I went to my first faculty meeting. Good? SNACKS! Bad? A new policy called 'Response to Intervention' or RTI or possibly, in Georgia, POI.
These days if a teacher has a student she is concerned about, she does a certain amount of accommodation and differentiation herself before referring that student to something called the 'Student Support Team'. That team offers other suggestions on handling the issue before simply passing the kid on the Special Ed. Ultimately there is testing involved, etc. before deciding how much help the child needs.
Statistically, boys are way overrepresented in the SpEd/LD world. I believe that there are a lot of teachers who, when they see the slightest bit of noncompliance, immediately assume the kid needs Ritalin and try to get him to the resource room for at least part of the day so they don't have to deal with him. However, the new 'Response to Intervention' program may have overshot the mark. Previously there was about a 6-12 week lead time (including testing) before the child could start receiving services. That timeframe just doubled.
Let me break this down for you.
You and your child arrive at a new school at the beginning of the year. For the first four weeks, all children stay at 'Level 1' instruction (not its real name, I'm changing it to protect the innocent) for the first four weeks. This means that everyone gets the same curriculum and the same treatment. Okay. Fine.
If, after four weeks and some initial reading level testing, your child's teacher sees that your child is well below grade reading level or has documented a particular behavior problem that is damaging/dangerous/disruptive, she must then come up with a plan to address the deficits. She will then spend six weeks trying to implement the plan, including such differentiation techniques as fewer spelling words, less homework, one-on-one reading time, etc. If it's a behavior, she is to track exactly how often it occurs, what precipitates it, and how the new plan affects it. She may carry around a small clipboard or wear a necklace with paperclips on it, moving one clip to the other side of the middle when she sees that behavior. This is known as Level 2 and she may have several students she is tracking at the same time. At the end of that six weeks, if the behavior and/or deficits have not cleared up, she may then proceed with the Student Support Team. Testing and evaluation may take another few weeks but the child is then available for special services.
Now the time frame has changed. Level 1 is still four weeks. Level 2 is still six weeks. Now there's a Level 3. Did Level 2 sound like a pain in the ass? At Level 3 the teacher has to go to the SST and get more suggestions, then continue to meet with them every three weeks to evaluate the deficit/behavior for TWELVE MORE WEEKS, all the while coming up with more creative interventions.
This means that it will be 22 weeks from the first week of school before your child can even be considered for special services. You will be advised of all the meetings and invited to attend them. But if you are the kind of parent who refuses to see the problem, whose fragile ego is more important than your child's well-being, you might just switch schools the next year.
And the process will start all over. And the most likely people to change schools are those who are already at a socioeconomic disadvantage. If the parents don't speak up, don't demand help sooner, don't advise the school of the services the child was already receiving...
Twenty-two weeks. January. Half the school year spent in a general education class receiving whatever attention the teacher can give him. Being permitted to work below grade level.
We have one in our class right now. It's October and he still hasn't been evaluated. He can't even read two-letter words and he's in second grade. Not having his previous school's records, the school put him in the most age-appropriate class.
I want to help this boy. I spend time with him every day I'm in the classroom but the teacher doesn't have the kind of time I do. I am so frustrated. He can't keep up with the work and, as a result, disrupts the class to get attention. He has severe behavior problems and needs help. HE NEEDS HELP.
And under the new system our hands are tied.
Something is very broken.