Dec 19, 2008

Teaching Interrupted At Anacostia SHS

"The moving finger writes, and having writ, not a single sole can erase a single word of it." Shakespeare

Here is another moving account from a DC teacher at Anacostia senior high school. It tells what special education teachers face day to day in our public school system that is long on promises and short on providing the needed resources and supports. Many would argue that these are 'adult' issues. To which I would counter: "that just doesn't make any sense." Working in a school system that fails to provide adequate and appropriate resources for teachers ultimately impacts student achievement and service delivery. In this case it impacts our most vulnerable population; students with disabilities. Here's what one special education teacher says is happening at Anacostia senior high. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

"Dear Candi: A meeting was held in response to a special education coordinator's reprimand memo to sped. teachers titled "Overdue Triennials and Annual IEP's." Teachers formed a team to try to address these concerns with recommendations to no avail. Juggling case management responsibility, implementing inclusion without a model while trying to teach are major concerns for sped. teachers at Anacostia SHS. We have far too many students on our case loads to handle our responsibilities effectively. At the beginning of the year Anacostia teachers were given overwhelming caseloads of which 80-85% of student IEP's and triennial evaluations were overdue and out of compliance. Anacostia has more than 300 special education students with approximately 15 teachers. Special education teachers are simply spread too thin. What's wrong with this picture ?

Chancellor Rhee's special education 'central office crew' are mandating that these already overdue annual IEP's and triennials be completed immediately or else. We know what this means "90-day termination plans and the firing squad." The "firing squad" reports periodically on sight to take notes and to observe us . Teachers are expected to simultaneously perform magic, teach, update overdue IEP's, assess students, update DC STARS attendance, meet with service providers and parents all within an assigned instructional period. Special education teachers are also required to attend impromptu meetings and school wide meetings. Student lunch schedules are changed daily as a result of our most recent history of student violence which impacts our schedules as well.

Teachers are raising many questions because these large number of meetings, paper work and case management responsibilities are robbing teachers of required instructional time for disabled students, planning time as well as our lunch periods. The concerns of playing catch up will impact teachers performance appraisals and student test scores. Approximately 99% of the paper work and 100% of scheduling IEP meetings are delegated to sped. teachers instead of being handled by the sped. coordinator. All of our teachers have been told to seek the special education coordinator's advice on IEP issues and concerns. Unfortunately our coordinator offers very little help to us because she is a novice TFA teacher with no experience to qualify for this position. As an alternate solution to this problem, teachers' requested that administrators allow teachers to work outside their regular work day. This request was denied due to a shortage of administrative premium.

Since this is the year of full INCLUSION in our schools, sped. teachers at Anacostia believe that "co-teaching" may be an unrealistic option. One model WILL NOT fit every student or classroom. Anacostia sped. teachers are scrambling for answers and problem solving strategies as we try to address the mandates of NCLB, IDEIA and Chancellor Rhee.The good news though Candi, is that the research shows that special education students placed in a rigorous class room environment with the appropriate resources (educational aides, highly qualified teachers, behavior specialists, regular and assistive technology and accommodations do better academically and socially and are able to transition from high school to work/career and post secondary training. DC public schools has a long way to go to provide this level of academic rigor due to the lack of a citywide inclusion model, necessary teacher positions, appropriate staff development and needed resources. Please help. "
Anonymous Teacher.


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Anonymous said...

If Rhee follows through as feared and fires a bunch of sped ed teachers at Anacostia, how is she going to replace them all? Does she have a bunch of people lined up who want these jobs? has she promised to treat them better and give them the needed resources?

Anonymous said...

Reply to Anonymous: I don't know whether there are a bunch of people lined up for these jobs or not. I do know that 78 probationary teachers were fired despite positive performance appraisals and without regard to DC personnel regulations. There were also 269 teachers fired who had written action plans with 94% certification completed and led to believe by the Rhee administration they would be allowed to complete their remaining requirements. This contributed to a citywide teacher shortage and teachers teaching out of certification, substitutes and central office staff filling in.

Anonymous said...

The special education teachers I know routinely work way past teachers' 3:30 sign out time, take work home, especially paperwork and reports related to IEPs. Of course, there should be premium pay, but this is just being a professional. All of us lesson plan at home, grade papers, search for ideas on the web, speak with parents in the evenings etc. If the work has to be done, wew do it, even if it's outside our tour of duty. We're professionals.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused...there are 300 special ed students and 15 special ed teachers...that at 20:1 ratio. I'm sorry, but most teachers have a ratio WAY bigger then that. This teacher compains that she isn't getting help from her supervisor...she's your supervisor...its YOUR work. As a fellow teacher I feel like complaints of this nature undermine us as professionals. In the business world if there is to much work for the day you STAY LATER. If the pay isn't adequate for this maybe this teacher needs to consider a different profession.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: 20:1 far exceeds the ratio for disabled students. I encourage you to read the DC Municipal Regulations which lists class size for students by disability category. Surely you can understand that it would be reprehensible to our disabled students and a violation of disability law if we fail to adhere to class ratio's.

If we can't acknowledge areas of weakness in the workplace than we are not in a position to address the type of challenges that the special education teacher brought up. I unlike you see this as healthy dialogue that is needed in this system. As someone who has worked in special education for years- many of us are all too aware of how broken our system is.

If you follow Attorney Amy Totenberg, federal court monitor for special education - you would understand what she meant when she and others have stated that DCPS still has many unresolved issues in special education. Eventually DCPS will have to address these issues on its own or eventually face a takeover.

Right now we are failing miserably on the current Blackman-Jones consent decree in part due to not having the necessary staff to do the job and the lack of appropriate programs for sped. students and resources.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 7:34 PM

Like Washington Teacher said,

Ratios for special ed students are different than those of regular education students because the needs are greater, and these students require so much planning and meetings (more than the regular education child).

Also, it is the supervisor's job to do some work, too. The coordinators I have worked with usually do schedule meetings, setup IEPs, or test children. What else is there for a supervisor to do if he/she is not doing those tasks? What other "coordinating" is there to do?

Anonymous said...

Hopefully,this letter from Anacostia was sent to the attorney in appeals on the Abolishment Statute,the two attorneys and judge investigating SPED.,GS94-142 and FAPE. Rhee's programs implemented at the top ? Fire the teachers on over load? Read what the judge told the central office administration.He was viewing "disorganization" and something about, "roll your sleeves up" and get it straightened out.Rhee fires a top Special Education Dept. administrator and who was hired ? School system systemic concern due to programs not supported ? More proceedual violations from ineffective stategic planning at the top to implement programs to support the iover load. Hire more psychologists to help. Rhee could bring them in on a consultant supportive basis and hire a team to go help for a month in an effort to support.Instead, the answer is fire the teachers.

Anonymous said...

How much would a team of 10 Dr's of psychology cost on a consultant basis to support the situation ? Probably less than a law suit.

Anonymous said...

How much is the New Future Media Communications team being paid to sell Rhee's agenda and contractual terms of agreemnet ? Could she have used the money to support an on going issue in the special education dept.? Rhee worked as a teacher for a few years and must have some idea of what's going on with the psychology and resource departments and how involved it is.Next it'll be the principle's fault and place the blame rather than solve the issue.

Anonymous said...

This creates a back fire ! Now Social Services gets a call and DSS.The two attorney's are called and the judge investigating.Where was the team hired to go in and support when the judge said, get it straightened out ?

Anonymous said...

300 students and 15 special education teachers ? No way ? Is that for real ? What is Rhee doing in this school system with the programs ? Now the psychology teachers get fired and the principle faces proceedual violations !This situation had a solution when the judge said get it straightened out and way before it got to that point and Rhee's been in there two years to have implemented support.It also back fires on the Mayor with the millions paid back to the federal gov. for medicaid paper work. They're involved in the support of the special education programs.300 to 15 special education teachers ? That's unreal but not isolated to just DC under NCLB and 10%.How much could be saved to hire more teachers and a "team" of outside Dr's of psychology to go in on a consultanting basis one day a week and make rounds actually connected hands on with the school system ? No one is taking care of the bottom up !

Anonymous said...

How much time in meetings is being spent to sort out all the problems ? Who's keeping up with that to report data for back up ? There is no way the regular education teachers can handle effectively the over load. That's unrealistic and have seen teachers and entire psychology departments walk out of buildings worried about law suits and their licence.The regular education teacher is responsible for the issues caused in his or her classroom and held accountable for IDEA. It's not like the principle isn't requesting support on the operational budget for the school building.The teachers are moving on modifications and that also connects to the penalities and funding on AYP penalities and the no dings docking push out testing and see policy makers. Does the general public really understand when they yell,fire all the bad teachers ?