Tales from the Front Lines: Setting Us All Up for Failure?

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The following “tale from the front lines” comes from nationally board certified teacher in Florida. Her story resonates with me as one whose own roots go back to teaching children with special needs in the early 1990’s. I was, and still am, an enormous advocate for inclusion classrooms. Like all other good ideas in education, it’s only as successful as we allow it to be. It’s a system that benefits all children involved when it’s done with the right supports,. teachers, and resources. Class size also matters. The only do do birds who don;t realize this live in a parallel universe somewhere. It’s common sense for the rest of us. And when you have children of diverse learning needs, class size, experienced teachers, and other resources matter the most. And what happens when you ignore all of these factors? You the the failing system that many corporate styled reformers are just waiting to see-at the expense of millions of children.

Policy makers are bent on not only under funding but sometimes flat out de-funding successful practices and programs; it seems, from all indications in Ceresta’s story, that reform policies geared toward creating a failing public system and replacing it with a privatized corporate driven one, are not above harming children and teachers to manufacture their goals.

Please read, and respond. In your classroom or school, what policies or abuses of policies are hurting you, your children, or your school?

Ceresta writes:

For the first time this year I have been placed in a situation where I teach an “inclusion class” that has over 25 students.  I have serious concerns with this “inclusion phenomenon” that has permeated our district schools.  Placing 39 to 50 students in a classroom with minimal square footage and a percentage of ESE students is simply bad practice for classes that fall under the class size regulations and regulations for children with special needs.  Classes with that many students are bad for any course, but what is really disconcerting is the exploitation of ESE students to employ this malpractice.
Teachers have been very quiet about this knowing that subject area teachers can’t service 39 to 50 students effectively, particularly the special needs students that are to receive additional support from the ESE teachers assigned to co-teach with us.  Unfortunately, the ESE teachers are not well versed in the subject area. Consequently, the core subject area teachers wind up with an adult-student to train and the task of constantly going behind the other adult-student to check to see if instructions are delivered properly, information is imparted correctly, and assignments are assessed correctly. Additionally, it places the ESE teachers in a situation where they have to read textual materials and or know the bare minimum about a particular subject area for six or seven distinct classes as they attempt to become viable co-teachers. More than not, myself included,  core teachers attempt to do all the academic requirements themselves while the ESE teacher functions as an aide that does little in terms of academic instruction,
Moreover, the subject area teachers are economically exploited as their class loads double without compensation. We are essentially teaching two classes in one period.  This is egregious! With the pressure to ensure that these students are “career and college ready,” we are essentially being set up for failure.  And, I am left to wonder why my peers have not spoken up or spoken out about this educational malpractice.   Needless to say, the students placed in these classes are not serviced well.  And, more than not they are placed in hazardous situations due to overcrowded classrooms.  I contacted the Miami-Dade fire marshal and was informed that John A. Ferguson High did not meet code last year.  I was told by the principal that they will not again this year.  Apparently, the state turns a blind eye when they receive the reports.
To say the least, this is not award winning or safe pedagogy that has been reputed for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. It seems more like exploitation and abuse that has gone unchecked.  At this point, an investigation into this practice and a thorough analysis as to whether there are legal and ethical grounds to continue as such is in order.
Ceresta Smith, NBCT
Administrator for United Opt Out National
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