Not all students learn the same way and shouldn’t be treated the same
I am a 20-year veteran special education teacher in a small New York public school. I am hoping that in the end of all this sea of change, that reason will win out.
The students I teach in my academic skills classes range in grade level from 9-12 and generally have intelligence capabilities that necessitate their placement in some or all non-mainstream classes. These students have all struggled academically and many emotionally to be successful in school. The current testing curriculum is increasing their frustration and confidence to persevere.
My students all have good moral character, show compassion for others who are also struggling, and have a good with ethic. My population of students is rarely focused on higher eduction, but would rather obtain the skills and expertise needed to enter the work force immediately upon graduation.
The problem is that so much time and effort is spent on learning the academics needed to pass the Regents exams, little time is left to teach students an employable skill. Learning the quadratic equation, no less what it means and how to apply it in real life, is likely something these students will never need to do in a job. Unless one is in a math or engineering field, no adult needs to know this either. these students need common sense, real life usable skills that they can learn to apply in their personal lives and their jobs.
The Common Core and the testing now required are challenging for all children in public schools. That is a good thing. I understand and agree that raising the standards is a positive and necessary goal; however, there needs to be some consideration in a meaningful way (a real diploma not a certificate) for addressing those students who do not fit into the mainstream of the student population.
However, to treat a special needs child the same as an Advanced Placement student is unreasonable and unnecessary. For a special needs student, or some students in need of Academic Intervention Services, these milestones are generally unreachable, and work to further decimate their already damaged self-esteem. The current and future demands, as outlined by the Board of regents and Gov. Cuomo, will further limit our students’ futures because we can’t teach them what they really need to be successful in life.
As for the teachers, any teacher who is passionate about teaching challenging students, may likely find that they are “ineffective” year after year, based on the current criteria of Annual Professional Performance Review, and certainly with the more stringent criteria set forth in Cuomo’s plan.
It is already difficult to lure great teachers to teach in public schools, but the standards that the Board of Education and Cuomo are blankedly placing on districts and teachers will become barriers instead of a pathway to success. Teachers won’t want to teach and students will be further turned off of learning.
We are one of the only First World countries that is committed to teaching every child. That is a great thing. Categorizing every child into the same “square peg” is the wrong way to go. Education and graduation requirements should be as diverse as the population we purport to teach in order to do right by every child and thereby truly leave no child left behind.
Only consider facts when considering opinion on climate change
In a Feb. 28 letter to the editor, Mr. Neil Nusbaum makes a puzzling point: “...pay no attention at all to what these same so-called experts have to say about Mr. Nusbaum’s letter.”
To actual scientists like me, all perspectives have to be considered. However, after due consideration, most perspectives don’t fit the evidence and must be dismissed. Ideas fit the hard constraints of reality, or they are thrown out.
Many thousands of scientists, and others, have examined the evidence of modern global warming, and the interpretation of clear evidence that it is being caused by us. Would you like to read about such evidence, and possible consequences of ignoring it? Of course you would.
The IPCC: a global consortium of scientists, writing to inform policy-makers and the general public: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf. The United States Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/pdfs/climateindicators-full-2014.pdf. The United States Department of Defense: http://www.cna.org/sites/default/files/MAB_2014.pdf.
Scientific facts are small things: the many individual measurements and observations that eventually go into models of how the world works. Science does not deal so much in proof, a concept more comfortable in mathematics. In science, the overwhelmingly best interpretation of the evidence becomes a theory.
Theories are the most sure things of anything big in science. They are never certain, but to overturn the overwhelming best interpretation of the evidence requires even better evidence.
Pay no attention to climate change deniers, unless they actually have better evidence. Reality is important. Accept no substitute.
The writer is a member of the Geology Department at Union College.