April 20 Journalizing

 

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Taking Sides

Issue 17:  Is the Practice of Providing Accommodations to Children in Special Education a Good Idea?

Yes
MaryAnn Byrnes, from “Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:  Removing Barriers to Learning”.  National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin (2000)

No
James M. Kauffman,
Kathleen McGee, and
Michele Brigham, from “Enabling or Disabling?  Observations on Changes in Special Education,”  Phil Delta Kappan (April 2004)

Accommodations “can be used to create equal access, not excuses (p.317),” where an accommodation is defined as “an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability (p.317).”

“It all comes down to deciding what is important.  Think about assignment and expectations.  Think about the student’s disability.  If the combination creates a barrier, the accommodation removes it.  The accommodation does not release a student from participating or demonstrating knowledge.  It allows the student to participate equitably and demonstrate knowledge.  And isn’t that what school is about (p.323)?”

“The emphasis in special education has shifted away from normalization, independence and competence.  The result has been students’ dependence on whatever special programs, modifications, and accommodations are possible, particularly in general education settings.  The goal seems to have become the appearance of normalization without the expectation of competence (p.324).”

“The full inclusion movement did have some desirable outcomes.  It helped overcome some of the unnecessary removal of students with disabilities from general education.  However, the movement also has had some unintended negative consequences.  One of these is that special education has come to be viewed in very negative terms to be seen as second-class and discriminatory systems that does more harm than good.  Rather than being seen as helpful, as a way of creating opportunity, special education is often portrayed as a means of shunting students into dead-end programs and killing opportunity. (p.327)”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  Since we used a book by Kauffman in our class EDSP6644 Exceptional Learners, I am curious why he is on the on the “No” side here.  I think the point that will probably come out in this debate is the real value of any type of special treatment of the special needs  student, when we desire to show that they are capable of much more than we initially might expect of them.  Thus, I could see where accommodations become a crutch and prevent a truly equitable classroom.  Can’t wait to read this one.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I see now that Kauffman is not arguing against accommodations in principle, but he is arguing that this special ed system (like any system) can be abused. I think Byrnes side is a well-written summary of accommodations and the general process of IEP and 504.

Kauffman states:  “Like general education, special education must push students to become all they can be.  Special education must countenance neither the pretense of learning nor the avoidance of reasonable demands (p. 332).”

I think this is an good article to accompany the detracking chapter from Oakes & Lipton (2007).  I agree that special education cannot be a holding area for students of whome we have low expectations, or through inequities in the system have lost a sense of wonder and expectation themselves.

[BONUS]  Issue 14:  Does Homework Serve Useful Purposes?

Yes
Robert J. Marzano and
Debra J. Pickering, from “The Case for and against Homework”.  Educational Leadership (March 2007)

No
Diane W. Dunn, from “Homework Takes a Hit!”  Education World. (2005).

The authors quote Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.  Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement.  (p. 48).”

Although teachers across the K-12 spectrum commonly assign homework, research has produced no clear-cut consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels (p. 264).

Although research has established that the overall viability of homework as a tool to enhance student achievement, for the most part the research does not provide recommendations that are specific enough to help busy practitioners.  (p. 266).

Article is an interview with John Buell, co-author with Etta Kralovec of The End of Homework:  How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children and Limits Learning  (Beacon Press, 2000).

“Buell:  We are not suggesting that students shouldn’t work hard or that there shouldn’t be rewards for hard work, but even work has its limits.  hard work is most effective when it is done in the context of appropriate support and assistance for that work. (pg 271).”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I am personally of the opinion that we might want to turn the model on its head.  Students should view lecture and content based media presentations or do reading at home, and then the class should come in and do exercises and problem solving together.  I wonder how many days of a teacher finding that the next day a student hadn’t viewed the content from the previous night, before launching into the problems that were to be covered that day.  The crushing load of mindless homework without some real learning or group work going on just seems problematic.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I remain convinced that homework is appropriate, that it should be taken seriously by the teacher, i.e. rich comments if not fully graded, and that it should complement the course and not be an afterthought in lesson planning.

Evans, D. (2008).  Taking sides:  Clashing views in teaching and educational practice.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Cooper, H., Robinson, J.C., & Patall, E.A. (2006).  Does homework improve academic achievement?  A synthesis of research, 1987-2003.  Review of Educational Research. 76(1). pp. 1-62

 

 


Teaching to Change the World

Chapter 7:  Classroom Management:  Caring, Respectful, and Democratic Relationships

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I think that if we hope to prepare students for full participation in a democratic society, we ought to practice democratic principles and processes in the classroom.  As far as caring goes, I do think that it is possible for those who understand a concept to help those who don’t yet understand.  I think that it is also good for a student to admire or recognize a good contribution from their fellow students, which is the basis of respect.

Personal Opinion (after reading):

[I didn’t have time to do this chapter justice, let me come back to it momentarily.]

Chapter 8:  Grouping, Tracking, and Categorical Programs:  Can Schools Teach All Students Well?

Personal Opinion (before reading):  It is essential that students learn that there are high standards and expectations of them at *every* level.  The minute you group or track without the express goal of bringing them up to the level of their peers or back on the cadence of the school, then you are shunting those students of on a siding and hoping they eventually go away (graduate).  Schools must raise all boats.  Schools must exercise creativity and resources to teach and keep students integrated.  The alternative is degrading of standards or degrading separation of students.  Neither of those alternatives are acceptable.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I was pleased to find ample support in this chapter of my theory that keeping students together allows the struggling student to strive to meet a high bar, and allows the proficient students to get even better by helping out their colleagues.  The quotes that spoke most powerfully in the chapter were the ones that reminded me that we want a society where all can contribute, and all can succeed and get better.  By building a segregated classroom (grouping, tracking, specializing) how do we expect anything different in society. 

Key Quotes

Spear-Swerling and Sternberg (1996) “believe that LD students and others would be better served if teachers and other learning specialists were allowed to address students’ specific cognitive difficulties, such as in reading, and not become distracted by labels (p. 305).”  I like this quote since it drives home that I as mathematics/science teacher need to master my curriculum and then strive consistently to differentiate those lessons for a diverse classroom.  That is the key first and foremost, labels help but this is the key.

“Homogeneous grouping is not necessarily good for high achievers, either.  In fact, students can become destructively competitive among a very small population of the highest-achieving students—particularly in classrooms that stress individual achievement and grades (p. 315).”  I found this quote as powerful as the case study that was reported from Rockville Centre School District in 1990 where the achievement gap was narrowed dramatically by detracking reform.  I think I will need many examples like this to be armed for parents and others that are inclined to oppose detracking.

Speaking of resistance…”if resistance to end tracking is not caused by racial attitudes, it is indisputable that most resistance has racial consequences (p. 316).”  That is the ugly underbelly of tracking, that students on color and traditionally marginalized populations are disproportionately represented in the tracked classrooms.

And finally I have another idea that I am thinking about pursuing which is asking my principal, school board, superintendent if one teacher could teach pretty much the same kids through a sequence of classes from arithmetic to algebra so that they were all on a track to get to calculus in high school.  I need to know what an innovation like that might be called, but it occurs to me that it has some real advantages.

Oakes, J. and Lipton, M. (2008).  Teaching to change the world.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Spear-Swerling, L. & Sternberg, R.J. (1996)  Off track:  when poor readers become learning disabled.  Boulder, CO:  Westview Press.

 

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