Digital Resources For Accessibility
Introduction to My Inquiry Project
In the 7 years that I have worked for the New York City Department of Education I have seen huge changes in the ways schools approach Special Education and Inclusion. When I began teaching I worked in a 12:1 classroom, often feeling stigmatized and left out of the school community. Eventually I began working in Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) classrooms which are known now as Integrated Team Teaching (ICT) classrooms. ICT classrooms are wonderful places for many reasons. Not only do ICT classrooms have 2 teachers, but they also foster many opportunities for small group instructions with a smaller student to teacher ratio. Throughout my years in the classroom, I have acquired an understanding of the Special Education reform and have seen first hand the benefits of inclusion.
That said, ICT classrooms still pose some definite challenges. This year in my 4th grade ICT classroom my biggest challenge was meeting all of the needs of the diverse population. More specifically, it was challenging to have all students access the same 4th grade curriculum when there was such a huge gap in their academic skills and prior educational opportunities.
Inside My Classroom
To help you better understand why I was feeling so challenged, I want to briefly explain the composition of my classroom. My class was composed of 13 general education students, most of whom received 4’s on their 3rd grade state exams. My class also included 13 students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP). Their labeled disabilities ranged from "Emotionally Disturbed" to "Speech and Language Impaired." On top of this, we had a boy who was new to the country and only spoke Hebrew. His assessments from Israel showed that he was currently functioning at the first grade level. My classroom was also fortunate enough to have two 1:1 paraprofessionals. To be clear, my classroom was extremely diverse and often my co-teacher and I felt like this:
I was always aware that all students learn differently and are able to access curriculum differently; however, I was feeling overwhelmed by having students on such a wide scale of abilities and background knowledge. And so I set off on my inquiry project. I was determined to solve my dilemma of how to reach all students in my classroom and how to provide access to all students. I decided to begin my work with 1 particular student in mind: Jonathon*.
*Names have been changed to protect students' identities.