Thus far, we’ve learned about mistakes in mislabeling students(ch.2), downright unfair treatment in the past(ch.3), and an unclear idea of what kinds of programs are most effective(ch.4) but who makes the decisions about all of this. Certainly it is important to understand how these decisions are being made and who is making them. This chapter helps clear a bit of that up by discussing the prereferral teams which actually decide which students need help and how.
Composition of Prereferral Teams
The chapter opens right up by saying at least one member on a prereferral team needs to be in the know. At least one member needs to understand the culture, linguistic, and other challenges surrounding the instruction of LEP students. I thought this would be obvious but according to the studies cited(p. 76), only half of the teams had a person like this on their teams. This was a study of eight states with a high amount of LEP students!!! Another study in New York and Colorado cited only one-third of the teams having this member.
I thought this was crazy! How can you make decisions about things you don’t know about? I understand a lack of personnel but for decisions which involve a person’s life, more needs to be done.
My thinking is that with the way things are technologically at this time,(internet video, streaming capabilities) things may have improved. At the very least you should be able to get someone on a conference video call who understands these things better. For schools with limited resources I would think the state needs to step up and supply a few folks to deal with this if the individual school can’t find someone suitable.
Reasons for Referral
The book really refuted some of the common believes that people have thought up for justifying sending an LEP child to special education. Also, it mentioned common grounds that are not acceptable for referring a child.
- Avoid the State tests: If you send them they don’t need to take them? I thought this was talked about before in our book and now due to laws this is not allowed? Don’t all students now need to take these assessment tests? (special ed, disabilities, etc.)
- Saving a Child: You are helping them by sending them to special education. They don’t have to suffer through class.
- No Services
I agree that you are not saving anyone. If anything you are avoiding the situation because you don’t fully understand how to help or can’t. These are a set of excuses made up to cover for a lack of resources in most cases I would think. There is no one person to blame but the system should not accept these excuses either.
I like how the author brings up:
“…think if it were your child…” (p. 78)
Certainly that is what we should always be doing as teachers but it is easy to forget…
How the Prereferral Team Functions and is Perceived
Last, I wanted to mention this section where the author discussed how the team functions and is perceived by other teachers.
The chapter mentioned that in many cases the group is either thought of as:
- a rubber stamp
- a consulting helping entity
In the first case, other teachers think the whole process is seen as a barrier and annoyance. I thought this was interesting. I can see how this might be the case and in fact another classmate has commented that she too felt this way with her own committee.(Anna Wright- Ch. 5 Reflection)
As I commented on her post, perhaps there is a way to make the others feel more included in the process. If there is extra paperwork, etc. perhaps this can be streamlined in some way. Certainly the importance of determining a student’s future should be enough to see the value in a prereferral team. However, I can see how certain teachers might feel it unnecessary given that they probably have spent so much time with the student already and feel they already know what is going on with that particular student.
As part of my ongoing pursuit of a masters in ed with an ESL focus I will be posting my reflections from readings I am doing.
Currently I am reading:
Assessing Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students: A Practical Guide ISBN: 1-59385-141-3