kitchen table math, the sequel: what is curriculum support specialist, please?

Friday, December 2, 2011

what is curriculum support specialist, please?

I was sitting here on the sofa going through ancient Education Weeks when I heard Pat Sajak introduce a contestant as "a curriculum support specialist."

"A curriculum support specialist," he said. "What is that?"

answer: "It's a teacher that goes into the classroom to support the curriculum and other teachers."

Who says times are hard? Back in the real Depression, curriculums and teachers didn't have support! Curriculums and teachers had to make do with a principal, a superintendent, and the occasional school nurse.

How fortunate we are today, here with our civilian employment ratio of zilch.


I spoke too soon.

The curriculum support specialist just went bankrupt.


Catherine Johnson said...

Now she's the winner.

Catherine Johnson said...

ok, no....she was trying for a "loaded gift card" (M. says) and didn't get it.

She "only" gets $14 thousand dollars.

How is this game played, I wonder.

kcab said...

Here's what we've been doing this evening: playing the Zheng lab Bad Project video several times, watching Grammar Nazis, and browsing Despair, Inc.

SteveH said...

I love

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to check and see what new stuff they have.


Crimson Wife said...

OTOH, up until the 1970's, most schools did not bother to try to educate the disabled. If we're going to require schools to offer a "free and appropriate education" to disabled children, we're going to need reading and math specialists. The problem isn't so much that we have these specialists, it's that these specialists are usually not trained in effective programs like the various Orton-Gillingham systematic phonics ones (Barton, Wilson, Spalding, etc.)

palisadesk said...

CW nailed on both points. But, the programs that are effective with LD-type children are not necessarily effective with kids with very low cognitive ability and/or severe memory and retrieval issues. Orton-Gillingham programs work better with LD-type students than with those with cognitive disabilities, who often cannot manage the rule-based applications or the memory load (for example, learning the syllable types, the various "rules," and so on). Direct Instruction works much better for this population (and for many LD kids, too.) How students respond to instruction should guide what interventions are put in place.

The problem with curriculum support people is that they often have no knowledge or skills whatever in assisting exceptional students, and this is exactly where the needs are most pressing.The inclusion movement will not be going away any time soon; it is strongly supported by a large number of politically active parents and lobby groups.

Anonymous said...

People of my acquaintance whose children have moderate to severe cognitive delays usually try to start their children in inclusive settings, more for the social aspect than the academic. But they have all ended up disappointed in the results and moved their children to "segregated" classrooms to get the expert instruction their children need, and because the socialization opportunities in the regular classrooms were not all that great either. Speaking as someone who taught first grade before inclusion was standard, I have to say that a common occurrence was for a child to recieve a diagnosis of DD, and for the parents to feel relief that the child could now get a more appropriate educatio;n.

palisadesk said...

I used to see many parents with reactions such as you describe. However, the evidence for the effectiveness of segregated classes, overall, is not supportive.

I wrote a review of some of the research on this thread (about halfway down the comments):

Inclusion issues

This may well vary by population, region and ethnic group, but I now see the majority of parents rejecting any kind of special placement for their child in the elementary grades; sometimes they come around as secondary school approaches and they need special services to have any likelihood of their child graduating.

Unfortunately, the lack of expertise demonstrated by curriculum support people extends to special education staff, as a rule. So the results from special classes are, overall, very poor. That is one reason my district discourages them (they have a few, for legal reasons, but little demand).

Anonymous said...

Palisadesk, I think we are talking about different populations of children. The ones I'm talking about are not expected to (and haven't) attain independence as adults. Not to say that their quality of life isn't affected by how much they learn in school, but when they've been in inclusive classrooms, none of what is taught is useful to them. Their parents have taught them their academics (usually up through primary-level reading and math, if that).

I agree that Direct Instruction, whether delivered in an inclusive or segregated classtoom, holds the most promise for these children, but I'm not holding my breath until it becomes widespread. There is too much of a bias against it.

Catherine Johnson said...

At least in my experience, a curriculum specialist has nothing to do with special ed per se.

My district -- many districts -- have been hiring curriculum specialists as a form of "in-house professional development."

That was precisely how the hires were described to us, when my district hired 3 "teaching learning facilitators." Our assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and technoloy (1800 kids in my district) told us that we've known for years that professional development workshops -- which she called "one-shot wonders" -- don't work.

Therefore, we were hiring three full-time, permanent teaching-learning facilitators to provide "in house professional development."

No data on whether full-time, permanent in-house professional development works any better than one-shot wonders; we were just doing it because that's what schools do now.

Many, many new job categories have been invented in just the past decade.

Catherine Johnson said...

palisadesk wrote: The problem with curriculum support people is that they often have no knowledge or skills whatever in assisting exceptional students, and this is exactly where the needs are most pressing.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS read palisadesk's comments FIRST!


The teaching-learning facilitators in my district had no training or specific expertise in special education. They were hired entirely to provide full-time "professional development" to the other teachers.

I was allowed to sit in on one class in which the teaching-learning facilitator was demonstrating how to teach writing.

Several of the kids weren't following what she was doing, but she was teaching the classroom teacher what to do.

Catherine Johnson said...

palisadesk on full inclusion
Part 1
Part 2

Catherine Johnson said...

This will come as no surprise, but I object in the strongest possible terms to jargon that leaves the public mystified.

balanced literacy

middle school model

curriculum support specialist

No parent -- no taxpayer -- knows what these things mean.

I didn't capture Sajak's tone when he asked the question. Clearly he had not the first clue what a curriculum support specialist might be -- and, just as clearly, he was no better off after the curriculum support specialist had answered the question.

"A curriculum support specialist is a teacher that goes into the classroom to support the curriculum and the other teachers."

What does that mean?

How does one 'support' a curriculum?

How does one teacher 'support' another teacher by "going into the classroom" -- if the second teacher is not actually helping teach the class as a team teacher, which it was clear from her answer she was not.

Following Orwell, I believe that the reason education uses terminology like this is that in fact administrators don't want the public to know what they're doing or why.

Catherine Johnson said...

My district has now un-hired all 3 of the teaching-learning facilitators, but not without pain.

Although the district had never in its entire history had full-time teaching-learning facilitators, although there were no measurable gains in achievement (and none promised or even hypothesized), the idea that we had to have them took hold amongst a segment of parents.

So the board the had to un-do this extremely wasteful hiring decision (which had been made by previous board members) took flak for correcting the mistake.

ANYTHING you 'buy' for a school district instantly gains a constituency.

Catherine Johnson said...

I wish to heck the Math in Focus website still had the page where they ask you what your position is when you request a review copy of the books.

I was gobsmacked.

They must have had .... gosh, maybe 10 different titles of positions in public schools that I had never heard of.

And I've heard of **a lot.**

palisadesk said...

Anonymous and I are not talking about different populations of children -- we are both talking about children with developmental disabilities of varying degrees that will prevent most of them from living independently as adults, though such individuals, with proper education, can be partially self-sufficient in many instances -- we are talking about different populations of parents

I meet very few parents of children with exceptionalities -- fewer than 5% -- who have the skills and resources to teach their children the basics, or to advocate effectively for them within the school system. They do not know what options are available, they cannot read the research, they are not aware of various proven methodologies or curricula. Almost all the schools I have worked in have served low-income, high-minority populations.
Many are recent immigrants.

Most of these families reject "special education" classification and services emphatically. Sometimes this is just denial - -they think the child will, one day soon, suddenly be "normal." Other times, it is a justifiable fear of the special education system per se, which has a history of delivering low-quality babysitting. They would rather have their child in the "inclusive classroom," even if the child is making minimal progress. And, unfortunately, the research backs them up -- most special education programs are no better. They COULD be, but are not.

Catherine -- a propos of your "curriculum support" people, the model my district is using actually works quite well. I had some long-winded (a 2-parter halfway down and a couple of follow-ups to you after that) explaining how it works.
instructional coaches and system changes

My district is taking its cues on instructional support from people like Richard Elmore, DuFour, and Kent Johnson. The coaching model works well when done properly. Fixed coaches for one school however is not a validated idea.

Anonymous said...

Yes, different parent populations, Palisadesk. But also somewhat different student populations. My district's version of in-class support for DD kids with mental ages half or less of their age cohort is to snip off a tiny portion of the content, present it to the child, over and over again, and then move on to the next chapter or topic when the other children do. Your district sounds far ahead of mine.

palisadesk said...

Whoops, my link in the previous post didn't work. Here's the link to where I described a more effective instructional support system (midway down the comments, after a 2-parter in response to a comment of Allison's about the difficulty changing school culture. It can happen (I had to see it to believe it, however).

Trying again, here's the link:
system change and instructional support

Seemed to work this time.