Read more as teachers debate accommodations for students. Pete & Pam Wright and Advocate Pat Howey join the discussion. Take the poll – then click “read more” to add your comment and join the debate!
Position #1 Accommodations and Modifications Train Students to Under Perform
I teach at a charter school. We feel that if the students would do their homework and classwork, they would have no trouble passing tests.
We care about the kids and go the extra mile for those who have special needs. We have high expectations and good strategies. Here is the problem. We’re asked by the Special Education Director to modify lessons and tests to accommodate some low performing students. Because their homes do not support homework completion, we have to modify tests to accommodate them. We are over accommodating. We want our kids to achieve and have good work habits. When we modify and accommodate, we train them to under perform.
Position #2 Of Course a Teacher Must Accommodate
I am a classroom teacher, tutor and advocate. All children have the right to an education that will allow them to succeed to the fullest extent of their potential. Of course a teacher must accommodate.
The DOE regulations specifically require differentiation. Many schools have adopted differentiation as their official policy; moreover, the school system asserts that all children have the right to an education that will allow them to succeed to the fullest extent of their potential. I agree completely with Pat Howey who points out that if teachers differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs, there might not be a need for special education.
- Should a teacher modify instruction to meet individual needs?
- Does each child have a right to achieve successful literacy and mathematical competency?
- Does every teacher bear the burden of ensuring that no child is left behind?
The ethical answer to all three questions must be a resounding yes.
It is well established that the earlier the intervention, the more effective it can be.
The work of the National Reading Panel shows just how easy it can be for teachers to remediate students at-risk for reading failure.
Pam Wright Joins the Debate
I’m not sure why some teachers believe that differentiating instruction to help a child learn is somehow “unfair” to other kids who don’t need that particular assistance.
Accommodations are intended to level the playing field for people with disabilities. Assume you are blind and read Braille. It is likely to take longer for you to complete a test or reading assignment than a person with good vision.
When people with disabilities do not receive accommodations, the tests they take often measure the impact of their disabilities, not what they know.
Pete Wright Answers
The purpose of testing is to find out what the child has learned.
Suppose a child studying history has dysgraphia (learning disability in writing). Will an essay test measure a child’s knowledge of history? Or will an essay test measure the child’s disability (inability to write)? In this case, an appropriate modification may be to allow the child to write answers using a computer.
Children with disabilities are often not taught how to write, read, spell or do arithmetic in special education. Because special educators want to help, they often try to make things easier for the child by lowering the bar with modifications and accommodations. Special educators often erroneously believe that if a child has a disability, the child cannot learn these skills. In most cases, they are wrong.
Indiana Advocate Pat Howey Responds
Modifications allow us to be effective and efficient. They allow us to be productive and to concentrate on our actual work product instead of on the work process. The real question is not whether making modifications is “fair,” but what will be lost if you provide modifications to this child? What is the right thing to do for this individual child?