“There is no excuse”: Urge members to report IEP violations
This week the UFT launched a new campaign to protect services for special education students. Already in the first week members have reported dozens of violations to the union’s new hotline and special Web section, and the campaign’s message is “report, report, report.” Special ed programs exist to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities and challenges get the assistance and services they need and deserve. With yet another reorganization of special ed on the horizon, the UFT has launched this proactive campaign to help ensure that students get the services, support and resources they need, called THERE IS NO EXCUSE. “Accept no excuse. Defend the IEP. It’s the law,” the campaign posters, flyers and Web site remind members . . .
While we all stand up to "report, report, report", Tweedites will swat us down with an armory of firepower — letters in the file, pop-in visits, U-observations and U-ratings, allegations from nowhere, 3020-a charges, police action, rubber room, you name it.
The city doesn't care one whit about special ed violations. The fact that the problem is endemic is proof positive they haven't been a high priority for them.
I can't believe the union is now asking teachers to do the dirty work. If this were not the BloomKlein era — more than that: the Jack Welch era — maybe we could all afford the luxury of defending the defenseless.
But with politicians so corrupt, and chancellors and many of the people around them so profoundly incapable of educating children, with a UFT that shows no sign of understanding what's bedeviling the whole system, Barr's call for action should fall on deaf ears: OURS. The only career you're about to lose is your own.
A couple of years ago I wrote a long letter to a principal and head of guidance about why on earth my register of 50 kids had 35 kids in it with specific needs: many had IEPs and were doing their major subjects in smaller classes, there were hearing impaired, those barely speaking English, four grades all mixed in with each other. I got no response to that letter, and no help either. They didn't even send me a para.
A year later when the situation remained virtually the same, I made some inquiries at the State level to see what percentage of special ed kids could be placed in a regular ed class. I got this response:
The state does not have any regulation on capping the number of students with disabilities who are mainstreamed. This might be a NYC DOE regulation/policy.So I wrote to the special ed administrator at the city level to see if NYC had any policy on the numbers you can mainstream at one time. Turns out there weren't any caps at the city level either, but the person asked me if I wanted to pursue the matter further.
Here's my response . . . which I didn't have the guts at the time to send.
Thank you for your answer, and please don't bring the regional administrator in at this point because I am too afraid of retaliation at my school. I believe that if I do what you suggest, I will be perceived as a troublemaker, and I am not yet ready to take on that responsibility at this time.
My own career has taken strange and troublesome turns when at various times I took stances as chapter leader to help teachers and students alike (in class size issues, lack of textbooks, etc.)
I know I have the right — possibly even the obligation, for the students' sake — to check the IEPs of everyone in my classes, but I have not done this yet because I do not want to be hurt.
But I do want to know the DOE's position on this, and it is difficult for me to believe that there is no fixed policy, since UFT personnel did tell a colleague of mine that the ratio should be no more than 40-60%, and they must have gotten the number from somewhere.
I was hoping, therefore, that you could tell me — hypothetically! — whether 50% or more students who get their major subjects in small, self-contained classes 15:1 or 15:1:1 is a tolerable percentage when they are placed INSIDE of a total class register of between 45 and 50 students and no para. If one does the math, it means you can have close to DOUBLE the number of self-contained kids AS WELL AS 20 regular ed all in the same class! And no para. Furthermore, I think it is the case that other students have IEPs as well (resource room kids), but their class codes do not indicate that they are in self-contained classes.
I am concerned for everyone in these classrooms: the teacher, the spec. ed kids, and the regular ed students. The teacher is judged and held to the same standards as every other teacher in the building with smaller and far more homogeneous classes, even though he/she is responsible for educating potentially 50 kids 5 periods a day with no help from a para. This is very unfair and I have brought this up with the union. But it is also unfair to the kids coming from the self-contained classes who walk into these huge rooms with huge registers and know they have limited access to the teacher to help them through the work. Some of these kids just sit blankly, unable to do much else but stare into space; many just don't show up.
And lastly, I am concerned for the regular ed kids, who are not getting taught at the speeds or depths they should when the percentage of poorer learners and/or higher incidence of acting out behavior is so high.
As I say, I am concerned enough to ask you for clarification, but I am very afraid of retaliation and negative consequences if I take any specific action at the school, like requesting a whole bunch of IEPs and possibly getting involved with asking the school to enforce them.
I hope you can understand my fears and be able to give me some statement of DOE policy should the above hypothetical class make-up exist.
With appreciation for your time and kindest regards,
As I say, I did NOT send this letter, but the administrator could have easily found where I was working because she knew my name and subject. Did she make inquiries at my school on her own? Could it have contributed to my eventually being excessed? or my being blacklisted, or never having gotten an interview on the Open Market?
Coming back to Barr's email, here's what the union has to say about the protection they have in mind for us should we go about reporting, reporting, reporting:
You will also find information there on the city’s whistleblower law and how to seek coverage under it.
Our stupid, stupid union is now encouraging each of us educators on our very own to stand up to a whole army of hostile administrators, from Mayor Moneybags down through attorney general Klein to the lowest level of drone principals and APs, and start blowing whistles.
I fight the fight for kids and teachers, but I will not cut my legs off at the knees. Not at the behest of this union or any other.