Sped teachers- do you use scripted programs?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by waterfall, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Feb 5, 2011

    Hey everyone, I'm new here. I'm a first year moderate needs teacher (I moved to a new state for this job- what they call "moderate" needs is what most other states call "mild-moderate needs"). I LOVE my job but have some questions for you all about scripted programs. Personally, I don't care for them. I do have a couple students that I think they're good for- but overall I think they're rigid, non-engaging, and in fact don't really support differentiated instruction. If the student is so bored that they're not listening to a word I say or making any effort, they're not going to learn anything. I have a first grade student who came in knowing 4 letters. I am using the orton-gillingham program with him, and he was so low at the beginning that it definitely has worked for him. This student is now reading. However, even though the program has been very effective he is getting very bored with doing the same thing every day. This program seems to be better than most I've seen (sipps, reading street, etc.) because it does involve the different modalities and is a bit more interesting. I would like to just use parts of this program with other reading things (the program does not include reading real books at all) but don't want to mess with the "integrity" of the program.

    For most of my reading groups, I am using interventions but not scripted programs. These students are highly engaged and making HUGE progress- my 4 third graders who came in reading on a 1st grade level are now up to grade level. But I am under a lot of pressure from my district to use these scripted programs. So far, this has mostly been an issue with students who are in RtI. For students already on an IEP, they don't really look into what I'm doing as long as I'm getting results. However, for RtI I have to "prove" that I'm using a scripted program intervention for the student to move on to special education referral. Almost all of my students are ELL students and we have to go through a special district team to make sure we are meeting the needs of the "linguistically diverse." The main question from this team is "what program are you using?". I wouldn't mind using the scripted programs to get the students qualified, but this team has now decided that they also want to evaluate ELL students when they're up for reevaluation to see if they still qualify for sped (their tri meetings). So now I feel like I'm going to have to use these scripted programs for ALL of my students. Other schools in the district are using linden-mood bell (spelling?) and Language.

    For those of you that don't use scripted programs, how do you justify this to your administration or others?

    For those of you that use them, do you have any strategies to make them more interesting or engaging for students? I had to use sipps in my student teaching and HATED it. I tried to make it more interesting by making the lessons into "games" where the students kept track of "points" and I would try to bring in a ball or something to throw to them to ask questions just to make things more interesting. Luckily my co-op teacher didn't mind, but I know at my school they would say that you can't change the program or your results are no longer valid.

    Luckily, my principal agrees with me (that scripted programs are not always the best choice) but unfortunately our special education administration does not. I'm the only sped teacher at my school, so I don't really have anyone else to ask. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    The interventions do not need to be scripted, just research based. You can use guided reading, which is not scripted, but is research based. You could use literature circles, etc. There are many research based programs that are not scripted.

    I think if you are supposed to use a certain program, you really do need to use the program to its fullest. That doesn't mean you can change a part of skip a part that the student has mastered or is not ready for (most programs will offer you some leeway in the directions), but you really do need to continue to use the program or prove that the program is not a good fit for the student and something else would be better.
     
  4. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Feb 6, 2011

    Waterfall- first of all, lovely name...

    Secondly, my principal asked me to try some scripted programs with my kids. However, my kids don't have the receptive language to do it. There are just too many words!
     
  5. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    Feb 6, 2011

    no scripted programs in the middle school I teach in.
     
  6. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Haha thank you, you too! What programs are you using? I find that a lot of them use good fundamentals (learning through different modalities, explicit instruction, repetition, etc.) but have yet to find one that is interesting for students. I've been in schools who only use scripted programs for regular ed. too- and it breaks my heart to see kids doing the same boring thing day after day and never reading real books in reading class. Our district's excuse is that they're getting the "real books" in the regular ed. class. However, for many of my kids these books are above their level...
     
  7. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    The reg. ed. teachers should be modifying the curriculum and allowing these students to read books at their level.

    I'll give you an example of following a scripted program. My district uses Wilson with some of our tier 3 students. One teacher teaches it without following in to a T. She does her own thing and uses the material when she wants. These students move to another teacher the following year who actually uses the program exactly as written with minor changes to fit for time. Which teacher do you think shows more growth with the kids?
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Unfortunately we are not allowed to modify anything- which I think is ridiculous (I made another post about it). The reg. ed. teachers don't agree with the policy either, and my principal even tried to fight our sped. department on it and lost.

    I'm not saying I'm not following the programs. I'm just saying if possible I prefer not to use them. For the kids I use orton gillingham with, I follow the program to the letter. For some reason my district is obsessed with this program- and while it is good for a certain type of students it is too simple for my higher level students. So I use it for those I know who need it, but I prefer to push my students who can be pushed a little higher. I don't half-use a program with anyone. For kids who aren't on scripted programs, I just use varying interventions that meet their needs. And these students are making A LOT more progress than my RtI students who are on the scripted programs.
     
  9. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I know what you mean! The teacher should be the best at writing a program for his/her students. However, we are not research based!

    I think if you find a program that fits a student, use it exactly as written with little modifications to make it fit in your setting. However, if a program does not fit a student, there are other things that can be done!
     
  10. AZSpedtchr

    AZSpedtchr Rookie

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    Feb 16, 2011

    No scripted programs here. It's all based on their IEP goals.
     
  11. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Feb 19, 2011

    Hey waterfall - this is a really interesting post, because it highlights some of the differences between "research-based" and the realities of the classroom. The main reason I'd guess your SPED department is insistent on those programs is for two reasons (1) they simply have the most research support out there - decades long history of showing the best results for students with learning difficulties, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, and (2) many teachers do not at ALL experience the same level of success you have with doing it your own way. There are a lot of teachers out there who have been given no formal training on how to teach reading, and even if they took a college class on it, haven't developed a level of mastery yet related to actually designing their own curricula.

    I can really relate to these reasons - I've worked with a lot of teachers in a lot of schools who really struggle with where to begin with reading instruction/intervention, and who - if left to their own devices - would not succeed, and in fact are not succeeding at present. Those scripted programs take the guesswork out of it. Also, those scripted programs allow for a common standard when it comes to assessment - "60 minutes a day with a teacher" is not an intervention, but "60s minutes with Wilson Reading each day" is moreso one (though not entirely :).

    That being said, I have personally used several of those scripted programs, and I too have found my students to be woefully disengaged and bored out of their minds. Like you, I too have found myself modifying programs, combining programs, and otherwise making things more creative, engaging, etc. and found that to be more effective.

    On a big picture level - perhaps on the district level - its a tough call, because for every teacher like you that is amazing and really gets it, there are more than don't. So, if the SPED department takes away the requirement for a standard curricula at the Tier II/III level for you, will they have to for everyone? If so, where will this leave all of the students who have teachers that don't know how to effectively modify curricula, that think drawing pictures of apples is the best way to teach the "short a" sound? :).

    In today's education world, it really sucks to be a teacher like you - one who is experiencing awesome success, but is bound by regulations really designed to bring up the mass of teachers who are under-performing.

    However, at the same time, I'm NOT saying that all components of the scripted programs are bad - there are many essential ingredients in those programs that are often overlooked by teachers. Yes, reading the script verbatim is rote, but following a specific scope and sequence of phonics instruction, and using very specific techniques when teaching those, is huge. It takes a teacher with a lot of experience and knowledge of reading theory to dismantle those curricula and rebuild one from scratch in a way that stays in line with best practice. You seem to be one of those, which is why I feel sorry for you that you are boxed in!

    I guess my overall message is this - you exist in a time and place in our society in which our education system is taking its first baby steps forward in mandating that best practices be followed. Unlike doctors and lawyers, educators for centuries have been allowed to do whatever they think works, regardless of whether there is and research support behind that. This lack of standard, along with a lot of other things (teacher pay, poverty, changing standards in education, etc.), is part of why our education system is where it is, and the first step is to establish some standard. Like any baby's first steps, there will be stumbling, falling, crying, and it won't look pretty! However, if you've ever worked in a school where you are frustrated that there are too many teachers failing our kids, you can sympathize with the sentiment that something needs to change.

    As an educator, and someone who's friends are primarily teachers, psychologists, after-school staff, nonprofit people, it can be really frustrating to have rules applied in an overly strict manner. However, I think on a nationwide level, the trend is positive, and will ultimately prove to be helpful.

    One final thought - I have a friend in a very, very similar situation to you - she is an excellent reading teacher, and often finds herself clashing with district policies and procedures, despite consistently getting great results at what she does. She has actually started getting more involved in lobbying/teacher representation, starting with becoming a member of the local education advocacy group. She has realized that the fight she experiences in her classroom is really bigger than her classroom, and that she is relatively powerless as a teacher to change it.

    You sound like you may be a good candidate for some bigger picture thinking, or possibly moving into more of an administrative role at the school or district level. Personally, I'm not cut out for it :), but having someone with your level of insight on the district level - or involved with an advocacy group - may really help tons of teachers in your area.

    Just my thought :)...
     

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