Changes to student teaching and special education during COVID-19 closures

MSTA staff attorneys Kyle Farmer and Scott Smith address changes to student teaching and special education during COVID-19 closures.



Todd Fuller (00:00):

Hi everyone. My name is Todd fuller. I’m the director of communication for the Missouri state teachers association. And I have two people with me today. First of all, I have a cow farmer who is our senior staff attorney. Hi Kyle. And you may have to say something for people to see your face. I’m sorry, I forgot that part. Remember? Oh yeah, I’m here. No worries. Thanks. Thank you. And we also have Scott Smith one of our staff attorneys. So we have both a, both Kyle and Scott today because we have two different topics that we wanted to cover. I said yesterday that Scott and I were going to spend a little bit of time talking about student teachers and so we thought we’d jump into that topic first. So, Scott, I mean, you have some information about how some requirements and some things of may may have changed or have changed for student teaching, correct?

Scott Smith (00:54):

Yeah. So probably the most pressing issue, especially for student teachers that are hoping to graduate this spring is recently governor Parson has waived the requirements for all remaining onsite classroom and school visits for candidates that are already participating in clinical experiences, internships, et cetera. And so if you are currently in a student teaching program or you are doing observation hours a semester or whatever else, it may be as part of your education degree than all those are requirements have been waived, move forward due to all the school closures. And so thankfully that’s, that’s just one last thing that people that college students have to worry about right now.

Todd Fuller (01:32):

What are some of, so there are some other impacts. Correct? I mean, some other things that we may need to keep in mind.

Scott Smith (01:39):

Yeah. So a couple other things along with waiving those observation requirements is that I want to, testing centers are currently closed and just like with school districts, those closure dates keep getting pushed out further and further as we react to the Cobra 19 situation. And so so with that, people are going to have an extended amount of time to complete those requirements. So if you are offered a con, a teaching contract for the 2020-2021 school year for a school in Missouri, then there’s gonna be a certification route for you that’s going to give you a couple of years and in order to complete the rest of the testing that you may not have been able to complete this spring.

Todd Fuller (02:19):

So, I mean, and there are some other changes. I mean, you’ve, you’ve mentioned, we’ve talked a little bit about Missouri educator evaluation system and there’s some changes along with that as well, correct?

Scott Smith (02:30):

Yeah, correct. And so it’s really kind of across the board as you know, for people that are required to go through the MEES pro system you know, through throughout their clinical experience. And there’s, there’s past requirements for that and those requirements, thankfully by DESE have been waived. And so we, candidates that are looking to complete this process are going to have opportunities to submit, to submit other documentation, to measures to you know, show that they’ve been making progress for us for this. And so really across the board in terms of the observation hours, the student teaching experience testing, they have to take you know, every, all these regulations have been I guess relax a little bit you could say. And so individuals are being, are going to be given more time or alternatives to mission that they could complete this process because, you know, they’ve worked pretty hard to get as far as they’ve had, especially if you’re student teaching now you’re a senior. And so thankfully we’re giving some some wiggle room here to make sure that we’re we’re going to be able to complete these things.

Todd Fuller (03:29):

So as things begin, as their semester begins to wrap up, and I, we, we know for instance, that there are several students out there that already have job opportunities for next year. Are there any things within the university system that they need to be aware of or things that, you know, in relationship maybe to the classes that they are finishing up or their, their professors?

Scott Smith (03:52):

Yeah, so essentially just working with their professors, working with the university as we kind of finish this process up. You know, typically without the COVID-19 situation going on now is kind of the, you know, the beginning of the, of the hiring process for next fall. And so, you know, a lot of probationary teachers will be notified by their schools by April 15th that they have not been notified as to whether or not they can come back for next school year. And there’s multiple other deadlines this spring for teachers as a kind of figure out what the staffing situation next year is going to look like. And so in normal circumstances, you know, we would want to make sure that we are ready for the hiring process now. And it’s possible this might slightly be delayed if I’m in person. Interviews aren’t gonna be conducted right away or you know, as a school can react to the situation, there might be some timeline adjustments, but either way, students that are you know, looking to, to be working next fall because they’re graduating, just need to work with the university, make sure they have their cover letter, resume recommendation when ours all ready to go on standby.

Scott Smith (04:51):

So whenever the situation clears you know, whenever that may be that we’re all ready to go to you know, hit the job market to make sure we can line something up for us next fall.

Todd Fuller (05:01):

You know, speaking of the job market, and this is something that I think either you or Kyle could jump in and answer, but how have you seen COVID-19 effecting the, the hiring process? I mean, anecdotally, we, Kyle and I saw some things last Friday when we did our, our update and we had some comments from different people who had job opportunities that the hiring is still going on. But I, I didn’t know if you all had seen something different over the course of this last week.

Kyle Farmer (05:30):

Really the only thing that I’ve seen is there’s just, there’s just been some delays in the process, you know, with with schools closing and then a lot of them moving to online platforms and figure it out what the rest of the school year’s going to look like. That’s taking up a lot of time for administrators. And so I think administrators that would normally be looking at the hiring process for next fall. Now we’ll probably do so just a little bit later in the school year. And so there’s still going to be plenty of opportunities for employment. It’s just going to be kind of slightly delighted to go through the hiring process. And one thing I always tell people is, you know, if it’s July and August and you’re gonna hold discouraged, I’m so hoping for that first job. Make sure you are still you know, keeping an eye out for things because there’s always, because I come up last minute, you know, it could be a school district in August, it has higher enrollment numbers and so they need to hire an extra teacher or you know, maybe there’s a family situation or a medical situation that is resulting in teacher not being able to work.

Kyle Farmer (06:23):

And so no matter how late it is in this process, we can make sure that throughout the entire time we’re ready to go and I’m keeping an eye out for those opportunities.

Todd Fuller (06:32):

So, yeah, that’s, that’s kind of the same same, same types of things that I’ve been seeing in me. Kyle, you, I, I hate to put you on the spot, but same kind of things you’ve seen or are you just gonna ignore it? You can just ignore my question too if you want.

Kyle Farmer (06:47):

No, Todd, I would never ignore you. That’s exactly what everything is paused right now. Nobody’s talking about anything that’s not, you know, coven 19 school closure that, that’s all anybody talks about. So we’re going to make decisions. It’s just gonna, it’s gonna be a N later basis than we usually do.

Todd Fuller (07:04):

So, you know, last week you and I were doing kind of our, our update on Friday and, and there were questions, we had lots of questions and I mentioned this yesterday when Scott and I talked that there were some questions that we didn’t have answers to and you, you mentioned directly that there were going to be things that changed almost daily. And it’s interesting that you said that at the time because that was March 20th on the 21st on Saturday, there was a supplemental fact sheet that came out about special education concerns and now we have some answers literally the next day that we didn’t have before. And I was hoping you could talk a little bit about that.

Kyle Farmer (07:45):

Yeah, that was, that was really smart. I to say that it’s one of those things where we’re just going to continue to get new information and new guidance and that’s great. So really what we knew at the point at that time was they’d said if you were not providing services to the regular ed case aren’t [inaudible] services special ed. But if you were providing just a regular guided by provide a special ed, that’s all we had and which is fine, but we didn’t really know a whole lot and and they came back out and said, look, don’t use, don’t use this distance learning thing and what we don’t know yet to stop you and, and for providing services. So just because there might be some concerns about higher providing services to special ed kids, whether it’s over the internet or however we’re doing it, don’t let that stop you.

Kyle Farmer (08:29):

And what really I think is nice is they said they are going to be very flexible when it comes to school districts providing services. I think really what they’re looking for is do your best, get out there, provide services to kids and just kind of figure it out. Which is what teachers and especially special ed teachers do really, really well, is they just kind of figure it out. So that’s the guidance that we got. We’re going to be flexible, go out there, provide services. We’re still providing FAPE and, and figure it out. They did say that if you were providing services, let’s say online to the vast majority of your students, but there are some students who, whether it’s technology issue or it’s, it’s the, the equipment that you’re using or, or, or the educational tools you’re using are available in that medium. You can use something else so you don’t have to provide all of your services via the internet. You could do it over the phone, you could provide work sheet, you know, whatever it might be. Essentially the guidances figured out we’re going to be flexible. We’re not going to rake you over the coals and this kind of stuff, which, which I think is exactly what we needed. I think there were people who were, who were nervous and the special ed is very highly regulated and, and strict. And so this is one of those situations where we’re going to get a little bit leeway.

Todd Fuller (09:41):

I think this directly answers one of the questions that I, I knew that we had missed when I started to go through the list last week. So I appreciated the update and I appreciated you being able to jump back in and, and help kind of clarify things a little bit for, for our members and for anybody who’s paying attention to what hap, what’s happening with education and our students. So is there anything else guys before we finish up that we need to touch on? I know we’ll talk again. We may even talked again this week. But is there anything else today that we need to discuss or talk about?

Kyle Farmer (10:15):

I will say that I think one thing that, that people need to pay certain attention to is what’s going on in some parts of the state that’s different than what’s going on in other parts of the state. So, you know, Kansas city, st Louis, Boone County, I know have stayed home orders. We don’t have one statewide. And so that’s going to dictate a little bit about what schools can do and what schools can’t do. If your area doesn’t have a stay at home order yet, it might be coming. We don’t really know. So a lot of the guidance that we’re giving you is, is generalized and here’s what we think statewide, but you need to focus on what’s happening in your specific area and that is going to have probably more of an effect on you then what’s happening, the stay level, because at the state level, we really haven’t, I haven’t implemented a whole lot of changes quite yet, so you need to make a, make sure that you’re really focusing on those local restrictions.

Todd Fuller (11:09):

Scott, Kyle, I appreciate it. Thank you guys for jumping back in and having a conversation with, with us or with me today. Tomorrow look for some more information from dr Dina Leighton. You’ll be more along the line of self care. She’s trying to find opportunities for professional learning and for self care. So look for those conversations and I’m sure that you’ll be hearing more from us. We have a couple ideas of things that we think will be helpful and an interesting and an informational for you. So look for those. If not this week, then certainly early next week. So again, Kyle, thank you.

Kyle Farmer (11:47):

Thanks guys. Appreciate it.

Todd Fuller (11:48):

Yeah, thanks Scott. Thanks guys. Yep. All right, everybody. Have a good day and we will talk to you again soon.