My comments before the House education committee on Tuesday, May 1.
Good evening. My name is Mike Matthews and I’m a special education teacher in the Red Clay School District. I work in what’s called a resource room. I work with students who require a substantial amount of services.. These are students who, in some instances, are later referred to intensive learning centers when my setting isn’t working for them.
I work with students who are classified as educable mentally disabled. These are students who have extreme learning disabilities who require such a high level of differentiation and individual attention that placing them in the general education classroom would likely do a disservice to both the below-level and on-level students.
I work with students who are classified with other health impairments. These are students who perhaps come to me with severe emotional issues or health issues that have impaired their learning ability to such an extent that the general education environment is inappropriate. These are students with seizures who’ve regressed so poorly that a pull-out setting is required. These are students with severe audio, visual, and spatial sensitivities for whom structure is required and anything out of those norms could prove disastrous.
I work with a group of students — exceptional students — who require an exceptional amount of services. Sadly, the learning disabilities most of these children face means they likely won’t pass a single DCAS test in their life — unless perhaps by chance. Some of my students really like to press those buttons!
I work in a situation where I have little control over the students who come to me every year. I have no problem with this, though. What irks me, though, is the continued COMPARISON at the state level of charter schools versus traditional public schools. Charter schools that have been labeled “superior” versus my school that is now labeled “academic watch.” What I object to are the COMPARISONS made that allow for these offensive labels of our schools when they do NOTHING AT ALL to detail the nuances and complexities we are dealing with at schools like mine. Do NOT stack my school up against a charter school that has rigorous admissions standards and lotteries that qualify potential entrants based on geographic — and by default socioeconomic — parameters. Do NOT stack my school up against a charter school that requires active parent involvement. Do NOT stack my school up against a charter school that has the ability to remove repeat offenders with utter ease.
It doesn’t offend me that charter schools exist or that many want to send their students to charter schools. And though some may choose to characterize my membership in a union as one antagonistic to charter schools, let me say there’s nothing further from the truth.
It is not the charter schools themselves with which I have a problem. It is the continued comparisons to traditional public schools. Comparisons that, as we speak, are tearing apart school communities, in particular with the near-fraud that is PZ schools. A near-fraud that does LITTLE to address the social ills in so many of our schools that the PZ process seeks to remedy.
Charter schools? Sure. But don’t for one second think more charter schools are an answer to the problems that few charters today are actually facing.