This class has been slightly difficult for me. I'm not a teacher. I'm continuing my education in order to become something along the lines of a behavioral/habilitation therapist. My last experience with K-12 school was when I was a student myself. However, it was still very interesting to see the different theories and the evolution of education. This was also my very first philosophy I'd ever taken.
I want to start out with a quote one of my other professors gave us to reflect upon in one of my other classes. She wrote that "diversity of students, simply defined as the condition of being different, is at odds with a system of education that requires conformity and assimilation of an unyielding curriculum." It seems that it doesn't matter what students in K-12 want to be when they grow up. Everyone is subject to learning the same curriculum without much deviation. All students must learn the same facts and take the same tests. They are expected to sit quietly, be still, and learn. However, not all children are capable of these seemingly simple tasks. Children who are different (for whatever reason) face numerous challenges because they are singled out from the rest of their peers. The United States is an individualistic society, but within the school system it appears to that of a collective one. I do not agree with this form of education. It would be ideal if each student can receive the specialized education that they desire.
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For this very reason, I've always been a fan of Piaget and Montessori. Teachers can use his theory to modify the student's environment to match their learning capabilities. I think that too many teachers are trying to mold their students to match their teaching styles. Teachers should be more engaging and converse with the students instead of focusing on drills and memorization. Very few children perform well at this (disabled or not). Instead, teachers should use a less directed approach and encourage the students' interests and motivate them to want to learn. In addition, I think schools should focus on children's knowledge of adaptive behavior. I think being able to be independent and socially responsible is just as important as being able to pass standardized testing. Those with deficits in adaptive behavior lack daily living and work skills. Self-care skills involve knowing how to handle money, feeding oneself, and using proper hygiene. Adaptive behavior also requires that one can get around and survive in the community. This includes safety knowledge (like being able to recognize stop signs and follow them) and communicating with others (like asking for assistance). If children have trouble with adaptive behavior, then one can only imagine the difficulty they are having in the classroom.
The four curricular elements that must be addressed in the classroom with students are content, instructional strategies, instructional settings, and student behaviors. The content that is taught refers to the skills and knowledge associated with the various academic topics. This includes prerequisite skills and expressive and receptive language skills needed to comprehend and learn the content. Instructional strategies are the methods and techniques used that help students acquire the content and manage behavior. The element of student behaviors refers to the student's ability to manage/control their behaviors in a variety of environments. The instructional setting refers to the classroom environments in which the students learn. This can be anywhere from one-on-one instruction to large-group situations. All four of these elements are interrelated and connected. It's important to remember that any change to one of the elements will affect the others.
Standardized testing provides an effective means for measuring student achievement progress. Results are research-based and to some extent viable. However, if this form of testing is the primary means for holding teachers accountable as being "highly qualified" and measuring student achievement, it can lead to malpractice in the classroom. For instance, teachers may disregard creating creative curriculums and simply "teach to the test." As schools move increasingly toward scripted or research based curriculums a lot of the guess work is being taken out of the equation for new teachers. Highly qualified to me means someone with years of experience in the classroom and is familiar with not only pedagogy but students as well.
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Besides inappropriate educator practices, standardized tests do not always accurately reflect students' abilities. Some people simply do not perform well when taking tests (even some very smart and educated people). Even more so, a test cannot capture all of a student's skills to apply their knowledge in a variety of contexts. Other critics continue to claim that standardized tests are culturally biased; therefore some students from diverse backgrounds are facing an obstacle before they have the chance to fill in the bubbles.
The issue of standardized testing goes beyond the yearly state testing, such as with the AIMS. This issue speaks to the daily or weekly tests that teachers use from curriculums to other achievement tests. As a provider who works with students with disabilities, I am particularly opposed to solely using standardized tests to measure student performance or achievement. I think that most teachers like multiple choice or true false because they are easy to score. However, if you really want to see what a student knows then I would want then to apply it to real life. You have to work with the children, know what is going on in their lives, look at their work samples, and observe the progress being made that cannot be seen on a test. You have to know what their learning styles are, if they have testing anxiety, and what are their strengths are. A portfolio approach to student achievement is a much more accurate measure of their achievement and progress.
There are two major difficulties with obtaining appropriate assessments. These are that there is insufficient training for teachers and a lack of involvement of the parents. This is even more so in the cases of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. There is a need for more teachers and evaluators that are familiar with the various cultural and linguistic backgrounds and the CLD student population.
According to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children are not to be identified as disabled because of poor achievement due to "environmental disadvantage" or ethnic, linguistic, or racial difference. However, this idea is often and some CLD minority groups are still being labeled as disabled and are being overrepresented in special education classes. It's upsetting that each state uses different criteria to classify disabilities that would place a child in special education. Unfortunately many schools are taking advantage of this flaw and are unintentionally and even intentionally over-representing CLD students in special education.
It's not unique to Arizona schools that there are educational funding problems. Budget cuts have increased class sizes and decreased teaching staff members. There is often not money for bilingual/multicultural programs and CLD children are forced into the mainstream. Here, there aren't a lot of opportunities for early intervention programs and support services. Thus, the children aren't able to obtain the personalized attention they need from their teachers. They fall behind and are labeled as disabled, mainly as having a learning disability or being emotionally disturbed. Another issue that contributes to this problem are the zero tolerance rules that may unintentionally encourage less patience for cultural disparities.
Unfortunately, the easiest solution to this problem would be an increase in educational funding. However, we all know the economy will take quite some time to recover and it's not reasonable to sit around waiting for it. Teachers need to make it a point to meet with parents outside the school setting to understand more about their culture and their interests in their children's future. The parents need to become more active in their children's school life and maybe join a school committee where they can gain support. The school can do its part by making support services available and ensuring that parents know their rights when it comes to education.
It's very important that the parents are a part of their child's education. The teachers cannot help the child succeed without the parents' help. They should try to volunteer at school functions, PTA committees, and show their enthusiasm and support of the integration program. If parents can show their children that they believe the program is the best thing in the world, the child will pick up this attitude and have an easier time cooperating and trying their hardest to succeed.
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It is crucial that the parents are deeply involved. With this involvement they can help their child succeed. In fact, it's so important that parents are part of a full multidisciplinary assessment team that they are required to be so by IDEA. No one knows more about the child than the parents. In order to include the parents as interpreter may be required. It's necessary that the interpreter is aware of the situation and the context of the assessment of the child.
Although the parents are a major factor in their child's success, the fact is that the teacher is ultimately responsible for the child's education. This school values the teamwork between the general, bilingual, and special education teachers. This reminded me a bit of the set-up of my fourth grade class. There were two classrooms that were connected to each other. There wasn't even a wall between the rooms. The teachers worked as a team, planned classes together and even switched students. They would mix up the classes for certain subjects like math and reading. It wasn't a multicultural program, but it wouldn't have been hard to mold that already existing model into a working program. In addition, they had the full support of the principal. Any program (bilingual or not) cannot succeed if the teachers aren't empowered by the principals and encouraged to continue trying new things and keeping their minds open.
I also think that this new immigration bill will have a negative effect on a large number of children in our schools. Advocators of the bill argue that it will be an overall positive effect in our schools. They argue that there will be less illegal children crowding up our classrooms. First of all, most of these children were born in this country and are citizens of the United States. It's their parents who are here illegally. This bill will place numerous of already at-risk children into danger of not receiving a proper education. Parents of illegal children may now fear sending their children to school for fear that they will be "discovered" and sent back. Others may pack up and leave the state. This moving will disrupt the child's education and they may not receive an appropriate education where they move to be it another state or country. Any bill that endangers a child's education should not be passed without extreme scrutiny and votes from all parties the bill would affect.Bottom of Form