We are lucky to have a child in Special Education

I feel a little sorry for parents with “normal” kids. They don’t get to go through all of the surveys and tests and meetings to learn all about their child’s strengths and weaknesses in the academic environment.

At best they get a few minutes during conferences to speak one on one with the teacher.

Meanwhile, mine gets evaluated by the School Psychologist, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, RSP and ABA coordinators. And some students get to have even more professionals in the mix.

Of course they don’t have to rate their child on a scale of 1-5 “My child is an angel”.

J has made some great progress the past 3 years and will no longer need the Occupational Therapy consult. Yeah!

He also tested so well on the other tests that based on scores alone he no longer qualifies for special education services.

BUT….. the reality is he still needs services. And everyone agrees. Phew!

I feel for parents that have to fight to obtain services for the children. Luckily, we never have. But several friends have offered the names of advocates and lawyers should we ever need them.

The issues for J are Pragmatic Language and Social Functioning. He does not know how to carry on a conversation and even though his reading ability is far above grade level, he cannot answer a question that is not expressly given in a story. For example,

  • Pragmatic language: He was read a scenario about a child having to miss soccer practice to go to a doctor’s appointment. Question: Why is going to the doctor more important than soccer practice? Answer: Because it is fun. 
  • Social Functioning: He asks people he knows (classmates, therapists, cousins) “Who are you?” while he is looking anywhere but in their eyes. What he is trying to ask is “How are you?” to start a conversation. 

All first graders were given an assessment last month to see how much of the phonics taught in Kindergarten they knew. J failed it, big time. 

I will pause for a moment for my family and friends to pick themselves up after falling out of their chairs. Anyone that spends more than 30 minutes with him knows that is absolutely not a true indication of what he knows.

As a matter of fact he scored High Average bordering on Advanced when the Psychologist tested him on similar areas.

The first grade test was 8 students at a time each at a computer with one adult overseeing them; whereas, the test with the Psychologist was one on one.

At this point we all knew the one score was ludicrous and could discount it. But as he advances through school and we get more and more dependent on computerized standard testing, he will be at a huge disadvantage.

Luckily for us, we are “in the system” and these issues are identified so we can work on his reasoning skills as well as make accommodations for standardized testing in a few years as needed. We caught it early and can work on it.

But, what about those in the general school population that may have similar issues with standardized tests not reflecting their actual knowledge? Here in California those tests are hugely important to the assessment of the school and now the teacher. And how will low scores effect the individual students potential?

I have never been a fan of these tests since I was a student. However, I was good at them. I am very test savvy. I know some test taking skills were taught in my GATE classes, but for the most part I just instinctively know how to take a test to get the desired results.

Those insipid “Which Jane Austen heroine are you?” type of Internet quizzes? Oh please. I just ask myself who do I want to be that day, then choose the answers that will get me the desired result. No way I am going to end up as Emma Woodhouse. Though, truth be told, I am probably more like her than the others.

Yeah, me! My superior ability at taking standardized tests has enabled me to make sure I am a “Corgi” instead of a “German Shepherd” in the latest quiz de jour. Not exactly a marketable skill is it?

But computerized standardized testing is easy to implement to large numbers of students. And for most students they are a reasonably accurate assessment of their knowledge. But what about those students it doesn’t work for? Will someone question the results as we all did with J? How does an inaccurate result effect the student, teacher and school? And in the end, will the ability to successfully take these tests guarantee success in the future?

In our case we have some new areas to work on with J to help him socially and academically. And when those tests come along in third grade we will evaluate what we can do to make sure he is successful.

I just wish there was an infinite amount of resources so every child in every school could have the same evaluation so their parents could do the same.

Now I toss the topic back to you: what do you think of standardized tests? How and when should they be used? Have your children (or you) taken a standardized test and known the results were inaccurate?

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