Monday, February 16, 2004

Getting Rid of Exceptional Help Under NCLB

I so despise reading about stories like this. What's clear in this case is that Devone Adams will be sorely missed, and her absence will undoubtedly cause a ripple effect.
    Adams overcame cerebral palsy and a serious learning disability to earn a job helping other severely challenged students at Salvin School, the same South Los Angeles school she once attended.

    But Adams, 35, could lose her job helping children as a result of a federal law designed to help children. The No Child Left Behind Act requires “qualified” teachers and classroom aides, and it rates Adams, who has 13 years of classroom experience, as unqualified.

    The reason is that Adams has limited reading skills — a result of the brain injury she suffered at birth. The same impairment made her right hand gnarled and useless and gave her a limp and a right foot that juts to the right. An adult, when first meeting her, sees shyness and some uncertainty, an apparently timid soul, fragile as an alpine flower. But Adams assumes self-assurance with her class of autistic kindergartners at Salvin, a school with 308 students, most of whom are moderately to severely disabled. Her work as a “special education trainee” includes diapering children, getting them on and off the bus and salving their troubled souls with steady, loving attention. In partnership with the teacher, she also helps them learn to communicate, to sing, to take turns. If all goes well, they’ll also learn how to recognize numbers, shapes and colors.

    “She’s really gifted,” says Mohamed Mbaye, the classroom teacher with whom Adams works. Because these children don’t communicate in words, Mbaye relies on Adams to understand unspoken needs and feelings. “In terms of instruction, she knows how to adapt the materials — to use toys and stuffed animals — to make things more concrete. She can right away tell what their strengths and weaknesses are and so help them learn. She gives me a lot of ideas as well as using my ideas.”
This story underscores the fact that special ed kids aren't going to do well under NCLB mandates, a statement which falls into my understatement of the day category.