Does your child have an IEP (Individual Education Plan/ Program)? Do you know what happens at your school? Is your child’s IEP being followed? Students with learning disabilities are being disadvantaged when their IEPs are not being followed! Here’s a quick story, and I’ll try to be brief.
A special education teacher at one school came forward with frustrations one day during his lunch break. He approached a parent of a student with a learning disability and told her that her son’s IEP was being ignored. In fact, many students’ special needs at this school are not being met when they are given STAR Assessments. And apparently, the director of special education was made aware of this and doesn’t think it matters. The teacher asked how the school would respond if parents made formal complaints. The director said she didn’t know of any parents who would complain. I wonder why she doesn’t seem to think IEPs are necessary for STAR testing. Perhaps she doesn’t think parents know much about STAR anyway and wouldn’t question. Or perhaps she’s like me and considers these mandated forms of progress-monitoring completely worthless and she (not me) doesn’t feel its worth the bother. In any case, this director did not side with the special education teacher to do anything about this.
If you needed another reason to opt out of STAR testing, here it is: The purpose of these third-party computer-based assessments (STAR is one of many products on the list of state-approved progress-monitoring systems, which our schools are required to purchase) is supposedly to provide teachers with valuable feedback on their students’ performance and academic development. When students with disabilities are given STAR tests without following their Individual Education Plans, the results of the tests are highly unreliable. When a student, whose IEP states that the student must be tested alone and free of distraction, is not given those accommodations, their tests scores will be low. When the IEP is followed, the test scores jump up drastically. How is a teacher supposed to use data from STAR if it is flawed data to begin with? And how much uneccessary extra testing is going on with these kids to get it right?
The parent in which the special education teacher confided called someone from BOCES who is in charge of quality control for special education. This person absolutely confirmed that IEPs must be followed for the STAR testing and that the school was in violation of the law for not doing this. This person even spoke with the school’s director of special education, who still didn’t agree that there was a problem.
Nobody was listening to the special education teacher, not the classroom teachers or administration. He spoke to the parent during his lunch break–made a special trip to her door–because he felt compelled to act in these students’ best interest, and he felt powerless to do his job.
When it became know that he was talking to a parent (imagine that!) he was called into the superintendent’s office. He was asked if he liked his current job because he could be placed somewhere else— less desirable!?!? He was accused of insubordination for going against the other teachers and for speaking about school happenings outside the school (to the parent). He has tenure so they can’t fire him. But as he later told the parent, “they can make my life miserable.” He also told the parent that there was nothing more he could do.
This teacher is very frustrated because he takes his job seriously and truly wants to do all that he can for his students so that they can succeed. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He believes in personalized education and in the past has used this successfully. IEPs for students with disabilities are crucial parts of this type of education and when they are ignored, the achievement gap widens.