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Teacher Quality and Special Ed

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The No Child Left Behind Act requires school districts to employ "highly qualified" educators, but meeting the standard may be a particular challenge for special education teachers, who might not have majored in a discipline such as English, science, or math before entering the classroom. Under the federal special education law, teachers must be highly qualified in special education as well as every subject they teach.

How will the new teacher-quality standards affect the field of special education? How should the competency of special education teachers be judged?

76 Comments

By the performance of the students. I have asked for the qualifications of the teachers twice and have yet to get a reply. One teacher refused to teach him due to the added paperwork demands. He was placed with a teacher who admited to having no sped experience. At least she was willing to have him in her class. The school report cards should post per teacher the passing or failing rates of their students. Teachers say they want the emphasis on their performance and not education. Here it is. Show me.

I have a B.A. in psychology. Then I went back to complete an MSDE (Maryland) credit count in secondary special education. Now I can't get a teaching job in Baltimore County. Towson University didn't help at all.

The school district that I work in has done many things to make sure that the students in special education classes receive the same educational experience that all students in the district receive. The first thing the district does is to make sure that the special education teachers get the same inservice training as the general education teachers so that they can meet the state benchmark and keep up to date in the new subject material. The problem lies though in the fact that if a special education teacher at the middle school or high school level is teaching a self-contained classroom, that person would have to be highly qualified in four core subject areas that spans over 6 years of subject material. In order to do this, the individual would have to go to school for well over 8 years. How many people do you know that would go to school for this amount of time to get less than $30,000.00 a year?

We should be wary of standards generated by any federal agency. There are enough state standards to live up to, and I fear that this will drive more worthy people out of the profession. It appears that the entire premise of NCLB is to "federalize" education, turning teachers into functions.

How will the new teacher-quality standards affect the field of special education? It will make it more difficult for people to become special education teachers - but I don't think that that is a bad thing. They should (we should) have a clear grasp on the subject matter we are teaching as well as how to teach to children with special needs. Special edcuation is a dual major - meaning we should have to major in the topic we are teaching in addition to special education.

How should the competency of special education teachers be judged? The same as any other teacher as well as they should be judged on their abilities to teach to special edcuation classrooms.

I find it deeply distrubing that I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in the area of exceptional needs but I not considered "highly qualified" at the high school I teach at. It is hard enough to find good special ed teachers who are certified in special ed. Are we supposed to go out and recruit math teachers and get them special ed qualified? I have spent years in school learning how to teach students with disabilities and I feel like this whole thing is a slap in the face.... Why bother to spend 450 hours and a large amount of money to meet national tandards that are irrelavent apparently under the new law. I have been a huge advocate for special ed but I am feeling deeply depressed by all of this.........

So much to read and learn so my children are successful adults. I feel so discouraged, my children are experiments subjects in a ever changing broken system. Can't we all work together for the children? My oldest graduated by doing the districts home school open-book tests. Great, we fought to get him a diploma, now with 5th grade reading and math levels. I feel for teachers who feel a slap in the face, but hey look at the statistics....kids are not being educated. I have four more to fight for daily in this system. What happen to my American Dream?

Just more of the same. Our kids are being asked to keep up with their regular ed peers not matter the handicap and now we will be eliminating a number of exceptional teachers because they don't meet a standard that no one has yet figured out. Who is planning to pay us for all the training we now must add to our certification? This is why my kids aren't teachers.

Most of our special education takes place in an exclusion situation in which the students are taught core curriculum by a regular education teacher, who must be NCLB-compliant. We also have teachers who offer support to teachers in one subject area, but still are not the primary teacher of the core curriculum. The primary instance in which we have teachers teaching a "self-contained" class might be in high school, but the curriculum generally is elementary curriculum and we make sure that they are compliant in elementary education. As in all things related to teacher quality under NCLB, there are exceptions. Hopefully those will all be teachers who fall under the HOUSSE provisions, thereby giving us further options. When hiring special education teachers who are new to the profession we generally are looking for elementary subject matter compliance.

It is degrading to learn after meeting the requirements set forth by National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards in the area of Exceptional Needs Specialist covering birth to age 21 to learn I am not highly qualified by the NCLB guidelines. Special education teachers as a whole give their heart and soul to teaching students with disabilities. NCLB is placing undue stress on both teachers and students.
Mandates created by individuals/groups who have not set forth in a special education setting is so wrong. More teachers should be involved in such laws that will impact the future of not only the educational professionals, BUT our children are impacted to a level of stress that could be avoided.

I teach students with emotional behavioral disorders(EBD. These students are self-contained in middle and high school and considered at-risk for completing school.
I have eleven years experience. I have a Masters in Learning Disabilities and a Specialist Degree in Interrelated Special Education. I am also a National Board Certified Teacher in Special Education. To keep my current job I would have to add certification in all academic areas!(I'm told five)Where is the reason in this? Does the state of Georgia think that I am not intelligent enough to get a job elsewhere rather than returning to school and additionally paying for 5 more tests. There will be no highly qualified teachers in the 2006 school year to serve self contained students. So parents, principals, and regular education students get ready to welcome these students into your classroom. My students are the ones who have been to tribunals for bringing inappropriate "things" to school (guns, knives, bombs), or threatened teachers/students, or like to fight with everyone, or like to cuss out the teacher just for the heck of it, or I could go on.......These students will no longer be in my classroom because I am not highly qualify to teach - what was I thinking when I thought I was a teacher? Pardon me, state of Georgia, you are welcome to house all my former students with all the highly qualified teachers of math, science, social studies, language arts, and reading. I'm sure they will love the conversations in class. I'm sure all the regular ed. students will learn alot from this group too!Have fun. Oh, and when parents complain, you might want to let them know how all the special education teacher were insulted. Slap in the face - try punch in the gut.

I recently spoke to a second career teacher. After retiring from another line of work, he became a special education teacher. His district is requiring him to become certified to teach math in general ed in order to continue as a special education mathematics teacher. He commented, "once I get the math certificate, I am gone from special education... " Given the critical shortage of special education teachers, how can anyone think that this guy is atypical? I would not have become special education teacher under these circumstances.

It is important that any teacher working with any child be qualified. However, a special education teacher must take and graduate a college with what the college and state requires for cerification. In order to go and complete all the required introductory courses, education courses(yes, there are many), and special education courses, a student can now go for 4 to almost 5 years. How the government thinks they can now add another major for one subject area to an already packed course load for special education teachers is beyond my understanding. I am an elementary teacher and with the course load I had to take for my undergraduate work 25 years ago I could not fit in the special education classes let alone another subject area.
So, before demands of NCLB is made on teachers, the government better take a long hard look at the number of years of schooling they want people to go through and change the college requirements. Oh! one more thing-with teachers leaving education for better jobs outside the educational field (or retiring) someone out there better find a way to keep teachers not drive them out of a profession. And if you want us to go to more college course how about helping us pay for them!

As a special education teacher, I resent being told that I am not 'highly qualified' to teach my students what they need to know in order to complete programs of study generated solely to raise standardized test scores. As a qualified English teacher of grades 6-12; I think seriously about leaving sped altogether, but then I think of my 'kids.' However, I am not going to ever be qualified to teach math, science, or social studies--I don't have that much time!

The "highly qualified" requirement is a slap in the face to special education. It implies that a special education degree is not sufficient even though special education teachers have received more training and have to take additional tests to receive certification than regular education teachers. I am lucky to have had the foresight to take the elementary education test for certification in that area and am therefore "highly qualified" since I teach in a 5th and 6th grade school. I do however, believe that special education teachers are highly qualified if they have a special education degree and do not need any additional training to become qualified to teach the children for whom they have already been trained. It is time that special education teachers were no longer considered "special" and were given their due.

I read these teacher comments with empathy and frustration. I am a high school special education teacher/consultant. Susan, the sped teacher from Georgia says it all......
Teaching is as much about the process and sequence of presentation as it is knowledge of subject matter. If a teacher employs effective, meaningful technique and strategies to his/her teaching,students will learn. We are all highly educated people. We all have experience. We all prepare for our classes with the materials and tools provided- hopefully- by our schools.Trust me, we do not need to be "certified"in all of the subjects we teach because we know HOW to teach our students.
I say to the so-called "education" officials who make up these laughable guidelines:
1. Spend some time in regular and special education classrooms before you come up with these guidelines. Has anyone ever thought of this?
2. Trust in your educators to know what they are doing- after all, on your command we have all gone to the trouble, time and EXPENSE of becoming specialists, for very little monetary reward.
3. Why don't all of you who come up with these regulations come along with us to university and get a few degrees, too?
4. Fasten your seatbelts- you are going to LOSE special educators in droves. And, as Susan from Georgia says, lots of luck.....

I have been a Special Education Teacher now for 8 years. 80% of my students have gone on to either a technical training school or college. My students reading and math scores have climbed considerably for the most part. Yet I am not considered "highly qualified". I'd like to see these lawmakers step into a special education classroom and teach. I guarantee you they would not last a week. Maybe a new act should be created: No Teachers Left Behind? Good Luck finding "highly qualified" special education teachers.

I watch my husband struggle with endless paperwork, frustrated daily by lack of planning time, and in dire need of appropriate resources for his special ed. 7th grade Math students, and wonder to myself if President Bush has any idea how hard Special educators work...and sadly I know in my heart I know that he does not.

President Bush has no idea how severe the damages to this nation will be by asking currently employed Special Educators to become "highly qualified" by regular education teacher standards. This nation will lose special educators by the 1000s if a grandfather clause is not written exempting teachers currently employed. Let the universities develop new ways of integrating regular ed. "highly qualified" standards into the teacher training programs so that when teachers graduate from colleges and universities they are prepared for NCLB challenges.

Our education system is in a state of crisis and the worst, thanks to NCLB, is yet to come...

The Bush Administration has no clue in what they are doing for education. They continue to alienate not only prospective teachers for special education but also for the classroom.How much more pressure are they going to place on these teachers?As a former administrator, I found it difficult in getting teachers for my building, because they chose to go to other professions.NCLB as yet to cause more problems...


Special educator certification must look radically different from the traditional content area specialization. Special educators' responsibility by law is to work with individual students to insure that their educational needs are met (simply put).

Therefore, their credentialing needs to reflect their professional responsibilities. I suggest that special educators become highly qualified in cognitive education, as a cognitive education specialist. This means that coursework would have to be developed to reflect special educator development in the areas of cognitive and metacognitive intervention (learning how to learn), the cognition of the affective domain (emotions, empathy, etc.)and linking these areas with how they impact and provide the foundation for content/subject area development.

The U.S. Department of Education has developed a Learning Sciences Department which replaced the Office of Education Research and Improvement. I think that this office would be the perfect place to begin this type of investigation. What I am suggesting is not impossible. There is an abundance of research and work available to study and use to develop this type of approach. Anyway, most special educators have to study courses that are focused on cognitive development, I know I did.

I could go on in more detail, but I won't. I hope my idea is understood. It is revolutionary, but special educators require a radical change from what is prescribed in the NCLB educator requirements.

Does the term "highly qualified" necessarily mean that a teacher has a specific degree or has passed a particular test, or could an educator reach the status of "highly qualified" solely through extensive professional experience in teaching multiple subjects? I believe so, and I feel that this needs to be accounted for as teachers are evaluated for meeting the requirements of the legislation. For less experienced teachers, degrees or testing may be needed to ensure that qualification criteria are met. The field of special education is already one in which there is a shortage of teachers. Making the requirements even more rigid may lead serve to accentuate and augment this problem. However, it is crucial that students with special needs receive an optimal education, and teachers thus need to be proficient in the subjects they are teaching.

After reading the article I am really scared that I just paid a ton of money to get my degree and might not be qulified enough to teach in Special Education. I took the required method classes but will that be enough? I understand the importance of have content knowledge, but we have ton of stuff to learn when it comes to dealing with our studnets need. I guess the standards need to be spelled out better and then maybe the school districts will come up with ways for us to get the training that we need. I will not make enough money to go back to school and get more training off of a first couple years of teaching. I think these laws are going to scare people away from going into Special Education.

After reading the article "Subject Qualification Vexing for Teachers in Special Education", I couldn't believe what I was reading. The government should not be heaping more requirements on thos who choose to teach special education students. As it is now, we have to take just as many classes as those getting their elementary education liscence, if the government wants special education teachers to go back and get more just to be allowed to teach, they will find less and less people going to college to get the special education degree in the first place. Most people, unless they are really dedicated to becoming a special ed teacher like I am, will look at the degree requirements for elementary education and special education- if they see one will take a year or so extra to finish, they will most likely just get the elementary ed degree. Don't we have enough of a shortage as it is of special ed teacher? I myself as a person who is just finishing my degree and am ready to jump into the teaching world will be very upset if I am not allowed to teach on my special education degree. I have spent way too long trying to make my future occupation a reality, to just find out after that I have to go back to school again right away. I am planning on gettting my masters in a few years, but I don't want to be forced into getting it right away because of a change in the law to be able to teach certain subject areas and be highly qualified.

Having highly qualified teachers is a great idea. We ought to have regular ed teachers highly qualified in special education--especially in a state like minnesota where inclusion is the norm. On other hand, how do we afford all the extra time and money we have to invest to become highly qualified on a teaching salary. The major problem with NCLB isn't even the requirements so much as the fact that there is so little money to support the added expectations.

I am a regular ed teacher and I have the same feelings as the special ed teachers. Even in regular ed settings I have been asking the same questions as the responders I've read here. I am taking a class on school curriculum and we discussed NCLB just last week. A concern I voiced was that the wording is impossible. How can we achieve 100%? When ever has anything been 100%? It seems to me to be a perscription for failure not only on teachers but on the feds. I think they will find that it is an impossiblity and will have to concede to that and eat their own words. With all of the pressure from NCLB I am looking to acquire a different line of work in the future if this thing doesn't work itself out.I love teaching and cannot imagine doing anything else even if the salary was in the six digits. My salary doesn't dictate all the pressure to stay in this profession. So what happens to the profession then? Does the government end up losing teachers and prospective teachers? And then how does NCLB work when there aren't enough teachers to teach?

Something I learned from the Seven Habits is to seek to understand before seeking to be understood. With that in mind, I can see that the track record for special education GENERALLY cannot point to a high percentage rate of success with its students. I cannot quote studies here, but special ed. has a bad rep for being a do-nothing class. (I had a brand new student come into my class yesterday and, after my little orientation, he asked, "You mean we gotta do homework in here?!") Sometimes sp. ed. teachers do not take seriously their task to get their students up to grade level. I have received students from other school systems in which a 5th grader's "specialized reading instruction" meant the student had been put in a regular 2nd grade class for reading, another student who was given "easy" work they could sit at their desk and complete without bothering the teacher, etc. In reading these responses I have seen sp. ed. teachers make grammatical and punctuation errors that would make an English teacher cringe--and these people may be teaching English in sp. ed. classes. I would not question a person's devotion to the job, but perhaps more training is needed. All of us sp. ed. teachers have to face up to these things even if we work our fingers to the bone to do our job the best we can. I agree that to make teachers conform now is not appropriate when we have already completed all state guidelines to be certified in our area. I also agree, however, that the universities need to revamp their curriculum to give more training in the core subjects. Rather than being K-12 certified, it would be more appropriate to train according to elementary and secondary. I felt very qualified with my training when I began teaching so I have no complaints, but I am trying to see the point of view of the people reading those discouraging reports. Further, I agree that NOTHING can be 100%. I would think that most schools would have at least a couple of students with an IQ in the 40's who, while we should not accept it as a given fact, probably will never be able to read on grade level no matter what research-based reading program(s) we use. It seems to be a political fact that educators are rarely consulted in any area of education, even in designing new schools. Is that a sign of a lack of respect? I think so. I know that my 21-year-old son without a college degree yet earns more than I do with a master's degree and 9 years' experience in teaching. I am taking one post-graduate course per semester and the tuition not only takes up ALL "extra" money I have each month, but demands all my "extra" time each week. The NCLB is really a horrendous problem for this nation's teachers. While I see a need for improvement, this is not the answer.

I teach students in court & community schools in a rural county in California. I find that over half of the students have special ed needs, but have never been assessed.These students are placed in self-contained classrooms with students who are gang-members or exhibit anti-social behavior on a regular basis. Teaching does not happen in this environmnet regardless of the teacher qualifications. The entire education system is not working.

I have the solution. Let me remove the eight special needs children from my inclusive classroom and stigmatize them further by placing them in a self contained classroom with a special education teacher who is "highly qualified" in all of the content areas. Ok...that won't work (that person doesn't exist), Let's try hiring three additional special education teachers. One can teach math, another teacher can teach science and so on...(Maybe that will reduce class sizes in our schools)

Here's a novel idea, lets require that ALL elementary and secondary teachers become certified in special education. That way, our schools and teachers won't violate the federal law regarding LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT and our teachers can become experts in differentiated instruction and learn to implement the annual goals and short term objectives in each students IEP and provide the necessary classroom accomodations and modifications without support.

L.R.E statute:
To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities should be educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(5)(B)

No matter what we all have to say about our experiences the bottom line is if you are a SPED teacher with a Master's Degree that should mean you are highly qualified. A Master's degree is 6 years of shool. That's almost the same as a doctor. I have been teaching 9 years, and added a Reading Specialist degree to that. My salary is just now at $32,000.00 a year with a stipend of $1500.00. I received my letter that says I am highly qualified last summer. The school I work in is a targeted ESL school. That means those who work with ELL students must have their endorsement in ESL or be in the process of getting it. How much more education will I need? I am going to have to work until I am over 80 to make back the money that I have spent on education. Teacher's who have made it as long as I have, and jumped through hoops to get the job I have are highly dedicated teachers. We all need to stand up and say that's enough or there will be no teachers left.

This issue of being Highly qualified for Special education teachers is uncalled for at this time. Personally, I feel that this can be implemented with those already in colleges as undergradutes. Universities should come up with a better curriculum for special education teachers, so that on graduating they can have subject area concentrations as required by NCLB. But for those already in the system, the government can provide staff development programs to support them. Asking these teachers to go back to school and be re-certified in these subject areas is not a realistic approach.

I would hope to think that after teaching for 31 years in the field of Special Education that I would certainly be "highly qualified." I think some folks need to visit some special education classrooms to see just how "VERY" highly qualified special education teachers are. I don't know about everyone else but my day just flies by because there is not even one moment to spare. When one of my colleagues sees me they say, "Hey, do you still work here cause I never get to see you!" There is just so much to do and never enough hours to do it in. We not only need to master all the workings of the various special education exceptionalities, individualizing, and then be very well versed on the regular education curriculum on top of it all. I love to learn and keep myself up to date with education by going to workshops, etc. and don't feel I need to be told I have to take more classes. If you are a good educator, you will automatically do these things. I take great pride in putting it all together for my students and resent some one telling me I am not "highly qualified." Thank you for allowing my input.

Let's see...paying for an undergraduate degree, $80,000. Paying for Certification in Special ed, $15,000. Paying for a Masters in Special Ed, $15,000. Value of all of this in today's education market...Worthless!
But wait there's more...
I could take additional undergrad courses and get a certificate in Social Studies, for another $30,000 and then maybe...
No, that won't work. I would be overqualified and no one would want to pay me.
I do have a background in statistics and economics. Maybe I could be a standardized test developer.
Actually I have a job. I am a High School Special Education Social Studies Teacher...until the end of June. After that I guess I will have to go back to what I used to do... that is being the head of a successful marketing firm.


I am just sickened to think that after several years of studying and sleep deprivation, not to mention my one-way commute of an hour and 15 minutes and the over 40 grand I am scheduled to start paying back this July, I may not get a job because I am not "qualified!" I graduated in Dec 04 from one the finest educational institutions in the country with my BS in Special Education, turned 45 in January, and the single parent of a very talented high school senior who is college bound this fall. I have also begun working on my master's in educational administration. The three classes I am taking this spring semester cost me close to two grand out-of-pocket. My plans for summer were to take another two to three classes. Notice the "were." At this point, I am not sure what I should be doing. In order for me to obtain this administrative certificate I will have to have two years teaching experience. What the heck am I suppose to do?

I think that depending on the area of special ed it wouldn't be an ordeal. I am certified in Cognitive (Mental) Impairment. CI is about making major adaptations and trying to get them ready to have a more job oriented life rather than college/career oriented life. This is not to say that there are not students who have CI that go onto college, but it is to say that there are very few.

Those in other areas such as Physical Impairments, Otherwise Health Impaired, Learning Disabilities, etc. may have more of a problem with this issue. In addition, I don't understand why would they add additional requirements of soon-to-be special ed teachers to an already rigorous program (at least here in Michigan)? I attended Eastern Michigan Univ. and the College of Special Ed has much more in the way of requirements that well surpass any other area in the College of Ed. If anything, I think we need to have more of a concern for the general ed teachers who are teaching our mainstreamed special ed students, which brings me to a question that I have been pondering since NCLB was developed.

D mcnair had already started to touch on this idea. What is going to happen with the inclusion process in general education? Are those general teachers going to be required to get a special ed degree because they are technically not certified to teach that special ed student(s) that were mainstreamed?

I can't believe that after finishing my master's degree at Northwestern, gaining many extra graduate credit hours and working in special education for 25 years that I am now "unfit" to teach my students. I could have easily gotten a degree in math, English, or any of the other subject areas that I teach, but chose to teach in special education. I fulfilled all the requirements for my job and work HARD. I am currently working on 40 IEP's in my "spare" time. My students in self-contained classes work at about the fourth grade level at best and do not need a teacher who can teach them calculus! Why don't legislators get down to the classrooms to see what we do and how we do it? The only result of this legislation will be to drive teachers out of the field. I certainly don't recommend going into special education any more to college-bound students at my high school!

I appreciate everyone's concern over the so-called "highly qualified" special education teacher. I'm currently a special education teacher who is in charge of a department with approximately 100 students who are qualified for special education services. We have looked at the law and decided to change our programming. We have moved to a consult model in our building to meet the demands of NCLB. I currently have no teaching assignment, however, I'm in charge of all case management issues, consulting with teachers on a regular basis, and administrate all special educaiton meetings. The majority of our students who are LD, ED, LI, etc. our in the mainstream classroom. I have to work closely with each teacher to make sure the modifications and accomodations are being met for each student. For those teachers who are in the SDRR Room, it is our district's understanding that teachers with that particular endorsement are considered "highly qualified" to teach those subject areas. One thing school districts might do is look at there programming. Instead of offering class sections titled SPED Math, Reading, and Written Language, for SDRR Students change the sections to Daily Living Skills and incorportate the Math, Reading and Written Language into the program requirements. This will help you get around the NCLB for SDRR teachers.

Sorry, I can not sit here reading all the input and not add comment. As an LD parent with LD children I am overwhelmed that is the law to send my children to school. We are trying to change the law to educate all children. I need to mention as in an earlier message "gramatical errors". You have no idea how difficult it is to write and how one feels so inadequte in doing so. My children experience this daily but even with statistic saying we have poor scores, children in America are not learning, I have to fight and prove my children are being left behind.
So yes I am sure it is a slap in the face to our underpaid, overworked, but in need of change teachers. I commend President Bush on finally taking such huge steps for all children. As a mom with very bright children who did not fit the everyday teaching in a class feels doomed. When you have to sign a contract (IEP) to learn how to read when we know many children do not read well, that shows something is wrong. Then to hear in the meeting "you dont want us to get him on every issue, you had better sign the IEP" I can not express how damaging it is to a mom. Teachers you need to stand up to your bosses for all children. Thank God for NCLB!!!

After reading everyone's comments, I can only wonder how this administration was "re-elected".
I have been in the profession of education for more than 30 years--19 in the public school classroom, have three degrees in education, and 2 teaching licenses with three endorsements. I wonder when we are going to get to make the decisions about education instead of politicians who have no clue what goes on in the classroom or what research says about teaching and learning.

We need a good old-fashion strike.

God had nothing to do with NCLB. He would never go near such a kneejerk reaction to a very serious problem in our country. There are many ways informed, caring people could address the issues facing education. NCLB is not one of them. This is nothing more than an attempt to insure that schools (and teachers and, especially students) fail so that public education in our country will be privatized. At that time,we will have to bring God back into our discussion..."God help us".

The lament from SpEd teachers seems to come from a perceived disrespect in NCLB by using the language "highly qualified," with the implication that, suddenly, these teachers are not. When one's profession appears jeopardized, particularly after many years of study and devotion to their students, one can understand that the language may sound threatening on the face of it. However, both the language and the intent are extremely respecting of students with special educational needs -- finally. The least restrictive environment (LRE) guarantees of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), a requirement that is 30 years old this year (yes, 30!) may finally be understood and realized through these simple, yet powerful words in NCLB. The concept of segregation and "separate is not equal" is widely understood in regards to racial inequality. But for an existing underlying prejudice (buried, or disbelieved as it may be) that those with disabilities are inherently not equal, I believe, the educational system still can't quite "get it" as segregation is played out daily, consistently and with no questioning, let alone uproar, in thousands upon thousands of segregated special education classrooms across the US. One will find, upon analysis of their own systems, that students are often segregated simply because it's easier for the adults in the educational system, not as an appropriate or well-conceived response to a child's individualized educational need (let alone social/community needs, which are severely impacted by such settings). As one comment finally touched upon, there are many ways to programmatically solve the NCLB "highly-qualified" insistence, and that is to ensure, all these years later, and after countless struggles to "belong," that the education of students with disabilities finally is looked upon as the responsibility of their school principals and general ed teachers. The highly-qualified requirement is aptly solved by evolving into more inclusive educational institutions -- a move that could have, should have, happened years ago for these students. Just a few examples are: Gen-ed/SpEd team teaching, carved-out time for collaborative Gen ed/SpEd partnerships and staff development, classroom "push in," ("pull-out," even, if appropriately individualized) by SpEd teachers and specialists with undisputed and highly-qualified skills that enable them to support students with disabilities and their NCLB-compliant (i.e. credentialed in core curriculum subjects) gen-ed teachers in the general ed classroom. The difficult part, it seems, is 1) overcoming fear of change, and 2) assembling substantial educational leadership to institute policies and programmatic planning to guarantee that ALL children have the opportunity and advantages of a quality education, regardless of "difference." By taking full advantage of the resources we already have, very few, if any, need to go "back to school." We simply need to go "back to school" on our thinking and pull our separate systems together. Every one of us wins, children most of all.

I'm a highly qualified special education teacher for middle and high schoolers in that I am also certified in Advanced Math, English, History and other subjects by having passed the state subject area certification tests in those areas. However, I can see where someone less dedicated to special ed than I am with the same qualifications would say "Hey, I don't HAVE to teach special ed or do that mountain of paperwork to teach. So long, special ed." I'm all for standards. But they don' think these things through. It's not like most teachers are just dying for the opportunity to put up with the paperwork and parents I put up with.

I have been a special education teacher for 27 years and have spent the majority on the high school level. Special Ed will never be considered highly qualified under NCLB as long as the standards are tied to content knowledge and not the skills that it takes to truly impart that content. Qualified special ed teachers have a different set of skills: knowing how to teach one skill in multiple ways; how to manage classrooms filled with students with emotional and behavioral issues; redesigning curriculum to meet individual needs; interpreting data and making instructional decisions and the list goes on. If a special ed teacher cannot teach content and skills that we expect a high schooler to know, no matter what the area, then they should not be teaching. In states that do not address this issue through HOUSSE or other means, our most vulnerable students will be left with teachers who are probably not content certified, but probably not special ed certified either.

I can't help but comment after reading all the concerns posted by mostly teachers. I have 4 children and 4 grandchildren. My youngest child, age 12 years, 9 months is my only special-ed child and currently in the 6th grade in Terrebonne Parish public schools, Houma, Louisiana. He is currently reading anywhere from the 2nd grade to 4th grade level, depending on which evaluation sub-test score you are looking at - all the while struggling to achieve academic progress at the 6TH GRADE CURRICULUM LEVEL. Academic progress is simply not happening according to objective evaluations (4 total-2, I paid for & 2 the school system conducted after being forced since I had hired an attorney and dragged them into mediation), yet the SCHOOL SYSTEM CONTINUES TO TELL ME HE IS FUNCTIONING AT GRADE LEVEL, which couldn't be A BIGGER LIE. I can sincerely sympathize with the teachers, although I have a totally different perspective after being a special-ed mom for the last 7 1/2 years. The road I've lived trying to get adequate and appropriate services for my son(although he has always been in Title I funded schools)can only be described as the journey from hell. There have been widespread damages to my son, educationally and psychologically, that he will never recover from. Things got so bad, he was threatening to commit suicide by the end of the 4th grade if I forced him to go to school. He is diagnosed with a speech/fluency/articulation disorder, Dyslexia, and ADD Inattentive Type.

Yet, I can honestly say the problems encountered has not been with his teachers, with exception of one regular ed teacher who practiced disability harrassment/abuse in the 4th grade by targeting a group of children (where he was a member)with learning deficits and learning disabilities consistently punishing them for academic deficiencies. He was thrown in detention 98% of his recesses the entire school year because he kept getting the answers wrong on his academic tests; primarily due to fact he could not read at grade level even when it came to directions stated on tests. He is an A-conduct student, none of the detention was for behavior. He received F's on nearly every test in the classroom -yet ended up with straight C's on his report card and passed for the school year. So how did that happen? Anyone can "cook the books" by "grade inflation" when you have to present a facade that you are teaching the child - after the child's mother and her big mouth exposed the existing child abuse to the School System Administration Office. How did they resolve the problem? By doing nothing. The teacher continues to teach in that same school. Knowing my child would never survive another year there, I moved the family. Then I moved again one year later, as a result of daily bus bullying assault where administration again did nothing. I'm not moving again unless it is to move him completely out of this ailing school district and ailing special education system.

Like I stated before, the problems have not primarily been his teachers - the problems center around a school district that blatently continues to violate policies and procedures of IDEA. They continue collecting Title I funds, although the funding never has reached my son and many others in the way of services. There is no accountability to school districts regarding IDEA & NCLB. Leave the teachers alone - and focus on the big boys in the main office of the local school districts, those with the $50,000 + salaries (who believe they can continue hiding the truth by meticulously creating paperwork and reports that looks good for the LA Dept. of Education) -local district administrators that could care less about the kids or whether special-ed kids receive the services they are entitled to under Federal law. From what I've seen, the teachers sincerely care about the kids, but the real problem is when they see IDEA violations or at-risk kids and try to intervene - they are held by the throat of their meager paychecks and prevented from taking action by the bureaucracy - their bosses in the main office.

The real problem also lies with principals designing IEP's who have absolutely no training and no clue of IDEA. EDUCATE THE EDUCATORS ABOUT FEDERAL LAWS should be the 1st agenda - those designing IEP's. My son has had dysfunctional IEP's that have not provided FAPE for the last
7 1/2 years. Not 1 of his IEP's have centered around or stated his academic needs - the most important factor; not to mention fact there has never been "an IEP team" with the parent since the designated members come in the room "one at a time" to sign on the required paperwork and leaves. And, after they educate the educators, they need to educate the parents as to what rights are guaranteed to their special ed children under IDEA. It wasn't before I went back to school at age 45 and got a paralegal degree, learning how to research and read the law, that I could visibly see the multitude of IDEA procedural violations. My son has never had the luxury of having any special ed teachers to teach him any subject matter. The only few times (less than 5 times & only in the last 2 school years) special ed teachers have been around him were to administer academic test assigned by his regular ed teachers outside the classroom - not to teach him the material, but to supply accommodations - whereby my son has told me he and the other special-ed kids were allowed "to copy the answers off the Special Ed teacher's answer sheet." And, I guess I'm expected to believe he learned the material since he passed the test under such circumstances. His report cards have become the biggest joke there is. Tests where he isn't supplied the answers, he fails - yet, he still ends up with C's on his report card due to "grade inflation."

I'm getting ready to request a revised IEP meeting - and no doubt there will be resistance and perhaps even a war to deal with. I do not want to fight with the school district - I only want my child to learn how to read. Is that too much to ask for? If my child doesn't give up and drops out and somehow makes it to graduation, he will graduate as functionally illiterate as things currently stand. The windows of opportunity are closing for him - but, this mom isn't about to give up yet. To give up would be to fail him.

I, too, have been told after 15 years in the special education classroom that I am not highly qualified. This is after taking more classes than my reg ed peers as an undergraduate, earning a masters degree in Learning Disablities, and proving to the state that I qualified for a Special Education Teacher Consultant endorsement under the State rules. I'm not as bad off as some as I've been told I only have to take and pass the Elementary Skills test to become highly qualified. My gripe is that someone so far removed from education is making the decision that I'm not qualified after I have educated, parented, counseled,championed, clothed,and befriended hundreds of students who no one else would have. Being a special educator goes way beyond providing a textbook education so they can pass a test. This country will regret forcing thousands out of special education by not making them "highly qualified."

As a parent of a child with special learning needs I receive a "slap in the face," from all the teachers who suggest that my child does not need/deserve teachers who are highly qualified in a content area. This doesn't mean that his special education teachers have been slackers, or unintelligent or not well educated. In a system that has long overlooked, and worse, the needs of special education students, those "rescuers" who have taken them into their self-contained classroom have provided islands of relief where at least our children are less likely to be bullied, ignored or abused.

But this does not mean that they have been well educated. As a certified teacher, I have taught adult learners outside my area of certification. I can say that I was better than no teacher, maybe better than others--but in no way could I perform as well outside my area of expertise as I could within. In addition, I took over from a teacher whose certification was in another subject--it was clear to me that she had deficits in my subject area. Not to mention that teaching four core subjects, plus ESL, literacy, and covering students at many levels (with and without learning disabilities) meant that I did little more than try to locate the most appropriate self-learning resources from a file of worksheets, answer questions for the stuck and persistent, grade papers and handle paperwork. I know that the quality I offered was minimal--still the best that the structure and funding would allow. This is a situation that I expect special ed teachers (who have many more resources available than my adult learners had access to) are familiar with.

The fact that students deserve more and better does not mean that their teachers are not hard working or intelligent, or highly qualified to adapt and modify content for their learners. But the self-contained model has inherent problems that were recognized long ago in IDEA. Changing the name of the Sped Room to Resource Room, did not mean that the services of special ed were providing an additional resource to the existing general ed content. It meant that students continued to be segregated, and content "dumbed down," not only to accommodate student "needs" but also to accommodate a structure that required more than any single teacher could deliver on with quality and integrity.

Special Ed teachers ought to be leading the charge for their students to take a place with their peers in classrooms taught by teachers highly qualified in content areas--enriched by the considerable knowledge of Special Education to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of all.

To Christine, the special ed. parent, may God bless you and give you continued strength. Do not give up. You are your son's greatest advocate and you are the professional when it comes to his needs. Most people do not understand the meaning of LRE. It does not mean ALL students being educated with their peers! For some, this is feasible, for others there is a need for more intensive instruction. I wish the other parent who wrote" special education teachers ought to be leading the charge for their students to take a place with their peers...." would go back and read your post. Does she or he have a son or daughter on 2nd grade reading level sitting in a 5th or above grade level Science class? Now as a special education teacher, I know the child needs to increase his/her reading level and this should be the focus of my instruction (per IEP). But no, I need to get certified in Science to make sure he/she learns the content. Well, I could do this but it just doesn't make sense to me when the most IMPORTANT thing is and will be his READING LEVEL. It will affect all subject areas and his/her future in LIFE. With NCLB, this student will learn Science with his peers. Not by reading but by being read to or listening to books on tape and other such modifications to the curriculum. Please, someone tell me how this is really going to help the child. Are the politicians interested in helping students? No, they just want that certain standardized test score to be in the upper percentile. In a few years people will look back on this and say, "What were they thinking?" In the meantime, parents hang in there (special ed. teachers may become a thing of the past)and demand that IDEA is followed.
As far as regular ed. teachers getting special ed. certification--when they find out they will then be required to do the paperwork--well, you know that route.

To Susan--I do have a son whose low reading level is a major barrier to his moving forward in the text-based science, social studies and other curricula. Does this mean that his special ed instructors are reading specialists who are diligently working to improve his reading level while accommodating the regular ed curriculum by assuring that content is delivered via other means? No. His special education teachers are too overwhelmed with delivering all content across three grade levels with the most challenging students to do much accommodating, other than offering circle the right answer work sheets and trying to maintain order. To get someone actually trained in reading instruction, we have to go beyond the building resources and may get some out of school tutoring later in the year.

Meanwhile, the special ed teachers are too busy trying to add PD in content areas, rather than keeping up to date on Universal Design for Learning, Diferentiated Instruction, or any of the things that might really provide my son access to the regular ed curriculum. The system can't really offer inclusion, because the Special Ed teachers are too busy delivering content in the "resource rooms."

Hi all, First Christine Price, Special-ed Mom Many hugs girl. I too have traveld the same broken maze for over 12 years. Very exhausting and I have come to know educators and very dishonest people in the administration and district level that hold back our valuable teacher who do want the best for children. Second, Gwendolyn Gibson, Ph.D. You have the best advise on the entire message board. I hope you have read Sally Shaywitz, "Overcoming Dyslexia". The research department with the Dept of Ed certainly is looking at "Gold Standard" and has with the Presidents Commission on Special Education heard much from experts.

Many of the comments should be given as advise on the www.rac-ed.org website. Taking comments on how to improve the techinal assistance for your own regions. Make you input count and pass this along to parents, teachers so we can help close the acheivement gap.

I praise so much of NCLB just hope it is not to late for mine. I as Christine can not give up but must say it has consumed and ruined our lives fighting for the right to read, write, and do math.

Contributing to the problems schools have in finding highly qualified teachers for special education actually benefits the school budget. The school claims teacher shortages while paying regular education teachers, long-term substitutes and paraprofessionals less money to do the actual teaching. These people do not know how to teach special needs kids and they don't know special education laws. This saves the district MONEY. Special education is being phased-out right under our noses--can you say I-N-C-L-U-S-I-O-N? Lew

And, when states refuse NCLB, as they are starting to do, the federal government saves money because they don't have to subsidize non-compliant states. I don't know all the in's and out's, but I do know it's not about quality teachers and better-prepared students-it's a money game. "Hey, I've got an idea, let's decrease funding and services and make it look like we're raising standards!"

I come from the other end of the spectrum. I have been teaching regular education for over 30 years in California. I have a lot of respect for those of you who are specialists in this area. Every child from our Special Day class is mainstreamed for some portion of the day. I am not trained in dealing with some of the severe disabilities (ie severe autism) these children have and find myself turning to their aides! Quite frankly, our district does not do a good job of training these aides (often time they are young college students). My students and I are very welcoming. I find that given the proper diection my students are very accepting (until a students behavior becomes frightening to them.) I don't believe that I am properly prepared to deal with the many issues that come up in my classroom with these children. I wish there was something that our districts could or would do to support the regular ed. teacher. How do the parents of these special ed. students feel about their children being in a classroom with a regular ed. teacher who really doesn't know how to handle these students? It seems to me that the students are best helped by a teacher who has been trained to deal with their behaviors. How do other districts support this situation? Any advise or information about what is going on in other states?

www.rac-ed.org

Please add your teacher comments as to what your needs are.

testing

If you really want to know what parents and advocates think, go to:

www.reedmartin.com/

Chat room tonight!!!

Lew

I am highly qualified. I am certified in special education, elementary education and reading. If I am required to become certified in math and language arts, my students will be put in inclusion classes. I am not paid enough and I do not have the time to devote to another field of study. The big losers in all of this will be the students. They will be in an environment that does not promote learning at their level. Sorry.

I hear you. :( Last I knew, Kansas has "Full Inclusion" which means mandatory inclusion, which means special education teachers become consultants, at best. Worst case scenario, special education teachers become a "sign-off" on IEP's that state the child needs inclusion in all classes. SpEd teachers are, nationwide, going to be doing less and less actual teaching because low ratio (1:8) classrooms cost districts too much money. Kids get lost in the shuffle and eventually drop out (read: are forced out) of school. All this is done under the facade of improving services while cutting costs--ya can't do both! Bottom line, SpEd students AND SpEd teachers are being forced out of schools. Good luck to you and all the other good teachers-I gave up (forcibly).

Thanks so much Susan/SpEd teacher and Kate for your kind words of encouragement. It is greatly appreciated. I've been so busy the last few days dealing with professional denwits, there has been very little time to spare.

I attended the monthly parent-teacher conference Monday(2 days after my last post)and was shocked to have another IDEA Procedural Safeguard violation drop in my lap. There has been so many over the last 8 years you would think I should be used to it by now. What a joke for a school system? Five minutes into the meeting, after I and my son's teachers had said our greetings, the principal hands me my son's IEP signed last November. The problem is - she had independently instructed my son's speech teacher to add 2 pages to the IEP report - WITHOUT ANY PARENT PARTICIPATION, DISCUSSION WITH ME, nor ANY NOTIFICATION OF SUCH nor ANY IEP REVISED MEETING - a BIG no-no under IDEA.

Keep in mind, I've never made them informed that I obtained a Paralegal degree a year ago and know the law, nor that I have 136 college credit hours into a Government Bachelors degree with a Criminal Justice Concentration. All they know is I'm a licensed florist in a grocery store and owned a flower shop for 18 years prior- so to them I'm just a mom who works in a grocery store. There is no greater passion than one built through self-experience. Who knows? I may even decide to go to law school and specialize in Special Education law after this Pre-law degree is finished - and fight for all the kids whose rights are being railroaded and violated like my son's rights have been. They also don't know that I've been a legal advocate since 1999 fighting for and defending the rights of kids in abuse cases - so this is just another area of need for kids.

I guess they have now figured out I'm not some 'dumb' mom. The meeting lasted a half-hour. I went home and called the LA Department of Education, Special Education Department in Baton Rouge and reported what took place and more. After hearing me out, she told me to relax and go drink a cup of coffee while she made a few phone calls to Terrebonne Parish, Looneytuneville, USA.

Within 20 minutes, I received a phone call from the local district's Director of Special Ed very politely requesting a phone conference with me. She had already called the principal at my son's school who had flew to her office across town - after they were made informed about my phone call to SEA. They both apologized over and over "for the misunderstanding"(sure) and requested we schedule a revised IEP meeting for next Monday to discuss matters. The local Special Ed Director has even invited herself to my son's IEP meeting. She perfectly knows that principal will need some help - yea, and they better call in all the troops. The 6-page letter I sent today to all of them, including the Superintendent, sure supplied them with lots of things to think about this weekend. Enough is enough!!! And, it isn't over until the fat angel sings!! I don't want the war - I just want my child to read, like I said before. But, since they decided to start it, I will finish it. And, when all else fails and they don't wake up and abide by the law, they will receive the 10 day notice that I'm pulling my son out of their hostile environment, hiring an attorney, and sueing them for private school tuition. Who knows, I might even find some caring Special Education teacher -who left the system - to teach him. I'm a mom first and foremost - and I have to do what I have to do for my child. Good luck to all dealing with it like the rest of us!!

My son had IEP/504 modificationsp in place for 6th grade. They didn't emphasize anything about homework modifications. I requested the school 3 times to meet to get the modifications in place. Well now we are down to the last 3 months of school and he is danger of failing. As of today, we still haven't met. I am irritated because I feel that I have failed him in taking care of this matter. The school tried other options first like have him work with a buddy etc., which I told them that it doesn't work. I would like to know others opinion. What can I do to PREVENT him from failing. His grades are high 60's but due to homework assignemnts. He doesn't have time to study for tests due to the time it takes do do homework. I got really upset this past week and asked for a meeting they claim it will be next week.

To: lynntx
Check out www.wrightslaw.com
You will find an overload of information you need to know to be an effective Special Ed mom advocating for your child.

Also, I'm assuming the meeting they are calling is a revised IEP meeting. Request they add more accommodations in the areas he needs them (like to shorten homework assignments). Make sure you request all the things you want to add to his IEP at this meeting. They have 10 days under IDEA to schedule the meeting after you request it.

Also, there are many differences between 504 and IDEA. Check that out on the website I stated above. I bought a few of the books off that website and they are worth their weight in gold - especially Special Education Law, No Child Left Behind, and From Emotions to Advocacy. All provide an abundance of information.

If your child has a Section 504 plan and does not receive special education services under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)- you need to completely know the differences. I don't know enough information about your particular case, but in the book I mentioned it says this very important point: IF THE CHILD HAS A DISABILITY THAT ADVERSELY AFFECTS EDUCATIONAL PERFORMANCE, THE CHILD IS COVERED UNDER IDEA. The keys words are "adversely affects educational performance."

What kind of IEP does your child have?

The child who receives protections under Section 504 has fewer rights than the child who receives special education services under IDEA.

Lots of Luck at your meeting. You are far from alone.

To Christine, go MOM! If the educational system had more parents like you participating, well, it would be a better place. The best interest of the child, within reason, has always been upheld in the court systems. Please follow your passion to aid and assist other students in special education.

In reality, principals often tell parents this "can or cannot" be done without authority or reason to do so. Further, schools promote inclusion because it saves them space. Now I'm not saying that some students should not be included. I am saying that many students need more intensive instruction that can not be provided in the regular classroom. This may be in reading, math, or social skills. Bottom line is the child and what his/her needs are.

Having been an inclusion teacher for three years, I can tell you it was a nightmare. No clear federal or state guidelines exist and haven't for the last 10 years as far as the allowed numbers. My classes consisted of over half the students with special needs in behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and/or mild intellectual disabilities. So in a regular science class of 30 students I may have had 5 with learning disabilities(varies from difficulties with basic reading, reading comprehension, written expression, math calculation, math reasoning, listening comprehension and/or oral expression), 5 with behavioral disorders (many times with severe disruptive behaviors), and 5 with mild intellectual disabilities (IQ ranging between 65-85 in my classes)and 15 regular education students. Tell me in a 55 time period how I am to serve these 15 students with individual needs. You can talk about modification and accommodations all you want. It was not in the best interest of any of these children. It simply saved the school money. These 55 minute time periods were utilized to teach math, science, social studies, and language arts. There was no time to teach reading, basic math skills, or social skills and this is what all these students needed.Their achievement levels ranged from pre-K to grade level. You can put the two systems together but that does not mean that it is in the best interest of all the students.

I applaud all parents and if you do not agree with me, it could be your child belongs in the regular education setting. If that is the case, then certainly, stand up for your child. But please keep in mind the students who are not successful in the regular education setting. Expecting ALL students to be a successful part of this setting is unfair to teachers, parents, and students.

As far as accountability, this should be based on the progress of the student. If the student is on a second grade reading level, the minimum progress expected should be to advance to third grade level within the year. But keep in mind, the teacher must also be allowed to TEACH reading. Serving this student in social studies and then holding this teacher accountable for reading progress is absurd. Resource classes work when schools allow the special education teachers to do their jobs.

The parents make the choice to listen to the politicians or to their children. NCLB is a good thought but all children will never be on the same level - due to biological and environmental factors. If the government wants "no child left behind", then they must allow students to be educated based on their needs!

The NCLB behind HQ standards for special education teachers it makes it nearly impossible to for anyone whose first degree was not in education to get into the field.

Everyone agrees teachers need to be qualified, but to what extent? Education is the only career I can think of in the U.S. where you are required to have 2 degrees (or in my case a B.A., and 2 M.A.) and not get paid for it. It costs teachers more to become HQ than what they get paid once they become teachers.

The most alarming thing about NCLB is not that hundreds of teachers with master's degree are now considered not qualified to teach, but that sp. ed students are "getting left behind."

Mandates that do not consider the needs of each individual student will not produce better students. The goal of all special ed teachers is to have their students functioning on the highest level possible...and for some students that might be working at 2 grade levels below their peers. All children are not born with IQs in the average range or the ability to memorize numerous facts. To ask students to perform well above their ability is demeaning and unjust. These students will now spend endless hours working on skills they may never master, but miss out on being taught skills they will need to survive independently after school.

I find it unreasonable to think you can judge a teacher's competency on the progress of a student, if the teacher is not allowed to actually teach. A child will never learn a skill if it is not taught. Accommodations and modifications are great, but they aren't teaching. In fact, they are almost like saying we know you will never learn how to do this so we will just make a few exceptions for you.

I wonder how many parents would care if their child’s student was HQ, if they understood what HQ actually meant. I can’t convince people I know outside of education that I’m not HQ. All they can say is “but you have your master’s.”

These changes mean many things for different players. I can understand the resentment of teachers not being viewed as being highly qualified. But who realistically believes that the federal government is going to come in and serve these classrooms that are without a qualified teacher?

To sp.ed. parent who posted a while back. Your son needs specific skill instruction in reading via the "resource room". He will never get this in regular classes or any inclusion model. I know your desire is for him to be educated with his peers but he will fall further behind every year he does not get this instruction. I teach high school students who have been served in inclusion classes for 10-12 years now. Yes, some of them are 3rd year repeaters in 9th grade. Their parents cannot understand after all these years of insisting they be with their peers (we also offered resource classes during this time) why their son or daughter cannot read, write, or do simple 3rd grade math. Our program offers instruction in basic reading, writing, and math skills but the most we can hope for before they turn 19 (and quit school!) is to try to bring them up to at least 5th grade reading level. Most of these students can't handle anything over 3rd grade because they have been "read" to, their assignments modified, and passed on to the next grade in the inclusion classrooms. I don't know how old your son is now, but please consider his future.

All special ed. teachers know what is coming - the end of resouce and self contained classes because it is impossible to achieve the "highly qualified" status with the requirement of four to five content areas. The politicians did this and parents are the only ones who can change it.

I just pity the kids who are going to be stuck in the system for the next 10-12 years. Our Psycho ed. center is planning to close its' doors in the year 2006. All the autistic, suicidal, behavior disordered kids will be sitting alongside your son with their peers.

This is what America wants, this is what America will get. Go charter schools!Which, by the way is the governments true intent - to allow voucher for private schools - and parents will be demanding them across the country in less than three years.

Schools as we know them, will close due to lack of funds that will have to be diverted to the prison systems to house all these high school drop outs that were never taught to read and write. They don't do inclusion in the business world. These students will have NO CHOICES in life with such low reading and math levels. Some won't even be able to fill out an application if they wanted to get a job. They will rob your houses during the day while you are at work. They will steal cars and sell drugs to survive.

If my child could not read on grade level I would help him in any way I could as a parent. He may "want" to be in regular classes but is that in his best interest? Some parents just want to pacify and give their children anything they want. Go ahead parents, but when they grow up the real world awaits......

If I had one wish and be allowed to turn back the clocks of time to when my child first entered the public school system 8 years ago, that wish would be that he would have been afforded the luxury of having just one of the Special Ed teachers posting on this site. Thanks for all the encouragement!

Wow, so much has happened since I last posted on 03/05/05 about this Looneytuneville, USA journey through Special Ed in Houma, Louisiana - I don't even know where to start. However, I do know where I ended it this past Monday - I actually walked out the revised IEP meeting refusing to sign the proposed draft IEP. By the looks on all their faces, you'd swear I made history as the first Special-Ed Mom who ever did that to them in the history of their school system.

I attended their revised IEP meeting March 7th - scheduled to rectify the IDEA procedural violation they committed by the school adding 2 pages to my son's IEP signed at the beginning of the year without ever notifying me (they don't want to provide services to help him academically all school year - such as the biggie he needs, RESOURCE CLASS ONE-ON-ONE INTENSIVE REMEDIATION INSTRUCTION IN READING & WRITING -but, sure let's give him all the modifications/accommodations so he can pass the IOWA.) So easy to figure them out and their mentality!! Let's cover our butts with State Accountability Scores, being we are already in "School Improvement I" category with negative growth - Keep our 5.7 million of Title I funds in our parish coffers - and let the kid "sink or swim" when we dump him into a regular ed program without preparation or supports or remediation. What this town really needs and deserves is to be audited to see exactly where the Title I funds are going - because I can guarantee half the special ed and learning disabled kids that need the services are not getting them here!! Anybody know who I need to contact to request that????

At the revised IEP meeting held after I reported them to the state DOE with the IDEA procedural violation-they presented me with a draft IEP that was so shallow, ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL that I was forced to start quoting law right in the middle of the meeting. The thought did cross my mind - please, come on people, I'm supposed to be the MOM, not the educator to teach you the law that you are supposed to know & be already following and enforcing in the best interest of my child - the focus should always be the child and what his/her individualized needs are (within reason, just as Susan/Special Ed teacher said).

Hey, I will admit the draft IEP is a step up - and I guess I should be thankful they are at least waking up a little after all my whistle-blowing to the SEA. EVERY IEP the last 8 years was fully completed in advance before the meeting, preventing any parental participation, and was literally copied year-to-year as a "Speech Only - IEP" never addressing my child's academic deficits in reading and writing - although it is plastered all over the records since Kindergarten. They never had "real" IEP team meetings for the last 8 years - they came in the room one at a time signing the required paperwork, then leaving.

They also never monitored or tracked his progress (or lack thereof, being measured as regression today 8 years later)although mandated by Federal law under IDEA. They also never evaluated him every 3 years, also mandated by Federal law under IDEA. The school system evaluated at the end of the "transitional" first grade year he failed - then not again until this year - 6th grade. And every year in-between when it was requested - the principals and School Building Level Committee (gatekeepers to Special Ed referrals)prevented the referrals like brick walls of obstruction. Now, after 5 evaluations during the last year, I'm finding out my son has Dyslexia, ADD-Inattentive Type, co-existing with his well-documented Speech Disability. No child suddenly gets Dyslexia or ADD in the 6th grade. It is obvious all my concerns stated over the last 8 years fell on very deaf ears.

Well, after all why would he need to be evaluated - they created his school records into the grande "facade" of all times - of an average student - by use of strategies of grade inflation, participation/attendance A grades to offset and hide the F's he was really making independently on tests, social promotion tactics, etc.

This has become a real nightmare - or better yet the one they perpetuated and created!! I now have a son who will turn 13 years old next month going to the 7th grade who has Woodcock-Johnson "Word-Attack" skills with an age equivalent of 7.10 years, Grade Equivalent 2.3, 14 Percentile;
Basic Reading Skills with an age equivalent of 8.9 years, Grade Equivalent 3.5, 17th Percentile; Oral Fluency Reading Skills below 3rd grade benchmarks; Phonics Skills below 3rd grade level; Comprehensive Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test skills of 8 years, 9 months,12th Percentile; and Written Expression II (Prompt A)Developmental Scaled Score=2, Grade-based Stanine=1, Written Language Percentile Rank = 4.

All of these red flags of facts - yet the professional denwits have continued to try to convince me that my son is #1 an average student, #2 functioning at grade level curriculum which is the end of the 6th grade currently, #3 just and "only" needs accommodations/ modifications (WHICH SERVE TO 'MASK' DEFICITS ON TESTS,and give paraprofessionals an excuse or way to give them answers when taking test in small group out the classroom (which I brought the "B+ Super Work" test in at Monday's IEP meeting with all the questions circled that she had provided answers for him - rather than allowing my son to independently take his test)- which only proved my point made at last month's meeting "The report cards issued at this school is not worth the paper they are written on." They just don't get it - I want to see my son's progress, not how much the paras and teachers know by giving him the answers. What good are A's, B's, and C's if your child doesn't even know how to read. And, this is far from the 1st time.

One week after the 1st revised IEP meeting last month where a draft IEP was presented - and not signed - another procedural violation. The principal used the "UNSIGNED DRAFT IEP" to give him accommodations/modifications on the IOWA - which of course resulted in another whistle-blowing letter to the State DOE. The Special Ed Supervisor then made the comment at last Monday's meeting "it seems you have a problem with parental participation." No, there is no problem - just with prevention of parental participation and weasel attempts to undermine my parental responsibilities to ensure my son has an adequate educational program!!!

Well, back to Monday with the Draft IEP. After all of the aforesaid, they have decided to propose to provide remediation to my son. They still refuse to classify him under "Specific Learning Disability." There is only one reading specialist, as I am told, and she is at a different school across town. There is no Reading First - but, there is Voyager Reading Program - anybody every heard of that one??? They have given all the instruction books of the program to my son's "Speech" teacher - to undergo ON-THE-JOB training WHILE she teaches my son through this reading program. And the only way they propose measuring my son's progress is through "Teacher Observation." They are refused to "objectively" test him to monitor educational benefit. They told me "we can't guarantee that." And,this "what they are calling intensive reading instruction - remediation" is to be conducted by adding an extra 30 minutes a week to his speech sessions. Is that an adequate educational program to remediate over 2 years of deficits and regression?? Just what turnip truck do these people think I fell off of - is the real question???? I politely walked out the room with the UNSIGNED Draft IEP in my hand which would be better used as toilet paper!!!

To Christine Price, Special-ed Mom
Please clarify - you said they refuse to classify your son under "Specific Learning Disability." Has he ever had this classification? Does he qualify under federal guidlines? Check this out first.

Wow, it seems you are fighting a losing battle. Re-group, make an appointment with the Special Ed. Director in your county school system. Although your points are valid, approach the director from the standpoint that, as a parent, you are frustrated and disappointed with what has happened in the past. Now this is very important. He/she cannot "fix" things that have happened in the past with this school system. Take documentation, dates, times, people, situations, and outcomes to "briefy" give him/her a background. Focus on the present and future for your son. I know you are in the fighting mode (and what parent wouldn't be) but it seems the school has taken a defensive stand. Tell the director that you want to work with the school and not against them for the sake of your son.He should be able to offer solutions to what is going on here.

Your next step should be to form a parents organization to enlighten others of your knowledge. Teachers cannot fix what they are mandated to do by their bosses, i.e. principals, superindendents, governors, and all the way up to the president. NCLB is really pushing inclusion classes for "content" instruction. Parents and the media are the only ones who can bring the focus back to the IEP and individualized instruction under IDEA. Granted, that has not always happened in the past but special education has never been allowed to operate as it should. The funding is the problem and this is mostly controlled by the schools with special education having little control over the principals in the school and the hiring of "reading specialist". Any special education teacher should be able to instrct your son in reading, if not the school should provide one that can.

School is almost at an end. This summer work with your son to practice reading and writing skills. Have him make grocery lists, to do lists, any small thing that will encourage him to read or write. People do not want to do things they are not successful with. But your son must practice these skills before he will improve. It's hard as a parent but try not to correct too much. Let him make mistakes and discover them on his own. Most of all read to him! Listening comprehension is alway higher than reading comprehension and this will increase his skills. Buy him books or magazines that he is interested in reading. Reward him for reading. Sometimes when you begin reading a book, kids will ger tinterested and finish it on their own. What are his interests? Tap into these and do everything you can to build his skills based on these interests. Tell him everyday that he can succeed. At this point, he probably has developed a lot of self doubt.

Good luck with your quest and don't give up on the school system. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. The school system may turn out to be your advocate in the end. They may want change as much as you do but their hands are tied due to other factors. I'm just trying to present the other point of view here.

Thanks again for replying, Susan. I understand everything you are saying and have done all of these things with my son. I have also tried diligently to work with the school system and the Special Education Department and the Supervisor of such. I spent 1 1/2 hours in her office Thursday talking about issues of all the reasons why I have not signed the IEP, the main thing being that the proposed draft IEP is not appropriately structured, missing things that are mandated by law to be in the IEP, and dysfunctional because the services being proposed is not appropriate or adequate in addressing the child's needs.

The situation has also changed, because the School Administration is now targeting my son with harassment and retaliation due to my refusal to sign the IEP as it is written. I discussed the issue with the Special Ed Supervisor when I was in her office. I informed her of the harrassment done on Wednesday, two days after I refused to sign the IEP. I requested she call the administration at the school and inform them that "if they were going to retaliate or harass anyone for my refusing the sign the IEP or my reports about their IDEA procedural violations to LA DOE, then come after mom - but, leave my special ed son who has been through hell and back the last 2 years in their hostile school environment ALONE.

Little did either of us know during the conversation in her office from 4:00-5:30 PM what had taken place earlier that day about 2PM at school. I returned home only to find out my son had been suspended for 3 days - out of school suspension - for having his jacket zipped during outside PE class activities. They didn't even call me which I have a really big problem with, including the fact that they violated their own school board written policy.

The game plan is to appeal the suspension, while at the same time provide a 10 day notice that I'm pulling him out that school. I've already contacted an attorney who I'm in the process of gathering records for. After discussing the matter, he agreed that the IEP will not result in academic benefit. The school system is not acting in good faith.

I've scheduled a comprehensive Independent Educational Evaluation to be conducted - especially directed at Dyslexia and related learning disabilities. When reviewing his file last week, I'm sure that some fraud took place regarding the evaluation the school system did last week. And I can guarantee you one thing, I will not stop searching for the truth. My son will receive an appropriate education to address his reading disabilities and deficits - even if that means borrowing the money to send him to the local Dyslexia school here. I've already toured the school, and also later brought my son for a tour to get his opinion. The thing he really responded to was the small classrooms. There are only about 30 kids in the whole school. The school works specifically on providing intensified instruction on the child's deficits - to bring them to grade level. Most of them have to stay there a few years, then they are able to go back to a regular school afterwards.

I just don't have the heart to send him back into the school where he is enrolled to suffer more continuing damages, academically or emotionally, that he may never recover from. I need $5200.00 a school year to send him to the dyslexia school. But, just how do you weight money when it comes to your child's future? He has had no educational benefit for the last 3 years according to all five of the evaluations/assessments done so far - starting at the end of the 4th grade. I'm getting the dyslexia evaluation done, because it is much more comprehensive than any of the other evaluations.

And, after it is all said and done, the school system can spend the $5.7 million of Title I funds they have in the parish coffers - not being used to provide services to all special ed kids- to defend their illegal actions and substandard educational practices in a court of law. There has been 8 years of chances and it just ain't Burger King anymore. They have to learn you don't always get it their way. Being school officials, the first priority should always be in following IDEA laws and protocols and act in the best interest of the students. And, they just haven't been doing that and worse, they refuse to do it. Maybe in the end of it all this situation can bring reform so that all the special education children in this parish don't have to suffer the way mine has. He is only one of many who have had their rights to an education violated, and that has been proven by the multitudes of others I've met having the same problems as I have had. Enough is enough!!

Christine,
What you are describing is reality in so many cases. I have found that laws can be written but this does not say that they will be enforced.

I think you have made the right decision about your son. Seems like the school is trying to "get out" of things by making it hard on your son.

Do not give up your fight. This is what the school expects you to do now. Send an outline of the events with the dates, to your congressmen and senators. President Bush also has an e-mail address you can look up through a search engine. Government officials need to know about situations such as this.

I am afraid what will happen to HUNDREDS of children when they are thrown in regular classrooms. The schools will use NCLB as their shield. Parents need to insist on IDEA regulations.

Thanks Susan for your encouragement once again. Go Girl!! Everything you are saying is already being worked on and planned. The first correspondence went out today to some of the appropriate State Board of Education offices.
I also sent the appeal letter to the Superintendent - it was 6 pages of details documenting things. I'm also sending a request letter to all of them to review their NCLB/IDEA FY2005 application for the Title I funds they receive from the state, and a request to know how much in Title I money has been sent to my child's school for the last 2 years he has been denied appropriate services - which no doubt will cause some cringing. I also requested a copy of the school's "Parental Involvement Policy"(since they are so good at violating it) under the FY2005 application, but they never sent it, so a 2nd request will be done to say that.

And, now that those two steps are done, it is time to go higher. I've been also thinking about the Office of Civil Rights in Washington, and the others you suggested. Consider it done, my friend. It is time this nation wake up to what is really happening with these Special Education children. And, it is long overdue time there is accountability for actions done and those not done. Like I told the Superintendent in my letter, it is not personal against any particular person in his school system. IT IS ALL ABOUT PERFORMANCE AND LACK THEREOF!!! And it is long overdue time to stop the destruction of defenseless handicapped children whose lives are being destroyed and their futures robbed.

I sent my child back to school yesterday to try to finish the school year, but not without telling the Superintendent it was against my better judgment as a parent. They started the war, but I will finish it - in due time. Sometimes you have to have patience and let things play out in order to have the evidence you need to move on to bigger things.

This ordeal has been the nightmare from hell - and I intend on contacting every government office I can. The wrong actions start from day one in Kindergarten and has lasted 8 years due to their negligence and actions of bad faith. My son will NOT be in this school system next year - which would give them the opportunity to cause him more harm. I am looking at all the alternatives, and trying to find ways to get the money. And, I have the summer to plan for next school year. It make take some sacrifices financially, but my son will receive the education he so justly deserves one way or the other. He will learn to read at his age and grade level - in spite of all the wrong this school system has done -that is the mission. He has to win in the end by getting an appropriate education - and he has to know that he is very much worth fighting for!!

I'm just curious. I attended public school K-12 in NYC. What did Special Education look like before inclusion? I remember when all the special ed kids were in an other classroom at my K-8 school. I also remember when one of the special ed kids joined the regular ed classroom in the 7th Grade. Our classes were tracked back then-high, mid and low. She was put into the the low group. I did some long term subbing and OH MY GOD! I just couldn't believe that these special ed kids were in my classroom. I really couldn't help them. They left the class for maybe two periods a day.
I'm sorry, I know that I'm not a real educator, but I just think inclusion doesn't make much sense. I know we want to protect kid's feeling, and parent's pride but aren't we hurting the general group of kids at large. I know parents who pay lost of money to send their kids to fancy private schools specifically for children with learning disabilities. It doesn't always mean that kids aren't smart, they just need to learn how to deal with their LD. But some kids are as dumb as rocks, let's face it. Shouldn't they be some where else.

Before inclusion some kids actually received the services outlined in their IEP. Inclusion was created shortly after special education certification was changed to "Interrelated". This meant that the special education teacher could teach LD, EBD, and MID students. Now, and here comes the sad part, this certification was created to allow teachers to move from an LD class, to an EBD class, to an MID class. Most rural areas did not have enought students for full time LD, EBD, or MID. One teacher could serve all these students.

Then the principals got together and decided that since sp.ed. teachers were Interrelated they could serve ALL areas in the SAME class. This saved them time, space, and money. This destroyed special education as we knew it. LD students are usually average to above average in intelligence. They just need specific help in one of seven deficit areas. EBD students range from low average to above.Their achievement is affected by their emotional and behavioral difficulties. MID students have lower intelligence and most are termed slow learners. This DOES NOT mean they cannot learn. They simply learn at a slower pace. Our educational system in their quest to save money put ALL these kids together in one classroom and learning ceased to occur......

Okay, now we have no progress in special education so the government decides to "correct" this by putting ALL students together in the same "inclusion" classrooms. Special ed. teachers know what will happen next. The EBD students will continue to lead the MID students into trouble. Some of the regular ed. students will join in and we will have chaos in the classrooms. Most of the upper level students will leave for private schools. The LD students will get modifications to the work and never learn how to compensate for their deficits.

You may hear or read every now and then about an "inclusion" class is wonderful. Find out the facts. How many students are included? What are their deficit areas? Most of the scientic research on inclusion is based on five or six special education students in the classroom! In reality, schools are placing 10-15 or more in classrooms. I will challenge any teacher who says he/she can conform to IDEA regulations under these conditions. It is just not possible and a sad fact in schools. Lower test scores, yes. Anyone ever hear of regression toward the mean?

If your child is in regular ed. or special ed. you should find out the numbers in these "inclusion" classroom and the areas of disabilities. If your child is in an "inclusion" class with over 10 special education students, your child's learning will be limited. It is NOT the teachers' fault. It is just an impossible situation. The regular and special ed. teachers are only doing what they have been told to do - teach these students to the best of their ability. The low average students will SLOW down the curiculum for the average and above average students. The EBD students will disrupt learning on a daily basis.

All students have strengths and weaknesses. The dumb ones referred to in the previous e-mail may not be academically endowed but they have a place in our world. The worth of a human being is not measured in intelligence. It is measured in compassion, empathy,and the ability to recognize the unique gifts we are all given. The government cannot make all students fit into one mold. Is that what this country wants? Inclusion creates that one mold for all students. The ones at the lowest level and the highest level will be lost.

You couldn't be more right with everything you are saying, Special Ed Teacher.

It is ironic that with the advent of inclusion, that the requirements of qualifications for special ed teachers are increased, but elementary, and secondary teachers are not required to gain expertise in gifted education, teaching the learning disabled, etc. In effect, the special education teaching job is being eliminated in favor of generalist teachers who do not get as high a salary. Gifted and exceptional children are/will pay the price.

I am a Mom with a son attending middle school and has an I.E.P. He has A.D.H.D , also has an anxiety disorder accompanied by OCD and he is in an "inclusion" classroom, and has the same teacher for S.S., Science and Reading .
Settings for curriculum :

English ~4 students, self-contained

Math
24 students, inclusion w/ a special ed. teacher

Social Studies
24 students, inclusion with a teacher assistant

Science
24 students, inclusion with a teacher assistant

Reading
24 students, inclusion w/ a special teacher

How is he benefiting by inclusion?
Let's see ,
1st quarter report card grades were 70's & 80's , 2nd quarter dropped down to 60's!
(the quarterly I.E.P report for goals , all P's == making progress)
He is currently failing all, including Math, which has always been an area of STRENGTH.

What progress are they seeing that I am not?

What choice would there be except to have his I.E.P modified ? and with what options?

The school year is 1/2 way through , and I have been advocating/communicating since the beginning .

There are 2 things that I have read in my travels
along the informational highway of life,and education that stand out in my mind;

"If a child doesn't learn the way you teach, then teach the way he'll learn " and " A learning DISABILITY isn't an INABILITY to learn , it is a DIFFERENT WAY of learning."

Is this a realistic,and managable goal in the school / classroom settings? Maybe for some, BUT not for all, and somewhere along the lines there are children(individuals) with NEEDS , and a right to an education who are slipping through the cracks, right along with their self-esteem .

I am a T.A. working in Sp.Ed. in another school dept.,I can relate to much that has been written in this forum, what happens in the classrooms (with various needs),& absolutely appreciate , and have much respectand admiration for what teachers do,and endure .
Bottom line here is that if I were to base an opinion (as I am currently doing!) in regards to "inclusion" being a good learning institute for children with learning disabilities, based on my experience as a parent & seeing my son struggle , I say absolutely not!

Special Ed is a second career for me. I've single handedly raised/ advocated for my own child with learning disibilities. I've taught one year and thats enough for me!.

Went 21K in the hole for credential only to hear that if I want to continue on the secondary level, I'll need to spend another 5K + on subject matter competency. Forget that I have a BA in Psychology/ a minor in math marketing and am willing to work with the disipline problems that regular ed teachers wouldnt touch with a 10 foot pole.

Dedication goes only so far. If I choose to continue to teach it wont be in SPED!

Dear Sir/Madam
I have been teaching and served as administrator and all of these was aborad; now in USA I tought for more than 15 years in the elementary level in private catholic schools. Well, when I decided to up grade my education, I took time out and complited the undergraduate and earned master degree in guidance counseling education. However, I cannot find a job in my field because I am not certified. My question is: Is there any place in US that can up grade the experience level of my teaching career? If so, where do I go from here? I simply need help on the matter. Because I am not going to start taking praxis and all of that at all. What should I do? Can someone give me a suggestion, help? What about the great evaluations in teaching? All those years? Help, please!

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