It is critical for an educational consultant to first to conduct situational awareness. At the New Brookhaven School, teachers who have been in the field for between 5-10 years require consultant assistance. Considering the teachers’ experience, it might be challenging to accustom the teachers to new methods as they have already formed their own methods of teaching. Other challenges of importance have been mentioned across the first part of this paper, while other consequent parts will focus on the development of action plans to handle the identified problems.
The New Brookhaven School needs an environment that is enabling and educational sound for all students; in this case, both English Language Learners (ELL) and students with learning disabilities. To plan for this noble task, it is important to understand some important dynamics. First, the school has five ELL students who are from the new community immigrant host program meaning that they hardly understand English. The parents of the five ELL students also have problems understanding English, which poses problems when it comes to communication between them, the school, and the teachers. To further complicate the situation, two of the ELL students have been noted to exhibit behavioral problems. These two students have behavioral outbursts in class, which is interruptive and inconveniencing both to the two students, to the other students, as well as, the teachers.
Students with disabilities are also having a significant share of challenges. Some of those in this category have exhibited behavioral problems. An intervention that was attempted helped in the development of Behavioral Intervention Plans, which are important in informing how to handle students with disabilities. Additionally, students with disabilities lag behind others in their academic performance. Their parents often complain about the service accorded to their children and perceive it as substantial compared to the other students. New Brookhaven School also has resources problems, due to lack of funding to acquire relevant technologies.
As part of the action plan, the immigrant families with difficulty in the English language will be provided with an interpreter who will assist in their communication with the school. The school appreciates that communication with parents is critical in a child’s learning and development. As such, the school will make a deliberate effort to ensure that families are comfortable with decisions that are made concerning their children’s academic and physical wellbeing. Parents need assurance that their children are not being put in harm’s way, but are being helped to achieve the maximum potential in their academic performance and other areas such as physical education among others.
It has been earlier mentioned that the school is experiencing challenges when it comes to technology. Technology in the New Brookhaven School is a critical component when it comes to the delivery of curriculum to their students. To ensure that the school remains competitive, several applications for grants in different organizations including the board of education have been made. This is to ensure that the systems and functionalities that are required during the implementation of the curriculum are done to provide learners and their teachers with the most seamless experience, which is also conducive for learning.
The Public Interest Law Center (2017) reported that the School District of Philadephia had settled a federal lawsuit that was filed by local parents of students with disabilities. The parents were contending that their children were not getting sufficient attention and educational services during their summer and winter vacations as per the requirements of the federal law. The parents were enraged by the fact that their children were provided with one-size fits all program that did not care about their specialized individual needs. The practice violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Following the determination of the lawsuit, the district was mandated to provide specific training and resources to special education teachers, liaisons, administrators and other personnel. The district was also required to provide enhanced communication to the parents through training, written notifications, and instructions. Further, the district was required to share data about their extended school year services with the Public Interest Law Center to ensure compliance.
Following the ruling and facts in the case above, it is important to consider the plight of the students with disabilities. The provision of special treatment in the law means that this is a requirement that needs to be fulfilled. At the New Brookhaven School, an ordinary program will see all students learning together and the pullout program will see to it that students with special needs will get more attention through additional time as prescribed by the law (Kauffman, Hallahan, Pullen, & Badar, 2018).
To ensure that the two programs described above are functional, it is important to have a concrete plan. To do this, a needs assessment is necessary to ensure that the needs of each of the students are profiled. Depending on the needs of each student with learning disabilities, an action plan will be designed complete with resources needed, faculty, and timetable, which will ensure the special educational provision for this special group of learners is met. A draft of the action plan will be shared with the members of staff and parents to ensure that it satisfies the needs of the students and other important stakeholders. After the ratification and improvement of the draft, implementation will be done by the book.
Herrera (2004) explained the case of Plyler v Doe. In the case, it was decided by the Supreme Court in 1982 that it amounts to a contravention of constitutionalism to deny children living in the United States free public primary and secondary education. This position was held whether the children were living in the United States legally or illegally. Following the ruling, it is paramount that all ELL students receive elementary and secondary school education. In a separate case, Maxwell (2014) reported that a Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of three ELLs after the district education board in Southern California segregated them for their inability to speak English language. The students had sued because they did not get sufficient English-language learning as required by law. The district board was held responsible for about 20,000 ELLs.
To ensure that cases similar to the ones mentioned above do not befall the New Brookhaven School, a program that integrates all the existing five ELLs, as well as, others who might join in future is necessary. To begin with, an ELL specialist will be brought in to help in the collaboration with regular classroom teachers. The ELL specialist will help the teachers come to terms with ELLs besides helping them develop strategies suitable for such kind of learners and learning environment. The teachers will be brought to speed with regards to the ELLs culture and vocabulary. The teachers should learn and remain competent in allowing the students to express themselves. To ensure that the teachers are competent enough to handle the situation, they will be allowed opportunities for personal and professional development. These opportunities will help the teachers be better at handling the students with special learning needs and others without learning needs.
Virtually, it is the responsibility of the consultant to ensure that there are sufficient resources or avenues for getting the same in New Brookhaven School. Besides having sufficient resources, the responsibility of allocating the resources to most productive areas is critical. On this, the purchase of enabling technology in terms of software and hardware is paramount. Students will need i-pads or laptops that will enable them access to the most recent learning material. Further, software such as STAR Math and i-READ will be availed to all students to ensure that the existing gaps are closed and performance is improved and maintained.
To provide feasible solutions to the funding problem, it is important to explore existing legislation or case laws. To put this in perspective, for instance, the New Jersey School Board Association (2018) reported that a legislation with a dimension in funding for public schools in the State of New Jersey was passed and signed into law. The legislation is called the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). SFRA provided that funding of public schools would be reminiscent of enrollment numbers and would eliminate the need for adjustment aid starting the fiscal year 2019-2020.
Enforcing good student behavior comes with important responsibilities. It is a conscious decision that the school must make. To help the school come up with a solution to this problem, a care matrix should be developed and implemented. The care matrix will entail different standards and rules, which will be followed otherwise there will be consequences. In the care matrix, positive behavior will be recognized and appreciated while negative behavior will be punished in one way or another as suggested by Warren et al. (2006). To ensure that there is consensus, the process of developing the care matrix should be participatory and will draw contribution and approval from different stakeholders, which will include teachers, students, and parents. Students and teachers alike will be sensitized on the new approach to handle behavioral infractions.
According to Van Wyk and Pelser (2014), the implementation of a discipline system is not easy to design and implement. Several steps need to be taken to ensure the process goes smoothly. After the development of the code of behavior, the teaching fraternity needs to explain to the students what the system means and the expected behavior. Besides, the students should be encouraged to practice often the skills to ensure success. Consistency in enforcing the skills should be emphasized during class and school time. During the implementation phase, teachers should be quick to correct students when they err. To note the shift in behavior from the expected, the teachers should practice active supervision regularly. The sheer need for this approach is to address behavioral problems that impede learning in schools.
Student and teacher safety should be a high priority area, especially in the wake of mass school shootings and other behaviors that endanger the continuity of peace and life in school settings. Teachers should be trained extensively on the need for situational awareness to ensure that they are capable of spotting abnormal student behavior, which could be a risk to the safety of others. Teachers, students, and other staff need to be trained on the response mechanisms in case of an attack to ensure minimal injuries or at worst, casualties. Students need to feel psychologically and physically safe as explained by Cornell and Mayer (2010). Teachers alike, need to have the assurance that their safety is assured. In this way, they are more likely to be more productive.
In class, order is a precursor for safety. Order and cleanliness will determine how safe everybody will be. Further, it should be noted that the arrangement of the classroom is important. The arrangement of desks dictates how well students are placed relative to materials needed in class. With the arrangement in order, it makes supervision of students easy, as well as, group work. Students need to feel safe to participate in class and ask questions. As such, the teacher should always encourage student participation by responding positively and with respect.
ELLs by virtue of being new to this country need to have many things brought to the surface, to ensure that the student’s and their parents are on par with the developments in school. As such, the school and its staff should ensure that the parents are at ease. Parents need to be sensitized that they form an important of their children academic outcomes. Parents need to be made aware of their roles right from the beginning. They should have their perspectives heard and appropriate care is taken to ensure that there is significant consideration of the same by the school system. To achieve this, regular school visits should be encouraged to ensure that there is a familiarity between all parties.
Parent days at New Brookhaven should be a serious affair that draws the attention of teachers, ELL students, and their parents. It is at such a day that parents, ELL students, and their teachers get to know each other and works together to meet the needs of the learners. By doing this, the two parties will generate a rapport, which will be important in pushing the academic wheel forward. Important discussions between parents and teachers will be held on this day. The teacher-student interaction should be made stronger through the familiarity created. Important communication channels should be opened at this time to ensure that parents, teachers, and their students do not have to wait until the parents’ day to have issues discussed.
With students with disabilities, it is important to maintain communication that is reflective of respect, care, and thoughtfulness. The school should create an environment where the parents feel accepted and considered important, to ensure collaboration in their children education. To achieve this level of interaction, the school, especially through its teachers and periodic communication to parents, should consider the culture of each individual family. This level of understanding will ensure that there is a constant connection between the two. To reinforce positive behavior and a sense of belonging in students with disabilities, a special focus should be given to all achievements, without considering their level of significance. Focusing on the negative aspects is disastrous for the motivation of the student and sometimes the parent. PBS Parents (2018) explains that for parent’s and teachers handling student’s with learning disabilities, they need to be in constant communication to ensure that they share observations and seek clarification of the instructional program. Further, PBS Parents recommend that the parents and teachers should team up to identify the child’s strengths and interests, as well as, the child’s emotional and physical reactions to situations. Both parties should be involved in collective strategizing.
As educators, the students’ physical, mental or national backgrounds notwithstanding, it is important to ensure that there is no exclusion. The legal system has provided sufficient guidelines as to what needs to be done to ensure that all of these challenged students’ are adequately catered for. At the New Brookhaven School, the wellbeing of English Language Learners as well as students with disabilities has been well catered for and more so, in the precincts of the legal and legislative systems. In this school, it has been recognized that the success of the school lies in its ability to bring on board all stakeholders in the decision making processes. Further, the success of the school is anchored in its ability to accommodate inclusivity.
Cornell, D. G., & Mayer, M. J. (2010). Why do school order and safety matter? Educational Researcher, 39(1), 7-15.
Herrera, L. (2004). Plyler v. Doe. J. Contemp. Legal Issues, 14, 479.
Maxwell, L. A. (2014). California Judge Says State Failed Thousands of English-Learners. Education Week. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning-the-language/2014/08/california_judge_says_state_fa.html?qs=california+english-language+learners+aclu+inmeta:Pub_year%3D2014
New Jersey School Board Association. (2018, July 24). Governor Signs School Funding Reform Legislation. Retrieved from https://www.njsba.org/news-publications/school-board-notes/july-24-2018-vol-xlii-no-3/governor-signs-school-funding-reform-legislation/
Public Interest Law Center. (2017). School District to Improve Services for Philly Students with Disabilities During School Breaks. Retrieved from https://www.pubintlaw.org/cases-and-projects/school-district-to-improve-services-for-philly-students-with-disabilities-during-school-breaks/
Warren, J. S., Bohanon-Edmonson, H. M., Turnbull, A. P., Sailor, W., Wickham, D., Griggs, P., & Beech, S. E. (2006). School-wide positive behavior support: Addressing behavior problems that impede student learning. Educational psychology review, 18(2), 187-198.
Windle, G. (2017, February 6). District settles lawsuit over school-break services for students with disabilities. Philadelphia Public School: the Notebook. Retrieved from https://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/02/06/district-settles-federal-lawsuit-with-parents-over-school-break-services-for-disabled-students/
Kauffman, J. M., Hallahan, D. P., Pullen, P. C., & Badar, J. (2018). Special education: What it is and why we need it. Routledge.
Van Wyk, C., & Pelser, A. M. (2014). Leadership’s role in effective implementation of school discipline policies. The International Business & Economics Research Journal (Online), 13(4), 833.
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