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Doing Your Homework:
Test Scores Dropping, School Doesn't Care - What Can I Do?

by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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Recently, I received my son's academic test results. He scored at the 2nd percentile in language arts (lowest ever). There were no scores for math. The report said he "either scored so low he could not be graded or he was not given the test."

Testing is the only way I know how my child is doing in school because his grades are inflated. I am angry. The school people don't care about my child. Who is responsible for this? What can I do?

Sue answers:

Although it is normal to feel angry and frustrated when your child needs help, this won't help your son in the long run. If you focus on who is to blame, you are likely to burn out before you develop a plan to solve his problems.

You need a game plan. Before you can develop a game plan, you need to gather information, manage your emotions, and do your homework.

Gather Information

Nicely, ask the case manager if your son took a make-up test. If he did not, then nicely ask the case manager "Why not?" Don't focus on who is at fault. After you talk to the case manager, say "thank you" and move on.

The things you need to focus on are:

* What information do you have about your child's progress or lack of progress?
* How can you collect this information?
* Once you have accurate information about his progress, how will you use use it?

A group standardized test is not a great way to measure a child's progress. How does the IEP say your son's progress will be objectively measured? This is the testing you need to focus on.

If the group achievement test was what the IEP team planned to use and the group test was not administered, ask the IEP team to use an individually administered educational achievement test to measure his progress. Make sure the test(s) selected will measure key academic skills - reading, writing, spelling, math.

Take another look at your child's IEP and answer these questions:

* Is the IEP based on complete, current testing?
* Does the IEP include all legally required components?
* Does the IEP follow the recommendations of the evaluators?
* Are the goals and objectives measurable?
* Are the objectives appropriate?
* If your child is not making progress, did the IEP team increase the intensity of instruction?
* Are the instructional methods research-based?
* Are his teachers trained in the research-based instructional methods that your child needs to meet the goals in his IEP?

Do Your Homework

I will give you a list of resources to study and steps to take. Read these items first.

Crisis! Emergency! Help!  Learn how parents damage their credibility and their child's case by assuming that they must DO SOMETHING!

Next, download and print these articles:

Tests and Measurement for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate and Attorney - To write IEP goals and objectives that are tailored to your child's unique needs, you need to learn how to interpret educational and psychological test results.

Guide to the Individualized Education Program
This publication from the U.S. Department of Education will teach you how to write IEPs that improve teaching, learning, and educational results.

Writing IEPs For Success - Frustrated with one-size fits all IEPs that are not tailored to the child's needs? Feel intimidated at IEP meetings? Dr. Barbara Bateman teaches you how to write IEPs that are educationally useful and legally correct.

This site, Find Information about 4000 Common Tests, will help you find information about tests that may be proposed by IEP team members.

Get a Comprehensive Evaluation

You need to get a comprehensive evaluation of your child by an independent evaluator in the private sector. A comprehensive evaluation will give you a roadmap for the future. Confused? Read Why Parents Should Get a Comprehensive Evaluation from an Independent Evaluator to learn about the benefits of a comprehensive evaluation.

To learn about evaluations, read these articles:

What You Should Know About Evaluations - As a parent, you must make sure that all areas of possible need are assessed as quickly as possible.

What to Expect from an Evaluation. A psychologist and literacy researcher walks you through the process of gathering information and participating in the evaluation process.

Factors to Consider when Selecting an Expert by Rosemary N. Palmer, Esq.

To find an evaluator, try these directories.

Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities Look for evaluators your state.

Find more information at Education-a-Must.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) can also help you find an evaluator. If your state branch of the International Dyslexia Association does not list evaluators on their website, call or email them for a list of evaluators near you.

You can also go to the
contact information page for the International Dyslexia Association. Choose the "Information and Referral" box, then ask for a list of service providers in your state. If you are near a state line, ask for service providers in your neighboring states.

Understand Your Role

When you started out as a member of your child's IEP team, you were a rookie. You missed opportunities to offer your input. You had less to offer than you do now.

After you do your homework by reading these articles about tests & IEPs and you get a comprehensive evaluation of your child, you may find problems with your child's IEP. The IEP may need to be changed to meet his needs and more closely follow the evaluators' recommendations.

The articles (above) will give you ideas about how to revise the IEP so it meets your child's unique needs and provides you and his teachers with objective information about his progress. Learn more about IEPs.

Remember, special education is a service, not a place. To reach his goals, your child may need to receive instruction from a teacher who has different certifications and training. To learn more, read Support For School Personnel and Parent Training -Often Overlooked Keys To Success.

Let Go of Anger & Blame

You need to do what is necessary to ensure that your child gets an appropriate education. You can't do this when you are focused on anger and blame. You must learn to manage your emotions and work with school staff as a team member. Although this can be difficult, your child is depending on you.

How do you let go of negative emotions? Read this article:

From Emotions  to Advocacy - The Parents Journey. Strong emotions cause parents to react, often with damaging results. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If you are having problems with the school, use your head.

As you learn effective advocacy skills, you will feel less powerless. As you feel less powerless, you will also feel less angry. Learn more about effective advocacy.


Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.


Copyright © 2002-2014 by Suzanne Whitney.

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