Thought Provoking

I am currently trying to complete a discussion question for my final Master’s class and I have to stop and blog for a minute. The discussion is about Common Core and the preparation for higher education. Basically, how I feel about Common Core or do I prefer non-common core standards, like the TEKS for example. For those of you who do not know what the TEKS are they are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. I am from Texas, born and raised. I taught in Texas for 12 years before moving to Connecticut for my husbands job. Obviously, Connecticut uses Common Core.

Anyway, part of the discussion asks, “How learner-centered is Common Core?” I am struggling to answer this question. Do I answer with what I truly believe, or sugar coat it to answer the way the professor would like me too. Well, lets see how this goes.

What do I believe you ask……I believe if your classroom is learner centered, it is because you made it that way purposefully to meet the needs of the individual students in your classroom, not because some standard or essential knowledge and skill said you had too. END OF STORY!

What do you guys think?

Autism Advice

Fellow educators, parents, tutors and all the above who have the pleasure of working with students who have Autism. I need some help!!!

A little background……I have been working with a student in my classroom since August. I made it a point to get to know him and his family before school started. I had a sit down with the parents and found out his likes, dislikes, go-to’s, and so on. I got a ton of great information from them and was able to put in to good use. When we began the year, everything was new for him, the school, teacher, classroom, etc. Much of the behaviors were to be expected. We knew he had a fear of the hospital but I was bound and determined to get him there and work with some immersion therapy. Well, it backfired. He ran out of the hospital and it was tough to get him back in. He was yelling, screaming and overall not responding to my directions no matter which way I tried. From that day on, he did not seem to like me AT ALL! He would seem to only display behaviors when I was around, was aggressive only towards me and was not responding to me at all. At some point I lost sight of my role as his teacher and made it my sole goal in life to re-pair myself with him………that did not work. I was no longer able to provide him with the individualized differentiated lessons, behavior plans, strategies and accommodations he needed. I am currently working on my Master’s in Special Education and I’ve actively gone back over learned skills within my classes and there is so much that I can use to help this student that I don’t know where to start.

My fellow colleagues along with the BCBA had a bit of an intervention with me. They brought me back to reality and told me it was time to take a step back. I was at a point where I was not tracking his goals, not teaching any academics on his level with him, and so on. I agreed and realized I was doing more harm than good and the benefits did not outweigh the risk. We chose to pair him with a tutor in my classroom. She was to track his goals and be responsible for his over all growth with the tools and training I provided her with.

Fast forward two months now, he is in a much better place than he was. We are making plans to reintroduce him back into the vocational portion of my program by bringing him back to the hospital. How involved should I be in this process? Is it best to hang back and not be involved in the re-entry process? What would you do?

Data, Data, Data…..

This summer will mark two years since I moved from Texas to Connecticut. Last year, I was a special education long term sub and was actually able to use the data sheets I’ve always used and did not think twice. However, this year I have moved to a new district and a new position as a high school self-contained teacher to 11 wonderful students. I love the job and feel like I should have been in this position my whole teaching career. However, the way I have always done data does not seem to work this year. Then again….I did do the unthinkable….I thought maybe I should change the way I have always done data and try something new!!!!

Data…can be our best friend and our worst enemy in the special education classroom. I understand why it must be done but I feel it consumes all my teaching and leaves no room to teach other topics beyond the students goals and objectives. But why?? What can I do differently?

Special education alone is data rich. We know it is important as it is a way to measure, gather, and prove where your students are academically. We, as special education teachers, must hypothesize about what goals and objectives we “think” students may be able to accomplish within a year. These are presented at an IEP, we all agree, and begin tracking.

Tracking data….the ole’ paper and pencil technique. Many districts have gone digital with their tracking by using websites such as Rethink. Whichever way you choose to take data, digital or paper/pencil, there has to be a better way of doing it. Teachers Pay Teachers has tons of resources that I have tried and have loved. However, as we all know, each year is different and the same way of doing data may not work from year to year.

I have relentlessly searched for ways to increase my literacy of how to best take data; and tried a ton….almost like those diets we all try hoping they might work. I’ve tried the sticky notes, clipboards, binders, data sheets, scraps of paper, and even the back of and palm of my hand becuase I don’t have handy what I need to record data. I’m looking for guidence here teacher friends. What ideas do you have? I’m open to anything and wanna try it all!

Data Analysis

As a Special Education teacher who works with Kindergarten students in an integrated classroom, I have often thought about whether or not students who attended Pre-K, whether in the public-school system or through a daycare, were more equipped for kindergarten.  Very often, in meetings with colleagues, when discussing students who are struggling, we ask the question, “Did they attend some form of Pre-K?”  In Pre-K children are taught skills needed for Kindergarten.  These skills may include counting, recognizing letters, not just the ones in their name, some form of writing, and books are constantly read aloud to them.  It is a place where children are taught independence and self-help skills such as putting on their jackets, cleaning up after themselves, initiating and completing activities and taking turns. 

I often ask myself how many children have attended Pre-K or Preschool over the years.  I would be a fool to think the number has not increased over time.  In my almost 13 years of teaching I have seen numerous changes to the school system and the demands placed on students.  When I first started teaching, Kindergarten was a place of exploration and curiosity.  It was a place where you learned how to get along with others and color inside the lines.  Now days, at least in my district, students in Kindergarten are required to go into first grade on a level D in reading.  

I search through tons of education data and found a report that showed the enrollment of students by county in the state of Connecticut.  Even though the data showed enrollment for all the districts I wanted to focus on Fairfield County; the county I currently reside and teach.  Fairfield County is comprised of 14 districts.  The data I analyzed was collected from the 2009-2010 school year to 2012-2013 school year. As I analyzed the data, I was interested to find that not all districts had an increase in enrollment and even those that did it was minimal at best.  In addition, I found that out of the 14 districts, 4 of them had a decrease in enrollment.  In light of this information, I would be interested in research behind the decrease as well as the small increase in enrollment.  What factors played into these numbers?  Was economics involved in the change in enrollment?

I have created 2 different graphs to illustrate the data for preschool enrollment in Fairfield County.  The first graph is a side by side view of the enrollment of students in Pre-K from the 2009-2010 school year and the 2012-2013 school year.  The second graph is a representation of each district in Fairfield County over a period of four years.

The Washington Post reporter Michael Alison Chandler wrote about national enrollment in state-funded preschool programs in May 2014.  It is important to note that this report was published a year after the data set I am presenting.  She states, as of May 2014, the state-funded preschool programs have declined nationally “for the first time in a decade, reflecting the economic downturn, according to a national survey” (Chandler).   She reports, “4,000 fewer children attended state Pre-kindergarten programs in 2012-2013 than the year before” (Chandler).  She goes on to quote Steve Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, who stated,

“Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool age children are being left to suffer the effects.”

Resources:

Chandler, M. A. (2014). Report: Preschool Enrollments Decline. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/report-preschool-enrollments-decline/2014/05/13/179b9392-da0d-11e3-bda1-9b46b2066796_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.67134a8e67aa

Kindergarten Students with Pre-kindergarten Experience by District: 2009-2012. Retrieved from https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/kindergarten-students-with-pre-kindergarten-experience-by-district-2009-2012

Tableau Graph Links:https://public.tableau.com/profile/elizabeth.white2479#!/vizhome/Pre-SchoolData3_0/Sheet1

https://public.tableau.com/profile/elizabeth.white2479#!/vizhome/Pre-SchoolData_0/Sheet3

Hello World!

Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth. I am a Special Education teacher in Connecticut. My family and I moved to Connecticut from Texas 8 months ago for a fantastic job opportunity offered to my husband.

Currently, my family and I live in Newtown, CT. My husband and I have two beautiful children. Our daughter is 3 and our son is 7.

I have been teaching for almost 13 years. My first 12 years were spent in the Cypress-Fairbanks School District in Houston, TX. I taught Second Grade Math & Science for 7 years, PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities ages 3-5) Self-Contained and Inclusion for 4 years, and 1 year teaching an Inclusion Pre-Kindergarten. Currently, I am a Special Education Resource teacher. I work with Kindergarten, 1st grade and one 3rd grade student. My students are mostly the comprehensive students that require all day care to be able to be successful in the inclusion environment.

The main purpose for creating this blog is I had to go back to school for my Master’s degree in Special Education. Connecticut BOE does not offer reciprocity for my Texas Teaching certificates. In Texas, you only need your masters degree if you a) want more money or b) want to be an administrator such as an Assistant principal, Principal, Instruction Specialist, Counselor, etc. I always wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember and did not have the desire to leave the classroom; hence why I did not seek a Masters. However, Connecticut makes the degree a requirement if I desire to continue teaching; and I do.

Anyway, as part of my Masters program I am required to create a teaching blog to discuss data in Education that I am passionate about. I have never had a blog before so lets see how this goes! Enjoy!