In this edition’s “Special Students – Special
1. November 1998 Ministry Directive
2. English Inspectorate Advisory
1. Deadline for assessments
2. Teacher compensation for special testing; how to set special testing conditions for your students and other management problems
3. School exam
4. Raising Awareness
5. Using computers and other aids
6. Let’s Not Forget What the Problem Really Is
Our faithful readers will notice that we have changed the name of this column, dealing with the needs of learning disabled and “weaker” students, from “PhD’s”—an acronym for “Pupils Having Difficulties” to “Special Students-Special Needs”. “PhD’s” has been recognized in many parts of Israel in the last few years to identify a very heterogeneous population of students who, for many important reasons, do not learn, produce, or perform according to teacher expectations. However, as the Israeli teacher and general population awareness is raised on the issues of learner motivation, styles, intelligences and especially disabilities, many of us have come to the conclusion that labeling students as having difficulties may not be the best approach. Instead, those teachers, teacher-trainers and administrators who work extensively with this population, believe that many students deserve to receive instruction that promotes their talents; and that as teachers, we are responsible for recognizing any special efforts or tools that might be necessary to enhance their learning. Perhaps we are falling victim to the present “PC” (politically correct) consciousness of the 90’s. But once again, those of us who serve in the “trenches”, working with students with problems, find ourselves able to reverse years of student frustration and failure by simply offering acceptance of how our students arrive in the classroom, and beginning the long, but rewarding process of accommodation.
Beginning in October, the ETNI List hosted an invigorating exchange of views and information about working with students with special needs. Although much of the discussion centered on hakalot, or as we are now instructed, behinot metuamot, for Bagrut examinations, teachers offered some very practical and successful strategies for working with students with disabilities. We wanted to summarize some of these ideas, and hopefully, will develop a special web page on the ETNI website to capture and update this important work.
But first, some perspective: In November 1998, right during the beginning of the ETNI List discussion, the Ministry of Education approved major changes for testing students with disabilities. All teachers and administrators working in this area should read the directive, in Hebrew, very carefully.
Soon thereafter, the Judy Steiner, the
Chief Inspector for English, with advice from Aharona Givaryhu, National
Counselor for Learning Disabilities, produced an explanation of this directive,
regarding which dispensations are appropriate for which students, and why.
It should be noted that the document from the English Inspectorate is not a translation of the Ministry directive. It is an explanation of the directive, with information for teachers.
The Ministry directive is definitely a “recommended read”! The document makes a distinction between students with learning disabilities, and those who lack motivation or have difficulties learning—many of us in the field wonder how these distinctions are applied. However, the document goes far in recognizing that learning disabilities can depress student achievement and chances for fulfilling their potential. There is also recognition that individual learning styles and strategies are likely to promote higher achievement and effective learning.
The responsibility for identification and assessment of learning disabilities is placed squarely on the shoulders of schools, and assessments done in elementary school are to be recognized in middle and high school.
The directive further declares that where a par exists between a student’s achievement and expectations for his grade level, and that student has not been assessed in elementary school, the school must refer the student for an evaluation. This referral should be made in junior high school, but no later than 10th grade.
Those students who have not been assessed prior to 11th grade will now be referred by the school to special assessment centers designated approved by the Ministry.
The directive also makes a significant change in who does evaluations: only an educational psychologist, and not an assessment professional.
The directive goes on to list the types of testing alternatives that are available for students that have been assessed:
The dispensations are:
Now on to the English Inspectorate’s explanation. The declared purpose of Special Testing Conditions for Pupils Taking the Bagrut Examinations in English is to explain the special testing conditions in the Ministry directive.
The English Inspectorate document emphasizes the need for English teachers to advise the Pedagogical Council of the school about the students’ special needs, and “how the pupil is presently being tested in the English classroom.” This latter statement is very important—in some schools, teachers and coordinators believe that unless students have recognized dispensations, the teacher is not permitted use of special testing techniques at all, or only for a limited time. The Inspectorate further warns that unless the English teacher is consulted, the dispensations granted may not be appropriate.
Some notable recommendations for teachers applying the dispensations:
A careful reading of these two documents takes care of some of the issues raised by ETNI members. Let’s take a look at them again:
A lot of frustration was expressed about
the tenth grade cut-off—that if your students don’t receive an assessment
by 10th grade, they can’t receive dispensations. Many teachers felt
that the process doesn’t work that quickly; that economically disadvantaged
students are discriminated against; and that sometimes, problems aren’t
identified by tenth grade. The new Ministry directive takes care
of some of these problems:
Several teachers mentioned the long hours necessary for preparing special tapes and extra time devoted to testing LD students individually. Not many schools are giving compensation for these hours. With the growing number of LD students being identified, teachers are once again being asked to volunteer these hours as “an integral part of their job”. This also touched off a debate about schools that, having identified students as LD and in need of special assistance outside of the classroom, are unwilling to add teacher hours. (The writer has made progress in this area—after three years of teaching primarily LD and weak students in high school, the school is now granting numerous extra hours for individual or small group tutoring, sometimes allowing me to remove the student from the regular class temporarily—of course these are paid as “substitute teacher” hours, and not regular hours. But this is clearly progress!)
Pnina Feldman suggested that teachers who teach 12th grade, ask the adminstration not to assign them as substitute teachers when the 12th graders stop attending regular classes, in recognition of the extra hours that they put in.
Maxine Tsvaigrach shared how the teachers in her school help each other: “If I have a free hour I will test another teacher’s student and vice versa.” She also advises that using a pre-recorded version of the exam on tape can help if the school’s counselor indicates that this is permissible. (Note: you don’t know that this will help until you try!) Or she asks the administration to assign another teacher with a free hour to proctor the exam—I have used this as well, with some success. But in some very weak classes, my presence makes a difference in behavior and performance. And, you have to make sure that you are available for any questions. Or, she advises the use students volunteers. Sometimes, teachers try to test students when the student has other classes—in our school, we are very careful about requiring approval from the teacher to release a student from his/her class prior to arranging this.
Efraim Perlmutter offers several suggestions:
Take a look at Lev Abramov’s table organizer. I used it at a recent hishtalmut for chechven teachers on learning disabilities, and it was very favorably received. Thanks Lev!
And many teachers advised to keep in close contact with your school counselors—to “push” on assessments, make sure that dispensations are granted and recorded, etc.
No doubt about it—helping teachers do this impossible task by providing sufficient additional hours and staff is a long way from realization…but probably one of the most important issues for the Ministry to work on.
Judy Steiner explained in more detail that internal school exams are granted for students with special medical problems or exceptional learning disability problems, which need to be approved by the Vaadat Harigim in Jerusalem and then approval from Judy Steiner—send a copy of the approval from the committee and the description of the students’ problems; and the English teacher should describe which parts of the test are intended for administering to the students, with the Inspectorate providing advice on the best design for the test to meet the student’s specific needs. (The exam is usually given for students at the 3 point level). Only an updated psychologist's letter will qualify a student for a school exam.
We learned as list members, what is “official” and not official, re: distribution to people outside of our list, especially as it relates to the special effort that the Inspectorate is making to keep us teachers informed. A must of internet/e-mail etiquette: before you share outside, ask the writer for permission!
Aside from this unintended glitch, teachers came up with some great ideas on raising student, parent and teacher awareness about disabilities.
Esther Frimer and Leah Wolf shared with us their experiences of talking to students about dyslexia. It’s time to break through parent concerns that the army and other institutions/employment opportunities will negatively label the student! Students are also quite interested in knowing their rights in receiving certain dispensations for exam-taking.
Adele Raemer talked about using the movie “F.A.T. City" in teacher meetings. At a recent meeting at our high school, our teachers even thought that students and parents should see the film. Having viewed it a few times, I was delighted to find that viewing with other teachers in my school opened up new channels of communication—I am no longer viewed as the LD “nudnick”!
The importance of the Bagrut sometimes overshadows what we are really supposed to be doing out there—teaching! Renee Wahl reminded us that in everyday classroom practice, we can work with programs like Read 2 Me for tests, quizzes, and other written material. Speakers hooked to headsets can take care of the noise problem. Gail Shouster-Bouskila sent information on how to download Read 2 Me.
Some other teachers suggested using native or near-native speakers, retired Anglos, or students who are doing personal community service/volunteer work, for reading books and tests into tapes.
Did I forget someone or something?
Misquote you? Things not clear? Mea culpa—I am sorry…Let us
know! Send us a note and it will
appear in the next News.
No doubt about it…computers can transform “weak” students, students with disabilities, and those who don’t seem as motivated as others, into English STARS—but only if we work with our students to solve some of the problems that can make computer work difficult.
Adaptive or AssistiveTechnology---heard a lot about it, probably even doing it, but what is it and where do you go to polish off those strategies of helping students use technology to ameliorate their problems, or adapt technology to their needs?
Internet—An Inclusive MagnetforTeachingall
Students, by Batya Bahya, published last year by the World Institute
of Disability is downloadable and easy to read in an Acrobat Reader format
or text version, from http://www.wid.org/tech/handbook/
Recognizing that the Internet is a “high-status” skill that can effectively motivate LD students, the book offers lots of strategies for using assistive technology (ways which can specifically aid students through the use of certain devices).
The book is in an easy-to-read format, presenting sample problems that students might face, a strategy to accommodate the problem, and the benefits that can be gained. Subsequent sections discuss “Success Stories” where teachers have successfully made adaptations; and an additional problem/solution section that carefully defines terms; as well as a section on how to build accessible web sites. Additionally, although many of the additional resources discussed are in the States, the section is chock full of URLs. By the way—know what you are looking for? Check the index first, on the last page of the booklet.
I can’t say it better than them—
And check out SNOW Kids, http://snow.utoronto.ca/snowkids/
I have taken several on-line courses (both
moderated and unmoderated) http://snow.utoronto.ca/prof_dev.html
and so have several ETNI colleagues. Highly recommended! >From
Learning to Learn, dealing with difficult behavioral problems, learning
how to design accessible curriculum, adaptive technology, multiple intelligences…the
list goes on. The courses feature high quality format and materials,
as well as great technical assistance. A great way to introduce yourself
to aids that your students can use as well! See
more in this issue.
In our last issue, ETNI News #3, we focused on the world of Multiple Intelligences, Learning Styles and catering to the needs of special learners. As a result of that issue and my work with SNOW courses, I began an interesting journey into the issues of creativity, multiple intelligences and alternative learning styles. Here’s one of the newsletters that you may be interested in:
New Newsletter forMI
“Multiple Intelligences Research and Consulting,
devoted to research and application of the theory of Multiple Intelligences,
The MI-News is delivered approximately twice per month free via email.
To subscribe, send the following command in the BODY of mail To: HUB@XC.ORG
OR send any message TO: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To receive a sample copy of the inaugural issue, send any message TO:
Each issue will contain reviews of current research, interviews with people using and applying multiple intelligences models, columns on parenting, and information contributed by readers.”
Anyone interested in other discussion groups
or lists, just drop me a line.
January’s highlights included on on-line
chat and book excerpts from Louisa Moats and Susan Hall’s new book, Straight
Talk About Reading.
Reporting on the America Reads Challenge, there is a list of help for reading tutors, including general guidelines, as well as a review of LD and other problems that interfere with reading.
To subscribe to LD Online Report (which
will arrive in your e-mail every month with a synopsis of new articles)
their Homepage and click on "Sign up for the LD OnLine Newsletter”.