Principal observation for scripted program

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by waterfall, May 1, 2011.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 1, 2011

    We are in our "unnanounced" observation cycle. My principal came in to do mine last week. Since it's unnancouned, I had no control over the time or what I was teaching. She happened to come in for a group that I'm using a scripted program with. In general, I don't like scripted programs. I think you can use all the "research based" interventions while tailoring what you use, the sequence, and the frequency to your students' needs instead of using a one-size-fits-all commerical program. My students that I use my own lessons that I created with are outperforming my students on scripted programs by leaps and bounds. However, I am mandated by our special education department to use this particular program at least somewhere in my curriculum. I know they paid a hefty price to buy the program and train us all on it, and they are acting like this is the "new thing" even though this program has literally been around since before I was even born! I'm using it with my three students who are in tier III that we are moving toward testing for, since I know that I have to use it somewhere and the district will more likely approve testing if the students are not making adequate progress with this scripted program. Anyway, back to the point...our scores for this evaluation are based on a rubric. The rubric is very much geared toward a regular education classroom. Even so, for my own lessons I create, I usually score well. The rubric contains things like critical thinking, your choice of what standards/objectives to teach and how to sequence them, how you present the material, what kinds of student materials you use, how you engage the students in higher level thinking, grouping students, allowing students to make significant choices, giving feedback, allowing students to give feedback to each other, how you assess students, etc. For this lesson, I didn't do much of that at all. The progam involves three parts: students looking at letter cards and saying the names and sounds, me saying the sounds while students draw the letter in sand and then say the name, and me pointing to sounds in order while students sound out individual parts of nonsense words and then blend them together to say the words. I have to do it in that order, and I have no choice over what activities we do. Academic feedback is something I've been working really hard on and have set many things up for my other groups- but this is so straightforward I have a really hard time giving "meaningful feedback" (I mean it either is an "b" or it isnt, there isn't much you can say in regards to student response). Obviously there isn't much higher level thinking involved,and I can't have students working together, making choices about their learning, asking their own questions, etc. as everything is highly scripted. We have to fill out a self-reflection based on questions that they ask for each section of the rubric, and we have to give ourselves a score. I'm having an extremely hard time filling it out. Admitedly, many of the things on the rubric I either didn't do at all or didn't do well. My problem is that isn't really my fault- I have to follow the program exactly or otherwise I would be invalidating the intervention. I don't want to give myself all poor scores and look like I'm self-depricating. For most of the sections I've tried to explain things as best I could and have even mentioned in a few areas that I had no control over that since the program is scripted. I gave myself 2's (3 is considered professional) in 3 different areas because there was just absolutely no way I could spin that I did anything related to that area of the rubric with this program. I'm having my post-conference with the principal on Tuesday. I'm not sure how to approach this. I don't want to look like I'm "making excuses" either. I think the principal knows I'm a good teacher and she is happy with me this year- she tells me all the time she can't believe I'm a first year teacher. I know she is really happy with the students' progress as well. In fact after the students left she told me one of them had only known about five sight words and could not read anything after a year of interventions last year (she is still very behind, but knows all of her sight words and can read fluently about 1 1/2 grade levels below her). However, based on this specific lesson I don't think I'm going to score very well. I think I may be having to find a new job at the end of next year, because of the double edged sword of my students' doing so well- so many of them are on grade level that I think many will be exited from the program. I've already exited 3 this year, currently have 9 that are officially on IEP's, and I suspect at least 2-3 of them will be exited next year. With such a small number the district will most definitely cut my position to part time and I can't afford to live here with a part-time salary. These evaluations (especially since there are only 2 formal ones done per year) are going to be really important if I'm looking for a new job. I want them to reflect my true ability! Sorry this is really long...any advice for how I should handle this?
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    May 1, 2011

    Okay, breathe! You don't know what next year will bring. You may exit 3 but enter 10....

    Your formal evaluations are for your current district. You do not need to show them to anyone else as I understand it. Also, if you are doing a great job, your P will write you a letter of recommendation if the worst happens.

    Can you type up a letter to go with the evaluation about implementing programs with fidelity and using the program that way it was meant to be utilized to really show the growth of the students?
     
  4. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    May 2, 2011

    There will always be kids with disabilities AND unless the other teachers are drastically changing what they are doing to meet the needs of the typical students you work with, there will always be students for you to teach.

    But I do see what you mean. If it ever got to the point where the classroom teacher could reach all, you would be without a job.

    I would definitely discuss how you were following the scripted program which is a requirement for your class. There has to be understanding that there will be times you can't do the "evaluation" rubric completely when you need to follow a program that doesn't emulate the school's chosen rubric.

    Fact is what you are doing is specialized. It isn't going to completely look like that of the classroom mass education. It is a different level and focus.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    May 2, 2011

    Paragraphs are your friend. I had trouble reading such an enormous block of text because it was kind of overwhelming just to look at.

    I think it would be appropriate to give yourself a "meets expectations" score (3?) on anything that is district-mandated. If you're required to follow the scripted program, then you are meeting expectations. If there are very specific components, give yourself an N/A if that's possible. Or a 3. I think it would be appropriate to include any documentation by the district that says that this program is mandated.
     
  6. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 2, 2011

    Ok, I guess I will just try to explain the program to the principal. I tried to justify on the rubric for some of the "instructional decisions" that I chose this program for these specific students for a reason.

    I know there will always be students, my problem is just that there most likely won't be enough for me to have a full time job next year. I barely squeaked by this year. I have 9 students, and my friend at another elem. in the district (who is VERY good at her job and has data that is so good it's hard to believe- she has exited many students and they're doing very well) had 7 and she got cut to part time for next year. The district is also trying to cut FTE so I'm having to really fight them to identify new students. We are in the process of identifying 3- all 3 have been in the RtI program for almost 2 years now (and in fact are much lower than any student I have that is already identified) and the district was still denying testing. The principal finally ended up having to tell the parents that if they requested an evaluation we would be able to do it. With these 3 I'll have 10 students next year, including those that I feel will probably be exited. We're getting a lot of variances from people who want to come to the school for next year, so I'm just hoping I'll get some kids through that. If not, I'm the only elementary intervention teacher who isn't tenured, so I'll be expecting to have to move.

    Maybe it is different out here from where you live Mopar, but my friend who is looking for a job has said that everyone has asked to see her teaching evaluations (the one that got cut to part time- it just isn't possible to live here on that salary). She is upset because her initial evaluations from last year were higher than her scores this year, so it looks like she got worse over time instead of improved. I'm afraid mine will be the same. I do have several "informal" evaluations (same process it just doesn't count for performance pay) from my mentor teacher that are very good, so I guess I could show those and my "formal" one from the beginning of the year instead.
     
  7. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 2, 2011

    Wow, waterfall - it's sad to see with all the good work you've done this year that you are in this position. Hopefully things will work out for you, and they'll realize your value to the whole school - after all, you don't just work with those 10 students, because RtI isn't just a special education thing - something relevant for the whole school. How ridiculous that they could see a declining role in special education enrollment due to your efforts as a cause to get ride of you?! Your presence is why they are doing as good as they are doing! If you are let go, it truly speaks to the ignorance of your district related to RtI.

    In terms of the evaluation, what about putting NA in the categories where you weren't expected to do anything. With higher order thinking, for example, a direct instruction program that focuses on single letter decoding is not designed to promote higher order thinking. That's okay, because foundational skills build a, well, foundation for higher order thinking to occur later, or in other contexts. Even if it weren't a scripted program, every lesson is not designed to meet all academic needs of each student.

    If you aren't comfortable putting NA in categories where your lesson was designed to have an impact, I'd consider asking your principal (or whoever will be reviewing the expectations) what you should do for categories in which you weren't focused on a particular academic component.

    And waterfall, if you end up moving on, then you end up moving on. You moved out there - away from your home - and it worked out well. You are an extremely talented individual, and there will always be bumps in the road. If you have to leave, then you will land somewhere, and they'll be extremely fortunate to have you at that location.
     
  8. etcetera

    etcetera Rookie

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    May 3, 2011

    I have found that "they" are usually trying to look for good when they evaluate you. I would expect you will do better than you are thinking. I agree with the person you said give yourself a "3" on the district mandated sections. Just a simple "This program is required to be implemented with fidelity" ought to cover you. ( Especially if the kiddos were engaged, well-behaved and your standards,essential questions, lesson plans and all the other stuff they look for was posted.)
     
  9. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 4, 2011

    Thank you everyone for the advice! My post-conference went really well. On the rubric I got mostly 4's, some 3's, and one 2. The 2 was in "critical thinking", which is an area I really felt I couldn't incorporate into such a basic/scripted lesson, but since my other scores were so good overall (especially after hearing over and over that they always score new teachers low) I wasn't about to argue over it or anything. My principal is really happy with all of the work I've done this year and she was telling me that I am a perfect fit for the school- I really hope I don't have to leave for a long, long time! I am definitely safe for next year, the year after that who knows. She was saying that with the leadership responsibilities I'm taking on next year that should be further evidence that they need me full time even with a smaller caseload- and with kids in and out of RtI I really work with about 20 students even though I only have 9 officially on IEP's. I know she'll do everything she can to keep me around but unfortunately the district special ed. department has the final say- and they seem to be the ONLY people in the district who care about money and numbers and not the kids, which is sort of ironic. Anyway, right now I'm just really happy and excited about next year...I'm not going to worry about what comes after that!
     
  10. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 4, 2011

    Congrats waterfall! Well deserved!
     
  11. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Waterfall---I'm so glad that the evaluation went better than expected! I'm also glad that your principal is so glad to have you around!

    Just a thought for next year....even with a scripted program, can you start the students with a critical thinking exercise or end with one and use the scripted program in the middle?
     
  12. pete2770

    pete2770 Comrade

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    May 8, 2011

    I'm glad Waterfall.

    I love reading your posts. Just from what you've written, it's easy to see how dedicated you are -- and it's obvious that that is representative of how amazing you are at school.

    I've just finished my first semester of classes, with good grades for SPED, but I don't think I've come anywhere close to internalizing like you have -- and I only hope that I can put what I've learned to practice, like you, when I'm done.

    Watch out for private messages, you better believe I'm going to be begging for your input in my teacher interviews/research next year!

    Honestly though, I'm not trying to flatter you for any reason. I really believe it. You care about your kids, and you're what schools hope they get when they hire someone that 'feels right.' Head up, you'll be working a long time!
     
  13. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 9, 2011

    Wow, thanks Pete! I'm happy to help!
     

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