Monday, November 28, 2011

Integrating our Teachers

Previously, I wrote about our self-contained classes, and today I'm going to give you a peek at the other special education program housed in my building: Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT). ICT goes beyond the typical consultant teacher or resource room programming, where students with disabilities are removed ("pulled out") from the classroom to receive special education services. The ICT model has two teachers in the classroom full-time, one general education and one special education, to service the needs of all students. Both teachers equally teach lessons and curriculum, and both teachers help to differentiate instruction. The special education teacher is not viewed as an aide or helper only for "those kids," but as a teacher of all students.
Integrated Co-Teaching has a huge amount of potential. I highly recommend Dr. Marilyn Friend's DVD The Power of 2, which gives a great overview of the benefits of ICT and provides training on six different models of how two teachers can work together to instruct their class. It also has a lot of testimonials of co-teachers who love the model (a great plug for the system, eh?).

In my building, we have one Integrated Co-Teaching classroom each in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. This is our first year with this many classes in a full ICT model. At any given time in our ICT classes, you can see either teacher doing a lesson, one teacher with a group of students (while the other teaches the rest of the class) reinforcing skills, pre- or re-teaching materials, providing advanced work, or giving curriculum based assessments, or both teachers teaching together. In our seventh and eighth grades, the ICT teacher travels with the students from subject to subject, teaching lessons, reinforcing concepts, and working alongside students or in small groups. In eighth grade, we also have a resource room period at the end of the day, where the ICT teacher can go over skills, assist with assignment completion, and do post-secondary preparation work (filling out job and practice college applications and do transition planning).

Do you have Integrated Co-Teaching in your building? How is it working? What benefits or challenges are your teachers reporting?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being a Citizen

Well, the coins are counted and the tallies are in! Last week was my Veteran's Day community service project to support our local Honor Flight hub, an organization that flies World War II vets to Washington, DC free of charge to visit the memorials. A quick refresher: my fundraiser was a competitive change drive where the kiddos put money into a milk jug for their grade level during lunch periods, and the grade level that raised the most in a week won a pizza party.

Over the summer, I accompanied a group of students on a field trip to the local naval park in the harbour to tour the WWII warships and submarine docked there. Two seventh grade boys, N and P, enjoyed the trip and the history behind the ships so much that I asked them to help me with the project. They were responsible for collecting the jugs full of change and bringing them to my office after lunch periods, and they helped me count the money Friday afternoon. N also made a generous donation for his grade level.

I think thanks in part to N and P's dedication, our seventh grade classes had a pizza party today! They raised the most money, but it was a close race between them and our fourth and first grades. In total, $145 was raised, which will pay for almost half of one veteran's trip to Washington. It doesn't seem like much, but I was very pleased with the outcome and know that Honor Flight benefits from any contribution. The students in my school come from high poverty backgrounds and don't have much to give monetarily. Community service and volunteering is so important to me, and I hope a project like this shows them that even the smallest gift, whether it's a dollar, a thank-you card, or a handshake, can make a difference to those in the community, especially those who serve so selflessly for our freedom and futures. It was also a great way to commemorate November's character trait of the month, "citizenship."

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

8, 12, 15, 6, Our Self-Contained Classes Need a Fix

So you've often heard me talk about self-contained classrooms, where I toss around numbers like 6:1+1, 15:1, and other seemingly simple math equations. As part of our compliance review, one of the things we looked at was to see if there was a similar of profile of needs among the kiddos in our self-contained classes, and if there were kids that did not match the profile, then we found a more appropriate placement for them. So what do these classrooms look like in my district?

15:1 (15 students, 1 teacher) - colloquially, 15:1 classrooms are reserved for the "low" kiddos. Students who are appropriate for this classroom are students with low IQ who are slow processors and need a lot of assistance to complete work. The small classroom size affords them with the more individualized help they wouldn't get in a classroom of 25+ kiddos. Students in 15:1 classes are typically classified as Learning Disabled and/or Intellectually Disabled (the new Mental Retardation classification). Students in 15:1 classes should have no behavior problems.

12:1+1 (12 students, 1 teacher, 1 teacher aide) - students in this classroom type have a similar academic needs profile as those in a 15:1, but these students also have mild to moderate behavior problems. Students in this class might exhibit hyperactivity or impulsivity, have trouble with complying with classroom rules and teacher directives, or have some difficulty interacting appropriately with peers. The extra adult ensures that these students have the opportunity for more consistent behavior management (many will have BIPs) than a general education classroom and more small group work. Students are typically classified Learning Disabled, Other Health Impairment (such as for a diagnosis of ADHD or ODD), and/or Emotional Disturbance. There are also 12:1+2 classrooms for students who are Multiply Disabled and/or have severe medical needs.

8:1+1 (8 students, 1 teacher, 1 teacher aide) - students in this classroom are typically on grade level in all academic areas, but their behavioral needs keeps them from being instructed effectively in a general education classroom. Often, these kiddos have more extreme impulsivity issues, aggression, and opposition/defiance. The extra adult in this room helps greatly with behavior management, since students in this room need lots of redirection, monitoring, and will likely have BIPs. Students in an 8:1+1 are typically classified Other Health Impaired and/or Emotional Disturbance.

6:1+1 (6 students, 1 teacher, 1 teacher aide) - the most common 6:1+1 is a classroom for students with severe behavioral and academic needs, those that have trouble floating in a 12:1+1. Their needs are a combination of the high academic needs of those in a 15:1 and the intense social/emotion concerns of those in an 8:1+1. 6:1+1 classrooms for academic/behavior concerns can be in a typical public school or at an agency placement, and are typically reserved for students with Emotional Disturbances, though we do have a few Other Health Impaired students in them too. There are also 6:1+1 classes for students classified with Autism, students who are Multiply Disabled with severe health/medical needs, and students who have severe Intellectual Disabilities (such as Down Syndrome).

What self-contained classes do you have in your buildings? Do the profile of needs at your buildings match the description of the classes at mine?

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Under the Microscope

As some of you might've seen on my Facebook page, I had a slight meltdown about my workload that involved a possible future of flipping burgers. While I was on vacation in Cancun with Fiance, a special ed. supervisor came in to make sure that we were in compliance with state expectations and that all of our kiddos were getting the appropriate services. Long story short, I'll be doing 55+ amendments/revisions, reevaluations, and program reviews for students in our building. The best part of the whole shebang? The substitute we had in for MB, my colleague going through chemo treatment, quit without explanation on Monday. Since our secretary has been MIA since May, I'm now doing the jobs of three people, trying to deal with daily issues, managing Check-in, Check-out and other PBIS initiatives, trying to deal with our typical CSE caseload, and picking up odds and ends as they come. Suffice to say, I'm a tid bit busy! :)

Ultimately, I am glad that the supervisor came in. As much as I will likely complain about the extra work and day-to-day super insanity, there were a lot of problems with IEPs in our building that are now going to be solved. Kiddos will be going to more appropriate placements, being declassified, or having services switched to meet their needs. If my CSE team was making the decisions in the absence of a supervisor's intervention, these changes might take a little longer and be a little harder to get going, but since we're responding to compliance concerns, we're going to move quickly to get things solved. Reviews like this are uber stressful, but I'm hoping I will be able to make small accomplishments (I scored four behavior rating scales and finished a report today--this was a big deal), and remember that when I'm drowning in paperwork and report writing, that at the end of the tunnel, a kiddo will be getting what they need to succeed.

Let the FBA writing, psychological testing, hair pulling, teacher consulting, report typing, student observing, sitting in meetings, diet pop chugging, and assessment scoring begin!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trouble with a Capital "T" and that Stands for Removing Psychs from the CSE

If you're from New York and are a member of the New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP), your email has been all abuzz lately regarding mandate relief. Earlier this year, the NYS Educational Dept (NYSED) was asked to make "mandate relief and flexibility" recommendations to the Governor's Office to see where they could find money in the budget. Preliminary recommendations included a proposal to remove the mandate for school psychologists to be part of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) and other recommendations related to psychological assessments.

NYASP has been working throughout the year with legislators in NYS to not allow such proposals to be accepted by the Board of Regents. Local and statewide legislators advocated heavily for NYASP and school psychologists across the state, citing the vast mental health knowledge and expertise of school psychologists in making determinations regarding the welfare of students. Over the summer, there was a public comment period, where psychologists, parents, legislators, school staff, and other supporters could comment on the proposals. The support for school psychologists was huge, coming from organizations such as NYSUT, the UFT, NYS PTA, and the NYS Psychological Association and everywhere in between.

At the Board of Regents meeting this month, they voted to remove the school psychologist as a mandated member of the CSE with the exception of initial eligibility determination meetings. They also voted to remove the additional parent member and physician/school nurse. Finally, they voted to repeal the psychologist's ability to determine the need for additional data during reevaluations. This is a huge, degrading blow to the profession. School psychologists, parents, teachers, administrators, and related services personnel are outraged. Thankfully, no changes will be made immediately. Any change like this requires a change in the law, which could take a long time due to the need for action of the NYS Legislature. NYASP is planning an all-out  assault (of the email, rally, phone call, and visits with legislators variety) to try and deter these decisions from become law.

I'd love to hear what my gentle readers think about the decision to remove school psychologists from the CSE and limit their say in evaluations. Like most others, I am outraged, nervous, and offended by the decision made by a few people not in the profession over budgetary concerns, which will affect thousands of psychologists and tens of thousands of children. Is this an issue that has come up in other states? Are psychologists mandated members of the CSE where you work? Are there limitations on your job responsibilities and how you conduct your evaluations?

School psychologists who would like to contact our legislators regarding mandate relief are encouraged to check out The New York State Assembly website and The New York State Senate website. Heck, even if you're not a New Yorker, we could use your support!

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Celebrating Connections with Kids, One Tasty Lego Block at a Time

Here it is, my School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW) project! In order to go along with the theme of "Every Link Matters, Make the Connection," here's what I got up to this evening to celebrate.
I bought Lego candy blocks to represent the links that we make with our students (okay, reaching, but you know you love it). They were surprisingly tasty--lime, banana, blue raspberry, and fruit punch of some kind.
Each little baggie got a tag to commemorate the momentous week of SPAW.
I filled each baggie with 1/4 cup of Lego blocks. Here are 67 baggies waiting to be tied with ribbon! They're all anxiously awaiting their appearance on my blog in the background.
Here's the final product. A big thank you to Fiance to buying me ribbon when I realized we had none at home, and for helping tie the baggies.
Hopefully this will be a little pick-me-up for the staff and me after the crazy two weeks I've been having! What did you do for School Psychology Awareness Week? Did you invite your principal to lunch?

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day!

Not only is next week School Psychology Awareness Week, it's my Veteran's Day community service project! Here's the jugs, all ready to go to school Monday.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Easy Behavior Management Tool!

Just found a spectacular behavior tracking tool! So often, I see teachers get overwhelmed and bogged down by trying to monitor BIPs or establish effective, yet simple, classroom management plans. Their behavioral data gathering becomes too complex and time consuming, and it really doesn't have to be. Someday, I'm going to post some easy behavior tracking ideas, but until then, check this out!

Mrs. Patton, at Mrs. Patton's Patch, posted about ClassDojo, a real-time online system that lets you track points for positive and negative behaviors students exhibit during the day. This would be a great program for those who love to use technology in the classroom. Pass it on to your teacher friends!

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Invite Your Principal to Lunch

With School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW) starting on Monday, November 14th, I'm curious to see what other professionals out there are doing! Last year, I told mini-stories that went along with each of the areas children are encouraged to "SHINE." This year, I'm doing a little something in the building... more to come. :)

What are you doing in your building to commemorate this momentous week (ha)? If you don't have an idea yet, I would like to pass along one from the New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP), of which I'm a board member. NYASP is encouraging psychologists around the state to "Invite Your Principal to Lunch." Here's a memo regarding the event:

Make the Connection
In concert with National School Psychology Awareness Week, school psychologists in New York will be inviting their educational leaders to lunch. NYASP President, Peter Faustino, says, "What better way to share our mutual vision than for student achievement than to share a meal together?" During the week of November 14th, school psychologists are encouraged to do the following:
  1. Schedule a time to meet with your building principal.
  2. Order in, bring something to share, or simply eat together in your office.
  3. During lunch, take the opportunity to highlight the variety of domains of your practice (outlined in the NASP Practice Model) and consider how particular domains may be applicable to the building's success.
  4. Thank your principal for his/her leadership.
  5. Report to NYASP [or your own state's organization] and tell them how it went.
Please share your stories of what you did for SPAW, and how it went! Look for an upcoming post regarding my activities.
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