Last week we had an in-service where we learned, very, very briefly, that The State has made some new changes in the law regarding special education. The information is still filtering down to The District, and it looks like our administrators will be going to a number of workshops in the near future to help roll out the new system. So right now, no one really knows a whole lot. What we were told was that in the future, it isn't going to be as easy to designate a kid as special ed, or even qualify a kid for a 504. The Principal said that the it appears that this will affect the elementary school teachers more than us because, in theory, if a kid is a candidate for special education it should be caught during the elementary years.
In any case, we were asked to get with our teams and pick 3-4 kids that we considered to be at risk and do an "Academic 360" form on them. Basically we were to pull their academic records, their discipline file, and go through them in detail to see if we could pull together a better picture of the student. It's interesting what you find out about kids when you actually sit down as a team and do this.
Our team chose four students that were pretty much failing every single class this year. One thing that we noticed as we were filling out the forms on these kids is that every single one of them had been to at least five different schools before they'd landed in our classrooms in seventh grade. Three of these students had lived in at least three different states. One, although he was born and had lived in our county for his entire life, had managed to make it through seven different elementary schools, oftentimes changing schools in mid-year. One student had no biological parent in the picture and had lived with grandparents, and a parade of other relatives throughout her life.
All of this brings up the question...how on earth are these kids going to learn anything, let along be identified as a possible candidate for special education testing, if they don't stay in any one place longer than a year, or in some cases, a few months?
Our district has a serious problem with what we call "rent-jumpers", parents who are one step ahead of the landlord and the bill collector and who bounce around from school zone to school zone. We get kids that start out the year in our school, move, go to another school, move again, and end up back with us. This is one of the reasons that the core subject areas tried to go with a pacing guide that basically tells us what standard to teach when - the idea was that a kid could bounce from school to school - within the district - and not miss out on any instruction.
However, if a kid is moving in and out of The District and in and out of The State, this doesn't do a bit of good. The kid gets, at best, a spotty education. At worst, the kid lands in seventh grade, reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level, without any grasp of math basics, and, usually, without any desire to connect with classmates or teachers because, after all, it won't be long until the next move.
And these kids are just dropping through the cracks.
A good example is California Girl. She arrived before Thanksgiving from California. She left on Monday to go back to California. While she was with us, she'd managed to fail every class, mainly because she didn't do homework and was too busy, by her own admission, with keeping up with her friends on myspace. Her mother, although good at responding to emails, had her hands full with her own life (she was all of 26 years old herself), and quite honestly had given up on dealing with her daughter's lack of academic success. So now she's on her way back out West to yet another school, another set of standards, another set of teachers and friends.
Makes me want to scream.