How do school districts bypass special education services and get away with it?
One way, is to make it look like special education services are being restored, but due to a teacher shortage, the district must rely on teachers without classroom experience.
Special education, all teaching really, but special education, especially, demands teaching qualifications.
To give students with disabilities, or gifted students, or any student who has special needs, a teacher without an appropriate background is a joke! It wastes a student’s time. It should not be legally acceptable.
In many school districts, special education services have been denied children outright due to corporate influence that blighted the school district in the past. That school districts have gotten away with this, demonstrates the terrible way corruption has infiltrated the local, state, and federal levels.
Detroit stands as the perfect example.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti looked to be trying to fix the special education mess in that city. For years, Detroit Public Schools have been heavily influenced by corporate school reformers, and they have skirted around legally mandated evaluations and services for students.
According to The Detroit News the school district:
- Lacks an effective system for identifying and evaluating children who may be eligible for special education services under a federal law called Child Find
- Often fails to respond to parent requests within 10 days — as required by law — to evaluate their child
- Uses referrals to the districts Resource Coordinating Team, a school-based problem-solving group, as a way to delay or deny a requested evaluation
- Fails to review records of new students that may need services
For a moment, Vitti looked to be starting his superintendency in Detroit on the right track. It appeared he was going to restore special education services to children.
But just as we raised our hands to applaud, the school board announces they are also hiring teachers without classroom experience!
Concerns have flourished for years, that alternatively trained teachers are not well-enough prepared. Fast track paths to teaching, whether it be Teach for America, Relay Graduate School of Education, or the many online for-profit schools that have little oversight, are insufficient for making teachers.
In Detroit, they use the for-profit Teachers for Tomorrow, an online program with no proof of success and little oversight.
It’s a way for school districts to cut costs and drive professional teachers out of the classroom. All of this falls into the corporate plan to end teaching.
Students deserve teachers who understand their exceptional differences, who study assessment, child development, child psychology, and instructional pedagogy that will lead students forward, both academically and socially. This demands time and effort along with much study.
Learning to be a special education teacher takes more than a few online classes in your spare time, because you are bored with your current job, or, worse, don’t have a job. It should also involve more than grabbing an online degree while you’re sitting at home in your pajamas.
Vitti may look like he is fixing special education in Detroit, but if he hires teachers without classroom experience, with quickie degrees, he is not doing right by students.
Don’t be misled by the teacher shortage talk, and keep on eye on your own district to see how they are shortchanging students who need special education. If you see something amiss, drop me a line.
If you are interested, I have written a lot about the teacher shortage. Here are my favorites:
The Manufactured Shortage: Driving Teachers Out of the Classroom, July 24, 2016.
The Loss of Special Education Teachers, February 28, 2016.
Teacher Age Discrimination During a So-Called Teacher Shortage, August 16, 2015.
What’s Behind the Teacher Shortage/Crisis? Or is there One? December 16, 2014.
School systems hire Boston Consulting Group and they make numerous recommendations on how to gut special education programs. Follow the money and most likely every school system that has hired BCG for a “consultation” will be playing dangerous games with special education.
Nancy Bailey says
CHRISTINE ZIRKELBACH says
Every day, I talk to recent college graduates who are struggling to find a job, particularly in technology, because all the jobs require five years experience, which they do not have because they can not get a job.
So, why is it that the field of technology demands five years of experience for all new hires, but support the mantra that teachers either do not need experience or teaching is a job that you should only hold for five years.
Nancy Bailey says
Great question, Christine. I’ve long believed that they are making teaching a place for overflow in other professions. If not, why is it that Teach for America is often one of the higher ranked employers of new graduates in universities?
Sheila Resseger says
I spent two intensive years at Gallaudet to get my Masters degree to teach the deaf. I cannot imagine how a person without extensive background and experience could be thought qualified to teach deaf students. The same must be true for all the other special needs that students present with. I remember a conversation that I had with a deaf adult early in my teaching career. She told me that other people thought that teaching deaf students was easier than teaching non-special needs students. Why that would be I cannot fathom, but apparently that is widely believed. We are witnessing the end of the era that started with such promise when I got my Masters degree in 1975–Public Law 94-142–Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. This travesty will go down in history alongside the separation of children from their asylum-seeking parents on the U.S./Mexico border as some of the most shameful practices in America’s long history of callous discrimination in the service of ignorant prejudice and avarice.
Nancy Bailey says
I sadly believe you are correct, Sheila. Thank you for your comment. I remember when there were special certifications for special education too. PL 94-142 saw great movement in a good direction.
Roy Turrentine says
There is another problem. Special education is a hard row to hoe. It is not easy teaching he neediest kids. Just like teaching children from backgrounds that are hostile to education is difficult, teaching children who cannot learn easily is difficult. Over the thirty years I have been involved in school, I have met many teachers who described their experience with special Ed positively but had gone into the regular classroom as their stamina failed. Many of these people are the best people I know, filled with kindness and patience.
Not only do we need special education teachers to be more professional than the rest of us, but we also need more of them rather than fewer. To help keep them keep in the role, we need to lighten the burden we place on them to document things. Every minute they spend writing this down about what they do, and they do this for hours, takes away the valuable time and the rewarding experience of helping the children who need it most.
Pattie McClellan says
Roy, I would like to suggest that most special ed teacher bail out of SPED not because of teaching difficulties, but rather because of administrative nonsense from principals and other admins who don’t have a clue about special ed and because of the enormous amount of paperwork related to IEPs. In my last and final position in special ed, I saw our IEPs grow from an 8-page Word document to a minimum of 23 pages on a web-based program. Much of what the teacher had to enter into the 150+ fields in that 23-page IEP was data that the county needed to run reports for the state and feds–most of that data was not needed for an IEP. Few special ed teachers get the time needed to complete IEP and related paperwork during work hours. One year, I logged 200+ hours beyond contract hours just working on IEPs and related reports–that’s five 40-hour work weeks I “donated” to my employer because they would not provide me with work time to do the job. Even after 30 years of teaching, I still loved the teaching and the joy of watching kids learn to be learners. Selectively-ignorant administrators and excessive paperwork with no time to complete it were the killers for me–not the kids; never the kids.