Comments To School Board Feb 24, 2010

You Can’t Buy A Hummer for $100

February 23rd was the 100th day of school. Across the Kent School District students learned to understand the concept of 100. Some of my students did a writing activity telling what they would buy if they had $100.  I read some wonderful responses – one 4th grader wants to give her money to charity and a 5th grader wants to help his mom pay her bills.  But some of my students might have a little way to go in understanding $100 – one plans to build a swimming pool and another is going to buy a Hummer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about numbers lately too. I am one of the elementary integrated programs that is above the target number for my program. I currently have 33 students. It was 34 last week and it will be 34 again next week and maybe even 36.

Those students have unique needs including Autism, Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bi-polar disorder, Tourettes, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorders and Learning Disabilities.

Their reading skills range from a beginning kindergarten level to a beginning 5th grade level. Some have difficulty decoding words, some struggle with fluency, some with comprehension and some with all of the above.

Their writing skills are similar to their reading skills as are their math skills.

I am expected to familiar with curriculum to meet the needs of each student. I plan for my time and the time of three para-educators. We have 7 math groups, 6 reading groups, 7 spelling groups, 5 writing groups and 2 behavior and social skills groups. We also have Literacy Workshop time to reinforce skills taught in the general education classroom.

My para-educators spend time in the general education classroom supporting some of our students and I help guide that instruction.

Before the year is over I will write somewhere around 40 Individualized Education Plans. My IEP stipend pays for the work for about 15 IEPs. , I also attend weekly Guidance Team meetings and will be part of about 20 evaluations.

Additionally, like other teachers, I spend time doing all manner of other things – solving behavior problems, collaborating with other teachers, calling parents, doing playground duty, attending staff meetings, taking my turn cleaning the staff room and whatever else you can think of. And recently I’ve been asked to spend a significant amount of time preparing data for my principal.

Many days managing this overloaded program feels about as realistic as buying a Hummer for $100. I am very sad that having contract language for special education has not brought more change to Kent. It is frustrating to know that our most at risk students are so often in classrooms that are overloaded.

It is my hope that the Kent School District will begin to look realistically at the needs of special education students and what it takes to provide the quality instruction these students need to accelerate their learning.

I challenge each of School Board Member to spend a full day in my classroom or another special education program that is over the target number. Really get to know the issues we deal with and develop a realistic picture of what it takes for these children to succeed. Just like you can’t buy a hummer for $100, it’s hard to achieve quality education in an overloaded program.

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