Michelle Gunderson. Special Education class size limits.

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Michelle Gunderson (right). Photo: Fred Klonsky

From Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue.

Michelle Gunderson is a Chicago teacher, activist and leader in the CTU.

Every child who enters my first classroom is treated with dignity and respect and learning takes place in an atmosphere of joy. Children with special needs are supported through a matrix of services with other professionals. Most of the work, though, is done solely by me, the classroom teacher. I repeat directions, use visual clues, check often for understanding, reduce assignments, provide sensory breaks along with a host of other modifications and accommodations. How is this possible? Because according to Illinois school code there is a limit on the percentage of children with special needs in my class. Without these limits the work becomes impossible.

This is not a matter of school funding or expediency. This is a matter of human capacity. There is only so much that one person can provide a classroom of children. Without these percentage limits the work load comes to a breaking point – and no one wins. No one learns.

The Illinois State Board of Education is seeking to eliminate a cap on the percentage of children with special needs in our classrooms. The current regulations allow for a cap of 30%. Think about this — in our Chicago Schools, where most classes have 30 children in a classroom, it is already permitted for our rooms to contain 9 children with special needs. We would like to believe that having a cap is not necessary, that school systems would do what is right and keep the ratio of special needs children at a reasonable proportion. But I’m afraid we have little experience in Chicago to support this much trust.

Read the entire post here.

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