This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
When Amie Seese moved into a new job at Mrachek Middle School in Aurora last spring, the goal was for her to spend this school year improving special education programming.
She created a spreadsheet and was eager to track which students were struggling the most and in what areas, after last year’s disruptive learning. She said it’s been trickier this year to identify students who have special needs — it’s sometimes unclear if a student has a disability or just needs more learning time to catch up after an unconventional year.
But her work this year hasn’t been what she anticipated. For the past three weeks she’s been substituting for a special education classroom whose teacher left mid-year. She said it’s unclear if the school will actually be able to hire a replacement so she can return to her data work.
“It feels a little bit hopeless,” Seese said.
In a year when so many students are struggling, specialists like Seese, including those who pull students out of class to give them more targeted teaching, are essential to getting them back on track. But as Aurora deals with the nationwide struggle to find enough substitute teachers, the district’s interventionists and learning specialists frequently are being asked to lead classrooms instead of working individually with students or helping teachers tailor their lesson plans.
The Aurora district knew that intervention work was going to be critical to helping students catch up. Some schools hired additional specialists, and many are offering tutoring on weekends or after school.