With the adoption of AIMSWeb testing and the ELA programs, Fundations, System 44 and Read 180, there is a lot for special education teachers to absorb this year.
Luckily, they have help. The teachers are guided through the new curriculum and programs with the support of three literacy facilitators. Speech and language pathologists Maura Fox and Martha Hainey-Flacke and speech therapist Margaret Katz are stationed in every WSWHE BOCES learning center, offering guidance to teachers along with individualized attention to students – helping WSWHE BOCES to become a leader in literacy.
“We used to have varied approaches to literary, which was an injustice to the students,” said Mrs. Hainey-Flacke who works with the autism spectrum students and those at Sanford Street TLC. “With our new system, we are able to track and monitor every students’ progress.”
In addition, added Mrs. Katz, “the new programs are keeping it consistent throughout BOCES.” As the students move through the grades, their transitions will be smooth and sensible.
So far, the three Ms, as they are fondly known, have helped the teachers administer and score the AIMSWeb progress monitoring assessments. The literacy facilitators are maintaining the data on each student. They have also begun to offer individualized instruction to students who are lagging far behind their peers.
“One boy tested got a zero,” said Ms. Fox. “He doesn’t read at all. I took him aside and told him I understand that school has failed him, but I assured him that he can learn and that I will work with him to help him. He got tears in his eyes and so did I.”
Mrs. Katz has had a similar experience at the Myers Education Center, where she is based. A ninth grader who doesn’t read is spending time with her daily to learn the basics. The two have created a secret signal so that the student knows when to go to see Mrs. Katz without the humiliation of being pulled out of class in front of his peers.
“He’s angry, but who can blame him?” said Mrs. Katz. “Kids who can’t read develop behavioral problems.”
The facilitators insist they are not literacy police. Rather, they compare themselves to utility players on a baseball team. What a teacher or student may need, they are there to help them get it. This is especially important as the curriculum is new to everyone.
“There is a lot of professional development that is going along with this,” said Mrs. Hainey-Flacke. “We are learning too.”
Though all new, the teachers are enthusiastic about Fundations, System 44 and Read 180. Many have said that trainings in these ELA programs stand out as the best professional development experiences of their career. But there is more training to be had. Thus, the literacy facilitators must insist that the teachers curb their eagerness to start Fundations and Read 180 until all their training is complete.
“After we are fully trained, it will take us a few months to tweak the programs,” said Mrs. Hainey-Flacke. “We are asking for patience because we want to do this right.”
By the year’s end, K-8 literacy will be fully in practice. Next year, the Grades 9-12, now currently focused on Writing Portfolios, will be adopting a more mature looking Read 180.
Along the way, the three Ms will be sharing best practices and coming together as a professional learning community.
“Right now, all the new information is a little overwhelming for the teachers,” said Ms. Fox. “We are here to help.”
Mrs. Hainey-Flacke agreed, adding. “We are happy to help because to be effective learners, you have to be effective readers. It’s great that BOCES is committed to literacy.”