September 10, 2013

Instructional Students and Common Core

This year, my district made some pretty dramatic changes in order to prepare for the big switch to Common Core, which happens fully next year. One of the major game-changers is the fact that they have done away with our instructional program. This means that all of our instructional students have been thrown into inclusion classes for the first time in their lives and without the proper preparation.

My job includes working with these students in each of their core classes, and I can tell you already (so
early into the year) that this is a bad idea. These students do not have the cognitive or even physical abilities to keep up with the mainstream curriculum. Our bilingual and SPED students are so lost, and I feel like a chicken with my head cut off, running from student to student trying to put out fires while the classroom teacher continues the lesson.

I understand that the district's rationale comes from the fact that Common Core doesn't leave room for the modified lessons of an instructional classroom, but this simply cannot be the best alternative. All day long I hear, "This is too hard," and so far, all we've been doing is reviewing what they should already know from elementary school. We were reviewing 4h grade math, and you would have thought we were asking them to do calculus. The students are frustrated, and the teachers are frustrated.

Another issue I'm already seeing is that we are holding back the students who are capable of this curriculum. These students are the ones who can finish the warm-up in 2 minutes while the rest of the class takes 15. Of course, they get bored waiting and start socializing and goofing off with friends, which only distracts those who are still working and results in them getting into trouble.

Today, we prepared an answer document for the upcoming Gates assessment, which meant students had to record their names and then bubble in the corresponding letters. More than 25% of the class could not handle this task, despite our explicit instructions and modeling. In fact, here's a conversation that actually happened about it:

Teacher: John, you spell your name with an A? (As in J-A-N-A-T-H-A-N)

John: Yes

Teacher: Really? I did not know that.

Me: So, does that mean John is spelled J-A-N (thinking he was going with a European spelling, despite the fact that this child is hispanic)

John: No, John is with an O. J-O-H-N.

Me: Wait... so you completely change the spelling of your name when you shorten it?

John: I've always spelled it that way.

Teacher and I look the attendance list in the computer and confirm that his name is spelled J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N as we suspected all along. So, we ask him to come look.

John: That's wrong. I never spell my name like this.

Me: What does it say on your ID?

John: (Looks at his ID, which says Jonathan.) 

Teacher: This is how your name is spelled on our official records, which means one of your parents spelled it this way on your registration forms (6 years ago).

John: My dad always spells my name wrong.

Seriously! This is SIXTH grade, you guys!

I'm not against Common Core at all. But it seems to me that there has been a major oversight in regards to consideration for students who need modified instruction. If these kids can't even spell their own names, what are we supposed to do with them in an inclusion class?!

1 comment:

  1. When I first started teaching -8 years ago-our school decided co teaching was the only way to go in high school. So as a new teacher, and with no training on co teaching until after the fact, we were thrown into it. Over the next couple years we (us special education teachers and some regular ed.) attended wonderful conferences on co teaching, read books, sat through webinars, co planned, etc. and in the end it was not a good fit for the majority of special education students. The ones who did well were the students who were indirect to begin with. I hate to be negative but it was not a success story in our district. One area it seemed to help was in science, but they never went to resource for that to begin with. I do wish you luck and on a positive note I got to know most of the students in the school for a change. I loved that! Thanks for sharing, Heather