The Latest Special Education Band-Aid

“A program launching this coming summer will give general education teachers the opportunity to add a special education license by completing four classes.” –from “RRPS to offer special ed training” by Kim Burgess, Albuquerque Journal, 11.15.15

I can think of almost no job with such employment security, other than nurse worldwide and cop in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  If you young folks ever want to feel wanted professionally, get a Special Education (SpEd) teaching license and you can pretty much walk into any town and ask the receptionist at the school district HR when you start.  Because that’s the interview, you asking the question.

Why the job security? Well, there is the small detail that being a Special Education teacher has always been very, very hard.  Now that difficulty has exploded into sad realms such as testing and teacher evaluation, not to mention more Special Education paperwork than ever before.  Technically, I’m a Special Education teacher, because we in New Mexico are just about unique in glomming “Gifted” with Special Ed., but my job is sooooooooooooooooooooooo much easier than any true Special Education teacher’s.  Sure, I do an IEP here and there, and can write a mean IEP goal that says pretty much absolutely nothing, but sure as hell has some “measurable outcomes” in it.

But IEPs, and much, much more complex IEPs than I ever write, are just a small piece of a Special Education teacher’s job. I’ll save a complete “Ode to the Special Education Teacher” for some other time, and will only point out that such a piece of poetry would have to be very, very long, given all the tough duties that come with the job.  I admire those who do it, and we all know the tendency is for many of them to do it for only a few years before it all gets too much and they leave SpEd or the profession altogether.

So Rio Rancho Public Schools wants to address its relatively small shortage of SpEd teachers (RRPS has 8 SpEd openings, APS has about 70) by offering a fast-track to certification. Good luck with that, RRPS. I notice the requirement is that teachers be certified in Regular Education (i.e., have a teaching licence) before becoming eligible for the fast-track program.  It’s a bit unclear from the Journal story, but I’m guessing “classes” in the quote above refers to four semester-long classes, not four individual class periods.

Still, I don’t know many teaching colleagues who would take such a deal if it meant only four class periods. Actually, I don’t know any and wonder if any exist. The biggest reason is the aforementioned difficulties in the job; the second reason is that even four class periods of teacher training is usually like 10 human years in terms of soul-crushing boredom and uselessness.

So it would seem a proposition to an experienced, licensed regular ed. teacher that they experience 10 years of soul-crushing (at least) in order to get a SpEd license isn’t exactly, on its own, a compelling one. Maybe there’s some $20,000 carrot in the fast-track program not mentioned in the story, but you’d think that would have been mentioned.

By the way, I don’t know if I’d teach Special Education in its current misery, even for an additional $20,000 a year.  Not even $20,000 a month more, actually.

But who knows, maybe some regular education teachers are just aching to switch to teaching learning disabled kids as the kids take standardized tests specifically designed to point out, emphasize and revel in their learning disabilities.  Maybe there’s some folks who just really want to see kids cry as they are flummoxed with test after test after test, while also losing their electives because it has been determined they need more “intervention” in subjects that they already despise and in which they have already been determined (through a SAT process, evaluative testing and IEP committee agreement) to have learning difficulties. Maybe there are eight RRPS licensed teachers who really want to spend weeknights sitting in CNM classrooms hearing/reading about strategies to address the needs of Special Education children, who will then happily go on to NEVER use any of these taught strategies because schools have gone to “inclusion” in an attempt to save money because the NM PED seems morally unable to fund Special Education in a legal manner, as eloquently pointed out by ABQ’s Katie Stone.

Yeah, maybe there are such people out there.  Or maybe there were, up to about ten years ago when the very hard became the truly impossible to endure.  I remember many fine SpEd colleagues from those days and admired their work…until they left.

Good luck with that, RRPS.



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