The Safety Of Programs

Cross-Posted from In Practice.

My school is very at risk and therefore is always on the edge of making adequate yearly progress per NCLB. When this all started, about 10 years ago, that meant big programs were mandated in language arts. There were various issues … there was no time left for science, social studies, art, PE,… for example, but the last year or so the pressure to adhere as strictly to the program and scheduling had improved (at least at my school, I know others where it is even worse than before). We’ve enjoyed a bit more flexibility and less scrutiny of every little thing we do, and science and art were beginning to show up here and there.

But something else has been happening that “snuck” up on us and has now become the same kind of issue. Instead of having a big overarching program that drives our day, we have slowly over the years been picking up little ones. Accelerated Math, Read 180, Soar to Success … programs that don’t take much time, that you can sort of fold into the little corners of your daily schedule … the 20 minutes after music right before lunch, as a beginning of the day activity as attendance and lunch counts and announcements are made … and they are more of an annoyance than a major obstacle … until this year.

Now we have RTI – Response To Intervention – and along with some of our other little programs and other issues, we are right back to a programmed school day. There are little evaluations that need to be taken often on some students, data to turn into various people for their reports and more. But maybe the worst part is what has happened to the non-teaching part of the day.

All these programs, and especially RTI, are driven by data. Now gathering data to drive your instruction is a good thing. So good a thing in fact that each of our little programs generates its own set of data and we get to compile and organize it all – whether it is important data as far as informing our teaching or not. And some even have a place you go on the net and get your data, or input your data to get your data back in various forms AIMSweb or Edusoft for example. Now much of this is being done on computers, so therefore its been decided that it takes little time … its easy to input and output the data … and here’s a chart to write all the data down in columns so we have all the data in one place. So much so that it is taking a lot of what we used to use as planning time to do all this bookkeeping of data.

Teachers are therefore cutting back on other aspects of their jobs that require time. Like planning. Hmmm, I have less time to plan and I’m feeling very stressed. So to cut down on stress I’ll use a program that tells me what to do … does most of the planning for me. Many of our old big programs have little optional programs or pieces that go with them that we already have. So guess what is happening?

We are running back to the safety of programs. If I do the program there is less planning and the materials are easier to prep because you don’t develop them yourself … just run them off or put up the ready made chart. AND the program is sacrosanct. The program is supposed to be good … proven to be effective by research … “research based” … so if I am doing the program I can’t be questioned about my instruction or my choices of materials or pacing … because hey, I’m following this approved program.

Programs have become a place of refuge. So guess what isn’t happening much … again?


Learning is messy!

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2 thoughts on “The Safety Of Programs

  1. Any thoughts as to the real reasons behind RTI? Illinois adopts the plan effective during the upcoming 2009-2010 school year. I’ve heard some rumors the real reason behind it is to free up the special education teachers, psychologists, and therapists that are facing extremely heavy case loads. Now a student has to fail at tier 1 and tier 2 interventions before they can be referred out. I like the idea that schools need to do more first but let’s be honest about the stat’s intention to lower costs by lowering the amount of students facing the special needs label.

  2. Charlie: I’ve heard several “reasons” … none substantiated. It seems consistent with how special ed has worked for a long time though. About the time the “new” way students are qualified for sped is figured out (about every 2 to 4 years it seems) the numbers begin to go up and they design a new way to qualify students – “seemingly” to ebb the flow of students into the program. Could be part of what is happening here.

    On the other hand, one thing I like about the new way students are qualified is that you no longer have to demonstrate a “gap”. Students qualify just because they are low functioning … not because they seem to be more intelligent than they are scoring on tests. I can think of several other ways I wish they were helped that make sense and might have a better possibility of REALLY helping them … but they would cost more money up front … and schools already get more money than they really need, supposedly, so the chances of those ideas being adopted and funded are pretty slim at best.