Teachers have a thousand tasks to complete every day. Identifying and sharing accommodations is an important one that takes time. This blog post shows a resource that allows teachers to literally shop for accommodations like they shop for items on Amazon or Target.
Accomods is an online source of accommodations for special education and intervention. It is useful for both special education and general education students.
Here is a FB Reel and a YouTube video showing how this works. You can choose to browse for a specific accommodation by topic such as “attending to instruction” shown below. You can customize a plan by identifying strengths and weaknesses and Accomods will provide you a full plan. Or you can search for a specific accommodation.
The resulting plan provides an explanation, examples, and links to implemented examples.
Teacher frustration and burn out was a thing before the Pandemic. Now?! “Why Education Is About To Reach A Crisis Of Epic Proportions”
In a recent FORBES article, the writer, Marc C. Perna, addresses Pandemic related and significant teacher stress. He cites the following:
A “vicious cycle” about increased demands on teachers undercutting teacher effectiveness, which in turn causes more problems and therefore more demands to address.
Promoting self-care and positivity is not only insufficient, but counter productive
A major recommendation is for administration to reduce the number of items on the plate of teachers – free up time for “mission-critical tasks.”
We as a nation are facing significant “fallout” from this crisis
Teacher Schedule and Tasks
The point he doesn’t appear to explicitly cite is the pre Pandemic situation was already a version of what we see now. Teachers spend at least 75% of their work day in front of students. That leaves at most 25% of the work day to do the following “mission-critical” tasks.
Develop effective lesson plans
Create artifacts and activities for those lesson plans
Researching or seeking out ideas for lessons, activities, or artifacts for classroom management, lessons, assessment, classroom set up
Analyze data for intervention and differentiation
Create artifacts and activities for the intervention and differentiation
Implement special education accommodations and modifications
Incidental and informal collaboration with other teachers
Those are the daily activities. There are other “mission-critical” activities that occur periodically.
Grading tests or projects
Parent phone calls
Attending IEP meetings
Revising curriculum and formal planning with other teachers
Meeting with students (daily or almost daily for many teachers)
Time wise, the best scenario is a teacher in a school with block scheduling and has 1 1/2 hours of daily planning (which many teachers would die for). Many of the daily tasks cited would take at least half an hour each. So a teacher could get three of those tasks completed during planning. Throw in just one of the periodic activities cited and the teacher doesn’t even get three tasks completed.
Now consider other task demands placed upon teachers.
Professional development and related tasks
Teacher evaluation tasks
Various school initiatives to implement
Top down directed professional learning community work prescribes work to be conducted
There are days in which teachers have maybe half an hour to meet the responsibilities cited above. Again, this was a Pre-Pandemic standard.
Why this Matters
In addition to what Perna cited, I offer the following.
In education, the rubber hits the road in the classroom with the teachers implementing the lessons and supports. Less preparation impacts both and that impacts students. This is particularly significant in the case of special education in which teachers are asked to be masters of the universe.
Also, learning is rapidly changing, significantly. Students having all the information in the world at their finger tips and a vast amount of information is being shared via social media – for better and worse. Teaching has to adjust. That takes even more time.
I am interested in hearing from others, especially parents.
Connecticut has a new IEP template rolling out in 2022. A key feature is that elements of the IEP that are connected are now on the same page (below). I personally think this is outstanding, and at the time of writing this, I am still exploring.
In the video, Charles Barkley has made great progress getting to Annapolis for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Problem is, the tournament was in Indianapolis.
For obvious reasons, in special education we frequently discuss and recognize progress. As in the commercial, there can be a lot of progress, but in what direction? Is it moving the student towards postsecondary goals the family has established and will the student be prepared for postsecondary life?
When I work with IEP teams or with families, I look to establish the postsecondary goals and evaluate progress accordingly. Often, I am called in to help when a student is in middle or high school and is years behind in math. With only a few years remaining with support through IDEA, it is crucial that progress be evaluated in terms of a long range plan that gets the student ready for postsecondary life and the student is ready BEFORE leaving high school (or a transition program). In other words, the student arrives in Indianapolis and is there before the game starts.
Each year spent with a student with special needs is the first year of a chain of subsequent years, like a line of dominoes. EXCEPT, there are multiple lines of dominoes and a teacher may be tipping over the first domino in a line of several possible lines of dominoes. One line may topple towards community college and another towards a job, with no college.
Each year impacts the future, yet we often only see that one year in isolation. We see only the next domino.
Some educators and parents of students with special needs are unclear about what is meant by the term inclusion. Some think it is having the student with a disability in the same location as “nondisabled peers.” Some think it involves doing the same exact tasks or academic work.
Sesame Street figured this question out years ago. The girl in the red shirt in the video below (video set to start with her) was experiencing inclusion, not because she was next to the other kids. She was not jumping rope but was most certainly included and appeared to love it! (Note: “inclusion” is not defined in IDEA, so formally this issue would be one of least restrictive environment.)
Below is a genius representation of inclusion (not my idea).
It appears that inclusion is sometimes viewed as a dichotomous choice. For example, I observed the student in a school who was the most severely impacted by a disability sitting in a grade level history class during a lesson communism. This was an effort to provide inclusion but was he was experiencing proximity.
Below is an example of inclusion for a student with autism in an algebra 1 class. Below left is a typical math problem. To the right is one I created for the student with autism. It was designed to help him understand the concept of matching inputs and outputs without using a lot of the math terminology. In his case, the focus in math was on concepts.
As a parent of a child with a disability and as a math educator, I am repeatedly struck by the fact that a group of adults (educators and professionals) convene to discuss and plan how to help a child. A great deal of time, resources, and money is concentrated on that child. Awesome! Unfortunately, in math education I frequently encounter situations in which this collective energy is concentrated on math that is more about boxes to check than engaging the student in math that he or she will need in post-secondary life.
IDEA enumerates the purpose of special education, with the transition goals aligned with employment, living skills, and future education that are desired for each individual student. This is explicit and aligns with the goal most teachers likely have, to make a difference in the lives of their students.
Despite this, when I am called in to help with math programming for a student I often find the math being presented to the student is not aligned with the post-secondary goals and often appear to the result of following the general ed curriculum, by default. Here are some examples.
I co-taught an algebra 1 class with a student impacted by autism to the point that he needed a paraprofessional guiding him through the daily work. He worked in isolation with the para and struggled with the basic elements of the course. It was not until his junior year that he was moved to a consumer math class.
A senior was in a consumer math course I taught. The course was for students who could not access the general curriculum, yet her transition goal for education was to attend a community college. This setting likely require a math course (that did not have consumer math topics) and a placement test.
Over 25 years of teaching math I have periodically heard educators minimize the struggles of students with math with the rationalization “they will never need this math.” My response is to ask why “then we are presenting this math to them?!”
So what math do they need? Here is a list of blog posts that address this question. In short, here is what I share with IEP teams, educators, parents, and special ed teacher candidates I teach.
If the goal is a career that involves a 4 year degree, then boxes must be checked. The student will have to have the math courses needed to get into the college and to prepare for the math in his or her major. This is the “mathy math” that will be on a college placement test as well.
For a 2 year degree at a school with open admissions, the focus of the high school math can be narrowed to the math course required (if any) and on the placement test. Typically, this would involve a focus on algebra. For the aforementioned 10th grader, we did not cover geometry and prioritized the algebra topics to cover.
For another middle school student whose goal was to have a job and to be as independent as possible. He loved sports and his mother said he would love to work in a sports related store. For him I recommended data and statistics (not the mathy type but meaningful and applied stats and data) to help him make sense of and discuss sports stats. This was complemented by a recommendation for consumer math.
The orange circle on the right looks bigger, but in fact both are the same size. The deception is based on the additional sensory input.
Similarly, the prerequisites for taking algebra are often considered to be basic skills. This is largely an illusion. I routinely encounter students who are referred to me for help as they have been caught in an infinite loop of working on basic math such as number operations (adding, subtracting, multiplication, and division) before moving on to algebra, with limited progress. I am not suggesting basic math skills are not important but am focused on the context of prerequisites needed to engage algebra. Many of the students I have helped who were in this situation. We worked to quickly move them into algebra where they were successful.
One student worked on half a year of 4th grade math during her 7th grade year. During the spring of that 7th grade year and the subsequent summer, I worked with her on algebraic thinking and algebra topics. She successfully completed algebra 1 during her 8th grade year.
The Common Core of State Standards (CCSS) for Math maps out the prerequisites as seen in the CCSS math domains (below). Throughout elementary school, Operations and Algebraic Thinking topics are covered. The Algebraic Thinking standards establish for the students a foundation for algebra taught in middle and high school. A focus of algebra is to model or represent patterns or relationships in real life situations using equations, tables, and graphs. These include quantities modeled by variables.
Below is a break down of this foundation in elementary school. If you are supporting a student in middle or high school who is taking algebra and has major gaps in his or her math education, look to these standards for the essential prerequisite skills.
First Grade: represent situations in word problems by adding or subtracting, and introduce equations (and equal sign).
Second Grade: Represent, solve word problems, introduce multiplication as groups of objects.
Third Grade: represent, solve word problems, explain patterns
Fourth Grade: Solve word problems, generate and analyze patterns
Fifth Grade: Write expressions (equations are 2 expressions with an = in between), analyze patterns and relationships