Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Too Little Too Late?

Ok... so I have been knocking on the school district door for 11 years trying to convince the various Grand Pooh-bahs in charge of special education that they need to train teachers in evidence-based methods in reading instruction. This is so elementary (pun intended) that it's hard to fathom why I had to do that. I have been politely received, politely listened to, been asked to submit proposals on a few occasions, but nothing has ever happened.

Way back in 1997,when I still worked for the district, my colleague and I presented pretty compelling evidence to our school board that the Lindamood Program was worthy of further investigation. We had both taken the training when it was offered as a special in service program, and had been using it in small groups for a year. (We were two of the four people from our entire district that signed up- the 3rd was a speech pathologist and the fourth left the district at the end of that year) We did pre and post testing with 3 months of instruction in between- and the average gain was a year in reading ability. The school board was polite, appreciative, and that was the end of it.

So here it is, 11 years later... and still there is a hodgepodge of programs and approaches being used across the district- and only one that I know of is evidence based (the school that I used to teach at, where my colleague still soldiers on).

I mentioned in a previous post that the current administration has finally made a move- and has hired a consultant to go around training teachers to use a program of his design;one that seems sound enough to me after a brief inspection. However- what is the point of doing this if the delivery of the program is not regulated and is left up to schools to determine? Already we know of one school that is offering it at half the desired number of sessions per week, and for far less time. In effect, the evidence base has been rendered null and void.

I have also learned that the current administrator finally provided training in the Lindamood program last month! I was all set to cheer loudly when I also learned that a half a day was devoted to this training. Say what?!!! I took five full days of training, and even then, starting out was slow and I had to refer to my notes and study the text frequently. Half a day? I haven't talked to any of the teachers who attended, but if it was me, I think I'd want to jump off a bridge after a mere half day of training. That, or else quietly push the program to the back of the shelf and forget it ever happened.

Is it any wonder that sometimes I need to SCREEEECH!?


elona said...

You've hit the nail right on the head when you say some teachers feel overwhelmed by new initiatives so they "push the program to the back of the shelf and forget it ever happened".

Teachers have told me time and time again that they don't have time to implement the new initiatives that the board "foists" on them. Some teachers tell me they have no time to implement the accommodations that kids with LD require. There's nothing like a bit of passive aggression to get some people through the day. It's a constant struggle.

Please keep raising these issues. It's important that you keep 'screetching" and blogging. People need to be aware of the problems in the education system so that true change can happen. The parents councils are a growing force and one that the education system will have to reckon with- at least here in Ontario, Canada.

Kathy said...

Elona- thanks for your comments. Congratulations on your award too. Well done!
You are so right about the parents' voices becoming a force to be reckoned with.
I have been advocating for a family who has had a really rough go with their son. He is dyslexic, and has a wonderful attitude and work ethic. He is also suffering from ADHD, and the parents are wrestling with the treatment options. However- the school he is in does not have a professional focus in reading, rather, they are promoting math development. The upshot is that the family has had to go outside the school system for appropriate instruction. (me)
He has done remarkably well, but obviously full involvement in a language rich classroom with ongoing intensive and appropriate instruction is preferable to 4 weeks of private reading instruction at a time.
The family felt they had no choice and contacted a lawyer, after two years of trying to work with the school to get his needs met.
The response from the school district was nothing short of miraculous. From out of nowhere, private reading instruction was offered to the boy during the summer and is to be continued into the winter months. I attended a meeting with the family and to be honest the attentiveness from the school district personnel was almost embarrassing.
The sad part is, there are hundreds of children in this district who need this support, and yet it has only been quietly offered to this family.
It seems the currency is still a squeaky wheel...