Dear Teacher (ESP/Therapist),
This is not about how much we know you care about our children. We know you struggle with them (some days) and you never give up on them. It’s about the process in reporting their progress that hurts. It also doesn’t make sense.
How can a standard report card accurately state how my child (or any child with an intellectual disability) is doing in 4th grade?
Bridget is intellectually disabled on a very rigorous IEP. How can she reads/comprehends many types of texts independently with stamina? If she is reading on the EdMark system and not the standard 4th grade reading material? She is not even in the 4th grade ELA class, so I am sure you must thought to yourself it doesn’t even make sense to grade her in this class. Yet she got an “N” for not yet showing progress. Bridget, as much as it hurts to write this, will probably never access the grade-level material. She is exempt from MCAS and has to take the MCAS-Alt and still will not receive a high school diploma.
Because she is not in general ed.
Which is okay, until we are reminded by the school system that our child is not like the others. I got numerous messages from parents who have children with challenges that told me I am not alone. A few samples:
- X has trouble focusing on the topic (yes, this mother replied he has ADHD and an accommodation in his IEP for frequent redirection)
- X has an I on Responsible Decision Making (yes, this mother cried because he has autism and no sense of safety)
- I just received X first ever report card I am devastated
- These are pointless
- Pleasure to have X in the classroom (but, why? this mother asked me. He is nonverbal what does he do that is so special because that would brighten my day)
- X needs to show more effort (the dad replied don’t they realize it’s some days an effort that I get X on the bus?)
- X needs to return assignments on time (the mom asks do they read the IEP about extended time and frequent reminders?)
- X got an N (not yet demonstrating consistent progress towards grade level expectations) in reading (the mom wanted to say, well no X isn’t even making progress at the pre-K level, let alone grade 5!)
- X got an N (not yet demonstrating consistent progress towards grade level expectations) in uses the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems (the mom: X can only count to 15 they want her do perform operations?)
- For me the comment that started this whole discussion was in the area of “persevering through challenges” Bridget was not assessed. Hello? This girl never gives up! Before everyone jumps on the teacher, we adore them! I know this was unintentional and they would never imagine how this one (of the many) things on the report card struck me.
What was so rewarding about all of the above, is that not only did I not feel alone, not one parent blamed the teacher. Every message started with something like:
- I feel so bad for the teacher
- I wish the teacher did not have to waste their valuable time on this
- Who thought this was a good idea?
- Don’t teachers have enough to do?
- I know the teacher adores X and this must break her heart as much as it does mine
- Why are our kids report cards based on their work in the Special Education Room?
- I place more value on the progress report
We received the nicest note from Bridget’s special education teacher that accompanied her progress report. It stated that she acknowledged the report card we would see a lot of N or NA (not assessed) but that is because the report card cannot possibly capture the strides our children make.
On a daily basis.
On a daily basis, Bridget (and her peers) put more effort into learning than can be accurately measured. It is the system of making her teachers judge her progress based on the grade-level criteria that is the problem. They need to grade her on her IEP, not just in a progress note but in her transcript.
How do we change this?
Seriously if you have an idea comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Parents and teachers working together have always been the driving factor in creating equity in our schools. Help me change this inequity in the school system.