I sat in another re-eval and IEP meeting yesterday.
I was invited by the parent. I know all the people involved as we have met about this particular student before. The last time we met it was determined, through a less than valid speech and language evaluation, that this kiddo did not meet the criteria for educational autism. The parent protested, brought valid questions to the re-eval manager and the district brought in the most amazing SLP ever. Needless to say, the kiddo now meets the educational autism criteria. And this was not a difficult thing to determine even without the first shoddy SLP eval
So, today’s post is one of frustration and more questions than legitimate answers.
I walked out of the meeting relieved there are two highly effective people on the IEP team and that with them, this kiddo has a chance for a better next year. My disappointment is in the district for allowing such mediocrity to thrive in so many areas. It costs money, energy parents are hard pressed to muster, time, and trust is weakened or, at worst, lost.
I believe my role in meetings parents invite me to is not one of adversary or advocacy. I don’t want to take sides. I want to have grown up and informed discussions, brainstorming and collaboration. I believe it is my responsibility to objectively observe, ask mindful questions, evaluate information, contribute to the development of an effective and individualized IEP. I know this stuff. I know what teachers are supposed to do, how administrators should be evaluating teachers and programs, how to gather and interpret relevant data, and how to develop effective interventions, how to help parents understand, how to offer suggestions without offending. But when I sit in meetings listening and observing, I am continually struck by the lack of efficiency, relevancy and knowledge of most of the key players at the table.
I know I sound like an arrogant ass. I assure you, I know my limits, and all too deeply understand there is much I do not know. There are so many truly accomplished and amazing experts in the field of education. I pale in comparison. But I never stop learning, never accept less than what I know to be best for kids and their teachers. And what I do well is diplomatic coaching and questioning to guide us to the best solutions and interventions.
At the end of every meeting, in a variety of schools and districts with diverse groups of people, I inevitably have the same questions. And I do not understand why people are not more up in arms about the same stuff. These questions are primarily about accountability. I already blogged about who is actually responsible for holding the evaluators accountible. But this is so unresolved and I don’t know what I can do about it. I am convinced this is a systemic thing. I certainly do not hold those providing direct service more responsible than those in administration buildings across town. But I do hold every single player responsible for turning a blind eye or complacently accepting such mediocrity.
Q Why do ineffective special education teachers still have jobs?
A Because most administrators do not know how to evaluate the effectiveness of special education teachers. Principals are generalists. If they actually have special education experience, more often than not, they were not terribly effective as such. They always had their eyes on being an administrator. Or worse, they were special education teachers for decades and have not bothered to stay current. Because new administrators were often teaching side by side with the people they are now in charge of evaluating and that’s just to icky to give a former teacher pal a poor evaluation.
Q Why aren’t mentors given any training to be effective and mindful mentors?
A Because there is the belief that anyone can mentor. Not true.
A Because nobody knows how to evaluate special education programs. It takes time, keen observing, listening, collaborating, knowledge and experience. As I said, building administrators are generalists and in this education climate everything is academic data driven. And because way too many of us assume that whoever is leading those programs must know what they are doing. Right?
Q Why are there so many administrators hiring clueless people for really important positions in special education? (And this is every district.)
A Because they don’t know how to interview. Because they assume the candidates must be experts since they still have teaching positions in the district. Because they are friends with the candidates. Because they choose candidates that do not question them, ruffle feathers, or call bullshit when they see it. Nobody likes a trouble maker. (Well, I do when they are causing trouble where trouble should be caused.)
Q.. Why are there so many poorly written IEPs, disappointing FBAs and BIPs? Why, why, why?
A Because those responsible may not know better. Because those that do not know better are not being coached by those who do know better. Because in most districts the people who should be monitoring have history with those who do not know and don’t want to hurt their feelings. Because often times the ones doing the double checking don’t even know how to write strong IEPs, FBAs and BIPs.
Q When a teacher is asked specific questions during an IEP meeting and cannot answer them, why do they still have a job? Example questions include what methods they use when teaching reading, or about if the student has reading readiness skills and phonemic awareness, or number sense, or sound/symbol matching, or why certain areas of performance were included in the goals section of an IEP, if the student initiates interactions with peers, or how long the student can attend to a task with assistance, independently….. and yes, I have asked all those questions at IEP meetings and the all too familiar deer in the headlights look stares back at me. No lie.
A Because most don’t know what the hell they are doing in special education programs. Well maybe I should not use absolutes here. Most don’t know what the hell they are doing especially in programs for kids with Autism, cognitive delays and behavioral challenges.
Q Why to I think I can do better?
A Because this is the one thing I know I do well. I am an expert at this stuff. And I suck at many things, so I know the difference. Because I know how to coach and guide. Because I know we can do better and I can get us there. Because my experience tells me there are much better ways.
So, I am for hire.
Q Why are calls for my services so few?
A Because I don’t do things the way we have always done them. Because I ask too many questions. Because I am so dissatisfied and say so. Because I see the flaws, the holes in the dam and nobody wants to admit they are there. Because my solutions are unconventional and student-centered. And too many schools are not about that.