 kids who are 1:1 students and there are 4 adults here. Combined with the administrative paperwork, I am swamped and overwhlemed as these kids can not toilet or feed themselves! This takes a huge swath of time out of our day. Plus the attention and endurance of these students is quite a bit less than 8 hours per day. It is closer to 25 minutes per day, but I do push for more and there are numerous tears shed and gnashing of teeth because of it throughout the day in my room.
But why are we banging our heads so hard on this? Is it just because it is a nice campaign slogan? Is it because we are so bound by political correctness that we are immune to seeing some semblance of reality?
I’m hoping the new administration can bring some sanity to the situation but I am not overly optimistic. In his speech introducing his nominee for secretary of education, President elect Obama said:
We need a new vision for a 21st century education system – one where we aren’t just supporting existing schools, but spurring innovation; where we’re not just investing more money, but demanding more reform; where parents take responsibility for their children’s success; where we’re recruiting, retaining, and rewarding an army of new teachers; where we hold our schools, teachers and government accountable for results; and where we expect all our children not only to graduate high school, but to graduate college and get a good paying job.
So now every student is going to be required to take on a college prep curriculum. Just where does that leave a whole lot of students who are in special education? Not much different than now. Not much of a change, if you ask me. This is the exact same rhetoric that spawned NickelBee (NCLB) and everything that went along with it. George Bush could have delivered this exact same speech and if it were delivered by Joe Biden, I would seriously be wondering if it were lifted from 2000!
2009 is going to be real interesting.