With the start of May I wish I could say that things are starting to slow down and relax for my students and me. But with the last day of school not until the middle of June, we still have a way to go and there’s no relaxing for us. I have experienced quite a few new things these last couple of weeks that have really put me outside of my comfort zone. The last week in April our special education program was audited by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
The special education team, administration, and I were all nervous when we found out we were being audited. We were selected because our data showed that we have a higher percentage of students not being included more in the general education classrooms. This is really because we have a cluster cognitive impaired program. We are the only school in the area that offers a cognitive impaired program, so we get students bused in. The students with cognitive impairments are included as much as possible with their peers who do not have cognitive impairments, but the percentage they are outside of their homeroom really throws off our statistics.
Our preparation for the audit began weeks before the ISBE auditors arrived. We reviewed files-making sure they were all in order, we had IEP training to make sure we are writing quality IEPs, and we had mock interviews so we could get a feel for the questions we might be asked.
A couple days before the auditors arrived, we received a list of files and IEPs they would be reviewing. I eagerly and nervously looked at the list a couple times before I realized that none of my students were on that list. Next, I waited to see if I was one of the “lucky” ones selected for an interview, and I was.
When the ISBE auditors came in, I was really expecting mean ogres that would be out to get us. I understand that it is the auditor’s job to find things wrong, and I feared they would go about their jobs in a not-so-nice way. Much to my surprise, the auditors were all extremely nice. When I was interviewed I felt so much at ease, and I felt like my interviewer really wanted me to share all of the great things we do for our students who receive special education services. My interviewer even stopped me, and clarified a question when it was obvious by my answer I wasn’t clear on what was being asked!
While I definitely don’t want to go through another ISBE audit for a long time, the experience was positive over all. I can’t wait to hear their feedback, but in their initial debriefing, they had many positives to share.
In another bit of good news, about a week after our ISBE audit we had a union meeting at my school. I have been trying to get involved as much as I can with our union, and my colleagues know that. What I didn’t realize was that at this meeting we would be voting for a new union delegate for our school. When it came time for nominations, I was nominated and seconded by most of the teachers at the meeting. I am so honored and touched by the nomination of my fellow teachers to represent our school as our union delegate. So in addition to all the other duties I have that keep me busy, I have added union delegate to that list! And I’m loving every minute of it!