Cartoons in the Classroom

I write:  “Without outside assistance, communities across America simply cannot keep up with technology challenges, either from an economic standpoint or an access standpoint. That is why open-source and donated cloud technology has begun to find greater accepted use in classrooms across America.”

I was honored to write a chapter for the book Cartoons in the Classroom, with Ilya Spitalnik an internationally recognized thought leader, keynote speaker, entrepreneur  and technology adviser.  Ilya created PowToon to assist educators.   PowToon’s commitment to provide technology to educators, as well as their customized tutorials can help educators more effectively integrate cartoons into their teaching methods. You can download the book for free at https://s3.amazonaws.com/powtoon/books/Cartoons-in-the-Classroom-Book.pdf  

cartoons-in-the-classroom

 

What Students Can Do to Avoid Summer Melt

melt.jpg

In our last post, we talked about the phenomenon of summer melt, where up to 1/3 of the students who graduate high school with plans to go to college never make it to a college campus.  We discussed what the student’s support team could do to help keep the student on track—but there’s also plenty the student can do to make sure their college plans don’t get derailed.

Open every piece of snail mail you get from the college, and read all of it.  You’re probably used to getting all kinds of mail from all kinds of colleges, but once you’ve decided on a college, anything and everything they send you needs to be read.  Just ask the student who opened the letter congratulating him for being admitted.  He didn’t read the next page, which told him he had a $42,000 scholarship.  Read it all.

Continue to check your email account.  Email may be almost as old school as snail mail, but it’s still how many colleges communicate with students—especially if they need something in a hurry.  The only way you find out what they need is to check email about three times a week in the summer.  And make sure to check your junk email folder; some colleges send emails to thousands of students, and your email account may think it’s spam.  It isn’t.

Look for the checklist.  Most colleges send you a checklist with everything you’ll need to do over the summer, and when you need to do it.  This checklist may come by snail mail, or as a link in an email, or maybe as a text.  Print it out, and put it on your refrigerator at home; that way, your parents can help you keep track of what to do as well.  If your college doesn’t give a checklist, there are others out there, such as this one from College Board.

Confused? Ask.  If there’s any point over the summer when you don’t know what you should be doing, call the college.  I know—students aren’t really crazy about talking to people on the phone, especially if they think the college will get the feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Do it anyway.  Once a college admits you, they will move heaven and earth to have you register, attend and graduate.  There is nothing—NOTHING—they haven’t been asked before, so don’t feel like you’re the only one.  In fact, colleges have Student Services offices because so many students have so many questions.  If you don’t know how to contact them, call the admissions office, and they’ll tell you how.

It’s easy to feel alone in this transition to college, but you have a home team of family, friends and counselors who are there to help, even in the summer.  There’s a ton of people at your college—your new home—who want to help you too, even though they haven’t met you.  All you have to do is ask.

Make this happen.

Patrick O’Connor is a 2017-18 School Counselor Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Why I Honor Memorial Day

101026-M-8682Y-003“Courage, of all national qualities, is the most precarious; because it is exerted only at intervals, and by a few in every nation” wrote David Hume.  It takes courage to risk life and limb for our state and country. Norman Schwarzkopf said “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

It is fitting then, that we set aside a day to remember those who have given their lives in service for our country. The least we can do as a nation is to honor these heroes. These brave few who became legends meeting their end on a battlefield, fighting our nation’s enemies.

According to the book Roster of Soldiers and Patriots of the American Revolution Buried in Tennessee, there are about 4,500 veterans of the American Revolution interred in Tennessee.  One is my 4th great-grandfather, Colonel James Taylor, who is buried at Centenary Baptist Church in Blount County, Tennessee. Fortunately, he was able to come home and raise a family.   A privilege that was denied to many.

The first casualty of the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks.  He was killed during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.  Attucks was believed to be the son of a slave and a Native American woman.  As hostilities intensified between the colonists and British soldiers, the British confronted a group of unruly colonists by opening fire and killing five men including Attucks, who was the first to die.  In his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. praised Attucks for his part in American history. It is worth noting that Attucks was displayed with the others at Faneuil Hall, where it lay in state.  The men were then entombed in a common sepulcher.  There was no segregation for Patriots.

Traditionally, Americans observed Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials of our fallen war heroes. In recent years, it has become more of a party celebrating the launch of summer, thus losing the original purpose and meaning.  I think we must remind ourselves to honor those courageous men and women who have served and then given their lives for the cause of freedom.  Freedom cannot guarantee a meaningful life, merely the possibility of having one. To keep that possibility, we need to embrace and strengthen freedom. It was Thomas Jefferson who reminded us: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

We need to take a minute to THANK those veterans who gave their lives so we Americans can enjoy our liberty.  Life is so precious.  No doubt those who made the ultimate sacrifice had their hopes and dreams as well for our country.  We should also ask our politicians to remember those veterans who made it back and ensure that they get the benefits they were promised, and the highest quality medical care available—including mental health.

Thomas Smith wrote one of the best tributes to those who died for our nation: ““This country has not seen and probably will never know the true level of sacrifice of our veterans. As a civilian I owe an unpayable debt to all our military. Going forward let’s not send our servicemen and women off to war or conflict zones unless it is overwhelmingly justifiable and on moral high ground. The men of WWII were the greatest generation, perhaps Korea the forgotten, Vietnam the trampled, Cold War unsung and Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan vets underestimated. Every generation has proved itself to be worthy to stand up to the precedent of the greatest generation. Going back to the Revolution American soldiers have been the best in the world. Let’s all take a remembrance for all veterans who served or are serving, peace time or wartime and gone or still with us. God Bless America and All Veterans.”  I remember their sacrifice.  George Patton added: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” That is why I honor Memorial Day.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. 

Making Professional Development Meaningful

Bethany 2018
Bethany Bowman

As we talked with teachers across the state and continue to talk to them, one of the issues they mention is the need for high-quality professional development and learning opportunities. Therefore, in 2012 Professional Educators of Tennessee launched Leader U. It is strictly about gathering the best presenters in the state to address key topics that teachers have identified and skipping all the political shenanigans that other organizations try to pass off as professional development. It is real learning for real educators by their peers.

If you are a Tennessee educator or a supporter of Tennessee education, you need to attend a day of exceptional professional learning, Leader U at Trevecca University’s Boone Center in Nashville on Friday, June 1. The conference’s theme is Champions for Children where speakers will provide insight on providing a more engaging classroom and school to its students.

The conference will begin Friday morning with a keynote address from Champion for Children advocate, Dr. Ronald Woodard as he illuminates “Developing a Champion Mindset for Children.”Respected teacher-leaders and presenters from across the state will lead professional development classes on important topics that include Student EngagementOrganized ChaosProject-Based LearningTeam EvaluationBullying and much more. The 2018 Tennessee Teacher of The Year, Cicely Woodard, will do a 90-minute session on The Engaging Classroom while TSIN 2018 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award winner and Edmodo Educator, Sharon Clark, will complete a session on Bridging Gaps/Cultivating Curiosity.

In addition to the keynote, there will be other breakout sessions with a choice of 12 presenters from which teachers and administrators can choose the classes which best fit their needs. The event is TASL accredited for administrators and all educators will receive a certificate for 6 hours professional development credit. The cost to attend is $40 for members of Professional Educators of Tennessee and $60 for non-members. Breakfast and lunch are included.

But wait there is more! We have always understood how busy educators are, so in 2013 we also launched the Leader U On-Demand Professional Learning Portal where you can complete your credits when and where it is convenient for you and receive a certificate as soon as it is completed. Keep track of all the classes you have completed and print your records at any time. Classes include TASL accredited sessions from the annual conference along with webinars from throughout the year and even relevant content from other organizations nationwide. We do our best to provide a one stop-shop for your professional learning needs.

To register for Leader U 2018, visit www.leaderutn.com. Questions? Please email learning@leaderutn.com.

*********

Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

School Shootings: No More Political Football

schoolshooting17

Schools must be safe zones for students and teachers. That means the first step in school safety is securing the perimeter of a school. It seems like simple logic that we should keep intruders out and also make sure the area inside those boundaries is safe for children and adults. Students are our priority, but teachers need protection too.  Our School Safety Survey Results are here. 

Unfortunately, as we have seen far too frequently, our schools are easy targets for those who wish to harm others. When premeditated attacks and school shootings occur, they are usually over within minutes. Most of the time law enforcement is simply not able to respond quickly enough to the event and lives are needlessly lost.

Intruders, who wish to hurt our students and teachers, are usually very familiar with the schools’ defense system and create plans around that information. More than likely, the defense strategy is in the student handbook posted online. These people know when to attack, where to go and often how to escape. Students and teachers alike, as well as approved visitors should have a visible identification badge on them at all times. There needs to be secure exterior doors to limit building access points, and each district should develop a uniform policy for entry into a school.

Former Metro Nashville Principal Bill Gemmill, pointed out: “All schools need upgraded security, whether it is as simple and reasonable as inside locks on classroom doors.” It is also time to put metal detectors in every school across America. The federal government could absorb the cost by simply eliminating any of the already wasteful programs they are funding. Public school safety must be a priority at every level of government. If you see something, say something, and then someone in authority must do something.

The last line of defense that we can have for our kids is an armed person willing and ready to defend them if the unspeakable should happen. That is why it is critical that we look at expanding the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. This is a highly effective program that serves many purposes during the school year and is invaluable where it now exists. It is important that the program be directed by a local law-enforcement agency, working in conjunction with the local education agency. The school can employ and utilize additional security, but the primary responsibility should fall to local law enforcement.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing has outlined three basic roles of an SRO: Safety Expert and Law Enforcer, Problem Solver and Liaison to Community Resources and Educator. While all three are important functions, the primary role should focus on the law enforcement and safety component. SRO’s should be preserving order and promoting safety on campus and serving as first responders in the event of critical incidents at schools, such as accidents, fires, explosions, and other life-threatening events. They are not supplementary school administrators dealing with minor school discipline issues or emergency instructors. It is clear that we must better define SRO programs, what we want them to accomplish, and better analyze how we measure their effectiveness. Law Enforcement and School District Leaders should yield to the law enforcement professionals on matters of school safety and law enforcement.

It is time to discuss the gun issue. I strongly support the 2nd Amendment and have a handgun carry permit myself. We must have common sense approach to who, when, and where we can carry firearms, without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. We should raise the age for the purchase of certain guns to the age of 21, with exemption to active duty military. We prohibit drinking of alcoholic beverage until 21, we should follow suit here as well. Many young people just are not prepared for the responsibility of drinking or owning a firearm. We should make stronger background checks, considering factors such as criminal background and mental health. We should also prohibit bump stocks that can convert guns into automatic weapons. We should more aggressively punish those who commit crimes with guns. But we will need to be careful that the policy is reasonable.

Policymakers, at the state and federal level, are also likely to look at legislation that empowers individual school districts to determine for themselves what direction they want to take on school safety, including qualified, certified and licensed volunteer school personnel going armed in their building. If a district decides to allow trained and armed teachers and administrators into the schools, the decision should not be taken lightly. The state should never mandate educators having to carry firearms or prohibit them from carrying, if permitted by the district. It is a decision that should be made at the local level based on the needs and size of the community.

Certainly, armed teachers who possess training or a military background would deter some intruders. However, trained law enforcement personnel are much preferred and would be a much greater deterrent. Mike Conrad, a teacher in Detroit said in a recent interview: “I think that the moment that you put a gun on the hip of a teacher in a classroom, that we have accepted the norm that school shootings will not stop, that we are now on the front line to defend against them, instead of trying to find a way to stop them.” The subject is very emotional, with good arguments coming from either side of the debate, which is why each community must decide for themselves this issue.

School safety policies must be flexible and practical. However, the issue of improved school security will not be resolved in the current political environment, as long as real solutions are not considered based on a liberal or conservative bias. It is time to quit playing political volleyball with this issue. Real lives, those of children and adults, are at stake in our schools. The time of talking is past; it is time to take action. Any viable option that can lead to a safer environment in our schools and communities should be on the table.

#####

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

This article also appeared at:  http://www.proedtn.org/news/388542/No-More-Political-Volleyball.htm

The School Safety Survey Results are Found here:  http://www.proedtn.org/news/395676/Tennessee-School-Safety-Survey-Results.htm

The Edge of Chaos

children expressions

The edge of chaos is a space between order and disorder.  For some, creativity is often found at the edge of chaos. In 2009, neuroscientists stated that evidence is emerging which suggests that operating at the edge of chaos may drive our brain’s astonishing capabilities. In fact, our complex brains may thrive on the chaotic.  In human terms, that may mean a dislike of rules and rigidity and formality, as well as a penchant for not following established rules.

Many people are most creative when their mind is most chaotic. However, a state of chaos is not sustainable and can certainly have negative effects. Albert Einstein, a genius by most accounts, said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

In A Journey into Chaos: Creativity and the Unconscious, Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen, states that the “capacity to be creative, to produce new concepts, ideas, inventions, objects or art, is perhaps the most important attribute of the human brain.”  She then points out: “Understanding how creative ideas arise from the brain is one of the most fascinating challenges of contemporary neuroscience.”

Is there a relationship between creativity and high intelligence?  Andreasen states that there is “a common assumption is that creativity and high intelligence are the same thing.”  This is, as she points out “a misconception.” Andreasen also studied the relationship between creativity and mental illness, which had inconclusive results because of limited participants.   It is clear consciousness, the unconscious and creativity are all important facets of the human mind.

In 1985, Robert Sternberg put forward his Triarchic Theory of Intelligence, contending that previous definitions of intelligence are too narrow because they are based solely on intelligences that can be assessed in IQ tests. Instead, Sternberg believes types of intelligence are broken down into three subsets: analytic, creative, and practical.

Mogbel Alenizi, a lecturer at Qassim University in Saudi Arabia wrote: “The field of creativity is a broad one, with definitions varying in and between countries and no consensus on how best to test for creativity or measure development.”  He added: “However, agreement is emerging that creativity is complex and the investment theory that suggests a combination of factors contribute to creativity (intellectual abilities, knowledge, styles of thinking, personality, motivation and environment).”  Certainly, genetics could factor in that equation at some level.

The wide range of approaches to creativity—from psychoanalytic, to psychological, to neurobiological—generally reveals the diversity of the field, but has led some to describe it as “a degenerating research program,” as Mark Batey, a senior lecturer in organizational psychology at the University of Manchester, wrote in his article on measuring creativity.

There are also global differences on our conceptions of creativity.  Research has tended to focus more on the person and the process than on the outcome or the social context in which the creativity occurs.  Which opens up a whole field for educators and researchers that may want to reach their creative students, in which formal education or standardized test fail to accurately depict.  It especially difficult, when creativity can be hard to identify and even more difficult to measure.

Education expert Sir Ken Robinson notes that in the factories of the 20th century, creativity was not valued. However, he points out it’s critical for success in the 21st Century.  Our school system, despite its imperfections has still produced students who have enabled America to lead in innovation around the globe.  The number of patents and innovations are one testament to our success, despite an education system that often limits creativity.  This has led to a tug of war between proponents of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) and advocates for STEAM lessons, which add art to the mix.  We should welcome that debate.

So, we must ask ourselves:  Are our schools, which seem so accountability driven, measured by standardized tests reaching all students?  Are we stifling creativity in our schools?  What does success even look like in each school? Each community?  Each state?  Perhaps, we need more creativity, and use of our own imagination to address those issues?  Possibly we need to re-think many factors in how we measure success in public education?  Sometimes, through examination, we may find that in order, a little disorder is good.  Welcome to the Edge of Chaos.

What do you think? 

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Overcoming Poverty in Education

poverty

State Representative Harold Love recently shared one of the most inconceivable statistics in Tennessee.  The Nashville zip code 37208 has the highest percentage of incarceration in the nation, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.  The school to prison pipeline is unquestionable.   A child cannot succeed in life if they are denied the opportunities of a quality education. Lack of opportunity and quality education establishes the pathway to incarceration. Education remains the key to escaping poverty, even as poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education.

Tennessee has a richness of poverty.  According to the Southern Education Foundation, over 50 percent of the nation’s children are in poverty. Poverty is a vast and complex issue that plagues communities in a seemingly endless cycle. Accompanying poverty is its sidekick, hunger.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. These 8 states have statistically higher food insecurity rates than the US national average (14.6%): Arkansas (21.2%), Mississippi (21.1%), Texas (18.0%), Tennessee (17.4%), North Carolina (17.3%), Missouri (16.9%), Georgia (16.6%), and Ohio (16.0%). More than 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3 according to the USDA.

Carlos Lee, a PhD student at LSU wrote: “Students who live in poverty come to school every day without the proper tools for success. As a result, they are commonly behind their classmates physically, socially, emotionally or cognitively.”  According to Eric Jensen at the Center for New York City Affairs, high-poverty schools are more likely to struggle with school climate concerns such as absenteeism and truancy, bullying, and trust and engagement issues that can weaken the learning environment. The road is to prison may arise out of the home, but it also veers through our school systems.  Poverty puts too many students at a disadvantage before they even step foot in a classroom.

Distinguished educator Paul Reville, and Harvard University, launched the Education Redesign Lab to pilot a revolutionary approach to create a new, more comprehensive education model better designed to close achievement gaps and provide each and every child the support and opportunities they need to be prepared for success. Nashville or Memphis should also look at this approach.

The theory of the Harvard Education Redesign Lab is putting forth to overcome widespread inequity in child development and education support is that “we must dramatically redesign, align, and integrate our systems of child development and education.”  They also believe we must start in early childhood to “tailor instruction to meet each child’s needs, while braiding health and social services with schools, and providing access for all to high-quality expanded learning and enrichment opportunities.”  This, they argue, gives all children a “much fairer chance of succeeding in education and in life.”

I am mindful that the counter argument is that we do not want the state to raise our children.  It grows dependence upon government.  This is true.  And I think we can put safeguards in place to easily prevent that from happening.  However, I also believe that all children are created in the image of God.  It is far more economical to educate a child, than it is to incarcerate an adult  That is why it is important to have private enterprise invest in this effort, not only with their money, but also their human capital. Leaders across our state need to make this a priority.

Our answer cannot be scores on a standardized test.  Studies from the American Psychological Association reveal the psychological effects of hunger on education. Hunger is known to cause depression, anxiety and withdrawal, all of which are obstructions to a child trying to focus on education. Our solution must be to prepare every child for success.  Perhaps we need to redefine what success looks like for those impacted by poverty?  We can, and we must, address these momentous challenges.

Just to recap:  Nashville zip code 37208 has the highest percentage of incarceration in the nation.  Tennessee students are some of the poorest in the nation.  We have the 4th highest food insecurity rate in the United States.  There is no better time for changing the trajectory for children than now.  We already know where those consequences lead.

Numerous philanthropic organizations have supported public education over the years, using their private dollars with public dollars to meet the needs of impoverished youth.  Tennessee has numerous organizations, from the Hyde Family Foundation in West Tennessee to the Frist Foundation in Middle Tennessee to the Niswonger Foundation in East Tennessee which could lead this type of effort.  It might even be something SCORE, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education could make their focus and mission.  Nashville is in their backyard.  We would be glad to assist.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Breast Feeding 101 for Educators

Blackberry 2014 656

“People are more opinionated about parenting issues than political issues,” according to writer, Jennifer Martin.   Admittedly this is an unusual subject for me to address, but it has become a frequently asked question by our female educators.  Hopefully this clears up the issue for school boards, administrators, teachers and school staff.

Health professionals and public health officials promote breastfeeding to improve infant health. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding exclusively for about six months, “followed by continued breast-feeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breast-feeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”

Tennessee has one of the lowest rates of breast-feeding in the nation, according to the government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Fewer than 16 percent of Tennessee infants are being breast-fed exclusively at six months old, according to the most recent statistics. Surrounding states are much higher, and in some states – mainly in the Pacific Northwest – the rate is extremely high.

It is important to note that 82% of public school teachers are female in Tennessee. Women are the predominate sex in our profession. More importantly, most of these women are of child bearing age.  So this is an important topic for all stakeholders. Breastfeeding also provides long-term preventative effects for the mother, including an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and a reduced risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Here are the appropriate state laws.

  • Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-58-101 et seq. (2006, 2011) permits a mother to breastfeed in any location, public or private, that the mother is authorized to be, and prohibits local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding.
  • Specifies that the act of breastfeeding shall not be considered public indecency as defined by § 39-13-511; or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct as defined in § 39-17-901.
  • Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-58-101 et seq. and § 39-13-511(d) were amended in 2011 by Tenn. Pub. Acts, Chap. 91 (SB 83) to remove a provision permitting mothers to breastfeed only infants 12 months or younger in any location. (2006 Tenn. Law, Chap. 617; HB 3582)
  • Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-305 (1999) requires employers to provide daily unpaid break time for a mother to express breast milk for her infant child.
  • Employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the workplace for this activity. (1999 Tenn. Law, Chap. 161; SB 1856).

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 30, 2010. (See the combined full text of Public Laws 111-148 and 111-152 here.)  Among many provisions, Section 4207 of the law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose.

The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk.  If these requirements impose undue hardship, an employer that employs fewer than 50 employees is not subject to these requirements. The federal requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees.

For more information:

In addition, many health insurance plans provide coverage for specified women’s preventive health services with no cost sharing (e.g., copayment, coinsurance, or deductible). Breastfeeding support, supplies and lactation counseling are one of these specified preventive services.

As a member, if you believe your school district is not following the law on this issue, feel free to contact our offices at 615-778-0803 extension 104 to speak to an attorney or simply email legal@proedtn.org.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.

Special Education Teachers Are Also Special

overworked teacher

It is becoming tough to keep special education teachers in the field beyond two or three years.  We already have a shortage and it is likely to get worse in the future.  Teaching is demanding enough, but special education teachers must cope with even more challenges.  Professional learning is rarely aligned to special education teachers’ needs. Special education teachers face more parental interaction, longer hours, potential lawsuits, additional paperwork, while their students need more attention.  The slogan “work more, same pay” is not exactly a great selling point in teacher recruitment.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that every student have what’s known as an IEP — Individualized Education Program.  The IEP involves hours and hours of filling out forms and writing reports documenting each student’s progress.  Recently the Tennessee State Board of Education, in the name of greater transparency, has proposed a rule that may actually create more problems for Special Education Teachers.

The Proposed Rule:  The LEA must notify the parents of a child with a disability at least ten (10) days before an IEP meeting to ensure that a parent will have an opportunity to attend. A meeting conducted pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §300.530(e) may be conducted on at least twenty-four (24) hours’ notice to the parents. If the LEA prepares a draft IEP prior to the IEP meeting, a copy shall be provided to the parent(s) of the child at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the scheduled meeting time. The copy of the draft IEP shall become the property of the parent(s). If the LEA prepares a draft IEP prior to the IEP team meeting, the LEA shall make it clear to the parents at the outset of the meeting that the services proposed by the LEA are preliminary recommendations for review and discussion with the parents. It is not permissible for the LEA to have the final IEP completed before an IEP Team meeting begins.

Many, but not all, districts provide parents with a draft prior to the IEP meeting, if requested, and with a reasonable timeline.  However, it would not be appropriate or reasonable to mandate that districts provide a draft prior to all IEP meetings.  Here are a few of the concerns, suggestions and questions that have been put forth by our members:

  • May discourage LEAs from creating drafts, which would lead to longer, less structured IEP meetings and may increase the likelihood of procedural errors.
  • May result in LEAs having to hold separate IEP meetings, which could delay initial services up to 30 days after initial eligibility, in order to give time to have a draft ready.
  • Currently, there is no means of documenting LEAs’ compliance as drafts are removed from EasyIEP system after 30 days or when final IEP is created
  • Places undue paperwork burden on already paperwork-heavy sped teachers.
  • May send information that is confusing to parents without having immediate access to professionals who can help interpret or give meaning to info in IEP.
  • May result in fewer parents attending IEP meetings as perception would be that IEP is already completed and their attendance is not necessary.
  • May lead to meetings starting with an adversarial tone.
  • Not all IEP team members are staffed at the same school, making it impossible for them to convene with the other IEP team members to collaborate on the draft 24 hours prior to the meeting.

Looking at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and new regulations, an LEA should provide the parents with a copy of its draft proposals, if the LEA has developed them, prior to the IEP team meeting.  Parents deserve an opportunity to review any recommendations prior to the IEP team meeting, in order that they may be better able to engage in a full discussion of the proposals for their child.  It is already not permissible for an LEA to have a final IEP completed before an IEP meeting.  Parents should be able to request a copy of any draft documents prior to an IEP team meeting. However, it is critical to be reminded that not all IEP team members are staffed at the same school, and it may be impossible for them to convene with the other IEP team members to collaborate on the draft 24 hours prior to the meeting.  This creates twice the work for teachers.

Which brings us back full circle.  We subscribe to the philosophy of “All Means All” in public education, which means we educate each and every one of our students to the highest level possible.  If we continue to overwhelm special education teachers when we already have a special education teacher shortage by adding to their workload, recruitment and retention challenges will only escalate.  Then students with disabilities will never attain their full academic potential especially if teachers with no special education background are placed in their classroom.  The proposed IEP policy, as currently being suggested needs work.  This may well be a legislative item in 2019.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

School Safety and Security Event Today

JC Bowman will be joining  Sheriff Jim Hammond and other leaders in Hamilton County to discuss School Safety and Security.  Event is open to the public.  Info: https://atomic-temporary-137731796.wpcomstaging.com/2018/04/13/school-safety-and-security-town-hall/

JC's Blurb 3