Are We Hurting or Helping Our Students? (Commentary Entry)

Ok..touchy subject up ahead. You have been warned.

IEP’s, 504’s….these are generally set in place to help out struggling students that need a little something extra to succeed in the classroom. I, personally do not have a problem with that scenario. What I do have a problem with is the fact that many school districts, in fear of lawsuits, want to make sure the students pass, NO MATTER WHAT! Meaning, the teachers are told, “Make sure these students do not fail.” This is a problem. Are we not supposed to help our students become successful productive citizens? Are we not supposed to make sure they know and pass (legitimately) the same standards as the general education students? Then why is it ok to pass them when they have clearly not mastered the standards? In my experience, it appears to be a numbers game with the administration and it’s frustrating to teachers, at least the good ones that care! This past school year, my partner had given every opportunity in the world to help her struggling students, many of them with IEP’s. However, these students already learned, by 6th grade mind you, that they could do whatever that wanted and STILL PASS! So, what is the point of my job? What is the proper solution here?

I don’t think it is right, or fair, to anyone involved. I feel if the administration had more backbone many parents/guardians would get on board. I understand that many parents are not home to help their student and this is one of the many reasons why I think we need to work smarter in helping them to master the standards instead of letting them “just pass.”

What are your thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “Are We Hurting or Helping Our Students? (Commentary Entry)

  1. Hi Jaci,
    This is indeed a touchy subject, but I so appreciate your commentary. As a teacher, I often had the same thoughts at times. However, I am now a parent to two adopted boys, both of which have IEPs so I now have a growing empathy for both parents and students who are living with different learning needs that require an IEP. I think as teachers empathy is the key and it took flipping to the other side of the table so to speak (as a parent) to truly get this. All I know that, there are many different reasons kids struggle and their frustration manifests itself in many ways. My oldest (8 years old, going into 3rd) often seems aloof and apathetic. However, the trauma of his childhood pre-adoption has caused him to be consistently behind his peers each year, sometime a full grade level. He works very hard but the gap is growing each year. He is often stressed and it seems like apathy We would have loved to retain him early on, but now feel that it would really crush him, so we are indeed a family that just gets passed along.

    I know how frustrating it can be as a teacher and not all parents are advocating and working with their kids as much as we do. I also know that many kids react to the stress of falling behind with defiance as well, which is always hard. I also know many parents seem unreasonable in IEP meetings at times. But I now know the pressure and stress caused by the feeling of my kids struggling in school. It is often petrifying to think of the next grade’s expectations.

    I am by no means saying the process is perfect and as kids get older, I am not sure the best route to take.

    I just wish the system was better equipped to meet the needs of all students and wasn’t so focused on canned curriculums and standard after standard. My son may never meet any of them for the rest of his school career. I just wish school systems would be more differentiated while also being fully funded to meet the needs of all students. More resources would also help the teachers who struggle to reach these kids.

    From my perspective and how I will try to approach this in the future is with as much empathy as humanly possible. No kid wants to be behind his peers and seen as a “failure”. I just truly believe that. They might act out in ways that are so frustrating. But as educators, we need to try to continue to connect while advocating for a system that works for all kids and teachers.

    Just my random thoughts to a very tricky topic.

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    • Jake,

      By no means am I belittling a student with a learning disability. What I was speaking about was the fact that administrations are so fearful of lawsuits that teachers are told not hand out grades below a 60 for any student with an IEP.

      As I stated in my post, my partner last year did everything in her power, provide extra assistance, tutoring time, more time given on assisments, not to mention what the resource teacher was also providing. But the student still would not put in an effort to try and STILL PASSED at the end of the school. That is my frustration.

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  2. I see how some teachers can feel like there is no other option, but the “no fail” is not helping the students acquire the skills they need to really be successful personally. It’s a tough conversation to have, and it requires strong support from your SE department as well.

    Fortunately, the staff I work with are phenomenal, and while they don’t want to see anyone fail, it certainly isn’t non-negotiable. It’s all about documentation and communication.

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  3. At the school, I was at documentation was the key and for some students that was all that was needed. But there were some parents that the administration seemed to scared of, for lack of better terminology, and the teacher was told that no matter what, do what had to be done to ensure they did not fail. What is that teaching the student?

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