Karen Jankowski’s April 3rd 2009 post Reaching for the Brass Ring…..of Independence, advances the proposition that it is time to end the war between the remediation and accommodation camps in special education and make Universal Design Principles ubiquitous in order to foster independence.
It is time to end the remediation vs. compensation battle and declare a truce. The emphasis on remediation at the expense of accommodation must stop. Instead, remediationImage via Wikipedia
MUST be COMBINED with compensation to accommodate for learning challenges if our students are to feel a sense of competence, mastery and independence.
This is what I have always believed and wanted to practice in my classroom. Independence should be our ultimate goal. However, we will not be accomplish this unless education policymakers have to be brought into the fold. In the great debate over raising standards for all students, policy makers overlook the needs of our students.
In the push to turn the Michigan workforce from a blue collar industrial one to a high tech one, our legislators in their infinite wisdom forced a new state curriculum and high school exam upon us. Now In Michigan high schools we now have to teach a college prep curriculum to all students regardless of disability and/or career plans. This includes the requirement that all students (emphasis on the “all”) Algebra II for all students. The Michigan Merit Exam begins with all but the most impaired students taking the ACT, a college placement exam. Accommodations can be given only if the company that produces the ACT approves regardless of what a student’s IEP says. To further muddy the waters, this test is what is used to determine AYP and accreditation. Pressure is now on districts to make sure that students receive the content needed to at least get an adequate score on this test.
While I applaud their intent to raise standards, I question their methods.
As Special Educators we are forced to accommodate and provide content at expensive of working on deficit areas. Yes, our goals are still suppose to reflect the deficit, but in reality there is no time to do both with the pressures of the state curriculum. Co-teaching has become the preferred way to deliver content. Few schools have spent the time or the PD to make co-teaching work. It has become the General Ed teachers grade the Gen Ed kids. The Special Ed teacher just grades the same assignments to a different standard. True collaboration doesn’t occur in this forced co-teaching environment.
As I see it, everyone in the process needs to, so Karen so eloquently states,
Understand that students learn differently, that a one-size-fits all approach does NOT work.
We need the time and the support of our administrators, legislators, and State Department to effectively apply Universal Design Principles to this curriculum. Co-teaching can be effective if all parties participate in developing appropriate classroom activities that ensure learning for all.
I implore our state Department of Education to poor money and time into making this curriculum work for our special education students, rather than spending time and money on the minutia of correctly completed paperwork. Please make this curriculum accessible enough so that our students just don’t give up and leave school.
For now, my colleagues and I will do what we can to get our kids to graduation. We do need a paradigm shift but it needs to begin at the very top with our legistlature and the State Department of Education.
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