Thursday, September 03, 2009

Resource Room and the Twenty First Century

Until I started teaching at Packemin HS, I had no clue as to what a resource room was, what kind of students were involved in it and what went on in one.

I began my teaching career in the special education department of Packemin HS. In my previous school, I taught some very low functioning students and I always had special ed kids mainstreamed for my classes. (I was good with them and they liked me.) When I had the opportunity to teach these kids full time, I jumped at the chance.

Mrs. V was one of two resource room teachers at that time. Her room was situated in the middle of the special education floor and we chatted quite a bit. She tried to convince me to go teach main stream kids because her kids needed kind, caring teachers. At that time, I just wasn't interested.

Over the years I got to see first hand what Mrs. V and the other resource room teachers did with their students. I saw how they tracked down main stream teachers and got extra work for their students. They collected exams so their students could have the extra time they were entitled to. They worked with the kids on the basic skills they needed. They counseled, admonished and consoled when necessary. They advocated for these children without a voice when there was no one else to do so.

Now I would like to fast forward to resource room in the twenty first century. Things are different, very different. Back when I met Mrs. V, every resource teacher had five resource room classes. It was easy to find the teacher, talk to the teacher and give the teacher any materials they needed. Now, resource room is covered by many different teachers, some teaching one or two classes in this area, one in the gym and maybe another as an inclusion teacher in a history or English class. There is no continuity. It is hard for the student to get the extended time needed because no one is in one place long enough to provide it. Finding the teacher to deliver a test to is another disaster area. The teachers themselves are spread so thin they cannot do for the students what was done years ago.

In spite of all this, the students that have this resource room are far more fortunate than the ones that have resource as a "push in" for English or History. Yes, there is an extra teacher to give help in one of these subjects but the students are not getting any help in any other subjects. No one is helping them meet standards in math or reading. It is hard to find the time and space to give them extended time. The resource teacher may even go days without having a real conversation with the student.

Mrs. V taught me that the students in resource room were for the most part bright kids with some disabilities. They were kids that just needed that "little extra " and then they would be able to succeed. Under the Bloomberg-Klein era, the Mrs. Vs of the world can no longer do this job. Resource room is not the same and in some cases, it is just a room, minus the resource.

It is time for the education mayor to start doing something about education. And, resource room is a good thing for him to fix. After all, he is the one that broke it.


Dee Alpert said...

It's a damned when you did, and maybe damned when you do now kind of situation. 1997 research by the NYU Grad School of Ed showed that reading scores of kids who got NYCDOE resource room declined significantly, while their math scores simply stagnated at unacceptably low levels. The same study also showed that a full 50% of high school kids scheduled for resource room never showed up in resource room. Of course, nobody ever did any further research to get to the underlying "why" of these situations, so ... .

Since the NYCDOE strenuously refuses to give out objective data re scores, outcomes, etc. for kids classified as having disabilities who are in general ed classes with support or related services (not segregated special ed. classes run by districts or D. 75 schools and programs), we can only say that there is no data supporting the current NYCDOE models for providing special ed services to these kids.

Knowing the NYCDOE as I do, I think it's fair to assume that if the data - which they obviously have, but refuse to release - supported what they were doing, they would release the full data set and let folks see for themselves. Instead, we get the occasional massaged bit of data dribble, highly colored by p.r. spin ... and that's all.

Why should we support ANY model for special ed services when the data is withheld by the folks who have it?

Dee Alpert, Publisher

Ms. Tsouris said...

It's the discontinuity that defeats the purpose of resource room. The kids need an anchor, but the system throws them a spindly branch.

Anonymous said...

The whole idea of Resource Room or "At Risk" children was to get them the extra help so that they can make signifigant gains and eventually be decertified. I have found that a pull-out program is much more successful than a push-in. The students need a full period a day outside the classroom to focus on their remediation. But the best SETTS teachers are those that want to know what's happening in the classroom. They work with the students so they can pass a test or at least make progress.

The other problem is sometimes children that should be in a special ed setting are placed in SETTS instead to appease the parents. When a 5th grader is only able to function on a 2nd-grade level, why is that child still in SETTS and not re-evaluated for special ed??? Something is so wrong.


Anonymous said...

btw, my former school used to have 2 SETTS teachers. But my principal cut it down to 1. She did the same thing to the ESL program. When I first started teaching in the school we had 3 ESL teachers. I wish I could say these remaining teachers were good, strong teachers, but I can't and I blame the admins for letting it be that way. It's not the union protecting them, it's the laziness of administrators. The ESL teacher always finds excuses not to pick up and gets away with it.


Anonymous said...

Good article!
Resource rooms are valuable sources of inspiration and knowledge for students. The reality is that "push in" services you describe (placing special education teachers in general education classrooms) is merely PR more than an effective way to deliver services. Teachers become expensive aides. Remediation is needed for students with learning disabilities, and resource rooms provide this...

Anonymous said...

I am a resource teacher in an elementary school and do reading,writing and math for all grades... Can anyone make some suggestions with regard to routines so that I can maximize my time and rotate among students.