School Law EDLD 5344 Week 1

Response #1

How do school staff members feel about the IEP process as a whole? Is it stressful? Do they feel it represents a true collaboration between parents and staff members to best serve students?

I think most school staff members have a fairly ambivalent view of the IEP process. Obviously, it’s a good thing and is very useful for the students’ overall success, but I think there are a number of educators who view it more as a nuisance or as a necessary evil. They feel that it interferes with or even dumbs down their curriculum. One of the things I think frustrates teachers is that many parents aren’t as involved as they should be (at least in the opinion of the teacher), which is particularly frustrating since you’re dealing with a child in need of special/extra services, which results in greater need for support at home. If the parent(s) shirk the responsibility, that can result in them not actually providing input for the IEP and the educational goals/objectives are left entirely to school employee(s).
Response #2

Which aspect of the IEP process most confuses or discourages team members?

I think team members seem to be most frustrated with IEP that aren’t very explicit in their instructions. For example, a student that has accommodations for math, science, reading, and social studies, but not for electives or CTE courses. This means, technically, that teachers in those subjects do not have accommodations that they have to follow, even though it would be in the students’ best interest. Also, I think many educators are discouraged by the “just business” approach to ARD meetings and the IEP process. That is, instead of realizing the lifetime of consequences our choices in each of those meetings, we treat it like a formality and just move through because we have “more important things to do” whether we acknowledge that belief or not. I have found that it is true, after all, that actions speak louder than words and even though a fellow educator may give lip service to the IEP process, seeing another educator or administrator treat this as though it were just more paperwork can be disheartening.

 

Response #3

How does your school/district determine whether students are eligible for special education?

Our school district utilizes testing based on the referral process that teachers go through to nominate the student for that testing. If there is a student, for example, that seems to be struggling in class (which may or may not be related to their behavior), our district starts a three-tier series of interventions that try to determine if the student does indeed need the services of special education or if the student would best be served in an accelerated instruction class, tutorials, or some other type of intervention. If the student’s performance is not impacted by these other interventions and the appropriate documentation has been completed, the student may be nominated for testing. The testing is very comprehensive and detailed and, based on those results, determine whether the child should be placed in special education or not.

 

Response #4

What do IEP team members say can be done to better improve the process?

IEP team members think the process could be improved by better/more follow-up and accountability. Additionally, they believe that all teachers could benefit from specific training about the actual implementation of the various accommodations. They argue that while a teacher sees “Extended time for assignments” on the IEP, they are left to ascertain how much constitutes “extended time.” The wording is very broad and leaves much to the interpretation of various teachers, which is far from best practice and does not provide the best educational experience for the individual student.

 

Response #5

Are students’ IEPs effectively implemented at your school? What can be done to improve implementation?

Our school does a fairly good job of implementing IEPs and making sure that teachers have the right information when it comes to servicing our special education students. While we may be given the IEPs for the students on our roster, specific, relevant training would be extremely beneficial, especially to our less-experienced teachers. Some examples of this would include what to do when a student refuses to abide by their own IEP, what some of the accommodations actually look like in a specific classroom, and how to document the services given to a student within the classroom.

 

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How has NCLB affected your school?

How has NCLB changed the way my school operates? I suppose I could give a pat answer that details the effects of increased accountability, federal standards, AYP, and all of that, but in reality, I’m not at a place to answer this question. I was in middle school when the bill was passed, so asking me in 2010 how a nearly decade-old policy affects a school I have worked for since last year assumes more than I am able to provide. Naturally, I see how concerned everyone is with the ripple effects of this legislation, but since I really have no other frame of reference (since standardized testing, the TAAS, was already in place when I moved to Texas in 1994) it is essentially impossible for me to fully answer this question, clearly posed by those of much more experience and tenure and with little regard for those of us in similar situations as me. Some of the effects of NCLB that I see (again, keeping in mind I have no point of reference) are: endless meetings about data disaggregation, demographics, and sub populations while teachers are asked to not only be good educators, but good administrators, dealing with arduous paperwork and excessive amounts of administrative tasks that are of no direct correlation to the instruction of students. However, when the government says “jump,” you jump. Rather, you ask “how high?” The most common attitude I run across is that No Child Left Behind is, in reality, leaving more children behind than if the legislation had not been passed to begin with. This is not to say that standards and accountability are bad things; quite the contrary in fact. But the implementation and methodology in which accountability is leveraged is a primer in what not to do unless you are dually prepared for a massive influx of students who have been passed along from grade to grade without true mastery, all the while blaming each teacher from the year prior while not holding the child accountable.

EDLD 5363 Week 5

Another class down, only a few left to go! This week was the culmination of a group project involving the creation of a public service announcement. It was quite a bit more stressful than the usual fifth week of a course, probably because doing group work remotely has a unique set of challenges, particularly in orchestrating timing, workload, and file sharing. For example, because we all have full-time jobs in addition to this coursework, so it was frustrating trying to get time to work on everything in a timely matter that wouldn’t upset my partners. Then we ran into issues about the actual compilation of the project. Because we divvied out the creation of the individual pieces, when it came time to bring it all together, we quickly realized we were in dire need of videoconferencing software and definite meeting times that we could all be on at the same time. We used Google Docs to create most of the pre-production notes, in addition to email communication.

As for the project itself, it was fine. I believe I have expressed my views thoroughly regarding the limiting of creativity and placing constraints on students. However, if you’re interested, the finished project can be found here.

EDLD 5363 Week 3

This week I am working with two other classmate (Rachel and Janette) to begin pre-production on a 60-second PSA. We decided to cover the topic of “online safety.” While we know that the topic is indeed very broad, it was mentioned by Rachel that many if not most parents were not given any sort of instruction about the online world and, as such, have not given any real instruction to their children about it. We were all told to stay away from strangers, but does that apply when the stranger says they are in another state? The ultimate purpose of our PSA will be to provide thought-provoking questions worthy of discussion and further research. Rather than go into intricate details that will only cover one individual topic that will prove to be irrelevant 6 months from now (for example, giving safety tips about the current latest, greatest social networking site), we have decided to give an overall framework for online safety, such as protecting your personal information.

The primary challenge of this PSA will be working within the constraints given us by the program. For example, we are limited to no more than 60 seconds. Please see my previous post about time constraints on creativity. Additionally, within that 60 seconds, we are required to use 4 different shots. While I don’t foresee this as an issue, it assumes we have access to quality video equipment.

I wonder if my iPhone will work for this PSA?

EDLD 5363 Week 2

This week seemed to be a “filler” week where we were learning about how to edit audio/video and creating a podcast about it. Since the podcast was limited to only 90 seconds, it was extremely difficult to really “say” anything worthwhile that would actually be helpful to someone else. I frequently use minimum times in my own classroom for creating content, but I rarely (if ever) put a cap on the amount of content my students create. This seems backwards to say I ONLY have 90 seconds to create a tutorial about editing video. Video editing is extremely complex and this inane cap on time mean this assignment is essentially useless to me or anyone else. Graduate level work should not be something done for the sake of doing it nor should it be changed mid-week, as this assignment was. Initially, the assignment was something entirely different and then seemingly on a whim, the powers that be made the decision to change the assignment. It goes without saying that this week was a waste of my time as well as the time of my classmates as it will certainly not propel us forward in learning nor will it further our understanding of audio/video editing. It should further be noted that the directions are extremely unclear since a “podcast” is audio and yet there are numerous references to YouTube and the utilization of video clips. Perhaps this is an unfortunate side effect of effectively lying to graduate students? When you distribute the syllabus, we are surely aware that plans change, but it should be unacceptable for as assignment due Sunday to be changed haphazardly on the Wednesday prior.

My “tutorial” (if you can hardly call it that) can be found here: http://garnerg.podbean.com/

Multimedia and Video Tech 5363

Creating a digital story is not something new to me. I have been doing this type of multimedia work for a few years so a lot of it is very second-nature to me. That being said, I can see the value in these assignments, especially for different groups of students. For example, some students have trouble with sequencing so the act of storyboarding would be helpful to them. Some students have trouble with writing, so having them talk instead and then teaching how to write a script from that could be very helpful as well. Some students are extremely creative and will relish the opportunity to combine so many different outlets into a single story. Some students will be able to express thoughts and ideas that otherwise have just been bottled up because they didn’t know the words for them, even though they could see it in their mind.

The biggest struggle I had was finding content that wasn’t copyright protected and fit the idea I had for my video. I primarily used Creative Commons to find content on Flickr, but this proved to be more difficult than you would imagine.

Week 5 Action Research 5301 Part Two

At the outset of this course, I will admit I was pretty intimidated. It is one thing when “research” means going to the library or performing a query on a database and reading the findings of someone else. It is an entirely different matter when you are the one creating those findings and developing your own material that, in theory, could be published and then researched by someone else sitting in a library. However, in studying the concept(s) of action research, it became readily apparent that this “new” approach to research has far-reaching benefits. Imagine if staff development was facilitated via action research rather than something you have to sit through a few times a year? “Inservice education for school principals is often viewed by principals as something ‘done to’ them by others… A somewhat different approach…can be found in the concept of collaborative action research.” (Stevens, 2001)

As we learned more of the benefits behind action research as well as the way action research is differentiated from other types of research, I became more and more comfortable with the process we were undertaking. In my previous notions of research, which I learned fell under the categories of “process-product” (Shulman, 1986) and “qualitative,” there is a greater focus on outside practitioners, shaping the study according to a desired outcome, and/or explaining something that has already happened. (Dana, 2009) While this still has value (in most instances), it doesn’t lend itself to real, actual change. Action research, on the other hand, seems as though it were developed specifically for schools, particularly in the age of accountability and high-stakes, data-driven testing. I now know that I can leverage action research to investigate something that hasn’t happened yet, analyze data as it is happening, and be able to reflect and make changes in near real-time.

Once we were given the task of developing our own “wondering(s),” I was sure that I would struggle to develop a topic (let alone a list of topics) that would be worth researching. After all, I am only a classroom teacher! What could I possibly research that would actually mean anything? Even the book we are using assumes that you are already in administration. However, after delving a little more deeply into the concepts and principals of action research, I realized that while I may not have the leverage afforded administrators, the key to the success of the research rested in the fact that I am, in fact, a classroom teacher. Since classroom teachers are the practitioners themselves (Dana, 2009), I know that I have been given a great opportunity to make great changes that will ultimately lead to a more beneficial and relevant experience for our students.

I began discussing with my mentor about what type of research would be most appropriate and most feasible given all of the various restraints. For example, I would love to research the use of Twitter or Facebook, but would not be able to complete that research since it is blocked by our district. (Ironically, the reason it is blocked is because nobody has presented them with a scenario or set of research where it is used effectively in education. (Orbaugh, 2010)) We developed several “wonderings” that were all great ideas, but ultimately decided on one for me that would be the most relevant for my current assignment: What is the best way to implement an online learning environment with regards to three specific classroom environments (1:1 lab, 1:2 half-lab, 1:10 traditional classroom) (Garner, 2010)? Two of the other wonderings we developed may still be in effect, but not under my leadership or guidance. The first of which dealt with developing a positive relationship with community members in bringing relevant technology training to them through weekly meetings. The second wondering would investigate how technology trainings and other professional development opportunities for teachers could result in higher retention and implementation rates. These two both seemed to be geared more towards administration (according to my mentor) compared to “my” wondering and so it was decided that I would leave both of them to other administrators.

I have enjoyed the process thus far and have realized that I will be using action research for years to come, even if I don’t formally call it “research.” The process underlying action research is so beneficial and so valuable that I believe it should be utilized in a myriad of scenarios and something that all practitioners should be utilizing and implementing.

Week 5 Action Research 5301

Quality Indicator 1

Context of Study: Keeping the context of study in view is an important aspect of action research. You need to be aware of the various external influences and determinants surrounding your research since they could (and probably do) have direct influence over your final results. In my particular project, I need to be aware of writing my research and my findings in such a way that other districts reading my work understand our district. For example, many districts today are already implementing learning management systems such as Moodle or Blackboard but our campus (and hopefully district) will use this piloted research to investigate a way to implement a similar system. I will need to document (in addition to the findings of the research) similar products tried previously, demographic data, number of students, etc.

Quality Indicator 2

Wondering(s) and Purpose: The action researcher needs to be sure they have clearly defined and explained their wondering(s) and the purpose behind their research. Why was it a felt or actualized need? How genuine was the wondering? Was it really needed or was it in response to something already solved? In my own research, I need to assess and explain (thoroughly) what my research is and why it is so important that we learn best practices for implementing online learning environments for our students. I need to be sure that anyone reading my research will be able to understand why I chose my topic and experience the passion behind the decision to engage in research about online learning environments.

Quality Indicator 3

Principal research and design (Data collection and data analysis): This quality indicator is about the actual research itself. In my research with regards to this quality indicator, I need to be sure that I pull in data from multiple data sources, utilize multiple formats (journals, logs, reflections, interviews, test scores, etc), and pull in any existing research and/or literature regarding my selected topic: implementing online learning environments. I will want to get feedback from multiple sources including classroom teachers, administrators, and (of course) the students themselves. My research should be thorough and well thought-out. Anyone reading my research should know that this project was well-executed and very thorough.

Quality Indicator 4

Principal-Researcher learning: This is perhaps the most important indicator in all of action research. This involves the “take-away” from the research. What did the action researcher actually learn from the study? What were their findings and how did they come to their conclusions? In my research, I will need to use the data to create a thorough summary of my findings as well as answers to any data that doesn’t seem to fit my conclusion. For example, if rotational quizzes work in every class but one, I need to find out why they didn’t work in that one class. I need to make sure I am getting specific accounts from teachers as they move forward with the project so that their statements can be compiled within my findings. My final product should reflect an on-going process of learning and reflection and communicate a data-driven approach to institutional change.

Quality Indicator 5

Implications for Practice: This indicator should come about as a direct continuation of the previous quality indicator. In fact, failure to complete this indicator would perhaps be the worst of all since it would mean that so much work and learning was put into a project that, ultimately, was only for its own sake. That is to say, the research project should be about effecting real change, not just for the sake of learning or acquiring knowledge. The finalized plan should include ways that I have taken our research about implementing online learning environments and made changes to individual classrooms (including my own) and/or influenced administrators and district leaders in this topic of study. Additionally, I need to have prepared a plan of action for the months following the research. How will the research impact on-going, continuous improvement? Additionally, how will I follow-up this research? How can I translate my research to other scenarios? For example, if another school or another district wants to investigate how to implement online learning environments, I should be able to take my existing research and make necessary adaptations and use it to either spring-board change in a different environment or be able to start their own research as a type of continuation from mine.

Week 4 Action Research 5301

My peers seemed to like my action research project/plan. Specifically, they mentioned interest in seeing the acceptance rate among teachers on utilizing the new technology. One suggestion that was made involved the usage of smartphones and/or iPod Touches, especially since my project (implementing blended learning) could be greatly enhanced if “blended” could also mean “mobile.” I would love to incorporate this into my research, but would be going directly against district policies as well as facing an issue regarding access, since not all students have a smartphone and/or an iPod Touch. Another suggestion was to compare my district to similar districts and look at ways they have implemented blended learning within their district. Perhaps some of these strategies could be modified/used within my district? I think this is a stellar suggestion and one that I will be investigating. My site supervisor suggested that I delegate more of my tasks to others on our campus. This would provide two main benefits: 1) a lighter workload for me and 2) a richer experience for all teachers involved since they will feel more like a team working together than individual teachers completing the assignment of one of their coworkers. As soon as school starts back up (next week) I will be addressing some of my coworkers on this very issue, but as of right now, cannot adjust my plan (without talking to them first).

I met with my supervisor/mentor over lunch this week to discuss my action research plan. He was thoroughly impressed with my work and acknowledged that it was detailed enough to be able to provide an accurate, detailed timeline about how the project would be carried out over the semester. The only thing he wanted to caution me about regarding this plan is that it will be adding a significant amount of work on my end since I will be responsible for all parts of the plan and have chosen not to delegate anything. He noted that since I am responsible for the implementation, training, on-going monitoring/assessment, as well as final feedback (as well as any changes that come up mid-plan), there will be a lot on my plate and will probably result in some long hours. He suggested that I seek the help of other teachers willing to collaborate on parts of the project, but I am unable to show that change to my action research plan as of right now since we are not back to work yet and I have, thus far, been unable to reach my coworkers still enjoying their summer break.

Action Research, Week 3

As you’ll see, WordPress does not like tables… please visit my wiki for the complete table. The link can be found on the left side of the screen or by clicking here.

The district that I work for has yet to engage any form of online technologies beyond that of the gradebook and attendance. As a young educator that likes to think of himself as fairly progressive in terms of teaching strategies, I think this is a problem. Our students are living online and we need to be engaging them in the spaces they are already. As such, I am wondering the best methodology for implementing a blended learning environment for our students with regards to three specific classroom environments:

  1. 1:1 (computer lab)
  2. 1:2 (half-lab)
  3. 5 computers in a classroom for student use with occasional access to a 1:1 lab

I have expanded my wondering to include these three environments because I believe each of the three will have different strategies for implementation of a blended learning environment. For example, it probably goes without saying that a 1:1 lab will be able to do far more online than a teacher who only has 5 computers in her room and must schedule their monthly rotation in a computer lab. I want to research how this process will develop and what we can do to make the learning of our students as effective as possible. In discussing various topics for research, my mentor was extremely excited about all of the ideas I presented him and he actually intends to proceed with two others while I research this one for my graduate work.

__________

I will be utilizing a variety of outlets for the dissemination of my findings, primarily through my Action Research Blog and my wiki (links below, respectively). Additionally, I will be utilizing my coworkers heavily as I move forward. Through this process, there will be numerous discussions, questions, and informational meetings. Since I will not have access to my blog and wiki at school (blocked) I will mainly be using email correspondence on campus.

Also, I have found a great community of educators on social networks including Facebook, Plurk, and Twitter, where I will be sharing my findings and recommendations, as well asking for feedback and outside recommendations. Although they will not have direct knowledge of the research (outside of what I communicate to them) they will be able to ask questions and provide feedback for me moving forward.

Goal: Develop strategies for the implementation of an online learning space (blended learning) within three types of classrooms:

1- 1:1 computer lab

2- Partial lab (1:2 on average)

3- Traditional classroom (5 student computers for 30 students)

Action Step Person(s) Responsible Timeline (Start/end) Needed Resources Evaluation
Recruit volunteer teachers G. Garner August 16-Sept. 1 N/A
Train teachers on use of software G. Garner August 16- as needed Edmodo.com; computer lab Hands-on training with teachers; will cover features offered by LMS
Instructional planning/development G. Garner August 16-Sept. 1 Computer lab; course curriculum Will meet with instructional specialist for online course evaluation/QA
Administer/collect feedback/data G. Garner Oct. 1 and every 6 wks thereafter Google forms; email Will email teachers for feedback about implementation
Evaluate/analyze data and feedback rec’d G. Garner; all participants March 30th Any documentation kept/rec’d Discuss implementation and strategies for future

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