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Why Do You Instruct Parents to be Against
Special Ed Teachers?

"I am a special education teacher. In many of your articles, you do not support special ed teachers. In fact, you instruct parents on how to be against special ed teachers and school administrators."

"It's hard to understand why anyone would go into this field, when teaching kids gets in the way of paperwork. It's easy to understand why sped teachers leave the profession."

Pam responds:

Thanks for writing - your comments give me an opportunity to clarify our mission.

We are advocates for children. Our goal is to provide strategies that parents and teachers can use to get better special education services for children.

Teachers have many groups and organizations that represent their interests. If these organizations are not representing your interests, you need to let them know - and hold their feet to the fire.

There is power in numbers. To improve the working conditions in your school or school district, think about how you can use the principles in One Person is a Fruitcake, 50 People Are a Powerful Organization.

Parents v. Teachers?

We do not "instruct parents on how to be against teachers and school administrators." Because we are advocates for children, we provide parents and teachers with strategies to get better services for children and deal with gatekeepers.

We provide a great deal of information about training that teachers can use so they will be able to meet the needs of children.

Do we encourage parents to be against teachers?

Read our advice in How to Resolve Parent-School Problems - and Protect Relationships and why we tell parents they should "view your relationship with the school as a marriage without the possibility of divorce."

Dismal Special Ed Outcomes

The outcomes for children with disabilities who receive special education services are dismal.

Just over 50% of children with disabilities graduate from high school with regular diplomas. At least 30 percent drop out of school - usually in the last grade or two.

Children with emotional problems have the worst outcomes. More than 50 percent drop out of school - they have no diploma, no certificate, nothing to show for the years they attended school. (See Graduation and Dropout Rates for Students with Disabilities, 24th Annual Report to Congress)

Did you know that less than 36% of 12th graders are proficient readers? (Graphs of reading, math and science proficiency, grades 4-12)

No one knows how many children with disabilities are proficient in reading or math. States and school districts were not required to report this information until recently. When children are not taught these basic skills, they can't fill out a job application, balance a checkbook, or make change. How will they make it in the real world?

Inadequate Teacher Training

Most special educators are not trained to teach children with language learning disabilities (like dyslexia) to read. Most special educators are not trained in multisensory language therapy (MSLT) or applied behavior analysis (ABA). (Teacher Training Centers and Programs)

If teachers are well-trained, they are so overloaded with students that they cannot meet the needs of their students. This was the dilemma faced by the remedial reading teacher who had 60-70 students, could not meet their needs, and wrote to ask for advice. (Why Remedial Reading Teachers Can't Teach Children to Read (and What They Can Do About It)

Supporting Teachers

Your perception that "we do not support special education teachers" is inaccurate, so I want to set the record straight. Many of our friends are special education teachers. Many members of our family are teachers. It is impossible to advocate for children with disabilities and not support teachers. "Support" is not blind faith.

When Pete and I do training programs, we meet and speak with teachers from around the country. These teachers are deeply concerned about their students. They want advice about how to handle obstacles within their school systems, including:

* districts that select educational programs that have no research to support their use (and when programs are not effective, children fail to learn)

* staff training or "personnel development" that is a waste of time (a few hours or a day of training means a teacher is an "expert" on a methodology)

* no coherent plan to upgrade teachers' knowledge and skills

* new teachers who enter the classroom without sufficient knowledge and skills, do not get sufficient supervision by experienced teachers, are left to fend for themselves, get overwhelmed and isolated, leave teaching within three years

* teachers who teach subjects about which they know nothing

* teachers who are burned out because administrators pile work on them (like the remedial reading teacher) including unnecessary paperwork

* administrators who predetermine services and placements and alter IEPs without the parent's knowledge or consent

* teachers who attempt to advocate for their students and who experience retaliation from administrators and other teachers

Burnout Time

It sounds like you may be burned out. If you are, you need to think about working in a better school district - or whether you want to continue to work as a special educator.

In addition to compassion for children with disabilities, special educators need to be:

* open-minded, flexible, creative problem-solvers
* knowledgeable about research based instructional methods
* willing to upgrade their knowledge and skills continuously
* capable of dealing with administrators who may focus on their interests, not the interests of their staff or students

It isn't easy. As a teacher you have options.

It isn't easy for parents of children with disabilities. Parents don't have the option of leaving the parenting job because they are not adequately prepared or supported.

You have more power than you think. Read One Person is a Fruitcake, 50 People Are a Powerful Organization - it may trigger creative solutions to problems you face.

Resources - Visit the Teacher page for more information & resources

Congress Orders Study of Teacher Ed Programs. The mandated study about coursework requirements, how reading and math are taught, and how programs are aligned with scientific evidence may lead to standards, norms, and professionalization of teaching.

National Board Certified Teachers More Effective. Study by University of Washington and the Urban Institute finds that teachers who earned national certification are more effective in raising student achievement than other teachers.

Passport to Teaching Certification from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence.

Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) - a one-year urban teacher preparation program; co-teach with master teachers, take courses, receive a 10,000 stipend.

Revised: 02/24/09

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