Splitting up grade levels...does this make sense?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by waterfall, May 4, 2014.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 4, 2014

    We have hired our new sped teacher for next year, so we will be splitting the grade levels in half. My principal said that we could decide how to split the caseload, but she wants "input." I have made it overwhelmingly clear that I want the primary grades. My original degree is in K-3 and I'm a lot stronger in early intervention. My district recently moved 6th from middle school to elementary, but they still act like middle schoolers, and they and their teachers drive me nuts. My whole team agrees with me on that. My teammates and I purposely looked for someone who has experience with intermediate grades when we were interviewing for this reason. The person we chose is coming from a middle school. She also said in her interview that she was strong in working with teachers who are resistant to providing accommodations and modifications in the classroom, which our upper grade teachers really need. I am just not "confrontational" enough, and we felt that the 6th grade teachers (who are the biggest problem) may have more respect for a fellow middle school teacher.

    We were discussing this in our team meeting the other day and my P said that she knows I feel I'm stronger in primary, but I need to be "open" to other ideas. She said one idea that they had that's "just an idea" (translation: this is what I want you to do) is to split K in half (we have tons of K students coming next year) and then have one of us do 1st, 3rd, and 5th while the other does 2nd, 4th, and 6th. Then we would switch the following year so that the students would have the same teacher for two years in a row and have more stability. This makes NO sense to me. With this method, students would be making 3 transitions in sped throughout their elementary career. With one primary and one intermediate, they'd only be making one, and have the same teacher for 3 or 4 years. I think it's also easier to focus resources/planning/classroom set up for just primary or just intermediate. They also want us to do some push-in next year, which I HATE, but that's another story. I feel like if I have any chance of really working with the classroom teachers and establishing myself as "not an aide" in the classroom, I need to work with the same teachers and not switch every year. Do any other schools split the caseload this way? Are there any reasons I'm missing why it might be a good idea? I'm wondering if my P really wants me to work with intermediate for whatever reason, and is trying to do this as a "compromise." Honestly, if I have to I'd rather just do the primary/intermediate split and say I'll take intermediate because it's better for the kids and teachers that way.
     
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  3. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    May 4, 2014

    Overly complicated and I don't understand.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    In some ways it makes sense... I think there's a major tendency for special ed teachers to baby their kids if they've been with them for too long. As a gen ed teacher working with a TVI who has been with my blind student for three years now, I'm finding myself constantly reminding the TVI that she is a third grader, almost a fourth grader, and that [whatever] is a reasonable expectation. If you had the same kids for four years, from kindergarten to third grade, I think you would definitely fall into that trap (completely unintentionally).

    On the other hand though, it definitely makes it easier for grouping purposes if one teacher has upper, and one has lower. If one teacher has 4th-6th, they can easily pull kids working at the same level together for resource room work.

    Ultimately though... your boss's school, your boss's rules.
     
  5. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 4, 2014

    Interesting point. My P is very hard to read. She seems to hate telling people what to do, so I have no idea what she's really thinking. It just didn't make sense that the reason she gave for this set up was that it would create more stability for the students, when the exact opposite is true. If she would have given the reason that you gave above, it would make more sense. I'm just looking for what the "real" reason is. I love our 5th grade team of teachers and we work really well together, so although it's not my favorite age I wouldn't be too bummed about doing the 1st, 3rd, 5th next year. However, then the following year I'd have to do 2nd, 4th, 6th. All but one of the 4th grade teachers are very hard to work with and the entire 6th grade team is extremely hard to work with (they are resentful about EVERYTHING due to being put in elementary this year).
     
  6. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    May 4, 2014

    There is a school in my district where the sped teachers split up caseloads like this: teacher A) K and 4th, teacher B) 1st and 5th, and teacher C) 2nd and 3rd. The reason being that each teacher would have a state-testing grade and a primary grade.

    We tried the primary/intermediate grouping this year (with me taking primary and two of the other teachers splitting intermediate, since there were many more students in intermediate), and it honestly didn't work out too well. The majority of kids that qualified during the year were in primary, so my caseload more than doubled. The intermediate teachers' caseloads grew only slightly in comparison. The only real benefit was that scheduling was easier than having to work with all grade-levels.

    I'm not sure there is a perfect solution to dividing caseloads. I understand your ideal plan as well as your P's. I guess I'd try whatever your P wants you to do, and if you find that it doesn't work, document the reasons. Then, next year, go to her and explain why you feel another option would be more beneficial to the students.
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Thanks for the input! She did mention that K-3 and 4-6 wouldn't necessarily be equitable due to our large number of K students coming in. We literally have 16 students with IEPs coming into K next year. Most other grade levels have 5-10 students with IEPs. However, the great majority of K kids are speech and only have a half hour a week of service time with me. A lot of times when we do their re-evals they don't end up qualifying for academics anymore anyway (and the pre-k teachers made it sound like this would be the case again). Most other students have about 4 hours of service time per week. I mentioned this in our mtg. and also said that if it made sense for the numbers maybe we could do k-2 and 3-6 this year and re-evaluate next year. She didn't really respond...which is typical when she doesn't agree but doesn't want to say so, haha.

    I'm also really worried about having to do push-in next year. This year my caseload made it impossible, so it wasn't even questioned that I do all pull-out. I HATE push-in. I think it's easier to "be a teacher" pushing in to the younger grades because they do guided groups for everything, and I could easily just do some of the groups without messing with the teacher's way of doing things too much. In the upper grades they don't do many small groups so I feel like it would be a whole lot of standing around "helping," and on top of that intermediate teachers are a lot less welcome to the idea of having another teacher in their classroom.

    I think you're right though, it might be best to just go along with her "just an idea" for a year and see how it pans out and then possibly make changes the next year.
     
  8. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    If you're doing mostly pull-out, then it makes even more sense to me that you'd have the kids groups by primary/intermediate. I mean... if you have a high (relatively speaking) first grader, and a low second grader, wouldn't it make sense that their pull-out time might overlap due to having the same needs?
     
  9. bella84

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    I'm not sure how it is at waterfall's school, but at my school this only works in theory. After working around lunch, recess, and specials schedules, it's really only possible to group students by grade-level. There is only one half hour during the entire day that I can get all of my students from various grade-levels together in one group. I wish it was easier, because it sure would make a lot more sense to group by ability, as you've suggested.
     
  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Haha...that's a whole other can of worms that I've been dealing with all year. We have a "master schedule" with "intervention blocks" for each grade level. So my students come to me based on grade level rather than ability level. I pointed out right away that this made no sense (not using those words of course). My P agreed to let me change the schedule, BUT I had to okay it with the gen ed teachers first because they were teaching using classroom schedules around the intervention blocks in the master schedule. My biggest gaps were in 5th and 6th grade. The 5th grade teachers agreed and even said they'd move around some of their instructional blocks to make it work, but the 6th grade teachers refused. I was able to move around a few primary students who really were a better fit for a different grade level.
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    In my first job, I ability grouped kids. It was a little easier because I had far fewer students, and my first school was less strict about how much classroom instruction the kids had to get. The only thing I couldn't pull them out of was the first 45 minutes of the reading block, which was the same time for the whole school. So I could pull them out of a math class if their needs were such that they were getting nothing/very little out of the gen ed math class and were getting more important instruction with me, if that makes sense.
     
  12. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 13, 2014

    Ok, I'm an idiot. I was talking about this with our psych today and she pointed out that the reasoning behind this is that kids will stay with the same sped teacher throughout elementary school. For some reason I was thinking they'd switch every two years. But if I start with a kid in 1st as the 1st/3rd/5th teacher, then the kid will move with me as a 2nd grader the next year when I'm the 2nd/4th/6th teacher, and then again when the kid is in 3rd when I go back to 1st/3rd/5th, etc. So this must be the reasoning they're going for.

    The psych says that we should come up with an idea as a team and then present it once we're all (our team) on board. Usually if you come in with a solid plan, admin doesn't tend to turn you down. Like I said, they ironically don't like telling people what to do, haha. The new teacher is coming to spend two days with me in June, since her current school gets out before we do. I've decided I'm just going to see what her thoughts are and go from there. If she's really gung-ho about intermediate and I really want primary, I think that splitting it how we originally said makes the most sense. If she really likes primary too though, it might be better to split it this way.
     

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