Fernando and his bilingual math class

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“Fernando” was a special education student. He could not read or write for all intents and purposes. He was placed in a bilingual math class that I taught a few years ago. When I pointed out that he did not fit, I was told that we “had a legal obligation to meet IEP (individualized instruction plan) demands but also provide as much regular curriculum as possible.”

More and more often, special education students are being placed in regular classes so they can receive instruction in the curriculum we use to get ready for the standardized tests the district must take. Teachers in other states report the same. The intent is to maximize test scores.

But the math in that class was far beyond anything Fernando could tackle. I wrote multiple referrals for this kid because he cursed, he bothered other students, he wrote on his desk, etc. “F” words were flying, gouges were appearing in wood, and hallway shoves were requiring regular, futile conferences about behaviors that only worsened as the year continued. He glared around the room regularly at boys who would wait to cause trouble outside of the classroom.

Eduhonesty: Fernando acted out because he had been placed in a totally inappropriate environment. He should have had a teacher’s aide at the very least to read him the material he could not read himself. After awhile, he had social problems because he was an outsider and his disruptions annoyed the class.

I threw this situation into the blog, although I don’t group Fernando with students in the last few posts. Fernando was only a difficult student because of a wacky administrative decision. In an appropriate math class, I suspect he might have been a genuine pleasure to teach.

I consider the story of Fernando a cautionary tale about what happens when we make desisions based on tests and broad-based policies rather than individual students. Kids don’t just sit still while we spout gibberish at them. If the curriculum has been set too far out of line with the students in the room, misbehavior will be a natural result.