SPED Teacher Fired Over "Pedagogical Differences"?

A distraught parent writes in to describe how a SPED teacher was recently let go over "pedagogical differences" with her principal.  The details are below -- any ideas, recollections, or advice?

Here are some of the details provided: "A phenomenal autism teacher who is probationary was let go
by Principal Cathy Lawton at Barbara Vick Early Childhood Center.  This
teacher has made such a diffference for our autistic children and we
have been ignored by CPS and the Mayor's Office.  We wanted to discuss
the possibility of this exceptional teacher being rehired to work at
Barbara Vick and have gotten no cooperation or explanation as to why
this teacher was let go other than something about
"pedogogical differences" with the play-based mission of the school."

"These are kids with autism in an instructional setting and a play-based
curriculum is totally inappropriate for them and in complete conflict
with their I.E.P's.  They need a highly structured educational
environment and for Principal Lawton to let go of this exceptional
teacher is absolutely absurd at best and heartless and cruel towards
the children in the instructional autism room at worst. I've
attached a pdf file of a letter, dated 5/31/07, sent to Arne Duncan
signed by 8 parents of children in the instructional autism room at
Barbara Vick and a letter, dated 6/4/07, sent to Mayor Daley." 



one point, Ms. Lawton had offered to allow interested parents to be
part of the interview process for the replacement teacher, then failed
to contact the interested parents.  CPS attorneys got involved and said
parents cannot be involved in interviewing prospective teachers.  Right
now, rather than a highly-qualified autism teacher, a school
psychologist is teaching the ESY autism program at Barbara Vick."

Download 5_31_07_duncan_6_4_07_daley.pdf


Leave a comment
  • I am sorry to hear that a special education teacher so many parents of young students with autism believe is effective is being let go by Barbara Vick Early Childhood Center. In Chicago it is really rare for all the parents of children from any classroom to believe so much in a teacher as to write a letter such as these parents have done. The effective provision of appropriate services for students identified as autistic or autistic like is an enormous problem not just in Chicago, but in most school districts in our state.

    Part of the problem is that there are numerous approaches to instructing students with autism. Chicago, like many school districts evolved its instructional approaches to autism from instructional approaches to students identified as cognitively disabled. Hence it does not surprise me that a conflict such as the one the parents have identified in their letter has taken place at Barbara Vick. The reality is some special education teachers who are coming into the field or have taken the time to become students of autism know far more about the disability than many administrators do. We need to only note that autism was not recognized until the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA as a unique condition separate from mental retardation.

    Many parents of students with autism have made themselves highly knowledgeable about the disability and the parents from Barbara Vick appear to be among these parents.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living

  • The issues teachers are raising about how cross-cat programs are organized in CPS and the different types of learning issues is very important. I do not have any solutions, but I do know this.

    ISBE has just approved its self-contained class case load rules. When they go into effect one year from now there will not be any reference to the variety of disabling conditions contained in these rooms.

    Access Living has always been opposed to situations where studnets who for example were labled as cognitively disabled but exhibited other leaning issues that were to be found in autistic students would not be given access to programs that would benefit them. But ISBE in its new rules has taken this legitmate concern over highly catagorized programs and turned it into a potpouri.

    As some of you know Access Living, Designs for Change, Family Resource Center on Disability,the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois, and the Illinois Special Education Coalition attempted to stop these rules and maintain some referencing to disabling conditions in these class size rules. Our proposal was rejected by ISBE and JCAR has approved these rules.

    I do not know where we will be going on this issue or what it will mean for CPS one year from now when the rules go into effect. But I am worried.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living

  • I am horrified at the firing of the autistic teacher. I know how hard it is to find qualified SPED teachers because I have seen some with excellent credentials that can not or will not put forth the effort to make the children successful and to fight for what the children need. Part of the problem is that we have Case Managers who do not know how to do their jobs. Some acknowledge that they do not know how to write IEPs and plan to learn as they go along.

    Right now, I am working with a parent whose child has had the same reading goals for 3 years in a row yet the teachers keep saying that she has met her goals. If you were teaching her at a 3rd grade level when she started 3 years ago and said she would be at a 4th grade at the end of the year and that she met each quarterly benchmark then why would you go back to 3rd grade the following year and what's worse is that even though they claim she met each of the benchmarks this year, they still plan to begin again at the 3rd grade level next year. I don't see how you can have it both ways, either she isn't making the benchmarks and then meetings should have been held with the parent or she is meeting her goals and neither the SPED teacher nor Case Manager are insuring that the goals are appropriate. There are many other things that are questionable in the IEP such as an almost 4 year discrepency in the math computation scores between the psychologist's testing and that of the SPED teacher. Math computation is simply solving problems and there should not be that wide of a discrepency between two tests and if there is someone should have looked at the reasons why.

    The parent has turned to several parent groups for help and is told that there is no one who sends out an advocate to help the parent to insure that her child's rights are protected. This service should be available not simply training parents to be their own advocates. When you get into a meeting and you are by yourself, it is easy for the best educated person to get intimated.

    All of these things make me agree that there is a conspiracy to take away rights from SPED students and their advocates (whether parents or teachers).

  • How do you distinguish between being behaviorally disordered and being mean? This behavior doesn't sound like someone who has rage problems or impulse control problems, this sounds more like meanness, especially as it was a repeated stunt. So why couldn't a report or two have been made?

Leave a comment