Saturday, October 22, 2005

Integration

Since I've already cracked open the Pandora's box of mainstreaming vs. tracking, I thought I'd toss another log into the fire. Here's a quotation from Joseph Shapiro's No Pity--a collection of essays advocating the disability rights movment:
"Segregation--whether the result of stairs or attitudes--creates harmful myths and stereotypes. Worse, it sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy for failure. That disabled people are invisible or separated, Americans have long assumed, is proof that they do not need inclusion or are not even capable or worthy of it."
Are we setting up students for failure by giving them the "basic skills" or "special education" labels? What criteria are we using to track students at Arapahoe, and how does constructivism support or contradict this system?

13 comments:

  1. I think that students that have been on the track of learning disabled need, first of all, to build confidence. When I taught basic skills, all I ever heard was,"I'm stupid". I cannot tell you how frustrating this was. Yes, those students needed extra help on assignments and maybe extra clarification, but they really needed encouragement and self confidence. I think mainstreaming would be a good thing, if those students had enough confidence in themselves to actually talk with other students.

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  2. I find that usually students will live up to the challenges they meet, given time and support. Many of these kids have had so many labels placed upon them that they already feel like failures. I agree with Wallace that we have to instill confidence because when you're shot down so much and placed into "special classes" you are going to think that you are less. With reagrds to tracking, I'm not always sure of the criteria behind it. I don't think we set students up for failure by being in these classes, but obviously they need them to develop basic skills that are lacking in certain academic areas. But, when given the opportunity to flourish, I think an constructivist appraoch would be beneficial to all students reagrdless oif their level. These kids are certainly able to create their own meaning, and to tell them that they can't just keeps them down even more. Despite various levels in education, ALL kids are capable of thinking and creating menaing that is beneficial for them. It may not seem that way sometimes, but it's in there-we just have to pull it out sometimes.

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  3. Wow! This is right up my alley! As a special ed. teacher I see the postives and negatives, the successes and the failures associated with special education. I can think of several students who were able to take sped., learn from it by taking advantage (in a good way) of the IEP accomodations and excelling beyond anybody's expectations. The IEP truly helped these students. However, they were mainstreamed, had high confidence and didn't let the "Label" affect them. Unfortunatley, they are a majority. Many students in sped. don't have the self confidence and thus being "grouped" continues to reinforce to them that they are stupid and can't learn like others. I feel that many teachers don't expect as much from these students because of the IEP. Students know this and many take advantage of it. What will this get them in life? They may not be able to write a paragraph (or write clearly at all-remember many of these kids have quite low IQ's) like an honors kid, but I believe that they can be pushed beyond where many of them are performing now. Maybe, we as teachers, need to be more clear as to what an "A" looks like. It might be different for different kids but it doesn't mean we can't expect them to keep improving. Unfortunatlty, I don't have an answer for this but do know that these kids are being left behind in more ways than one.Whatever happened to the vocational classes? Many of these kids would excell in a hands on class and would leave with a skill. Why do they have to pass a test to be considered successful?

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  4. Great comments... my thought is how do we instill self confidence in a student especially in a system that creates labels? If one teacher does it, yet the system, peers, parents and other teachers do not, will it be successful?

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  5. Like Adam I have previously taught skills kids who didn't have the self-confidence to believe they could be successful in a regular classroom setting. It was frustrating but made for great teaching moments. Although I do not like the labels that are placed on kids and sometimes are misplaced on certain kids because of laziness, I did enjoy having more one on one time with them as a result of the smaller class sizes. It allowed for me to work with each on their specific skills rather than the students feeling lost in a larger class setting. In a typical class of 30 students there isn't the opportunity to work on the areas where they struggle. I think the construcivist approach allows in either situtation for the students to work on the areas of interest and areas of struggle with the teacher supporting and guiding them along.

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  6. Skills classes can be very helpful for the students who SHOULD be in them. If students are going to fail because they are lazy or behave poorly, let them do so in a regular class and therefore create a better environment for those who remain in skills classes. I have had many motivated students and experienced many vibrant discussions in the skills US History classes that I have taught. It just helps not to have the wrong students present.

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  7. I fully agree with Roger's comment. I taught skills for 3 years and then we decided to cut the Extended Algebra classes from the curriculum. I had to decide which students would stay in it for another year and which would move onto a "regular" algebra class. I ended up recommending 18 out of 65 to stay in skills. Some of the others are now in my Algebra classes and are doing quite well. Some students needs the skills classes to be successful and other use it to be lazy.

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  8. It is always good to see what others think about the posts. I like Wallce's thoughts about confidence. The problem seems to be when students are tracked, they act "down" to the expecations that other seem to have for them. Roger said it best when he refers to students that should be in skills. I also think that they way classes are offered and the types of students that take them leads to some form of tracking and I am not sure how to fix that.

    If we are going towards the constructivist approach to teaching I think that tracking will go away. Since the students are developing their own understanding they can be in mixed settings.

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  9. I think it's interesting that our discussion about "tracking" and "skills classes" has only focused on students placed in lower level classes. In that regard, I agree with Roger. Skills classes are great for kids that SHOULD be in them.

    But, what about the other extreme? In science, there has been a great debate about offering Honors or Pre-AP courses above and beyond our regular subjects. Those for the idea like the faster pace and higher level that can be used in their classes. Those in disagreement feel that we should raise the bar for all of our kids, not just the "Honors" kids.
    And a big part of this whole issue is the beliefs of the parents. It seems that most would choose an advanced or honors title for their child over success in an appropriate-level course.

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  10. This is an interesting discourse and the questions is timely as this school is looking at CCHE's recommended high school graduation requirements. There is a push in our school by some to change our graduation requirement to be in-line with the CCHE recommendations. If we should conform, what happens to those students who really can't do 4 years of science or math? Do we become a school of the elite - only those who are college bound? And what if the cost of college become so expensive that it is no longer an option for so many? Do we not still need mechanics, electricians, clerical, etc? Do they then have to go to "special" schools in order to get a general education? Basic skills is a label in a label society: Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, jock, geek. What is important is what we do with those who are labeled and how we help them achieve their potential.

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  11. I think that Jan has a very interesting point. Will the future be a school of elites? Will new requirements force out a certain population of our school? Would mainstreaming do the same thing? Some discussions are good, ideological discussions but with the current political climate towards education not neccessarily realistic discussions without changing the makeup of our school.

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  12. I hate to be the first to respond with a comment to a post. It is why I like to sit in the back of a classroom. I like to take it all in (your comments) and then figure out what I think or believe...

    I strongly believe not every student will go on to college, and a large number of the students who do attend college will not FINISH college. So is the real question, do we try to prepare every student for the possibility of being a college graduate? My belief is no. Our job is to help students work up to their potential. That does not necessarily mean prepare them for college immediately after high school. I know the statistics, a college graduate will earn much more money than the person who has only a high school diploma. Sorry, but not everyone has to have tons of money to be a contributing person to our society. And, they don't have to be a burden on our society. They are our enlisted military, our clerical staff, etc.

    I agree with those who have said that basic skill classes work only when the students are correctly placed. In addition, students come to us in high school at such different skill levels that the only way to move some students ahead is to start where they are, and build their skills to a level equal to the rest. So this is why I do not think we can eliminate tracking, at least in mathematics.

    OK, so I will step off of my soap box and grade the tests I gave today...

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  13. Although I recognize the problems that come along with tracking, I think that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. When I student-taught 7th graders in a school that was completely mainstreamed, I got incredibly frustrated because I felt like I was doing a huge disservice to the students who did not fit right in the middle of the pack. I had students reading at the 12th grade level and at the 2nd grade level, and I don't think that they got the attention that they needed. The other 70-80% of the students were probably having their needs met, but that 20-30% still bothered me. I think that differentiated instruction can only go so far within classrooms.

    I suppose that I also attempt to keep in mind that although many students are tracked into basic skills and honors classes at Arapahoe, there are plenty of other classes in which there is little or no tracking. For example: business courses, foreign language, the arts, and physical education do not have tracking. I think that students should have the opportunity to get extra help or really be challenged, based upon their particular needs.

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