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No Progress. School Says “No Change is Good”?

10/25/12
by Pam Wright

I’m a sped teacher with a child who has an IEP.

The IEP team agreed that my child’s progress in Math will be measured with the KeyMath test. When the school last administered the KeyMath test, her scores dropped!

The school wasn’t concerned. They said “No change is good.”

It is not good news when a child’s test scores drop.

Sometimes, problems come from the tests used. They may measure the impact of the disability on educational performance, not what a student knows.

Using the same test more than once provides good evidence of your child’s progress or lack of progress.

When you brought the lower test scores to the school’s attention, they tried to minimize the problem by telling you “No change is good.”

As a parent, your credibility with the school is minimal. This is not unique to your school system.

In most school districts, parents are assumed to know little or nothing about their child, regardless of the parents’ expertise, education, etc. Because parents are emotionally attached to their child, school’s often believe they also have poor judgment about their child.

Special Education Teacher-Parents

Special ed teachers who are also parents of kids with disabilities often learn this lesson sooner than most parents.

These special ed teacher-parents are often shocked and angry when they attend a meeting on their child’s behalf and are offered a seat in the “parent chair.” When they sit in the parent chair, they are no longer an “expert” in educating children with disabilities. Like you, these teachers have little input into the services their child will receive from the school – their employer.

Now they are ramming through more testing – but they are only going to do the WJ math clusters and the WIAT. I am afraid they will use the test results to show that my daughter is no longer eligible for special ed services, so I objected.

You complained. The school is doing more testing.  The only unusual part of this story is that the school heard you complain. They are beginning to cover their bases.

You can’t complain about school’s testing, then tell the school not to test.

If you disagree with the school’s test results, you need to get private testing on your own, without asking permission or telling them what you are doing.

Since the school is going forward and is ignoring your evidence, you need to get a private sector expert involved. This expert should go through ALL testing (not just the subtest scores) done on your child from Day 1. If necessary, he can do additional testing to get a better picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

The evaluator should also prepare a written report about his findings which is made available to  the IEP team.  AND, he should go to the IEP meeting to tell the IEP team what the numbers mean and what your child needs from an educational perspective.

This gets you out of the loop.

The school will no longer be fighting you and trying to prove that you are wrong (and they can spend a lot of time and money with this as their mission). The private sector expert will be the person who is taking the position. Your role shifts to a concerned parent who is asking them to provide what the expert says your daughter needs.

At the same time, graph out your child’s subtest scores – not just weak areas but strong areas too.

You can use a program like Excel to do graphs of subtest scores, or you can do this by hand, showing that scores go up in areas A and B, but have dropped in C and D.

In this way, you can show where your daughter is making educational progress.  In many of our cases, the child is making progress in the areas where the child is not receiving special education!

If you have not done so, re-read our article about Tests and Measurements. http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/tests_measurements.html

Print out progress graphs (try to use a color printer). Take copies for everyone to the IEP meeting.

These graphs usually make a big impression on some IEP team members who were bored, or who don’t understand test scores (which includes most of the people on IEP teams).

When I read your materials, I felt empowered. Now I am beginning to feel that it is all a waste of time.

Are you going to give up? You can’t complain and try to make people feel guilty for not doing what you want them to do. This will make people resent you. It doesn’t work.

You can’t win by coming on strong with bureaucrats – and the people who call the shots in school districts are bureaucrats.

You have to persuade them to give you what your daughter needs. I recommend that you devote time to learning about persuasion.

Start with How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence. This book is not about arguing. It will teach you how to persuade other people to see things as you do.

Another good book is Getting to Yes, which is about resolving disputes while also building good working relationships between parties who disagreed.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Debbie 11/07/12 at 1:16 pm

    I want to underscore how effective the graphing of test scores can be. Near the end of 2nd grade, I took my son’s reading scores for pre-K, K, 1st grade and 2nd grade. I graphed his scores. They showed progress. Then I added his grade next to his grade equivalent scores. I had a graph that showed while he was “making good progress” he was falling behind farther and farther each year. His reading services for the next year were increased without any resistance. This is no guarantee to cooperative CSE meetings. It is however a powerful tool to prompt someone on the team to bring forward new or increased services. Once again, it is an outside source, not the parent, that presents the information. In my case, the school’s own testing.

  • 2 Colin 10/31/12 at 11:11 am

    I recently tried to reach you via email, but didn’t hear back. Knowing how it is with so many emails coming into everyone’s Inbox nowadays, I thought that maybe posting a comment would be a quicker and much better way to connect.

    I am working with a very special lady, Dr. Julia Kinder, who has an 8 year old daughter with Down syndrome. We’re trying to promote A PETITION REGARDING DOWN SYNDROME and I thought you would be a great resource to help spread the word.

    PETITION – https://www.change.org/petitions/medical-school-faculty-require-complete-education-on-down-syndrome-for-3rd-year-medical-students

    We’re also having all sorts of activities on her website Celebrating Down syndrome – http://www.juliakinder.com/DownSyndromeCelebration/

    Please let me know if you would be willing to help get the word out.