Over dinner one night this summer my husband, with his practical MBA thinking, asked me how I'd know whether or not my non-categorical class was successful. Perhaps if I had been sipping a glass of wine at the time I would have been able to laugh it off, but since I've been sans wine due to the upcoming baby, I was momentarily frustrated with his question. What is his MBA thinking doing questioning my class?
Not picking up on my frustration he went on to ask if I had clear ways to measure whether or not the class was successful. How would I be able to go to the administration and say "look how well this worked, we should do it again." I knew he meant well by his question, but for a moment I was taken aback.
I immediately went on a spiel about how in special ed every child has their own set of goals written into their Individual Education Program (IEP) so that how I measure success is easily laid out for me. Did my students meet their goals? I of course made this sound much longer and more drawn out than that to keep him from getting a word in edgewise and questioning me again. He nodded and sipped his wine (the nerve).
But I kept thinking about his question. How will I measure the success of my class? Part of it will be in my students' progress in their IEP goals, but that is how I measure success every year. Are they able to meet the goals we set out for them? To be honest, in my head I always tend to aim higher than those goals. The goals I write are the realistic goals I want the child to accomplish. They are goals I have a clear plan of accomplishing. But in my head, no matter who the child is, I always overshoot them. My goals for my students always go above and beyond what is written on that paper. We don't always meet the goals in my head. Sometimes we don't meet the goals on the IEP. It's not for lack of trying. I feel that we get as far as we do because I am always working on my unspoken "shoot for the moon" goals.
The IEP goals themselves do not seem to be enough to measure whether or not my class structure was successful. How will we know whether or not they would have met those goals in the general education classroom?
So how can I measure success?
After mulling over the question I realized that for most of the students my goal- my measurement of success, will be that the child will be able to transition into the general education classroom smoothly the following year.
For a few it will mean they will have a better handle on their language skills and will be able to communicate with peers and teachers in a way that does not require the support they currently require. They will be able to advocate for their own needs, no longer needing prompts to go to the bathroom, get a tissue, or to ask a friend to share a block.
For others that will mean they will be able to follow the routines in a general education classroom in a way that will allow them to access the material. Their general education teachers will not have to spend time agonizing over their behaviors, but instead will spend time working on their academics.
For a few others whose disabilities make it unlikely that they will transition to a general education classroom, my goal will be that they can stay at our school. We will give them the skills they need to be able to continue attending their neighborhood school, and will not need to be bused to a center that specializes in students with their disabilities.
For all of them success will be measured with their academic progress, of course. Whether or not it is that they learn their colors, their alphabet, or the word wall words, I will want to measure success by what they have learned from their baseline data, regardless if that academic goal is in their IEP or not.
So there is my overall goal for the year. To transition quite a few of them to general education classes. If the class is successful then maybe we wont need the class next year. I kind of feel like I'm setting myself up to put myself out of a job.
Remember to ask him the same question when it's his turn to burp and change the baby, lol.
The part that most bothers me about how we measure the "success" of our students is that we always do it in the short term - one unit, one quarter, one "year" (really only nine months and change). The real measure of success would be to assess how well a student is using the skills we asked them to learn five, ten, fifteen years later. Not at all easy to do but much more meaningful.
Measuring success has always been a tough conundrum ever since people traded places like Manhattan for beads ☺☺☺
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