Tales from the battlefield
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the newest rendition of federal law that is supposed to ensure that “every good boy does fine” for those of you who remember the musical scale. ESSA will make sure every student succeeds even thought its predecessor No Child Left Behind (NCLB)left lots of kids and teachers behind. Both of these laws are supposed to merge with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensuring that children with disabilities are provided with an education tailored to their individual needs so that they would not be left behind and would succeed in school.
All of this could give a person a warm fuzzy feeling until we looked at what was going on with the troops on the ground. These are real stories about real children that have happened in the last few months.
Story 1. This is about an elementary age little girl who has written language problems that are documented on her IEP. She is supposed to have accommodations in testing and instruction for this challenge. Her classroom assessments have her writing her answers to questions and/or doing multiple choices. When the educational advocate asked if the child would do a better job of describing what she knew if she could answer the questions orally, the teacher readily agreed that she would. The advocate asked if the point of the assessment was to measure what the child knew in the content area. The teacher agreed that was the objective. When the advocate asked why then the child would not be tested in a manner that truly showed what she knew on the subject, the answer was “because that is not how we test.”
Story 2: This story is about a 17 year old boy who has an IEP and documented attention deficit disorder. He also has anxiety issues, some obsessive-compulsive issues and some learning problems. His instruction has not been modified to address these challenges even though the IEP does spell out how the modifications should happen. The young man has increasingly been missing school. The principal called the mom into his office and recommended that her son be withdrawn from school so that he would not have a “record” of being truant. The mother complied. There was no mention of having a meeting to determine if the boy’s absences were a manifestation of his documented disability. Do not be concerned that federal law requires such meetings or that students with disabilities are one of the subgroups in NCLB and ESSA that need special attention.
Story 3: An eight year old boy is in a third grade class. He has an IEP. The IEP requires certain accommodations be made for his learning issues. The mom went to school for a progress report. She noticed that her son was not receiving the accommodations required by the IEP and she asked why. The teacher responded that the 8-year old boy had never requested the accommodations be given to him. The mom asked if it was reasonable to expect an 8-year old to know his IEP requirements and to ask for them. The teacher responded, of course.
So almighty Congress, you keep on working hard and passing those laws. Something is not getting through to the battlefield and the pens on the Smartboards are not reaching the children sitting at the desks. Clearly, there is someone not getting the message.