Describing Of Two Educational Reforms
Over the past 100 years the education system has changed tremendously. Partially due to educational reforms. The purpose of educational reforms is to fulfil commitments made upon the belief that a societies fundamental basis for development is education. Reforms have always been a touchy subject because of the impact it has on society and the nation as a whole. When referencing educational reforms, we are bringing forth the topic of changes in the school system that involves the areas of student policies, curriculum, educational philosophy, organization, and management. Reforms were created with a one size fits all idea, when in all actuality they are designed by people who are oblivious of the actual challenges faced in the classroom on a daily basis. Over the last 100 years there have been many changes that affect the education system, in particular the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
One of the most common reforms we hear about is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The No Child Left Behind was created in hopes of closing achievement gaps by ensuring that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or race, be given the opportunity to a high-quality education. The No Child Left Behind Act is composed of four main components: stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents (Four Pillars of NCLB, 2004). To achieve the goal of bringing all students to the proficient level, every state is required to develop challenging academic standards that are the same for every student, this includes low income students and the special education population. While getting all students to their states level of proficiency is an admirable goal and something every educator should be striving to achieve, is this goal actually attainable? Or are we setting ourselves up for failure? How are we as educators supposed to teach every individual the same but different all at the same time? Being able to provide an individual learning experience that caters to each individual students needs would be amazing. It just seems like such an impossible task especially when class sizes are large and time is limited. Part of the requirement for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is having the students that are labeled as special ed receive their education in the least restrictive environment depending on how severe their disability is.
I teach in a very low-income district at the very southern tip of Texas, we are literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from Mexico. In May my students take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness aka the STAAR. It is sad to say but the way the students at our campus are taught is basically to the test. I teach seventh grade math and the demographics for just my grade level is 99% Hispanic, 60% LEP, and 37% SPED. The way our school is set up students are placed into teams. Team 7-1 is considered the LEP team and receives all the recent immigrants that enroll in the campus and has the majority of the LEP students, Team 7-2 is for the general ed kids and the migrant population, and team 7-3 is the Special Education team, where all of the students labeled sped are placed in this team. Team 7-3 has a combination of general ed kids and LEPs, but out of the 100 students on this team, 33 of the students are labeled as special ed. This set up makes no sense to me. By law, we must have special education students in the least restrictive environment where students must be able to interact with their peers, and even though my campus technically mainstreamed them with the general population, they are still podded together on one team. Which means that as a teacher on this team you can have up to at least 7 Sped students out of 19 students in each of your classes, almost half of your class has some kind of learning disability! I stop and think well maybe they have the teams set up this way because you have to provide modifications to the sped students as well as the LEP students so it will be easier on the teacher if they group them this way. But in all actuality this makes it so much more difficult. One-third of team 7-3 has a learning disability and are still expected to show growth on each of our benchmarks throughout the year as well as showing growth on the STAAR Test. In my opinion, a way to relieve some of the burden that has been placed on the current teachers on team 7-3 and providing the students a more inclusive learning experience would be to spread the special education students out instead of podding all of them on just one team. Rather then having 33 sped students on one team it would be 11 sped students on 3 teams, and different classes that would be about 2 special ed students per class period. The Tennessee Student/Teacher Achievement Ration (STAR) Program was the first large-scale experiment on small class size. The STAR study showed that those in kindergarten classes of 13-17 students were about one month ahead of their counterparts in classes of 22-25 at the end of the year. Follow-up studies of STAR students through grade 7 show higher achievement levels in reading, language, math, science and social studies (Class Size Reduction: A Proven Reform Strategy)
While I feel it is important to have a set of guidelines on how students should be taught, I do not think it is fair to blanket everyone under the one size fits all category. Having students with disabilities podded together and expecting the same results as a general population teacher is a ridiculous request. If we are expected to differentiate for each of our student based on their individual need, shouldn’t reform expectations be adjusted to fit each student population accordingly?