For you special education teachers out there, here is what our federal Secretary of Education thinks about us. It is only going to get worse.
I wanted to add a few links that I shared below that I feel touched on many of the comments provided. I’ll have to say I was surprised that everyone is feeling the heat and shared many of the same opinions, comments and concerns. I believe I am a good teacher, and I can tell by your responses that all of you are dedicated teachers well versed in your craft. If you have time take a look at the following three links.
For the first time in a number of years, I taught a 9th grade special education English class with students whose reading levels ranged from 3rd to 5th grade. I got excited as I haven’t had the chance to use my reading specialist skills since teaching special education at the 2nd and 3rd grade level. I got together with a retired reading specialist, pored over my favorite book on reading instruction , and developed a game plan incorporating reading fluency, word study, spelling skills and comprehension strategies. Lo and behold, my students reading and spelling skills grew, with all of them scoring in the middle affix level of spelling and an average reading growth of 1.5 years. One student grew over 2 years in her reading level!! You would think that would make me an effective teacher, but if you did, you thought wrong.
It turns out I am America’s new most wanted; a teacher at the top of the salary scale whose students cannot pass the PA Keystone Literary test, and who currently cannot be fired without just cause. (See HERE and HERE, and HERE for how that may soon be changing.) To make it worse, I have a pension, benefits, summers off, and am a union member. You see, it doesn’t matter if I have students who truly have learning disabilities and are not able to successfully master the required tested curriculum, students who hate school and learning, students whose parents are never around or can’t/won’t help their child with homework; my students’ inability to score proficient on the state standardized test is my fault. As such here in Pennsylvania, 50% of my evaluation will depend on student achievement. Given the population that I teach there may come a day that I will be deemed “needs improvement”, which under the current law only has to happen twice in a 10 year period for me to be fired.
I have no problem with teacher accountability, but take exception to the fact that America’s schools are failing, and failing as the direct result of unqualified teachers. While I have no doubt that there are ineffective teachers, I don’t believe that the percentage is any higher than any other occupation. In fact, even in California case hyperlinked above, the plaintiff’s expert speculated that the percentage was between one and two percent. Public education has been used as a political whipping boy since the days of Ronald Reagan to the point that failing schools are taken as common knowledge, facts and logic aside. While we all know an anecdotal story about failing teachers, do these individuals make up a large percentage of teachers, or are there other factors that weigh more heavily in the perceived failures of our school system? I know what I think, what about you?