Showing posts with label IB program. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IB program. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Superintendent Grenita Lathan being blamed for problems in San Diego Unified's special education program

Today I heard about how it was going for teachers who are now teaching gifted classes in District 150. They are excited to have the opportunity. The only problem is, the teachers I heard about have not had any training, the principal was not given any resources, there were no materials purchased and there is no directive on what the teachers should be teaching. When the teachers registered to receive training on gifted education at a seminar in Chicago, the District Administration denied the request. This sounds a lot like the San Diego Unified issue:

 San Diego Unified's Big Special Ed Shift

It was the biggest change in the way San Diego Unified educates its students with special needs in a decade, and we wanted to know how the district had coped with the transition.

In 2008, after a report concluded that children with disabilities were too often being segregated into separate classrooms, the district began a concentrated effort to include far more children with special needs in general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools.

The shift required a complex reorganization of where kids with special needs would go to school. Rather than being grouped at relatively few sites that focused on special education, thousands of students with disabilities instead began flooding into their local schools.

Here are the conclusions we came to:
• Interviews with more than two dozen teachers, principals, experts and parents revealed a haphazard rollout of the new special education model that was plagued by a lack of vision and leadership.
• On the issue of training, specifically, there was confusion. Despite advocates pushing for mandatory training for teachers, nobody at the district ever tried to make that happen.
• There's also disagreement about how principals were trained for the big change. The top official at the district's Special Education Division says she was blocked from approaching principals to tell them about training. But that claim is refuted by her former boss, who no longer works in San Diego.
• What's clear is that individual schools were essentially left to work out how to make the move on their own, with little help from the district.
• Though many schools say they have now ironed out most of the kinks in making the transition, that's taken time and has placed undue stress on teachers while impacting the education of kids with special needs and the children they now share classrooms with.
• Some principals said three years later they're still struggling to implement the new model, as each year they must learn to teach children with disabilities they have not encountered at the school before.

Why Training Was Never Mandated
Back in October, we described how many general education teachers at the district were suddenly faced with teaching children with special needs, despite having no training on how to do so.What we didn't tell you was why the district never made that training compulsory for the thousands of teachers making the transition.

Here's why: Nobody at the district ever tried to make training mandatory, despite being urged to do so by some advocates of the change.

Arguably the district's biggest challenge in implementing the new approach was convincing skeptical teachers and principals that it was the right thing to do. An effective way to do that was to get those teachers into training sessions, to show them the benefits of inclusion, said Marvin Elementary School Principal E. Jay Derwae.

"Of course training should have been mandatory. You have to make sure everybody buys into the new paradigm shift, and you've got to be able to hold teachers' hands through the changes."
Jay Derwae

Many Principals Weren't Trained Either
While the decision that more inclusion was needed came down from the higher echelons of the district, the foot soldiers in the effort to make the change a reality were individual school principals. Like teachers, many principals at the district needed crucial training to help them assimilate their new found students with special needs into their schools. And there were practical considerations too, like how to set up "sensory rooms" where children with certain disabilities could cool down after getting upset.

Special education training was never mandated for principals either. And there's more.

Susan Martinez, executive director of the district's Special Education Division, said she was told principals were too busy to hear about additional training. She said she was told not to attend meetings with principals, and was barred from putting information about training on the district's website.

"Because of the way the system was, we were not allowed access to principals. So, the word was out there that we didn't want to work with principals," Martinez said. "We would say 'We can do training, we want to do training, but we're not allowed to.'"

Asked who barred her from approaching principals, Martinez named Grenita Lathan, who used to serve as a deputy superintendent and is now superintendent of a school district in Peoria, Ill.

Lathan said Martinez's claim is untrue. She said she'll be contacting the district. Source

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Richwoods' Principal addresses the rumors surrounding dropping the IB Program

I thought that Steve Ptacek's comments regarding this issue were so important, I pulled his post out of comments to post here. Steve Ptacek said...

"Sharon, I do read the blogs from time to time.

You have been hearing exaggerations and twists regarding my concerns with our IB program. Immediately upon entering RHS I started analyzing all available data to get a picture of the state of the school including our trends. I have questioned our decreasing numbers in both IB and AP. I have also questioned our performance.

I have questioned how we have been running our programs, not the programs themselves. This hasn't set well with some teachers and families associated with the programs. Many enjoyed the small "school within a school" condition that had been created.

People were shocked that I first questioned our high end classes. But I believe that you grow an excellent school by first ensuring that the high end is both expanding and performing. It is challenging to increase enrollment and performance in a top end program, but that is what truly great teachers do.

(Note: Our school IB coordinator has been doing a wonderful job, but her ability to expand the program has been limited. She might be the hardest working person in the district).

If we are going to create something special with the IB program, we need to commit to vertically aligning the program into the middle schools (ALL of them). Not only do we need to use the program to challenge our "traditional" top performing students, we also need to find, inspire, and motivate our untapped talent.

This year we have added the IB certificate option with the goal of increasing our junior and senior enrollment. For the last couple of years only about 20 students have taken the IB tests. Furthermore, just over half of those performed well enough to receive the diploma. With our current economic situation, I have stated that those numbers do not justify the program. But my solution is to commit to increasing the numbers. I know the talent is out there. From day one I had a problem walking down the hall and seeing 3 lower level classes with 26-29 students and several IB classes with less then 10.

I have also stated that not all of our high-end students have the same academic needs. For some, the IB program is perfect. For others, AP is a better option. Remember Sharon, prior to entering administration my background was a nuclear power plant operator and an AP Physics teacher. I firmly believe that top science/math students need to take AP Calculus along with at least one other AP science course. That is what the students take at New Trier, Barrington, Adlai Stevenson, and Naperville. Since we have only offered the diploma option, many of our students have had to decide between AP and IB. Their schedules have been full. Hopefully with the certificate option we can allow for both.

Our total number of students either testing for the IB diploma or taking AP exams over the last decade has declined. In contrast, statewide involvement has risen dramatically. (My data is mainly regarding the massive increase in state AP testing since there are only 3 districts in the state with an IB program). Low-income and minority testing has greatly increased throughout the state.

RHS once had amazing AP numbers. One of my goals is to return our school to those levels. For the past 10 years we have averaged 58 students taking an AP exam. This last year 94 students took at least one AP exam. Our overall pass rate was above 70% so I am delighted with what the staff was able to accomplish.

Also, Dr. Lathan is a huge IB supporter. Once the district is able, I am confident that the resources and support will finally be provided to create a truly successful program available for all of our students.

If anyone has any questions about the direction that I wish to take RHS.... PLEASE stop by, call, email, or send a pigeon. I gladly welcome the conversation. I have had several parents come to my office questioning me about the rumors that I want to drop the IB program. Once they leave, they have understood the truth instead of the rumors. "

Steve Ptacek