In order to adapt to evolving student needs, education has changed. Students are being bumped up into higher grade levels regardless of their success at their current grade level based on criteria such as age and whether or not teachers feel that the student would benefit from being held back. This is creating a new issue in today’s school systems; an increase in the number of students needing special education assistance.
One of the biggest changes in schools today is that not all special education students are being taught in a separate class. In fact, unless the student is a special needs student – i.e. diagnosed with Autism, Downs Syndrome, etc. – then they are being taught in the same classes as other students, who may not need as much assistance. What is being seen commonly today is a special education teacher who sits in the classroom with a regular education teacher, and provides small group instructions, repeats directions, and offers re-instruction of topics that the regular education teacher is discussing. One of the biggest problems faced by special education teachers is the increased number of students needing their assistance.
Tailoring class materials to individual, or small group, instruction is fine if a teacher is only dealing with 2-3 students at a time, but with students being pushed into higher grade levels before they are mentally ready the amount of students needing extra help is such that one special education teacher may have to give instruction to 5 or more students in one class. This practice is similar to putting a child just learning how to swim into the middle of the Mississippi River’s strongest current with nothing but small, personal floatation devices to help them. The current will drag the child along, but take away the fragile protection of those personal floatation devices, and you will be faced with a drowning child. Much the same is currently happening in the schools. Students who do not have sound knowledge and skills necessary to pass at their current levels are being pushed up into the next level regardless of their preparedness. This can only result in students becoming more and more lost with each passing year. In fact, it seems that the schools are setting these children up for failure. If someone is not confident when swimming in the shallow end of a pool, where they can touch the bottom if they need to, then they should not dive into the deep end of the pool. Special education teachers are still given the same amount of time to work with their students; the problem is occurring because they have to split this time between so many students that they may get a mere five minutes of one-on-one time with each student.
Most students only need special education assistance because it takes them longer to understand the class material. Once they understand the class material they seem to perform as well as the other students. The biggest problem that occurs here is that the special education teachers do not have enough time to work with each and every one of their students until they all have a good understanding of the class materials. Some of the students who were pushed forward into a higher grade level, regardless of their academic success in the previous level, suffer, because they do not have the knowledge base required to understand the new material. For example, someone who has never mastered multiplication will not be able to comprehend division, or someone who has never learned spelling and complete sentences will flounder in grade levels where essay response questions are implemented on every test. This means that it takes more time and instruction to assist those students in order for them to just get by in school.
If students are held back until they know the materials, then there would be a decreased amount of students needing special education attention. In turn this would give special education teachers more one-on-one instruction with the students who are at that knowledge level, but just learn at a slower pace than the rest of the students. Thus resulting in better performance of students with special education needs.