Think Inclusive Education with Tim Villegas

Episode 50 March 28, 2021 00:56:51
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Think Inclusive Education with Tim Villegas
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Show Notes

Think Inclusive Education with Tim Villegas hosted by Carden Wyckoff

Transcript https://rb.gy/ddanbw

Who is Tim Villegas?

Throughout his sixteen-year career as a special education teacher, Tim advocated for the inclusion of students with significant disabilities in general education classrooms and systems change in schools and districts. Tim spent thirteen years as a classroom teacher and three years as a district-level program specialist supporting students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), emotional and behavioral needs, and intellectual disabilities. He joined MCIE in 2020 as the Director of Communications to advance the vision that neighborhood schools be the foundation of inclusive communities. He is also the Founder of Think Inclusive, now MCIE’s official blog, that serves to build a bridge between families, educators, and people with disabilities to advocate for inclusive education by publishing news, opinion, and educational articles. Tim earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Azusa Pacific University, and later a teaching credential for moderate to severe disabilities from California State University Fullerton. Tim’s ultimate goal is for people to learn, live, and play in an inclusive community. 

Resources

https://www.thinkinclusive.us/author/tim/

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:04 Hey, and welcome to free Willow with carton podcast. I'm your host. Pardon? My cough wheelchair warrior and disability advocate based in Atlanta, Georgia. On this podcast, we believe in creating an accessible world, strengthened by supportive allies to build inclusion and belonging. We share stories from people, various disabilities and help to break down barriers for the disability community. If you like what you hear on this episode today, please rate review and all this podcast and share it with a friend. I'm giving a shout out to my friends that I access life. It's a mobile app that rates and reviews places on the built environment to break down barriers and transparency on the bathroom, interior parking. And any time that you go into a new place, you can find the mobile app. I access life on Google play and the Apple app store. Make sure to use the referral code carton, C a R D E N wishes. Speaker 1 00:01:00 My name when signing up today's guest is Tim Diego. He is the director of communications for M C I E. And is the editor in chief of think inclusive, which is MCI his official blog. And CIES think inclusive blog exists to build bridges between families, educators, and people disabilities sad with gate for inclusive education. And they do this by publishing content from disabled advocates, parents of children with disabilities and educators who are all in for inclusion. You can hear more about Tim Vegas and the content that he's creating as well on the think inclusive podcast, which is also found on Spotify. I also want to bring some attention and awareness to what's going on in the world and be sensitive to that. And also just use my voice on this podcast to talk about it and bring awareness. And so we've had a number of shootings that have been happening in Atlanta. Speaker 1 00:02:04 It's been very dangerous. Additionally, there was a man who walked into a Publix, just a few blocks away from where I lived and was armed with six weapons. Uh, luckily no one was hurt. Um, someone stood up and spoke out and said something doesn't feel right here. And they arrested him as well as the Colorado shootings and the Asian hate that is going on. It is all very traumatic. And I hope that you take the time that you need to learn and, and just understand what others are feeling. And listen to them, ask your friends how they're doing. Additionally in, in Georgia, they just passed SB two Oh two, which is in my opinion, is an extreme voter suppression bill. And it was just signed into law by the governor. And that is huge impact on voting, not only for five Hawk, AAPI and other underrepresented minorities, but disabilities. Speaker 1 00:03:20 And for someone like myself, we're now restricted on the number of ways that we have the ability to vote. And it's really disheartening. And I think it's our time now to just continue to break down the racism that ableism the massage Guinea and the systemic oppression that continues to happen by certain people in power and it's unfair and it's not right. And here in the United States, we have the privilege to be able to elect our leaders. And I think it's important if you haven't already done so to understand the bills that are being drafted and to start educating yourself on them and pay attention to which way people are voting and use your voice and public comment and email your representatives and your senators and your council members, because your future and your current now is impacted by the legislation that gets passed. So kind of just summarizing I'm hopeful for the future. And I also am sending good vibes and thoughts to those who are facing emotional turmoil right now, but also to recognize that it's okay to feel those feelings, but if it does get to a point where it is impacting your day to day, please go and seek help, look for other resources or talk to someone in your circle to be supportive. All right, let's get us the episode. Haten happy Monday. Thanks for joining the podcast. How's it going? Speaker 2 00:05:10 Uh, fantastic. Are you carding? Okay, Speaker 1 00:05:12 Great. It's a lovely string day in Atlanta and looking forward to the warm weather. I don't like cold weather. I don't know about you, but Speaker 2 00:05:23 No, I, uh, I'm originally from California where, you know, 40 degrees you had to put on like a parka. So yeah. Speaker 1 00:05:32 Yes. I know all about that. He said actually, before the pandemic would travel a lot to San Francisco, that's where our company is headquarter and it's called in San Francisco. Speaker 2 00:05:44 Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's right on the ocean. So they keep the definitely the breeze, you know. Speaker 1 00:05:51 Well, I'm excited to talk to you today about your work, with think inclusive, which is an advocacy blog for education, Speaker 3 00:05:59 As well as your other work in education and how we create inclusive experiences for students in the K through 12 space. So I'll kind of give you the floor, but I kind of want to know, you know, why should people care about inclusive education? Speaker 2 00:06:19 Well, you know, the organization that I worked for MCI, one of the things that we talk about is that inclusive education really starts in neighborhood schools. And when you're in a neighborhood and you have a community, some of those members in that community are gonna have disabilities. And the more that we can keep a community together in a neighborhood and not have students that live in that community go to other schools or, you know, uh, separated from that community, the more those students are gonna grow up from kindergarten all the way to high school, and they're going to be come part of the workforce and they're going to just be, it's going to be normal to have kids with disabilities in their life. And so having inclusive schools and neighborhood schools are really the foundation for having inclusive communities. And that's really what we're looking for is like the outcomes of inclusion, uh, and hopefully have an increased the society. Speaker 2 00:07:26 And I think that, you know, one of the best ways to do that is to build up our public schools because there's no other time that students with disabilities, you know, are really have the opportunity to be with a typically developing peers. I mean, they're, they're, they're in school all day. And especially now that we're coming back from, you know, COVID-19 and things look like they're gonna be getting back to somewhat the way they used to be. That's what we need to do. We need to build up our schools so that we can have more inclusive communities. So it's important to me that in our work that we're training and building the capacity of those schools, Speaker 3 00:08:10 Right? I mean, cause people disabilities, they, it's not like you not, it's not like only people acquire disability later in life. Like disability start as soon as you're born in many cases. And so I think that's important for like you, like you said, is with the development of the child is to feel included and to be around your peers and not be separated from others and have this exclusive experience. And what has been your, or what have you seen in public schools and what that's like, have you seen a separate but equal experience? Speaker 2 00:08:50 Well, I have definitely seen as a separate, I wouldn't say equal experience. Um, I think sometimes, well, let me go back to, let me go back to my experience as a teacher. So I spent 13 years in the classroom, 16 years in public education and all 13 of those years was in a self-contained classroom. Uh, except for the last couple years, I kind of split between being in a self-contained classroom for students with autism and then also doing some co-teaching. So my experience in education has always been separate and segregated from the rest of the school. And, um, my students and I, especially at the beginning, you know, we didn't really know what we were doing, you know, with inclusion. Uh, I went to a California state university Fullerton in their teaching teacher education program. And what they taught me was to look at inclusion and to look at getting students with significant disabilities to be included in general education. Speaker 2 00:09:57 The problem is, is that as, as you get a job, most settings in the United States are going to be segregated or they're going to have separate classrooms, you know, and that's the norm that, that is definitely the norm. It is, it is the exception to the rule to be in a school system that actively, you know, includes students. We have a, an, a number in the United States. It's a, a percentage of students that spend 80% of, or more of their day in general education. So 80% of students with disabilities. And right now the United States is a 64%. So that means 64% of any student with an IEP spends 80% of their days. So that means that over 30% of students spend less than 80%. So that means that over 30% are segregated more and more. And that is a problem to me and to the people who are advocating for inclusion. Speaker 2 00:11:01 So when you have systems all across the United States doing this, and if you look at the text and the spirit of the individuals with disabilities education act, while it doesn't actually say the word inclusion, it talks about the maximum extent appropriate for students to be educated with their typical peers that talks about access to the general curriculum. The system that we have set up now, it's way too easy to separate them. And then also for teachers to be put in a, in a difficult position of teaching multiple grade levels at the same time. So as a, as a, uh, a classroom teacher for 13 years, every single one of those years, I was expected to teach, you know, three, four, five grade levels. So I had, you know, I had eight students in a class, but it was kindergarten through fifth grade. So that's six grade levels. Speaker 2 00:12:01 And was I expected to teach all the standards for my students? Well, of course that's an expectation, but it's unrealistic. You know, so that in and of itself creates a separate environment in an unequal environment for my students, it would be much more efficient and the students would receive a larger exposure to the curriculum. If my students with disabilities in kindergarten were able to spend time in a regular kindergarten class being exposed to those standards. So anyways, I guess my point is, is that throughout my career, as a special education teacher, I, I saw many times where we could have included students, but for whatever reason, there were barriers and the team decided not to pursue that. And the times where parents really stood their ground and had good advocacy skills on how to say, I want my students included in general education, then the district typically would say, okay, let's see how we can make this work, but that is good for that family or good for that student. But what I want to see is districts move more and more toward reducing the time, spent in a, in a separate, a separate area and increase that LRE number to be more like 90%, which is where the districts that we work with, uh, that that's typically where they are. Speaker 3 00:13:45 And so just to kind of summarize senior saying that certain children that have, uh, INPS in place, so that's just a protection that says that they get in certain, certain accommodations. And so they're then being taken to a separate classroom that's much smaller so that they can, you know, essentially in theory have better one-on-one learning experience. So it would be, you know, one-to-one one to two, one to three relationship with the teacher versus a one to 30 or a one to 25. Is that what you're saying? So you're in like a separated classroom that probably has fewer children, maybe lower sensory for certain individuals. Is that right? Okay. Um, and you're saying that they're spending, okay. Okay, cool. And you're saying that in that classroom, you are expected, you know, you have children from all different grade levels, and so you're expected to at least keep them on target with their curriculum and that they're spending more time away from the regular classroom. Is that what you're saying? Just to kind of Speaker 2 00:14:54 Sure. Um, that is what I'm saying. And I think to add to that, the expectation that, you know, this is how we've been doing it for for many years, but what I'm trying to communicate is, is we don't actually have to do it that way. Uh, and when you look at, when you look at data to say, when you look at the data about inclusion and about how we can restructure how we, how we teach students with disabilities, the outcomes are better for students who are included. And so just to paint a picture, because a lot of times when I talk about either getting rid of, or reducing self-contained classrooms, people have a hard time understanding what that may look like. And so just to paint a picture, we have, let's look at an elementary school and you have, you know, kindergarten through fifth grade, and let's say there are three or four self-contained classrooms in that school. Speaker 2 00:16:00 And however, that school decides it wants to, you know, split kids up and, and say, they're educated there any, when you look at a school and a concept in inclusive education is it's called natural proportions. So in a school community, let's say 10% of that school community, there are students with disabilities. And so when you're thinking about reducing the number of classrooms, special classrooms, and we'll, where are we going to put kids, then if they're not going to be in a special classroom, those students could be distributed in various number of classrooms throughout that school where a classroom wouldn't have more than 10% of their students have a disability. So if you have 30 students, then a 10% would be three. So then three of those students would have IEP. Whereas what we typically call inclusion classrooms right now is you have 30 students and 15 of those students have IEP. And again, it's kind of going back to that idea that we have to efficiently serve students, but instead we put a lot more work on a few number of people to deliver services. Whereas you could deliver services in a more efficient and equitable way if you distributed students across in a natural and unnatural naturally, uh, proportionate way, Speaker 3 00:17:39 But not to mention also kind of want to add, you know, each one of these students has an, I had an IEP in high school actually. So it came later because that's when my disability started becoming affecting my education. And each student has an IEP in it outlines what their requirements are and what their accommodations are being asked of. And so you're saying as well as that, that one teacher or those two teachers that are in this classroom are expected to meet the full length of that IEP, right. When you're managing 15 students at a single time, that that's a lot of criteria to have to remember how, how is that? Speaker 2 00:18:18 It is so difficult. It's very difficult. Um, yeah. Yeah. And, um, you know, and th the it's, it's the expectations of what they're supposed to do with, with just managing, again, like you said, the accommodations and modifications and managing IEP goals and objectives for half that class, it's so difficult. One of the biggest barriers to this, but to changing the system though, is mindset. Because if you even bring this up to a school system or a grade level, even, you know, they're like, Oh, well, no, no, no, no. Um, I taught inclusion last year, you know, or who's going to be the inclusion teacher this year. So you have, like, you have a five general education teachers in a integrated level, let's say there's five, third grade teachers and one special education teacher. And so that special education teacher maybe is paired up with one of the third grade teachers and spends all day with that teacher. Speaker 2 00:19:23 And so any, any student in third grade that has an IEP goes to that class, well, that's over representing, right? If we go back to that idea of community and natural proportions over representing that class for students with disabilities. And so all of those other classrooms don't have the opportunity to be with students who are different and maybe in, and have a, um, you know, have services. And so one of the, one of the ideas that we get pushback about this, uh, about this idea of, of spreading kids out is, well, how are you going to deliver services then? And I think one of the things that's really important is how the, how we deliver services right now, which, um, is, you know, the one teacher and one special ed teacher, one general ed, one special ed teacher and delivering services to one classroom, how we're doing inclusion now, it's, it's too burdensome. Speaker 2 00:20:25 And if we spread out and do more collaborative teaming and really planning for students, then the general ed teacher doesn't need to have a special ed teacher in the classroom to deliver services. And there's actually nothing in the, uh, in Ida that says a special ed special education teacher has to be the one that delivers those services. So that ends up being one of the issues that, uh, that people are confused about is that, you know, if you have one teacher and you have three students that have an IEP, they can have those services without a special education teacher being in there. The special education teacher can just consult with that teacher and say, okay, these are the things that you need to do. These are the accommodations and modifications, and the teacher can do that because that is not going to put that much of a strain on the teacher. Speaker 2 00:21:23 The other part of that is universal design for learning, which is a concept of delivering instruction in a way that isn't just for one type of student, but it looks at the wide variety of skill levels and passions and interests and engagement of those students and how to deliver instruction, which is a whole other discussion, but there are ways to do it, to change how we teach students to make inclusive education possible. But right now, if we just say, okay, let's get rid of all special education classrooms and we're going to naturally proportion them. And then while a inclusive education, well, that's a recipe for disaster. Speaker 3 00:22:14 Yeah. Sounds like it. I mean, cause there are children that, that do need that extra time away or to be separated because they can't concentrate. They can't, you know, they can't Excel in a classroom when there's 30 other individuals. And so yeah, I think it goes back and forth. There's a line that has to be drawn with. Okay. But how are, are they going to be excluded from the rest of their peers? Because it is important that they do assimilate because that's just how they grow and that's how they learn. And it's just that peer to peer interaction. One thing I've heard in these inclusion classes or in these, um, in the special education classes is that there are children that are aggressive and have aggressive tendencies and I've heard things of teachers getting bit and hit and, and that there's no support. And I'm not saying this is for every, but I'm just saying these are instances that have happened. And I'd like to know, you know, are the, is there support for teachers from a safety perspective and what is the turnover rate in those special education classrooms when that happens? Speaker 2 00:23:24 Oh, that's a great question. The support really depends on the school district. I can tell you with my experience working for Cobb County, we had, we had a lot of, we had a team of people that was dedicated to behavior support that I was always, I was always really impressed with the, of, of the leadership to provide behavior support. The only thing that I really differed in was I felt like if we were spending all of this time and energy, you know, with behavior support in self-contained classrooms, I wish we, we, we could have done the same thing in, in, uh, classrooms for students with that, that weren't included, which we, which we did. And as a behavior, as a sports specialist, I did support like general ed classrooms that had students with disabilities. But my primary, one of my primary roles was to support self-contained classrooms. Speaker 2 00:24:27 And so, and I want to get back to what you talked about as far as the turnover rate. So I will get to that. But you know, when, when you have a self-contained classroom, let's say of, uh, even if it's, even if it's a small group, uh, less than 10 students. And if it's all students with behavior challenges, right? So if you have a class where all the students have the same types of challenges, sometimes that ends up being worse for the student and worse for the teacher, because now it's not just one class and one student, but it's one class and 10 students. And so it kind of compounds itself. And so teachers absolutely have to do the best they can with what they're given with, with whatever the district. However, the district has set up classrooms and support. And as far as retention goes, there's high turnover in self-contained classrooms and special education in general. I think I don't have the numbers. I think education week recently put out something which I don't have on the top of my head, but I believe it's, uh, you know, it's, it's bad about 50%. So you have about a 50 purchase and chance of lasting over like three or four years. So Speaker 3 00:25:48 That is having all your experience in education, Speaker 2 00:25:52 Mostly it's support or feeling like they Speaker 3 00:25:56 Are lack of support. You mean Speaker 2 00:25:59 That correct? Yeah. I feel, I feel it's the lack of support and the unrealistic expectations that are put on teachers and people said, well, I didn't sign up for this, you know? And also it's really difficult to be a self-contained special education teacher. I mean, it's, it's difficult to be a teacher period. It's, it's difficult. And we as a community, as communities and societies w we don't value edgy educators as much as we should. So, so that's certainly part of it. It's not all of it. Um, like Speaker 3 00:26:44 In terms of pay and representation, is that kind of what you're leaning towards? Speaker 2 00:26:48 Yeah. Yeah. And just, you know, even respect, uh, you know, I, I had lots of conversations with family about like, Oh, I bet it's nice to get this summers off, you know? Yeah, Speaker 3 00:27:02 Yeah. My mom cannot wait. She is, she has like eight weeks. Isn't long enough Speaker 2 00:27:11 Emotional. There's an emotional cost to, to this job, you know, to being here Speaker 3 00:27:17 Now with the pandemic and virtue and hybrid learning and having to teach. So my mom, as a teacher, she's a fifth grade gen ed teacher and, um, in Cobb County and she is doing these hybrid models, which is required by all the teachers, as far as I know. And it's, you have an earpiece in, in, in, in one ear, but then you're for, and you're teaching the virtual kids, you know, the four or five kids that choose to stay home and then you have a classroom of 20 other kids. So you're dual teaching and that's insane. Right. Would you say, Speaker 2 00:27:54 Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Um, yeah. So all my kids go to Cub County schools. I have a high schooler and a two elementary, and it is amazing. It's amazing to see how dedicated the teachers are to making this work, you know, and I don't know how you, I don't know how you do it other than realizing that, okay, this isn't going to last forever because this can't be the model it's not sustainable. And, you know, and some teachers were like, Nope, I'm out, you know, Speaker 3 00:28:29 A huge it's the educators are leaving right. And left. So it's really unfortunate. But also it's like where the support and the proactiveness from upper level districts. Right? Speaker 2 00:28:45 Yeah. Yeah. And I, and I would like to say to you, I'm speaking about educational leadership, whether you're talking about inclusion or whether you're talking about any sort of change that you want in education, it all needs to come from the top down. So in the districts that that MCI has worked with over the last 30, 40 years, actually 30 years, sorry that, uh, early nineties is kind of when MCI first got rolling, uh, educational leadership has to be on board with systems change because if it isn't, it's just a small group of educators or maybe one school that wants to make things different. And maybe that works for a year or two, or, but as soon as you get an, a principal that is like, no, I don't really like this. We're going to change it back. Or you get a new teacher or a new school, all of those wonderful things and things you implemented end up just going away. Speaker 2 00:29:59 So it has to be the vision, you know, from the, from the top. And I would say that the same thing applies to any kind of support for your educators, supporting your teachers, has to agree a priority and listening to your teachers has to be a priority. Otherwise you're going to, you're going to lose people. That's one thing I always felt, at least for Cobb County, they did a good job is trying to support teachers. And as a special education teacher, I always felt supported now, you know, my experience is not going to be the same as other people's experience, but at least for me, I felt like I had enough support to keep going every year and every year. The other thing that kind of kept me around was that I had a passion to advocate for inclusive education. And so I was advocating at the school house level and, you know, I created the blog and connecting with lots of educators all around the country who had the same vision. So having that outlet for me was a lifesaver. So that's probably why I lasted so long. Speaker 3 00:31:10 Yeah. I mean, well, you saw the vision another and another kind of like side project for advocacy. Right. You saw the problems and you're like, okay, well, let's work to build a better and more inclusive world. And that's what you're doing with the blog. And so what are some of the trends that you've been seeing? I assume that you're, w you're constantly researching things across the world, or is it just the United States in terms of inclusive education and what are, what are districts that are doing it really well? And what can we do? Speaker 2 00:31:43 So I think the first thing to know is that it authentic inclusion is happening all around the country. It's happening in charter schools, it's happening in private schools, it's happening in districts who want to see a change. And I have the privilege of working with and talking with educators all over. Uh, and I'll, I'll highlight two off the top of my head because there are people I interviewed for, for my podcast, actually. So Jennifer Spencer IMEs is an assistant superintendent for the Westland Wilsonville school district near Portland, Oregon. And they wrote a book called leading for all. And for the last nine years, their district has gone through a journey of systematically, including students reducing the amount and getting rid of, uh, self-contained classrooms. And remember at the beginning of our conversation that I, I talked about that 90% number, 90% of students being included 80% or more of their day while they're at that 90%. Speaker 2 00:32:59 And it took nine years, but they had the commitment to do that. The other one off the top of my head is Megan Gross, who is an educator from the Poway unified school district in San Diego, California. And while their district hasn't completely, it's not like a hundred percent of their schools. They have, I believe it was 50% of their schools were moving toward a more inclusive model. And so she and another, uh, another educator are supporting the professional development for, for those schools to become more inclusive. And so there are districts in Maryland that are doing the same thing. We're working with the district, uh, in Illinois. And over the years, we've, we've worked with many, many school districts on this change. So, and, uh, the other thing is most recently the state of Washington passed. I believe a resolution to look at how they can create their schools to be more inclusive. Speaker 2 00:34:07 In fact, our CEO is going to be giving a talk tomorrow with a group called roots of inclusion to stakeholders in the state of Washington. So we see a lot of movement toward inclusive practices, but there's still some, there's still a lot of fuzziness about what that actually means. And the other thing that we see a trend is with all of the talk and movement around this idea of equity in schools, especially this, you know, this past year, that idea has helped us get into the door and just some conversations about, well, how does inclusion specifically for students with disabilities? How does it connect with equity in the larger sense of students? So, you know, as far as students who are marginalized or maybe who are, um, segregated or separated, so I see all those as positive trends, and I'm hoping that now that schools are opening up and we have a more robust discussion about equity, that specifically inclusive education will be more on top of mind. Speaker 3 00:35:24 And, and kind of asking about some of the metrics, you know, you said, you know, how are we actually measuring that? Or what does that, what does inclusion really mean in, in the greater sense? And so our, for example, Portland, are they seeing better test scores, better behavior placement into a job? Like how far out are they tracking these individuals? Speaker 2 00:35:47 Oh, that's a great question that I don't, I don't have any Speaker 3 00:35:54 Lots to learn. I mean, I'm always like metrics and how does that look? 10 years down the road kind of thing. Like, are they getting the jobs and healthcare and stuff like that? If you look at, if you look at the, Speaker 2 00:36:06 Yeah. If you look at the data just across, just in general about if students are included, as students with disabilities are included, they have better outcomes, period. Like, and everything that you said, better jobs, access, friendships, belonging to their community, it's, it's all better. So you take that and you move it into a system, like, let's say, Westland, Wilsonville. I know I would, I remember from our conversation was their graduation rate, you know, was, was excellent for students with disabilities. So, you know, again, that's just one measure, but I think that's, uh, I think that's powerful because if students are graduating, that means that, uh, their likelihood of getting a job after, after high school, it has increased. So I think that that's an, I think that's an important metric. Um, Speaker 3 00:37:01 And also the third grade reading level, that's a metric that can determine graduation rate incarceration rates on a lot of different metrics. So I would like to know, and obviously you said you didn't have these answers, but I just would like to know, talk to her about, you know, what are you seeing? What are the trends? Because that sounds really fascinating. Speaker 2 00:37:25 Yeah. Speaker 3 00:37:26 Neat. So the, we referenced the term special education often, and yeah, I wanted to know from you being a special education teacher, what are your thoughts on that word? And do you think it's should go away or be changed or stayed? Speaker 2 00:37:41 Oh, interesting. Um, well, special education doesn't, isn't actually in the law with Ida, it's not actually referenced as specialized or especially designed instruction is. So a lot of times we'll talk about SDI or specially designed instruction as a way to separate this idea, that education has to be special and, and then therefore be delivered in a special place or separate place. The other thing is this idea of continuum of services, which is often miss represent or misquoted in the law. It's a continuum of alternate placements. And so, you know, when you were talking about, you know, students needing a separate space and, you know, when is it, you know, when is it appropriate? And, and so there's really only two reasons why a student should be separated and that's because, um, they are disrupting the learning of themselves or others or they're they're. So they're, they have such challenging behavior that it's, that it's, it's causing people to be hurt themselves or others. So those are the really only the two reasons. And then even if a student is separated, the whole purpose of that separation being educated in another place is so that they can get back to the general education environment. So this whole idea Speaker 3 00:39:19 Is temporary. Speaker 2 00:39:21 Oh, absolutely. Yeah. But it's that, that never, you know, if a student is educated somewhere else, you know, you have an IEP every year. And so every year you're supposed to evaluate, does this student need to still be in this separate place, but what ends up happening is, well, they were here last year and they made progress. So why are we going to move them into a more stressful environment or whatever the team, however the team decides to, to frame it. So, yeah, the expectation there really can, can be that the student is removed, but, you know, when is, when are we ever going to talk about them coming back? Speaker 3 00:40:10 And also you hear stories of, I mean, I get this right. Cause my mom's a teacher. She tells me things, um, of just, you know, students that hop from school to school, to school from teacher to teacher, to teacher, you know, in fifth grade has, has been displaced four or five different times because they're, whether they're just saying that the student isn't learning, they're not exceeding and that they're just ability is, is harming their ability to learn. Um, and they haven't received the support necessarily, whatever that is. And if that's the root reason, what are your thoughts around that when students are jumping from school to school, to school, and it seems like nothing's working Speaker 2 00:40:54 Well, it's, it's hard to comment because, uh, without knowing a particular situation, right. But generally speaking, I have seen where a student will get labeled as, as, too hard to teach or too hard to handle. Speaker 3 00:41:17 Yeah. That's, that's, I've heard that term too hard to teach. Speaker 2 00:41:21 Yeah. Like they're just requiring too much. Right. And so even if they do move from school to school, if it's within the same school district, you know, teachers will call the other teacher, be like, Hey, tell me about this Speaker 3 00:41:36 Teachers talk. They definitely tell them. Speaker 2 00:41:40 Yeah. Yeah. Um, and you know, I think that that's, I think that's all fine. As long as you were talking about that, well, what kind of support does this student need? You know, or no, but there can be some of that negativity that can get spread towards the student. Uh, you know, and it's unfortunate, but it happens. It definitely happens. So I hope that if, if a student is moving from school to school, that at some point somebody will step in and say, okay, you know what, whatever we've been doing has not been working. So we need to try something different and that's something different. Isn't well, they need to be educated somewhere else. Like, what is it about the way that we deliver services or interventions for the student? What else, what else can we try? And then also making sure we are getting the student to buy in to whatever it is that we're doing. You know, there's a lot of, um, doing to two students, you know, like I'm going to do this to the student and then therefore the student will become better or be a better learner instead of involving the student with the actual intervention or whatever it is that we're trying to do. I think that that's always more effective if a student gets the buy-in and it doesn't matter, you know, where the student is on the, you know, with their skill level or, you know, anything like that. Speaker 3 00:43:19 I like that. Yeah. Involving the student. Sure. They're a minor, right. The parent has to be present and the parent ultimately can make the decisions with the child. But I do think that the student should be there, obviously, depending on how old they are. Right. But you could even ask a kindergartner, you know, what do you like to do? What works best for you? And I'm sure they could probably, they describe what works best for them. And kind of a up question is how far should school systems and districts and teachers and stuff go for a single student, if they are quote too hard to teach, at what point are we, are we spending so much time and effort and resources for one person when we have to remember that there's, you know, 25 other kids, 30 other kids in the classroom. Um, not to say that people don't matter. Right. But there's, there has to be a balance. Speaker 2 00:44:16 Well, I think, I think it goes back to what we were talking about with, um, well, who gets to go to a separate setting or not. Right. And so I think there's, there's always going to be a percentage of students who we haven't figured it out yet, you know? And I think that's the, that's how we need to come at this. Not like, well, this student is just too hard to teach, so we're just going to put them over here, put them over here, you know, if it's a special class or a special school, and then we're just going to wait until they get fixed, you know? And then, then maybe we'll, you know, let them come back. I think we're always, we always need to be trying and figuring out, you know, what is it that we can do to have this student be successful? Speaker 2 00:45:08 And the idea that we have to separate a student should never be the thing that is the answer. You know what I mean? And then also this idea that, that the one student has to take over the needs of the others. I think that, I think we need to reframe that thinking as well, because what ends up happening is if we, if we think that this student that is taking up all of our time and energy, allegedly is taking up all of our time and energy, how can I restructure my classroom that would benefit the whole, all of the students, rather than I'm going to do something so different for this one student. And so, and that's not easy, right? It's not like you come up with that. No, it's not, it's not. And I think that, I think one of the things is, um, you know, as a, like let's say I was talking to a general ed teacher, you know, and that is why special education teachers exists. Speaker 2 00:46:15 Right? They have, they're trained in how to create interventions and deliver services, special education teachers think a little bit differently about problems and issues that rise that, you know, come up in the classroom. So if you are just, uh, if you were a general ed teacher and let's say you don't have a special ed teacher in your classroom and you, that there's an issue in the class, whether it's one student or two students, you know, how are we designing the classrooms so that we can positively influence the students that are having the most difficult time? And so leaning on expertise of special education teachers, they would be able to help design that classroom. So we need special and general education teachers to have more time to collaborate. And then if we're thinking about like the effective, the, uh, the markers of a, an effective inclusive education program or school, that's one of them, collaboration, collaboration is so important because again, you just don't put students with and without disabilities in the class and hope for the best. Speaker 2 00:47:23 And you call that inclusion inclusion that you actually need to spend time planning and preparing for that class and for the strengths of those students. So if you have a teacher who feels like there's that one kid that's taking up so much of my time, then I would say, how can we support that teachers so that they're not feeling that way because we can change how we're delivering instruction in that classroom. So that the, that one student isn't, isn't taking up as much time. Um, you know, but let's say that it, that it is, let's say that we've tried everything and it's just not working well then, okay. After we, after we really take a look at some data, we really, you know, see what's going on. If that student needs to be in a separate place for a specific amount of time. Okay. But when are we bringing the back? Like, what's the plan? Like we don't just send them off somewhere and say, okay, whew, I'm glad they're gone. Speaker 3 00:48:28 Yeah. And you don't want it for the teachers to feel like, thank goodness I can get rid of that child. Right. Because that's a bad sentiment. Like they're a person at the end of the day. And it seems like they are missing something in their education that is working for them. So I like that it, that really idea of partnering up with a special education teacher. It sounds like that needs to be something that it should be instilled with every, with every start of the new year is, you know, come in 30 days, 60 days and analyze the new batch of kids and figure out some solutions of what works best for them. Just say, that's kind of what you're talking about. Speaker 2 00:49:09 That's exactly what I'm talking about. Um, so in the schools that we work with, let's, for instance, say a school district wanted to start this process with us. I said, you know, Tim, I'm really excited. I want to, we want to change the school district and we want to move towards inclusive education. How do we do it? Well, the first thing we would do is spend a whole year planning. So we would not move any kids or attempt to move any kids for one year. And we would only select a certain number of, of schools. So if there's 30 schools in a district, you know, we would only, you know, pick maybe three or four schools. And so, yeah. And so that one year would all be about training the staff on how to collaborate, trying to change some of that mindset, talking to parents, talking to the community, saying, this is what's happening. Speaker 2 00:50:10 This is what we're doing. And then that way it's not a surprise. And then, uh, the first, one of the first things we would do as we would look for that second year is target the students that are educated somewhere else. So if you have a student that is zoned for a neighborhood school, but because of their disability, because of the team has decided that, you know, they need to be educated somewhere else. And they're, uh, in a school that's five or 10 miles away. We'll say, you know what, we're preparing our school to be more inclusive. We would love for you to come back and be part of our neighborhood school. And so the team would meet and say, yes, that's a great idea. Or they would say, no, we like where we are. And we'd be like, okay, because again, we cannot mandate a student to just come back, you know, cause it's an IEP team decision. So once we did that, then after that second year, we would just increase the number and increase the number and kind of increase the capacity of the school district. That's how that we work in school districts and we've created change, you know, over the last, you know, 30 years doing it. So, uh, that's, that is our method, our method to how we would do that. Yeah. Speaker 3 00:51:27 All your planning and also the collaboration between the special education teacher and the gen ed teachers. I'm interested in that because the general education teachers is my understanding. They don't get this kind of training in their, in their masters and their, and their undergraduate curriculum. Is that right? That's correct. Is that something that you think needs to change as well? Speaker 2 00:51:54 Yes. And, uh, I've talked to many, you know, yeah. It's not just my idea. There's, you know, a lot of people in educational leadership and teacher training that believe that that general education teachers need more training on how to work with students with disabilities, so that there's not such a stark line between general and special education teachers. If I had it my own way, it'd be one system and you certainly could specialize, you know, within, uh, your teaching credential. But it makes sense to me that, you know, if, if you don't have to be a special education teacher to deliver special specially designed instruction, then general education teachers need to be included in how to do that. It doesn't just have to be special education teachers. And there's lots of programs around the United States that do like dual certifications. So, you know, you become a teacher, you get a general and a special education certificate. I'd love to see that more be the norm as far as when you become a teacher. Speaker 3 00:52:58 But then do you think that the expectation is then that, that dual certified teacher has to then answer to the other general teachers that haven't gotten that certification? Or is it just more so well, like, are they begin to become their consultant or is it expected that they become their consultant or is that just more so an advanced training that they can learn? Speaker 2 00:53:22 I would hope that it would be more collaborative than that as opposed to, as, as opposed to, well, you have this information, so therefore you need to consult with me, you know? Um, I think, I think just as educators in general, you know, we're collaborative people, you know, so if someone came down the hall and was like, Tim, what do you think about this? That's pretty normal in the show in a, in a school culture. So, and they don't necessarily know that like, Oh, well, Tim is, Tim has this special certification in this one. So I think it could be more informal, but it's just having a knowledge base, just kind of a general knowledge base of how interventions are, are delivered. I think that that would be very helpful for, for all teachers. Speaker 3 00:54:17 Nice. Wow. What a great hour of conversation. I, I could talk all day about this. This is really fascinating. And I keep thinking, like, I want to bring in my mom and like, have her ask you questions as well. I think she would really benefit from this, but give us your plugs. Where can people find you? You also have a podcast, so continue the conversation. Speaker 2 00:54:42 Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you for having me on, I'm not even sure I think to you at the beginning, so thank you very much. So, um, you can find me on Twitter. My handle is the real Tim Vegas and it's V E S not the victim Vegas. Well, when I first signed up for Twitter, uh, my nickname was, is, was Vegas in college. So when I first signed up for Twitter, I was like, I want it to be 10 Vegas, but there was already a Tim Vegas. So I just like, well, I guess I'm the real one. Speaker 3 00:55:16 Did people say Tim villages? Speaker 2 00:55:19 They, uh, I've heard my name is pronounced lots of times, but it's V yeah. Yeah. Um, so there's that, uh, but, uh, think inclusive is a where you can find me the most on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, and then MCI E or inclusion. MD is, uh, the organization's Twitter and Facebook handle and Instagram as well. And yeah, check out the think inclusive podcast on Spotify and Stitcher and on the anchor app, which is where I record all of our stuff. And we just have a lot of fun with it and get to talk to lots of great people. Speaker 3 00:55:59 I've heard great things about anchor. I haven't looked into it, but it's like really easy on the go kind of stuff. Speaker 2 00:56:05 Yeah, it's great. And, uh, yeah. And, and we would love to also have you on the podcast as well, so. Speaker 3 00:56:10 Oh, okay. Yeah. But love to, all right, Tim, thank you so much. It's been awesome. It's been real Tim again. Speaker 4 00:56:25 Thanks. Bye. Speaker 5 00:56:29 Thank you friends for listening. Please rate and follow this podcast or text card at (470) 588-1215 with comments and suggestions tune in next week for another disability topic.

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