Under The Bar: They are NOT Angry Birds! The Monster Within Special Education

TAGS: progress monitoring, IEP, special education teacher, special education, special education meathead, angry birds, dave tate

Originally published January 7, 2012

This is a guest "Under The Bar" post by The Special Education Meathead. This person wishes to stay anonymous due to special education policies, parents, administrators, and other teachers. This person intends to tell things their way so parents are better informed of what their choices are.

Boring-Ass Trainings

Since the start of the school year, I was required to sit through seven mandatory boring-ass trainings. If these trainings were actually related to working with special needs kids, I would be somewhat OK with it. They weren’t. The topics were somewhat varied but all related to documentation and legal requirements related to federal law.

As I sat there listening to the mind-numbing drool, I wanted to kill someone as I thought what a waste of time this dog and pony show was for everyone. I just want to work with kids, shove the legal and documentation requirements. I did the math while sitting there. For each training I was required to attend, there was a minimum of 10 professionals sitting there being subjected to the same torture as I was.


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These trainings were happening all across the district, so it’s a conservative estimate to say at least 75 professions were required to attend these things. That’s just one district across a very populated and large state.

At each of these required life-sucking meetings, I came to some conclusions. Special education is an unfunded federal mandate. Contrary to popular belief, it is not funded by the feds at 100 percent. Not even close. Not even close to a third. So that means local school districts are left footing the bill. Cutbacks and downsizing are hitting education hard. That means it’s directly impacting student delivery in the classroom.

Like it or not, it’s true. Special education caseloads are increasing all the time and having one teacher managing 40 or more students is common.

Audience in the lecture hall.

kasto © 123rf.com

Doing The Math

As I did the math in the meeting, there were 10 professionals sitting there hour after hour, going through the motions of pretending to give a shit about the legal requirements of special education law. For each hour of training, students are missing 10 hours of professionals in the classroom. On a grand scale, that shit adds up. An outrageous amount of time and money is being spent to prevent legal issues (money out the door via lawyer fees and lawsuits) and compliance with federal law.

Special education has a gruesome history, and significant and appropriate gains have been made for service delivery to students with disabilities. But let’s get real. Over the years, some total assholes decided they didn’t like something they were told, had a grudge match with the school district, and couldn’t problem-solve like grown-ups. So instead, they decided to take the issue to a state hearing or litigation. These morons ruined it for everyone.

The way I see it, the main priority in school districts is to prevent litigation. Service delivery is probably a close second. Sure, there are times a very real issue was brought forward. Most of the time, it’s just nonsense and a waste of everyone’s time and money. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a parent or student threaten to sue me, I could retire today.

The Biggest Pile of Crap

Special education teachers really don’t give a shit about the details and requirements. Talk to any "special ed" teacher out there, and they will report that the biggest pile of crap of their job is the legal requirements and documentation. When we write IEPs, the majority of our time is spent figuring out how we will document and detail all of the legal requirements, assessments, and content, while extending the least amount of work possible.

In our eyes, it’s a road map to working with students, so it does have some direct value. But the IEP is mostly just a tool for the district to document their compliance with special education law. Verbiage has to be just right and every detail is scrutinized. Each IEP requires about an hour to write. Re-evaluations, assessments and progress monitoring are other responsibilities for each student on an IEP.

So now, let’s deduct a minimum of four hours per student just on paperwork and documentation per school year. Again, on a grand scale that shit adds up.

Think About This

Think about this: While I am away doing paperwork, trainings, or documenting every time I took a breath with your child, the odds are likely that one of my aides is in the classroom covering for me. That's well within their job description and scope of responsibilities, but let’s get real. Who do you want working with your kid all day? I am betting it’s actually the teacher.

Now stop and think about the money and resources from the federal, state, and district levels devoted solely to comply with federal law and training professionals on implementation. Are you getting the picture yet? Your child should be the first and most important priority.

Somehow through this huge system, the priorities are all messed up. Your child is always my first priority. The paperwork and requirements are secondary. Most teachers will tell you the same thing. But the day-to-day practice and requirements of this monstrous system indicate otherwise. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent throughout this country each year just covering our asses from the feds and litigious parents. Is that what you want for your kid? I don’t.

 The Special Education Meathead

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