I knew going into my position that I would have to complete IEPs, FBAs, BIPs, and goal progress reports every grading period. I spent my summer organizing my lessons and days to accommodate my duties because I knew I would not have a planning period, being in a self-contained setting. I started the year off with a wonderfully ignorant belief in my ability to complete paperwork within the school day without any complications, all while providing exemplary instruction. Boy, was I wrong!
Three weeks into the school year, our district decided to require that each case manager keep a four-inch binder of progress monitoring data for each student. We would be responsible for keeping student work samples and all the relevant paperwork up to date, such as IEPs and BIPS, both in the notebook and in the student’s file. We were charged with “regularly monitoring and assessing student progress” toward IEP goals and recording that information every few weeks on a form—forms we needed to create on our own, given only the vaguest examples possible.
That doesn't sound too hard, does it? Well, it is much easier said than done. Being a new teacher and a philosopher by trade, I view things in terms of fundamentals. If a student is struggling with reading, I ask what the fundamental problem is. Is it reading fluency, comprehension, self-esteem, or something else?
But being a special education teacher, I am also focused on explicit examples and data. While in a previous post I discussed the difficulties of using data practically, I am also having difficulty creating standards for mastery and specific objectives for student success. I have the overwhelming feeling that I am merely arbitrarily assigning a master criteria of 8:10 time for almost all objects, as that is all I have seen on my colleagues’ IEPs. I also struggle with assigning benchmarks for emotional/behavioral objectives.
For example, if a student has problems with writing organization, I can have objectives such as: uses topic and supporting sentences; uses the “hamburger” organization method; includes intro, body, and conclusion, etc. How do you do that for goals like “student will appropriately interact with peers” or “student will display responsibility and engage in independent tasks”? To me, those seem a means to an end, with few stepping stones to mastery beyond “on X day they failed to do this but on Y day they succeeded in doing this.”
I end my vent with two questions:
- How do you deal with the ever-changing demands and changes of special education paperwork and still maintain your sanity?
- How do you make objectives that are realistic and easily measured in the classroom setting for emotional/behavioral IEP goals?