I attended a meeting today as an advocate for a student, something I've never done before. It was great. I think the outcome was very good --- I sure hope so.
One of the central issues was projects. The student cannot handle projects. Period. He is a SPED kid, and he can't handle projects. Can't handle projects is plainly stated on the IEP, the help on projects that will be provided is specified, etc., etc ... and the upshot is that his mother has spent the entire school year trying to find out whether there is a project due, what the project is, what the instructions are, where the instructions are, what the instructions mean, and on and on and on. She's been run ragged, and she's extremely stressed juggling middle-school projects and a full-time job (in a business with daily lay-offs and salary cuts and all the anxiety that entails).
On top of all this, the grading of projects is bizarrely harsh, so harsh that a student who has had a string of 100s on tests gets bumped down to a B or a C entirely on the basis of an F- or two on projects. Projects trump tests.
So, in the meeting, we went round and round on the question of projects. (I won't get into anything else because I don't want to give away identities.)
After traveling down a number of blind allies, I asked whether the student could just stop doing so many projects. Could we solve the problem that way? I said I didn't see how failing a project was contributing to his education; if he is failing projects then he isn't actually doing the projects, not really (leaving aside the issue of grade deflation, of course).
No one expected to hear that, and at first no one knew what to say other than "No."
When I persisted, the chair of the meeting explained to me that American schools are moving away from teachers standing at the front of the classroom and teaching content: today classes are interactive. Someone else said that the goal is for students to learn to work collaboratively, and another person said it's important for students to solve problems.
I said I didn't do projects when I was in school, I don't assign projects in my classes at the non-selective college where I teach, my husband doesn't assign projects in the selective college where he teaches, and I just wasn't seeing the value in XXXX being assigned projects he couldn't do and then receiving failing grades when he didn't do them.
The chair got hot under the collar. "You come in here and you question our philosophy ----- !"
We got past that, and continued to go round and round on the project issue .... and quite a bit later I asked a teacher in the room, who had taught in the high school, how many projects students actually do in grades 9-12, which is where XXXX is headed. It had suddenly occurred to me that the high school kids probably weren't doing nearly the number of projects the middle school kids are doing.
This turned out to be the case. The middle school kids do many projects; the high school kids do far fewer.
The chair explained that, in the high school, students have to pass Regents exams, so, unfortunately, teachers must spend a fair amount of time preparing students to pass the test.
The flipped classroom is going to sweep.
That's what I'm thinking at the moment.
Has Constructivism Increased Special Education Enrollment in Public Schools? By Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
Mathematics Education: Outwitted by Stupidity by Barry Garelick
Growth of Special Education Spending and Enrollment in New York since 2000-01