Opinions

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Special Education Teacher Preparation

Something that has always irritated me is when I am expected to do something that is a waste of my time. After all, life is short and valuable. Some people say “time is money,” but I don’t really like to use that phrase. I prefer to think of it like this: something that is a waste of my time is a waste of my life.

If I am going to write something, I never want it to be something that is a waste of words and energy, because I don’t want to waste my audience’s time, either. Your life is just as valuable as mine. Which brings me to my current predicament: I have a writing gig for writing pre-tests and the assessment I am writing right now feels like an utter waste of my energy and time. But more importantly, I feel that it is a waste of the test-taker’s time.

My current project is about special education. General teacher preparation is lacking in some respects, but in my opinion, special education is even more lacking. In my experience- and I am by no means a special education expert- special education courses that were required for my education degree gave me very few tools and tricks for my career as a teacher. Most of it was stuff that was covered just as in-depth, if not more so, in my general education preparation courses.

I have been reviewing the content which special education pre-service teachers are expected to know and so far, none of it has been very different from general education. Not that special education teachers don’t need to know the same things general education teachers know. They just need to know more and be more specialized so that they can best serve the group they are preparing to teach.

We need to make a change in our special education teacher preparation so that our special education teachers are better prepared to face the challenges that they will face and to best serve students with varying levels of ability. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for this problem, but maybe bringing the issue to light can spark a conversation which will lead to meaningful change.

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Standardized Testing Blues

Also known as “Standardized Testing Makes Life Difficult for Literally Everyone Blues.”

Allow yourself a moment of fancy: You’ve worked and worked and taught your children to the best of your ability and you’ve differentiated for each one’s needs individually and you’ve held regular parent-teacher conferences and now it is Time.

Well, it used to be like that.  Teachers would be given free rein to create curricula as they went along following the standards set up by their state before the widespread implementation of the Common Core Standards.  They would be free to assess students based on projects and assessments that they created or pulled from textbooks and other resources.  Each resource used was tailored and hand-picked to meet the needs of their students.  And at the end of the year was the terrible, no good, very bad Standardized Test.

Believe it or not, it was easier back then, when it was a little simpler and teachers had more control in their own classrooms.  Nowadays, however, there are standardized tests being administered at the beginning of the year before the kids have learned anything, standardized tests are given in the middle of the year before the kids have finished learning everything for their grade level, and the end of the year test is supposed to measure what the student has learned across the entire year.

Any teacher will tell you that assessments are paramount to student and teacher success.  Assessment results tell the teacher how their students are progressing and what subject areas need to be gone over again in more detail.  Pre-assessments are important to allow teachers to get a baseline for where their students are performing at the beginning of the year or the unit.  Mid-term assessments allow the teacher to assess what their students still don’t know and what they have mastered.  The last assessment, naturally, is meant to show how much the child has learned.

I am a believer in standardized testing.

Don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me yet.  The principles of standardized testing are sound, research-based, and essential to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all children.

Standardization of a test means that it’s the same for everyone across the board.

Everyone gets the same test with the same questions and the same correct answers.  When we have our standardized testing, those assessments have been reviewed and are supposed to be valid (it measures what it’s supposed to measure, i.e. the Common Core standards for Literacy) and reliable (it is consistently valid and provides consistent results).

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