04 SES 06 A, Basic Rights
Parallel Paper Session
With the inception of the No Child Left Behind Act, and because of the rewards or sanctions based on student performance, educators faced tough decisions. It was of utmost importance that principals not only understand the complexities of serving students in need of special education services but also interpret how the federal legislation affected these students (Bouck, 2009) and therefore determine how they might define student success (i.e., meeting the goals of the Individual Education Plan (IEP), passing the state test, or both). Because NCLB introduced a heightened level of accountability that impacted curriculum, instruction, and assessment in schools nationwide (Sunderman, Kim, & Orfield, 2005), teachers felt an intense pressure to concentrate their efforts on the students most likely to respond to their instruction by passing the state tests. The focus on students who were likely to pass without additional help increased the demands and expectations for student assessment around a set of curriculum expectations that led to students being labeled in terms of their potential to pass these state exams. A commonly used term in U.S. public schools is “bubble kids”. This label refers to students on the cusp of demonstrating passing rates on state assessments. Hours of practice and tutoring are devoted to such students in the hope that they will meet the mark. Principals need to reflect on proactive and creative ways to both meet national and state standards while serving the needs of students in special services. As the NCLB mandate was implemented principals had to focus on four important aspects related to serving students with special needs: (a) development of mechanisms to inform the improvement of curricular practices, (b) specifics related to special education adaptations, (c) affective aspects of meeting the needs of all learners, and (d) some evidence of organizational learning and relearning to match the large-scale reform pressures to their contexts. The NCLB Act assessment guidelines required school principals to choose between the requirement to assess students through state-mandated assessments or choose to address students’ skill levels as determined by their IEPs. This inconsistency resulted in either–or choices for educators, often at the expense of the child. In this paper, we present principals’ perceptions regarding such challenges they described in attempting to meet NCLB mandates and the requirements of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). We view leaders’ responsibilities as strategically engaging in organizational learning about how to both meet accountability mandates and fulfill expectations for accommodating students with special needs. The role of the leader to focus on learning of all students means that the leader understands how to have differentiated instruction and differentiated strategies for students. Differentiating instruction has challenges and requires teacher expertise to know what strategies are successful for individual students.
Bouck, E. C. (2009). No Child Left Behind, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and functional curricula: A conflict of interest? Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 44(1), 3-13. Sunderman, G. L., Kim, J. S., & Orfield, G. (2005). NCLB meets school realities: Lessons from the field. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
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