Archive for May, 2012

“Backward Inclusion?”

Module 4 Blog–“Backward Inclusion?”

On an especially positive note, I was encouraged this week during our curriculum leaders’ meeting to see the direct correlation between the topics for our school’s PLC work and all of the coursework for my master’s degree. I have also been selected to participate in the pilot implementation of the new teacher evaluation process. Even more inspiring is that the past two weeks have brought forth further integration between my work as a special education teacher and the needs of all students. In my school’s PLC work, our special education team has focused on self-advocacy skills as well as a range of work habits.  In a discussion thread this week, one colleague stated: “I think it is so critical for students to learn the basic skills such as: how to read a book, how to take notes, how to prepare for a test, how to study….basic organizational skills”. I responded by referencing an article concerning the Common Core, in which the author appears to share these sentiments: “To succeed with key content and key cognitive strategies, students need proficiency in a range of academic learning skill and behaviors. These behaviors include goal setting: study skills…self-reflection…persistence with difficult tasks…and time-management skills” (Conley, 2011, p. 4).

I strongly believe these “life” skills must keep in the forefront for all students. I hear fellow high school teachers share that they often expect students to already have all of these skills–forgetting that many students are not strong in these areas. Input from colleagues in this course indicates the need continues well into college. Additionally, numerous discussion posts addressed the increasing need for technological skills—also well supported by Parkay, Hass & Anctil (2010) who state: “Clearly, a critical form of literacy for the future is the ability to use computers for learning and solving” (p. 61).

As a special education teacher who has “lived through” 30 years of technological changes as well as legislative changes and their corresponding effects on service delivery models at the high school level, I have witnessed a wide variety of impacts of these changes on individual student achievements. While inclusion has offered clear benefits for many students, I have found this to be the most challenging model to implement. In the article entitled, The “Three A’s” of Creating an Inclusive Curriculum and Classroom, author, Anctil, clarifies with regard to inclusion that “supports will be brought to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than keeping up with the other students)” (Rogers, 1993, p. 2) (as cited within Parkay et al., 2010, p. 82).

At times, I have found advocating for my students to be quite challenging, however, while talking with a staff member after school today, I briefly mentioned the focus of my project for this course–designed to assist special education students in getting a head start on their senior portfolio. Interested in hearing more, she said, “That sounds like it would be beneficial for all students…”—then suggested I bring the project to our principal for consideration regarding implementation for all. I must say, the  response of this very influential individual was quite positive and rather unexpected. I smiled to myself, then thought: perhaps this could be a new form of “inclusion” called “backward inclusion”—designed to include general education students!

Conley, D. (2011) Building on the Common Core Educational Leadership, Volume 68 | Number 6 What Students Need to Learn, Pp. 16-20 Retrieved from: http://sae.lausd.net/sites/default/files/3-Conley%20Common%20Core%20Article-March%202011.pdf

Parkay, F.W., Hass, G., & Anctil, E.- 2010: Curriculum Leadership; Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs, 9th ed.; Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, USA .

Advertisements

A View from a Different Perspective~

Curriculum Design–Module 3 Blog

Throughout this past two-week module, I have become quite excited and enthused about the curriculum project for this course and have greatly enjoyed my focused efforts preparing for the peer review process. I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the transformation in my own perspective and the greater sense of optimism within me regarding opportunities to collaborate with others in my school on behalf of all students. Early in the module, I responded to the following discussion question from my vantage point as a special education teacher:

How have the purposes for high school changed, and what should guide communities as they plan new high schools?

Author Vivien Stewart in the article, Becoming Citizens of the World, discusses significant and new challenges facing secondary students in today’s schools represented by four major trends: economic, science and technology, health and security, and changing demographics. (p. 524-525). Merely from my perspective as a classroom teacher over the last three decades, I have seen incredible changes in all of these areas—especially considering that when I began as a high school teacher no one had a personal computer and needless to say, the world-wide-web did not exist. Many of my students who struggled in school academically could still find success in more of the hands-on classes such as carpentry and manufacturing. In the midst of the increasing requirements and demands to strive for rigorous standards, I as a special education teacher am concerned about those who are not able to meet with such expectations. Following a long list of skills needed by today’s high school graduates who will be engaged in global commerce and collaboration, Stewart expresses that, “U.S. schools are not adequately preparing students for these challenges….compared with students in nine other industrialized countries, U.S. students lack knowledge of world geography, history, and current events” (Stewart in Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 525). If U.S. students in general are falling short, where does this place many of my students?

Other colleagues voiced similar concerns within the posts for this module—although many postings were centered on the expectations for students in the very early grade levels. While reading these posts, I sensed that behind the academic dialogue were the voices of parents concerned about the increasingly demanding expectations for their own children—particularly in relation to the “Common Core”. (If you click on the following link, you will find another link part way down the page entitled “ELA Map of Skills and Concepts”.

http://www.k12.wa.us/CoreStandards/ELAstandards/default.aspx)

I have mixed perspectives on the issue of high expectations. While I believe that all students should be encouraged and challenged to perform to the best of their ability, I am concerned that those who are unable to compete at a high level will sense that they no longer “belong in the race”. I believe that high schools have an obligation to help all students develop themselves in preparation for a realistic future. I agree in particular with the following segment from the Coalition of Essential Schools, 1998: “…Curricular decisions should be guided by student interest, developmentally appropriate practice, and the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement. Students of all ages should have many opportunities to discover and construct meaning from their own experiences” (As cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, 2010, p. 522).

OSPI website 2012, Retrieved on May 1, 2012 from:: http://www.k12.wa.us/CoreStandards/ELAstandards/default.aspx

Parkay, F.W., Hass, G., & Anctil, E. – 2010: Curriculum Leadership; Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs, 9th ed.; Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, USA .