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Inner City Special Education Teacher Describes the Difficulties of Teaching to Standardized Tests

Inner City Special Education Teachers Describes the Difficulties of Teaching to Standardized Tests

Teacher Chanel M. Quintero describes what it's like to be an inner city special education teacher, and in doing so details her frustration in being required to test her special needs students using standardized testing.

According to The Washington Post, Quintero's classes are typically comprised of students with "autism, speech and language impairments, emotional disturbances, and intellectual and learning disabilities."

As a result, Quintero spends much time not only trying to teach students material, but also trying to teach students behavioral skills such as making eye contact and and even toilet trailing her students who ranged in skills from pre-K to third grade.

Quintero holds fault with the New York State curriculum that forces her to shift focus on this kind of skill-building- which she says she helps her students make significant improvement in- to focusing on standardized material.

"My children, as described above, were asked to take a writing exam in which they listened to and took notes on an informational text. From there they took their notes and were expected to write a paragraph or more relating to the topic. My children did as they were asked, to the best of their ability, when most came to me in the beginning unable to accurately write their name," she said, according to The Post.

As a result, despite being deemed effective in teaching and state measures, her students' performance on the standardized tests resulted in her "failing" in local measures. Instead of being rated as an effective teacher, Quintero became "developing."

"The beginning months of the school year worked on self regulation, functional skills, and following routines without panicking if there was a change. The students in my class last year relied on consistency and a schedule so much that even the slightest turn off the beaten path would send their world into a downward spiral, leaving some students in crisis," Quintero says of her class.

She described the challenges of working with special needs students, and a lack of support staff that required her to perform more roles than merely just "teacher."

"...there were many days where I would begin teaching, but then have to switch hats and become a counselor, a mother, a clown, a confidant, or someone other than a teacher in order to regain my students’ interest and keep them going. Yet, the general expectation was that these students would somehow miraculously be 'fixed' and performing at grade level by the time the tests rolled out," she said, in an e-mail to The Post.

"All over the building, my colleagues are experiencing something similar, if not worse. We are fortunate though, as our administration has begun to listen to our voices and real change is under way. As a team, the administrators and special education department worked together to restructure the self-contained classes, obtain a grant for a behavior therapist, and designate a position for crisis intervention."

Quintero is now moving on to a new position that helps her work with students in crisis and students who have been suspended or removed from the classroom, but she hopes being vocal will help her inspire the change that she believes special education needs.

"Change not only in how my colleagues and I are evaluated, but change in how heavily idiotic testing is carried out for children with special needs."

Read the full post here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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