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DRAFT Proposal for Provision of Class Outlines/Teachersí Notes

Background

Throughout our sonís education, it has been clear that he benefits from previewing the curriculum and from receiving the curriculum in written form to accommodate his visual learning style. Since he transitioned to the general education classroom, we have routinely asked that he be provided some of the curriculum in advance, and at the very least that he receive it in a modified form at the same time the rest of the students in the class receive their curriculum. In the vast majority of instances, our requests in this regard have been denied. We believe the fact that he has not had these accommodations has contributed to his overall lack of progress the past four years.

During this period when we have made a request for lecture notes, typically we have been offered the notes of a "strong student". In response, we have explained that such notes are usually prepared in class during the presentation of a lecture and as a result, are only available to our son after the class, thus defeating the purpose of our request. When we have specifically requested that we be given a copy of the teacherís notes or lesson plan or outline to allow for previewing and a visual reinforcer during the delivery of the lecture, we have routinely been told "this is not possible," for various reasons, including the following:


teachers donít have their lesson plans ahead of time;

teachers DO have their lesson plans ahead of time, but they are all in their heads, and NOT down on paper;

itís a union issue, i.e., the district canít force teachers to provide students with their class outlines ahead of time;

teachers donít keep a record of their lectures (essentially telling us that every teacher in the district totally reinvents the wheel year after year); and

teachersí class outlines change from year to year and therefore keeping a written record isnít helpful, etc.

At first glance, it has seemed to us that these teachers not only have it in their power to thwart the intent of IDEA by denying relatively simple accommodations to children who need and require them in order to have access to and make progress in the curriculum, but are intent on doing so. At second glance, we have come to believe that the reality is that no one has ever bothered to ask these teachers whether something like this is feasible.

We believe that were such a project as we propose undertaken on a system-wide basis, particularly at the high school where the vast majority of classes deliver curriculum via lecture, so that all teachers participated in the process and had the benefit of the provision of such lesson outlines and notes explained to them, they would be more than willing to participate. After all, that is why most of this districtís teachers are teachers, i.e., to impart information and a love of learning to the children who pass through their classrooms.

As a result, students in MBUSD like our son who are on IEPís or 504 plans and who need previewing or current access to the curriculum through outlines or "teachersí notes" would have this accommodation, with the result that their access to the curriculum would be greatly enhanced.

A Description of the Problem

Children who are not auditory learners or who have receptive language difficulties or auditory processing deficits do not readily access curriculum when that curriculum is introduced in the classroom through verbal presentation or lecture.

Children with processing difficulties are often so focused on writing down the subject of the lecture that they do not "process" the subject matter of the lecture and their comprehension of the lecture subject suffers.

Children with fine motor skill challenges or graphomotor issues often cannot keep up with a lecture format or verbal presentation, and thus miss out on the substance of the lecture.

Children with organizational issues have difficulty organizing their thoughts and materials in order to effectively and efficiently take notes on a daily basis.

Children with autism often have difficulty with transitions such as those posed by "new" or "different" curriculum, with the result that previewing provides a beneficial means of access, reinforcement and review of the curriculum.

Failure to Accommodate the Problem

results in a lack of access to the curriculum, thus contributing to difficulty making appropriate progress;
causes stress in students who are already stressed as a result of their challenges or disabilities;
results in a greater amount of time spent outside the classroom trying to learn what typical students routinely learn inside the classroom, thereby increasing the homework workload and challenges to the student already dealing with the challenges of a disability and who is more than likely already behind in their classes;
runs counter to the right of students with a disability or learning challenge to have access to and make progress in the curriculum.

Solution: A Pilot Project

Children on IEPís and 504 plans would benefit from previewing or having their curriculum, typically presented in a verbal or lecture format, presented in a more visual fashion through a written outline or "teacherís notes" at the time the teacher delivers the lecture. Although the Learning Center is said to have some studentsí notes for some classes, it has been reported that these notes often go missing or are unreliable.

During the 2001-2002 school year, teachersí notes or the notes of a "strong student" could be systematically collected, reviewed, and scanned onto MBUSDís website, which students could then access. As of the 2002-2003 school year, such notes would be available prior to the lecture dates.

If it was determined this project should be done in phases, the first phase could include only required freshman classes. Depending upon the success of the project, additional grades and classes, including electives, could be added.

Benefits and Advantages

Providing outlines of class lectures or "teachersí notes" in advance will allow students on IEPís or 504 plans to:

preview the class lecture, thus inserting them into the context of the lecture in advance;
be visually cued to the lecture being delivered;
improve their ability to follow the lecture;
maintain a heightened level of interest; and
process the substance of what the teacher is discussing, thereby improving their overall comprehension of the lectureís subject matter.

Providing outlines of class lectures or "teachersí notes" in advance will also bring the district into compliance with regard to numerous IEPís and 504 plans.

Providing outlines of class lectures or "teachersí notes" in advance will result in all the above benefits to ALL students. Ensuring better access to the curriculum through such outlines and/or notes will result in better-prepared students, greater participation by students, a more informed lecture and class discussion, and more meaningful learning as all students will be on the same page and thus engaged.

Students will be able to use these outlines of class lectures or teacherís notes as viable study guides for review of the lecture outside the classroom, thus reinforcing the content for typical students.

Access to teachersí and lecture notes on the MBUSD website will allow students who are absent from school due to illness to know what the class covered while they were out, thus enabling them to keep up or more easily catch up on their missed class work. Student/Athletes who are injured can access their class lectures.

Access to teachersí notes and lectures on the website will allow parents to know what is going on in the classroom, enabling parents to be more aware of the class pace and how well their child is keeping up; contributing to parent/school collaboration; contributing to at-home family discussions centered around the content being taught in class.

New students transferring into the district will have ready access to the class notes of classes already in progress.

The teachersí workload will be reduced as they wonít need to reinvent the wheel each summer in preparation for the fall and the beginning of school.

Access to teachersí notes will enable substitute teachers to more easily provide appropriate lectures in the event a teacher is out ill.

Class notes can be updated, revised and enhanced as class content changes.

Those students who do the note-taking and outlining with teacher supervision will also benefit if they learn better by writing, thus reinforcing their learning. At the same time, they can earn volunteer hours towards any community service projects they may participate in either at school or in the community.

Such outlines of class lectures or teachersí notes will be helpful to students looking to prepare for exams such as the High School Exit Exam.

Such a project would bring MBUSD into the modern age. Many universities routinely make professorsí notes available on websites. Such access is a benefit to all students, as well as their instructors.

Possible Arguments Against Access to Teachersí Notes

Giving students notes in advance will preclude their developing note-taking skills

Good note-taking is better taught by direct, explicit instruction and modeling, using good examples. Teachersí notes will enable students to preview what a good example looks like. Teachers can require that students prepare notes for each lecture so that students will learn how to take notes. The website version can serve as a guideline or as a tool for checking developing skills.

Teachers want to know "Why should we do this?"

A better question is "Why shouldnít we?" Why shouldnít we be focusing on giving access to ALL students? Furthermore, use of such outlines or notes will serve as a reinforcer of the more important aspects of each particular lecture. Students can only gain greater knowledge from a more thorough discussion of the subjects currently being studied in class.

Implementation

The subject matter of this project has been broached briefly with MBUSDís Webmaster. A more in-depth discussion with the Webmaster will obviously be needed to determine what he thinks about the feasibility of such a project, including the capability of the website to handle such a project. [Note: The Webmaster has indicated that although MBMS has a scanner, he didnít believe that Mira Costa had one. Our family would be happy to purchase and donate a suitable scanner to MBUSD for purposes of this project].

This project could be piloted during the 2001-2002 school year. If it is determined that starting small would be a more logical approach, the first phase could include the scanning of only lectures/notes for freshmen required classes. In subsequent years, class outlines and teachersí notes for upper grade classes, as well as elective classes, could then be scanned onto the website.

Step 1:  Teachers who already have class outlines could submit them immediately for scanning. In addition, any notes located in the Learning Center which are found and considered to be viable for scanning could be input.
Step 2:  At the beginning of the school year, students would be asked to volunteer to assist in this project.
Step 3:  As the school year progresses, notes of lectures would be prepared by a "strong student" volunteer, reviewed for accuracy and then submitted for scanning. [Note: students who volunteer in this or any part of this project could receive credit toward their volunteer service in this project].
Step 4:  Scanning outlines/notes proceeds. [Again, depending upon the Webmasterís recommendation, it is possible that students could be participate in this aspect of the project as well.]
Step 5:  Teachers and/or student volunteers proof/revise website product for accuracy and completeness.

Conclusion

This is a brief draft outline of a project we would like to propose as a solution to our sonís lack of access to the curriculum, particularly as it would look at the high school level. Eventually, if successful, such a project could also be implemented at the middle school. Further investigation with the MBUSD Webmaster, as well as curriculum specialists will obviously be required. I would be happy to participate in any discussions about implementation of this proposal. Thank you for your consideration.


Submitted by:

Deborah Blair Porter

July 27, 2001

 


Copyright © 2001  ASK 
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 25, 2002


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