Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Solution

The principal of my school recently asked me what I thought we could do to help some of our low level students succeed. At the moment, I couldn't think of an answer, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to come up with an answer.
I stumbled across something that I know will work, something I should have thought of originally, something that the schools will never go for. It is one-to-one work. My inclusion boy is fantastic verbally, but when it comes to getting his answers down on paper, he falls apart. I tried letting him take his test in the resource room, with a para or a teacher reading to him (as his IEP says) but this did not help. I wanted them to "babysit" him, make sure he drew diagrams and make sure he said out loud the meaning of the words I knew he knew. This, I hoped, would help. Unfortunately, his tests did not come back that much better and when I inquired as to the type of help he was being given, I found it was not much help at all. Upon questioning this boy, I found out his lunch period and mine coincided. I asked him to find me after he ate so we could go over the exam together before I marked it.

This student is a great kid and did exactly as I asked him to do. He ate quickly and joined me in my "office" (floor outside the cafeteria) where we went over the exam. Just by making him read the questions to me, he was able to correct 6 errors, 24 points of the exam. I did not help him or lead him, I just made sure he read the questions carefully and used the words he knew the meaning of.

This child can and will succeed because I happen to be available to help him when he is available to get the help. So many others aren't as lucky. So many of my students have benefitted when I paired them up with AP calculus students for that one-to-one help.

I don't think this is the answer the principal was looking for. There is no money in the budget to pay for one-to-one instruction and even if every teacher was willing to work with one student every day like this, there would still be too many left on their own. This sort of help is not cost effective and could never work in the business environment schools have been turned into. In the business world people would not work for free and volunteer tutoring would be eliminated. It is not cost effective to pay one-to-one teachers. We are lucky the city is sticking to thirty four-to-one teacher plans.

There are students that won't succeed no matter how much individual help they are given but there are others that can be successful this way. Some have learning disabilities and some have emotional disabilities but this private help could possibly be the thing that puts them over.


kherbert said...

I know what you mean. I have some students, who will do fine if someone reads the test with them and makes them focus.

Thankfully my Inclusion aid does just that. I defer to her often because she is with the kids all day, and is just shy of having her certification.

My heart breaks for one student, who is performing "to the best of his ability", but is going to fail. He is in that awful spot - his IQ is to high for Life Skills, but to low to actually function on a 4th grade level without lots of help. Because he isn't functioning below his ability - he can't get the help my LD students get.

Anonymous said...

there is a testing accommodation that states "para pphrase questions" perhaps you should ask to have this included on his IEP. Wish I had thought of that before...YEAH!

Anonymous said...

There is such a testing accommodation as "paraphrase the question". This should be added to this students' testing modifications a per the IEP. Good catch.

NYC Educator said...

I'm going to disagree about us being lucky the city is sticking to 34 to 1 ratios. In fact, that's because of the UFT contract, and doesn't involve luck at all. We're unlucky in that the city has welched on promises to lower class sizes, despite having taken hundreds of millions of state dollars for that very purpose. We're further unlucky that the city regularly snubs its nose at legal class sizes, leading to countless violations.

mathman42 said...

It's not as much the class size as it is the variety of learning levels within the class and whether you have severe ADD or other seriously emotionally disturbed students preventing teaching/learning. I have a class way under 34 with these issues. ( not SpEd )

I also once had a class where only two ( often one ) students showed. Both with numerous LD issues. Both eventually passed the Regents primarily because there were so few of them in the class.

Schoolgal said...

I honestly feel these kids should be receiving Resource Room. I am sure there are Special Ed teachers with a math and reading specialty that can be hired. These children could still attend other classes, but not when it comes to math and reading. A specialist in the field would be able to do the instruction you did during lunch.
I have had many students helped by a good resource room teacher. But that's the trick, getting a good person. My school used to have 2 SETTS teachers, but the principal cut it down to one position. Unfortunately, the better teacher lost that position and got a special ed class. Hopefully when the SETTS teacher retires at the end of the year, the other teacher will get the position back.

I have seen great SETTS teachers working together with the classroom teacher get kids decertified.

I also have to wonder when most of your students first received Special Ed. My nephew who lives in NJ didn't get any help until Middle School. His elementary school didn't think it was necessary nor did his middle school until my niece advocated hard for him. Turns out the help came too late and now he attends a special high school that helps kids like him.

I know when I put in referrals, I got in trouble for "putting in too many". Well, I responded by asking why the teachers before me didn't. I had a kid in my 5th grade class who was only receiving help with math. What she really needed was Resource Room. But because she would be leaving our school for middle school, my principal turned down the referral.

Perhaps high schools can have special ed math and reading classroom just for those subjects. Those classes can have a smaller cap and special ed aide. But of course money drives the public school system, and such an idea would be thrown out. So blame the teachers instead.

Anonymous said...

This system is so disfunctional and administrators are so inept that it seems as if there is no hope for anyone--teachers and students alike. If the idiots who are running / destroying the system had a clue, they could use ATRs to work with students individually, and it wouldn't cost the system an extra cent since ATRs are already being paid. Of course the principals, etc. just parrot the Bloomberg / Klein regime about the ATR policies, as well as the other policies that are destroying the system! Well, they will be sorry some day when they realize the damage can not be undone!


Anonymous said...

I just want to thank you so much for sitting with this student and helping him!

My first science test in middle school when I was in 6th grade, I handed in to the teacher with tears in my eyes because I knew I did horribly. She told me to come back later, on what I assume must have been her own time, and she went through the entire test again with me, re-phrasing everything, and my grade went up 20 points.

It's seven years later, I'm a freshman in college, and I still think about that science teacher and how she was one of the best teachers I ever had. I hope she knows how important it was for me to have her believe in me! I hope you know how important what you did was as well!