Friday, May 25, 2007

Special ed. students and the honor roll

Carol Schulz, a grandmother in northern Minnesota, is calling in the ACLU. She is angry because her granddaugher was not allowed on the honor roll at Crookston High School.

As a special-education student, Schulz's granddaughter's modified classes kept her below the credit level required by the school to make the honor roll this spring, though she has a 3.75 grade-point average out of a possible 4.0 GPA.

Schulz said that system is unfair.

Crookston High School officials say credit requirements that give less weight to modified special-education classes than mainstream classes are necessary to be fair to the most students. The honor roll system also is tied to class ranking, which often is reviewed for college admissions and scholarships.

Schulz, whose granddaughter has mild mental retardation, called a meeting with Crookston High School officials last month after learning that her granddaughter would not make the honor roll. Schulz is her granddaughter's legal guardian.

Schulz's granddaughter had taken seven classes and received A's in five of them. However, she needed one more weighted credit to meet the school's honor roll policy. Two of her classes were modified and another, band, also is a nonweighted course.

Students at Crookston High must be in at least five nonmodified courses for the semester and receive a letter grade in each in order to make the A or B honor roll, according to Ron Lutovsky, high school counselor. There are seven class periods a day, leaving room for two modified and other nonweighted class options, he said.

I have slightly mixed feelings on this one. I am certainly not against a special education student, who does her best, receiving recognition, but on the other hand, I think Crookston's policy of using weighted grades in their honor roll makes sense. True academic achievement involves effort, but it also involves a certain amount of ability. If we want more true academic achievement in our schools, then we need to reward it, and if those rewards are going to mean anything, some students are going to be more capable of earning them than others. That's true in athletics, it's true in the fine arts, and it's also true in academics. I think it would be nice if we could find a way to reward people like Carol Schulz's granddaughter without pretending that her performance is on a par with the kids who are taking much tougher classes than she is.


Blogger ms-teacher said...

I really do think that school needs to come up with some way of acknowledging the accomplishments of students in Special Education. I acknowledge that they may not be on the same level of regular students who excel, but their accomplishments are not any less significant.

5/25/2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger Exo said...

"True academic achievement involves effort, but it also involves a certain amount of ability. If we want more true academic achievement in our schools, then we need to reward it, and if those rewards are going to mean anything, some students are going to be more capable of earning them than others."

I agree. Life is a competition. Whatever we pretend it to be, it is still "the survival of the fittest". Some people have more advantages (naturally, or working their hearts off) than others, so they win the competition. Some can't make it no matter what(even if it's not their fault). And they shouldn't. That's fair.

That girl should not be compared to mainstream or AP students, though she may be the best in her group.

Just an example: I have a girl (sp. ed) this year in advanced science class (7th grade). She was placed there because there was not enough space in self-contained sp.ed. class. Poor girl, she struggles but can't make it. And I am not making any adjustments for her except that I give her the tests to take home. But even with that - she can't make it. It's not a class for her. But she probably would be among the to in sp. ed class or even in the top twenty in regular science...

5/25/2007 6:03 PM  
Blogger ms-teacher said...

exo, I would be curious to know where you teach. In California, resource students placed in regular education courses (where I teach it's usually science and history) accommodations need to be made according to their IEPs.

So, for instance, when I give a test, it may not be as long as a regular test but the core components that have been covered in class are on the test or for some I've even allowed them to take an open book test. I just don't understand your reluctance to modify a test for a student that you acknowledge is having a hard time in your class because she is Special Ed. That just sounds cold-hearted.

5/25/2007 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

My mentor had a fit when one of our EC kids ended up a junior marshal based on her GPA a year or 2 ago. Me, I thought if the girl did her best in the classes to which she was assigned based on her abilities (it's not like she had the option to sign up for AP--and others did, and she beat out their WEIGHTED GPA's), she deserved it. It's not like everyone in her classes automatically got A's: she had to work to the best of her abilities and achieved. Is that not what the honor roll is about?

5/25/2007 9:13 PM  
Blogger Exo said...

ms-teacher, I teach in NY. I asked for her IEP, none was given to me. The tests cannot be made easier - I don't ask anything beyond what is in their notes or beyond what is in the text (which is chewing every topic like for 5th graders). I offered the girl to tutor her during my lunch period once a week, but her para rarely brings her. What else can I do? She is much slower that the rest 30 students in that class. I cannot come up with personal lesson plans for the child (I teach 4 AP classes, different preps). That's cold-hearted maybe, but that's all I can. Life is not fair.I was against her transfer into this class, and I will try not to set her to failure next year-she has to be moved. This particular class is going to have Living Environment Regents class (HS curriculum) instead of regular 8th grade science, she will not survive...
Again, i din't sign up to teach inclusion or special ed, I signed up to teach Delta honors the HS course. My 8th graders work very hard and take 8th grade science test and living environment regents the same year.
Again, it is ability grouping - some kids need the normal flow of events, and they will take the regents in HS, but some ARE ready, so they are the ones who should take the class.

5/26/2007 6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Again, i din't sign up to teach inclusion or special ed, I signed up to teach Delta honors the HS course. "

You're a teacher, you signed up to teach all children. Maybe there should have been an inclusion teacher supporting you and the student so she could be successful.

5/26/2007 7:18 AM  
Blogger Exo said...

"You're a teacher, you signed up to teach all children"

Sure, you also can use a microscope as a hammer under circumstances.
There is an "ecological niche" idea that can be understood as one's place under the sun. I would probably do a mediocre job teaching 6th-graders or sp.ed. But I do a good job teaching advanced students my subject to mastery.

There is a remedy to being 'slow" (and that student is just "slow", not mentally retarded.) You simly go over in-class notes and text not once at home but 5,10 times until you learn it. That's that easy. 7-8 grade physics and earth science are so simple a 5th grader can comprehend it. My notes and in-class problems are overly-comprehensive, too. I do it all logically and step-by-step. I never throw a problem at a student that we didn't cover in class.

5/26/2007 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Roger Sweeny said...

Nobody signs up to teach all children.

A superintendent who assigned a high school physics teacher to teach pre-school English Language Learners would be considered an idiot--and rightly so.

Nevertheless, there is a similar idea that is popular in the education industry (albeit most common in the ed. schools, less common among supervisors, and least common among teachers). All students of the same age should be put together. The teacher should then "differentiate instruction" so each student can learn what is appropriate for them at their own pace.

There are a few exceptional teachers who can make this work. Most can't, and in the failing they waste large amounts of time and effort. I don't just mean the teacher's time. Slow students often get lost and stay lost. Fast students are held back and bored.

This student has been hosed--but it wasn't by exo; it was by the idiots who placed her in an advanced class.

5/26/2007 8:33 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

I think connecting the Honor Roll system and the class ranking process is the first problem.

Honor Rolls are for periodic recognition of students and I can't see any harm in recognizing an ESE student for making really good grades.

The class ranking should be OK if the school weights honors or advanced classes more than regular courses. Some folks think ESE and other remedial courses should be weighted less than regular courses, but personally I don't see the need. After all, if you aren't in the top 20-30% of the class, nobody really cares.

An ESE parents would be out of line expecting their child to be considered for valedictorian or any other elite academic award at graduation.

5/26/2007 7:23 PM  
Blogger Chris Lehmann said...

I think Lee is right on this one.

To me, it's a question of definition. What is the purpose of an "Honor Roll?" Is it to show off the names of the top students in the school? Or is it to give every student -- regardless of the classes they take -- a chance to be recognized for top achievement in their classes?

5/28/2007 8:29 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

If you hadn't already figured it out, I was away during the Memorial Day weekend. Great discussion! And you have re-taught me a lesson that I've learned many times during my life: I am definitely not indispensable.

5/28/2007 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter has fallen from the top 10 % to the top 20% of her class although she has brought her grades UP 11 points this 4th quarter!! It is not a just and fair system! rankings should NOT be tied to the honor roll calculated as it is.

I fell from a constant 7 to 11th place in my own grduating class 24 years ago because kids were taking shop, cake decorating and typing and earning A's when I was fighting to maintain acheivement in Chemistry, Physics and Trigonometry. (There were no AP classes then.) It wasn't right then and it isn't now.

There should be different honor rolls for different 'houses' of instruction. I have no problem with Special Ed students earning 4.00, but that should be a 4.00 that does not DISLOCATE the future of others.

I happen to be a special ed teacher and knowing what I know about IDEA 2004, that girl SHOULD NOT have been in your class and your class should have NEVER been considered for her. I wish people would get it in their head that some classrooms actually are NOT least restrictive environments even though they are gen ed classrooms... the poor girls potential for learning was VERY restricted... and no IEPs ??? Was there an ARD to place her there?

It is true: a teacher has limitations. I couldn't teach a foreign language if you could teach me to speak one! I am not certain I could teach home economics these days!

6/05/2007 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Mary C said...

I absolutely agree, Roger!

Let teachers tell the schools of education what works and what is possible, rather than the other way around. I have 22 years of experience, and every time they revise the system based on a new "truth" discovered in academia, I have serious reservations. Every time I express them to administrators or youngish teachers, I'm labeled as "resistant to progress." Oy!

Full inclusion is not the solution to anything - not to the problems facing Special Ed. kids, and certainly not to the problems facing advanced kids.

I don't know what to do about the honor roll problem. Nearly half the kids at my school earn honor roll status. It's embarrassing.

6/10/2007 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

I realize this is probably six years too late, but Exo, you are responsible for providing any modifications or accommodations that were in that child's IEP, and the fact that you didn't receive it doesn't relieve you from that fact. You very easily could have been sued by that parent, and you would have lost. Your attittude toward kids who are "slow" and the way to study for those kids is appalling. I am a teacher, have served as an administrator, and a parent to a child with an IEP. You should be more careful in the future, or you could be in some serious trouble.

11/13/2013 5:09 AM  

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