Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why A Special Education Teacher Resigned

From the Washington Post:
Wendy Bradshaw is a mother and a teacher in Florida’s Polk County who specializes in working with children — infants through fifth grade — living with disabilities to help improve their educational and life experiences. She has undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in education. Bradshaw loves to teach but she has reached a point where she cannot tolerate working within an education system focused on standardized test-based accountability that forces children to perform developmentally inappropriate tasks.

She is, she said, tired of being forced to make kids cry.

Here is her resignation letter, which I am publishing with permission. This appeared on the website of the  The Opt Out Florida Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for public education and against test-based school reforms. She is an administrator for the Opt Out Polk group within that network.

Here’s what Bradshaw wrote....
Hat tip to reader Anna for the link.


Ellen K said...

Sadly, the pay wall won't let me read it. I can anticipate what happens. The new paradigm is to put kids into classes far beyond their abilities where they struggle and get frustrated while simultaneously demanding teachers' time to the point no other kids get time for help.

Darren said...

"Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place, which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective, but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for.

"However, I must be honest. This letter is also deeply personal. I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard."

Anonymous said...

I am certain that there are many k-12 kids placed inappropriately in classes where they cannot master the material, because they are so far behind that level, and that is not limited to defined spec ed kids. It is the inescapable consequence of the far-too-frequent use of heterogeneous, fully-included grouping. (and the upper end of the academic spectrum is bored and denied work at their level). I also agree with her about the computer-based testing, especially for younger kids; in that they are asked to use a tool/format with which they are not sufficiently familiar and/or skilled.

However, she is fundamentally anti-test, in that she feels that her spec ed kids should get a HS diploma even if they cannot pass the HS-graduation test - because the test is impossible for some of her kids. She doesn't seem to realize that THE TEST exits because of the widespread issuance of diplomas to kids lacking the knowledge and skills the diploma was intended to ensure. There is a real unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that some kids are incapable of passing a test requiring meaningful academic proficiency. Those are the kids who used to be in a program preparing them for work (with as much academics as they can handle). I know two grads of such a HS, which still exists because parents choose to send their cognitively-handicapped kids there; to learn skills that lead to a job after graduation. Just because some kids work as a hotel housekeeper or sheltered workshop (kids I know) doesn't mean they are of any less worth as individual human beings than kids on more-academic paths. One of "those kids" is fully self-supporting (although lives with family) and the other contributes to his own support. In my view, that's a win.

Ellen K said...

@Anonymous. You are correct. Public schools run the costs of having to "educate" some special needs students until they age out at 21.Schools run out of elective options, so they parachute these students into general ed classes. Sometimes it works. But just as often it become an exercise in frustration and resentment as the general education teachers are required to give accommodations that we don't have time, facilities or materials to provide while at the same time we are supposed to address the needs of 504, ESL and G/T kids in the same room. Why do they do this, you ask? They do this because the parents of special needs students have sued their way into the classroom. It is one thing if the student is intellectually able to perform, but we have students who cannot talk, cannot write, who run around the room when upset and somehow general ed teachers are supposed to figure out how to manage this student without an aide and without more than minimal information as to the student's situation. Then at the end, we have litigious parents who demand college recommendations for students who can't walk down the hall without getting lost. Seriously, the parents of these children grew up on the sit com with Corky, who was a real life high functioning young man with Downs Syndrome. In reality, few of the students we are getting fit that high functioning a profile. And that doesn't even begin to touch the situation with behaviorally and mentally ill students who sometimes come with aides because they have attacked faculty members. It is misguided. It is inappropriate. And when you have a student who talks about how he can kill you with a hammer used in class and the administration does nothing, it's a good reason to start finding another job.