Can one teacher effectively teach students with a variety of disability and/or language needs? Or do we need special education teachers?
Perhaps a better question is, can computers do the job of both regular and special education teachers?
Here is an example of what I am talking about. This ad appeared for a webinar through Education Week underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. I have noticed nuanced messages in a lot of ads for teacher training. See what you think.
Adams 50’s Steve Sandoval—a 2016 Education Week Leader to Learn From—created an “interventionist framework” out of frustration that his district’s talented education specialists were isolated by separate certifications, regulations, and funding streams. The framework helps to “cross-pollinate” teachers of special education, English-language learners, and gifted students, to identify common strategies and target interventions for all students. The approach has helped dramatically raise student achievement in the district during a time of demographic change, and has helped make possible Adams 50’s switch from traditional grade levels to a competency-based-leveling system.
Adams 50 is a school district in Colorado which touts a Competency–Based System. Review their website. It is an eye-opener.
Sandoval is a psychologist turned special education leader and some of what he advocates, if you look further at his beliefs about special education, make sense.
Get rid of labels and have general and special education teachers collaborating—or cross pollinating (because we don’t have enough strange education terms).
But teachers have been collaborating for years. Cross-pollination talk—the implication that separate certifications, regulations and funding streams are wrong—are what I question.
General education teachers remind me of Internists in medicine. They look at the whole child and their general learning needs—like an Internist looks at the individual’s overall health needs.
Special education teachers specialize. They focus on a particular area—like autism for example—and they specifically study about instructional practices that will assist students with differences.
While general education teachers should know something about all disability areas, it seems strange to assume they can look in-depth at every kind of disability issue that shows up in their classroom. That’s where the special education teacher, or the language specialist, or the gifted education teacher shows up.
To say that general education teachers should assimilate what the special education teacher knows—no special certificates or regulations should get in the way—implies to me that they don’t think special education teachers are needed.
In a Competency-Based System where students are online, this would be a monumental step away from looking at disability areas—the assumption being that students with special needs will work on the academic level they are at on the computer.
And Sandoval seems to be implying that funding streams should be blended. Students with disabilities have always received more funding. Why even go there?
I believe their assumption is that when all students work at their academic level on the computer there will be no need for special education teachers or funding streams that address the differences in children.
The goal is that everyone will work towards the same goals through online instruction, even though they are all at different levels.
But I always go back to this one question. If a student with disabilities continues to fail, whether it’s Common Core or Competency-Based Learning, what happens to them? Where’s the safety net?
If a student gets stuck on the computer do they do the same skill over and over until they get it right? What if they can’t get it?
Where’s the special support if all the teachers are cross-pollinated?