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Fear & Loathing in Special Education

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Monitor this!

Posted 04-21-2010 at 06:26 PM by Speced9

Once upon a time, way before King George the W and No Child Left Behind, special educators were underfunded, mostly ignored, and blissfully ignorant to the stresses of accountability.

I was one of the blissfully ignornant....

Back in the day, we were separate, yet unequal and we liked it. (Fiddley Foo!)
We taught what we thought was the most beneficial for our students, and measured progress using CRTs and the Woodcock Johnson. We did this for one purpose only- to help us write goals for IEPs. We didn't have to be accountable to anyone, especially The Powers That Be. They were oblivious.

Then, one day, King George made the famous NCLB proclamation known to the masses. Special education administrators ran amuck looking for a way to show the progress that our students made during the course of the school year. Oh, we could have continued with our CRTs and Woodcock Johnsons, but they didn't really have what we needed to show continuous progress over the course of the year. We knew our students were progressing, but we just couldn't prove it.

As fate would have it, a group of wizards from Oregon whipped up a series of measures that focused on reading skills. They must have been hyper little wizards too because they made them to be given in one minute's time. They called it


No one really knew what DIBELS stood for (and we still don't), but special educators were amazed because they had a way to target specific reading skills and monitor student progress. Our instruction became data driven. All we needed was a name for what we did.

"Let's see here....we monitor.....we monitor progress.... progress is being monitored.....THAT'S IT! WE'LL CALL IT PROGRESS MONITORING!"

The Powers That Be in my neck of the woods decided that we should progress monitor every two weeks. They even gave us palm pilots that made it easier than anyone could imagine. At the end of the year, TPTB would come by and say,

"How are your students progressing?"

To which we would reply,


"Well, just look at this snazzy graph! The line on the graph goes up and down and up and down, but over the course of the year, it follows the AIM line! By golly, our students are progressing!"

Things went on like this for a couple of school years. We progress monitored using our spiffy little palm pilots, we changed our instruction by following the data, and we showed our parents and superiors how our students were progressing. Life was good. Then, it happened.......

SOME GOOFBALL PUSHED US TO THE OTHER EXTREME.

Before we knew it, we were monitoring reading every week. That took a full morning away from instruction each week. Then someone thought,


"Hey, these AIMSweb guys have measures for math! Let's do math too!" So, that was added to our plate. Just like DIBELS, we started out monitoring every two weeks, then it magically changed to every week, or as I like to call it, "Hey! Why don't we cratch off an afternoon of math instruction each week too?"

Before we knew it, writing came into the picture. "Every two weeks?", I asked with hope in my eyes. Nope. WEEKLY, and that's where we are today.

Each week, I spend all of Monday morning monitoring reading and writing and Wednesday afternoons monitoring early numeracy skills. That's four hours per week, thirty-six hours a quarter and one hundred forty-four hours a school year! That's over twenty-five school days worth of instruction we lose monitoring the progress we've made the other one-hundred sixty days!

Add in the time it takes to compute scores and input them into their respective Web sites, (Oh? Did I mention that our palm pilots were only for the first 3 years?) and you have a hell of a lot of time taken away from planning to boot. Then, there's the two half days we take to look at our data and configure interventions for those in THE RED ZONE. At this point, I'm not so sure that I shouldn't be looking at the data when I schedule a restroom break.

Needless to say, I'm now suffering from data driven fatigue.

We have created a monster, and it's name is Progress Monitoring.


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Total Comments 6

Comments

  1. Old Comment
    musicbug's Avatar

    Amen , my friend

    AIMs nearly drives me to drink. Since in my little world only about 5-8 out of 25 are in the red or yellow zone, those 25 days are you know what saying shhhhhh!!!!
    Posted 04-22-2010 at 07:01 AM by musicbug musicbug is offline
  2. Old Comment
    gingercat's Avatar

    You are a mindreader....

    you are sharing everything that is on my mind! Just spend another chunk of money buying a digital voice recorder to help with my progress monitoring and reading assessment....what is next!
    Posted 04-22-2010 at 05:55 PM by gingercat gingercat is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Mrs. R :)'s Avatar

    Restroom Break...

    In our school, our Principal actually posts articles on the wall facing the toilet so when we sit down to go, we are forced to read something teacher-related.

    I'm entirely serious.

    Your blog is so super snazzy by the way. Do you progress monitor your blog visitors? I bet they go up when you add more awesome clipart to your posts.

    Just a thought.
    Posted 04-24-2010 at 04:45 AM by Mrs. R :) Mrs. R :) is offline
    Updated 04-24-2010 at 04:46 AM by Mrs. R :) (what else? typo.)
  4. Old Comment
    cvt's Avatar

    progress

    What a great blog entry. I can totally relate to it.
    Posted 04-24-2010 at 09:25 PM by cvt cvt is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Speced9's Avatar
    You know what? I started annual reviews on Thursday, so this past Monday was my last day to progress monitor this year. Heck, I even announced it to the kids- "THIS IS OUR LAST DAY OF PROGRESS MONITORING!" Their facial expressions back at me seemed to say, "Thank you, kind sir. We are forever in your debt. Well, at least until August when you'll start torturing us again."
    Posted 05-01-2010 at 02:34 PM by Speced9 Speced9 is offline
  6. Old Comment
    TravelingGal's Avatar
    Amen, amen!!!!!!!!!! I think you should send this little essay to the state.
    Posted 05-11-2010 at 11:43 AM by TravelingGal TravelingGal is offline
 


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