Special Needs Kids - Urgent Question

sweebyApril 22, 2008

I didn't want to disrupt the other thread and Seeking's great news, but I really need some opinions here regarding my son's IEP. Sorry it's so long...

Last year he was in 4th grade, and was learning math on a 2nd grade level in the resource room with a very capable special ed. teacher. The material was challenging for him, and he was learning it in a solid way. Though he was way behind, we all agreed it was appropriate for him, and that the next year should see him push ahead with another grade level's material. So in April, when we developed his IEP for this year, I insisted that a clear and specific goal be included to teach him basic 3rd grade topics: specifically that he master core multiplication facts. There was some resistance to the specificity of the goal, but since I pulled the wording directly out of the state's guidelines and even cited the source, they could hardly argue that it was inappropriate. So in the goal went.

So this year, in 5th grade, our state is operating under some new guidelines that specify that even children with disabilities who are working below grade level will be tested on grade-level material. In other words, the state-mandated standardized test upon which the school's performance will be rated tests my son on 5th grade math. (politicians...) So that is what they taught him -- 5th grade math. In all of our progress meetings (3 so far) I stated that I thought it was totally inappropriate to have skipped basic multiplication and division, yet be working on fractions, decimals and prime numbers, and that his understanding of the material was only 'flickering' at best. They've countered with how well he's doing (and surprisingly, he is), that he'll pick up multiplication and division as he learns the more advanced material, and that I can work with him at home on the basic multiplication and division facts. I counter that I'm willing to work with him to reinforce what he learns at school, but that I want the school to teach him basic multiplication and division. They counter that they're teaching him the grade level material, and that they can't take time away from that. And we just end up going around in circles!

This same circular discussion happened again last week at John's IEP meeting: Grade-level math -- missing foundations -- he'll pick it up -- no he won't -- I should teach him -- they should teach him -- thay can't because they're teaching him something else.

We've had the meeting and resolved everything else, but we haven't signed the paperwork. They need the paperwork signed stating that we agree. We don't.

How can I get them to teach him basic multiplication? They've been really good about everything else and we have a good relationship, so I don't want to get all 'legal' if there's another way.


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Sweeby, does your son HAVE to be tested? Can you request that he be exempted from the standardized testing? Can you tell them that he WILL not be tested?

If it can be established that he will not be participating in the testing, would it be easier to make your case for their teaching him the basics first?

Bless your heart- I'm sure you feel like knocking some heads together.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 1:06PM
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Good suggestion Pecan - but I tried it early on!

And they can only exempt the most severely-disabled kids. For kids whose disabilities are more moderate, there's a 'TAKS-M' modified test. That test covers grade-level material but in a modified format. He just took the test last week and said it was 'easy' -- which unfortunately, could mean anything! However, if the reading TAKS-M is any indication, the test probably WAS easy. But we will see...

What I was thinking is that since he's already taken the standardized test, how about we change gears RIGHT NOW to go back and cover 3rd grade in the remaining one month? I know it's not much -- but to my way of thinking, he can either learn multiplication and division now, skipping adding and subtracting fractions with mixed denominators (how's he supposed to learn that anyway without multiplication and division?) Or he can continue to 'skip' multiplication and division. Either way, there's a 'hole' in his education -- But which is the better topic to skip?

Incidentally, I also asked them to teach him during summer school and got NOWHERE.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 2:21PM
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sweeby, I can't believe this!! Well, yes I can, but you know what I mean... How exasperating and LUDICROUS to be so focused on teaching to the test that we neglect to educate. Because that's what is happening here--true education is getting tossed aside.

Unfortunately, I don't know very much about your rights in this situation. My *guess* is that they are out of compliance in some way if they have skipped over the core material in direct contrast to what you've set up and requested, but I don't know how to enforce it. It does seem, however, since it is a very specific goal that is included in John's IEP, that you should be able to hold them to it. Do you have a resource agency that you could contact about it? We have a homegrown one here and they've been a great help to me with IEP-related issues.

But you know, at least no child is left behind...

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 3:11PM
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There should be someone in charge of your state's and your school district's No Child Left Behind program, which it sounds like you need to have pay for a tutor to assist your son in bringing him up to speed on his math IEP.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 4:21PM
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Maybe I'm being picky here, but it seems the IEP requires what they TEACH him, but not how they TEST him. The state has an interest in knowing how many kids are learning at grade level. To do that they need to test the kids on the materials that is considered "at grade level" for that grade. However, that doesn't mean the school should ignore the IEP and teach to the test, so to speak. Let them test him at 5th grade level, but they should be teaching him at third grade level. Of course this makes them look bad because he will clearly do poorly on the 5th grade test, but that is their issue.

Are there people in your area that are advocates for learning disabled children? They may not take you seriously until you get "legal" with them. I wouldn't let them use the new state rules as an excuse. Those rules (from what you've written) are about testing, not teaching. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 4:29PM
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I wonder if they've got spies? Or maybe just some TKO remodelers ;-)

So after writing this out, while responding to Pecan's suggestion, it occurs to me to simply call the school to suggest an immediate "now that the test it over" course change. May not work - but certainly "nicer" than "going all legal." So I do. Neither the Asst. Principal or SpEd teacher are in their offices so I leave a message to call me back regarding DS's IEP. So far, we haven't spoken.

But miracle of miracles, what should appear today as my son's math homework? VERY BASIC multiplication worksheets with elementary multiplication concept exercises. Woo Hoo! Could it be they figured it out from the fact that I left a phone message requesting a callback instead of rubber-stamping the paperwork?

Ladies, cross your fingers!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 7:41PM
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Good news, sweeby! Hopefully your DS will now get the math he needs to fill in the gap. Communication these days gets so convoluted, I swear.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 8:25PM
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Yes! Yes! Yes!
Cue Meg Ryan's famous scene in 'When Harry Met Sally'

The school is happy to go along now that they've had their precious standardized test, and the mother of the other boy in DS's little math group (also his best buddy) is also thrilled with the change in course.

Sometimes you get lucky --

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 10:23AM
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Sweeby, I am so frustrated to read about your experience! Fear of the repercussions from "The State" for having kids perform poorly on an inappropriate assessment has led to so many incredibly unsound educational decisions. Your son's case is a perfect example.

Yes, the school was absolutely legally required to teach him the skills specified on the IEP. This is Special Education Law 101, and surely they knew they were out of compliance. I admire your restraint. Most parents would not have hesitated to go the legal route, but in the long run, at least in this instance, it was probably best not to.

As I was reading this thread, I was all set to send you some materials that would allow you to teach your son basic multiplication and division concepts and facts yourself. I'm glad that the school seems to be coming through, although as you clearly know, it makes no sense whatsoever to teach skills in the sequence you describe.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 10:59PM
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Oh, wow, Sweeby, how well I understand your situation. My daughter is taking 5th grade math again--my choice--even though she is in 6th grade. When I found out they would test her on a 6th grade math level, I was ticked!

My main concern is how do they think a child, already frustrated with math, will feel when the math given on the PSSA is something they've never seen before? How is that good for the child? How does the child's confidence in their ability? It doesn't. Arrgghhh!

I'm glad they did come through for you. School have their own agenda now, unfortunately it is the children who are not average or above who are getting left behind.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 11:50AM
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Sdionne -- Is your daughter on an IEP? With an identified learning disability and everything? Or just having trouble with math?

If she doesn't have an IEP, I'm surprised they agreed to teach her anything different from the rest of the class -- but it's good they are. And while I imagine the PSSA will be frustrating, at least that is only a day or two. Better that than a whole year of math that's above her level.

Are you doing any outside testing or tutoring to find out more information about why she is having trouble and getting her back up to speed? In our case, I've already accepted that it won't be possible no matter what we do -- but outside efforts might pay off for you.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 10:21AM
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