2-8. THE UNCOMPROMISING MATH TEACHER (ISLLC STANDARD 3) You are a principal in a suburban high school. One of the initiatives of which you are proud is the special education teachers work in transitioning students with learning disabilities into regular education classrooms and providing ongoing support to stu dents and teachers. You cant help but wonder why one of the special education teach ers makes an appointment to meet with you about a critical situation involving a special education students placement in an algebra class. When the special education teacher comes to your office for her appointment, you are surprised to learn that one of your best math teachers is refusing to make some simple accommodations for a student with processing deficits. The special edu cation teacher explains how much progress the student has made even to be eligible for a transitioned placement in the algebra class. She is very concerned that the math teachers refusal to make some simple accommodations will result in a tragic setback for the student. You ask just what the accommodations are, and the special education teacher responds, Because Michael has a processing deficit, his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) specifies that he be given extra time to solve algebra problems. We fully expect him to correctly solve the problems, but he just needs a little extra time to do so. You realize that not only is this a very reasonable request on the part of the special education teacher, but because it is written as an IEP goal, it is a requirement that the math teacher comply. Furthermore, you are very surprised by the math teachers resist ance, because she usually is very cooperative and open to new ideas and change. You assure the special education teacher that you will meet with the math teacher to address this issue, and you assure the special education teacher that you agree it is vitally important that the student be given this simple accommodation.When you meet with the math teacher about this, she flatly refuses to water down her curriculum. She states firmly, I have certain standards and I am not going to compromise them. Knowing that the state learning standards dont prevent teachers from making such an accommodation, you ask, What standards are you referring to? Certainly not the state learning standards. My own personal standards for teaching algebra! she quickly responds. You patiently explain the ethical obligation that she has to help the student with learning disabilities to succeed. Also, you remind her that she is obligated to follow the conditions of the students IEP. Her response is shocking. Im not a special education teacher, and I dont appreciate having to teach that student. Hes the responsibility of the special education teacher, not mine. You are beginning to lose your patience, but you calmly but firmly explain that this student is her responsibility because he has been placed in her class. Just as she is responsible for all her students, she is responsible for him as well. Furthermore, if one of her other students had a broken hand, she would make an accommodation; if a student suddenly became ill, she would accommodate that student by allowing him or her to leave the room and go to the washroom. In other words, she would make accommoda tions for other students, why not this one? She firmly states that she is not a special education teacher. Deciding to take an other approach, you ask, What is the real problem here? She tells you that she has gotten the students excited about doing timed speed drills, and she doesnt want to lose their enthusiasm by allowing the special student to take a little longer to solve the prob lems. You remind her that the goal of the program is to teach students how to solve algebraic problems, but not necessarily to solve them within a few minutes. Even the state learning standards dont require timed speed drills. Although these might be an interesting and challenging strategy for some students, not all will react positively to this approach.You then give her a little pep talk about the value of differentiating instruction and adjusting her teaching to the students different learning styles. She continues to argue back that her timed speed drills are very important. What would you do? Using a bulleted approach, develop an action plan that aligns with ISLLC Standard 3: An education leader promotes the success of every student by ensuring management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effec tive learning environment.
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