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Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Effect of Displaced Teachers on Special Education Students

[The following was submitted to Dr. Shelley Jallow by RORE Steering Committee Member, Lianne Dupree.]

Dear Dr. Jallow,

I am a Special Education teacher in the Rochester City School District. For 12 years, I have served RCSD.  I was recently displaced from my elementary self-contained 6:1:2 Autism Spectrum Disorder classroom due to having multiple certifications in teaching including English (Grades 7-12) and English Students with Disabilities (Grades 7-12).  I also have Childhood Education and Students with Disabilities Childhood Education (Grades 1-6) certification.  I have taught in the elementary setting for the past 5 years and had no intention of returning to high school as I am able to have a profound positive impact in the lives of my current students and see that our students need passionate Special Education teachers in the elementary that do have knowledge of the expectations of high school to help adequately prepare them for the transitions they will face in their futures.

Many of my fellow Special Education teachers who were displaced in our District had Generalist Special Education (Grades k-12) certification as when they obtained their degrees, this was what was available in their teacher preparation programs. Many of my colleagues would have pursued elementary Special Education certification had it been offered at the time.

By forcing Elementary Special Education teachers to teach in the high school setting, RCSD is in violation of contract protocols, best practices, and the rights of our students and families.

Many of the displaced educators taught in specialized programs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Growth and Education for Students with Multiple Disabilities; these programs have students that have the highest need for stability, consistency, and continuity of instruction.  Our GEM students are often medically fragile and need a teacher that can direct all classroom staff to provide for the individual health needs of each student, failure to do this can have detrimental effects on the students.  Our students with ASD thrive with predictable routines, ones that take experience to formulate in order to reduce stress and anxiety that lead to meltdowns.  Displacing these teachers jeopardize students’ emotional, mental, social, and physical well-being.

Many of the displaced Special Education teachers with K-12 Special Education certification have no prior experience with teaching in the high school setting.  They have not stepped foot in a high school for educational purposes since they attended high school.

Their lack of experience and expertise at the high school level will have a profound negative impact on the lives of their future high school students. How can a teacher who has no prior experience in the high school setting adequately advise and provide instruction in content that surpasses their own instructional experience?

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, “the qualifications described in subparagraph (A) shall ensure that each person employed as a special education teacher in the State who teaches elementary school, middle school, or secondary school has obtained full State certification as a special education teacher (including participating in an alternate route to certification as a special educator, if such alternate route meets minimum requirements described in section 200.56(a)(2)(ii) of title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, as such section was in effect on November 28, 2008), or passed the State special education teacher licensing examination, and holds a license to teach in the State as a special education teacher, except with respect to any teacher teaching in a public charter school who shall meet the requirements set forth in the State’s public charter school law; has not had special education certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis; and holds at least a bachelor’s degree.” (Sec. 9214 (d)(2))”

The displaced teachers with K-12 Generalist Special Education Certification do not have the appropriate certification according to the Statement of Continued Eligibility (SOCE) for Certain Special Education Teachers.  Each displaced teacher will need to take additional exams, courses, workshops, and invest hundreds of dollars into obtaining content certification appropriate for the high school level, that they are not even passionate or interested in teaching.  These teachers that were passionate about their elementary positions will potentially lose their jobs because they were forced into the high school setting and do not have the applicable licenses.

Students in high school are also required to take the New York State Regents Exams.  The displaced teachers with K-12 Generalist Special Education Certification have no experience in the Regents exams to adequately prepare their future students for their graduation requirements. The teachers also do not have appropriate experience with providing transition services or recommendations for students after high school as it is not appropriate to determine or coordinate these services at the elementary level.  It is likely that these displaced teachers will not provide adequate transition services or recommendations as they have no experience or knowledge of the process and local resources available to make sufficient recommendations based on an individual’s needs at that level.

Schools must also notify parents whenever their student has been assigned, or has been taught for 4 or more consecutive weeks, by a teacher who does not meet applicable State certification or licensure requirements at the grade level and subject area in which the teacher has been assigned.

Students will no longer have a Free Appropriate Public Education as it is inappropriate to place a teacher in a setting without experience, knowledge, or desire to teach in those classrooms. The students will not have an education to meet their own unique needs. The displaced teachers will not be able to provide specially designed instruction to meet students needs.  Available accommodations/modifications  may not be met or suggested due to the lack of knowledge of the specific grade level resources available.  The students in both elementary and the high school classrooms have faced educational violations of their rights.

Parents and families rights have also been violated with these recent displacements.  Due process for families regarding the change for instruction was neglected, parents had to find out about the elementary teachers being displaced from the teachers themselves.  There was no support offered by the District in obtaining parents input and discussing the needs of the student regarding this transition.  According to ESSA, Schools must also notify parents whenever their student has been assigned, or has been taught for 4 or more consecutive weeks, by a teacher who does not meet applicable State certification or licensure requirements at the grade level and subject area in which the teacher has been assigned. Currently, RCSD has made no attempt or plan to contact families at the high school level that will have new teachers without the appropriate certification.

Is displacing Special Education teachers from a position they are excelling in, finding growth and success with students and their families truly the precedent that is going to be set regarding best practices in education all under the guise of preventing layoffs?  The rights regarding seniority for teachers are violated, and these educators have been offered little to no recourse.  Passion for education of these veteran educators who have dedicated themselves to servicing the highest needs population is completely disregarded.  Providing the best educational experience and meeting the individual needs for all students should be at the forefront of decisions made that impact the students and families of our learning community.  By neglecting students, families, and teachers voices, we have jeopardized the well-being of our children.  I implore you to listen to these teachers, students, and families about the profound negative impact this has in our District and urge you to change it.

With Gratitude,
Lianne Dupree

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