Thursday, September 6, 2012

My first PPT (Planning & Placement Team meeting)

There were a lot of people in that room. The principal showed up and ran the meeting, rather than the assistant principal as indicated on my notice letter. Also present were E's Language Arts/Science teacher, a Speech Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist and her intern, the school Psychologist, and the schools Educational Diagnostician and her intern.

I guess it could have gone worse. The principal was pleasant enough, and did her job as required, but the but she was definitely aloof. “I hope you don't pull him out” actually came out of her mouth at one point, so my guess is that her experience with homeschoolers in the past has not been good. (Yes, homeschoolers may use up a lot of your time and resources by putting our special ed kids in school until they are brought to grade level, but hey, I pay my taxes too.) It was extremely subtle, and others might have missed it, but I didn't.

Overall the vibe in the room was good. It was a pleasant surprise to walk into a room of so many people all focused on my kiddo. It was a relief actually, to know that his education no longer falls directly on my shoulders alone. But wait, yes it does. Because I'm the one who has to be sure that his needs are being met. And so far that means waiting.

He's been in school for eight days now. In that time his Language Arts teacher had him read quietly in the back of the room with her, as she does with all her students this time of year. She said he got 75% of his words correct, reading an 8th grade level book that he had brought to school to use for silent reading. She noted that his tendency is to leave off the ends of words (suffixes, etc.), but was pleased to see that he does attempt to use phonics when approaching new words. She is going to suggest he choose a silent reading book that is easier for him, since silent reading is supposed to be at his "independent reading level".

"Independent reading level" is the highest level at which a reader has adequate background knowledge for the topic, and can access text very quickly and with very few errors. Think of independent level as the highest level you would ask a child to read without help. Click here for specific grade level criteria.

"Instructional reading level" is the highest level at which a reader is not independent, but has adequate background knowledge for a topic, and can access text quickly and with no or few errors. Think of independent level as the highest level you would ask a child to read with only a small amount of assistance. (1)
Also during those eight days, she had someone test him briefly, using something called a D.R.A:
The Developmental Reading Assessment, Second Edition (DRA2), is an individual reading assessment designed to assess students’ reading performance... The DRA2 provides teachers with information that helps them determine students’ independent reading level and identify what the student needs to learn next. (2)
E read a 5th grade passage (about octopuses) and made one error. He answered 10 comprehension questions correctly, and he read 100 words per minute (average speed for 5th grader is 120-150 words per minute according to the state of Utah). (2) He used two vocabulary words that surprised the teacher, but not me, since science is a topic he loves and remembers. She said that the next test would be on a topic he's not as familiar with, for example, a biography.

Conclusion: E can read orally, and has good comprehension, at a 5th grade reading level. The principal was very pleased to hear this since he is in 6th grade, but knowing he should be in 7th, I was not all that thrilled, especially since he is very behind on his fluency (speed). Still, it's a year beyond where I thought he was.

He was also very briefly tested for math, using KeyMath, but only had time for
If you look at the dictionary definition of 'numeration,' you find three concepts listed. The first is the process of counting or naming numbers. Second is the system of writing numbers. The last is the method of calculating (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) (3)
In this area he was "5th grade average" or "10 years, nine months". I was glad to hear it presented as age as well as grade, since he is 12.

So this is what they've managed to determine in eight days of school. And now they want another six weeks to do additional informal testing to determine if the evaluations I want are required. The principal seems to feel that if it becomes necessary, the reading intervention program they have (I forgot to write down the name - argh) can help without having to get evaluations.

I understand that E has no records for them to refer to, but I'm still frustrated that they are dragging their heels. The Speech and Language Evaluation that I had paid for and included with my request for special ed states recommendations for "psycho-educational testing, and occupational therapy assessment", but
The school district must consider the results of any independent educational evaluation, including the one you pay for, when making decisions regarding your child’s educational program. However, the school district is not required to agree with or implement any or all of the results or recommendations of the independent educational evaluation". (4)
Also interesting was the fact that the principal said that we want to focus on what E can do and not concentrate on what he can't (he has not "officially" been diagnosed) and don't want to label E with something that will follow him. I think she was mighty surprised that I responded with a firm "Of course we do. He's going to be dyslexic all his life, it doesn't go away, and he's got to learn how to seek accommodations for it throughout his entire life." One of the other things I responded with along the way (although I don't remember to what) was "Dyslexia effects all areas of one's life, not just reading and math", to which all the other attendees responded by nodding their heads. So the principal either knows very little about dyslexia, or she's faking it. Either way, she represents a hurdle.

So now I wait for six weeks; end of October. In the meantime, I want to sit down and craft a letter to the principal "confirming" what I understood to be the end agreement of our meeting.

He will be evaluated. Or they will ave a tornado on their hands.


Monday, August 27, 2012

My 12 year-old’s first day of school (ever)

Such a tumble of thoughts. Am I doing the right thing for him? Is it really the right thing for me? I started out sending him because I was at my wits end and needed a break. Is this still the case, or have I really managed to convince myself that it's for him?

He's dyslexic. In the extreme. School is going to be challenging for him. He is terrified. And so am I.

I know I need a break. I've told him that he deserves to have a mother who is not always so stressed about the pressure of having his whole education in her hands. A mother who is patient again, and not tense all the time. A mother who can help him with his frustrations, rather than yelling back at him.

Perhaps the school will actually help? Frankly, I'm an ultra anti-school person (check out some of my favorite quotes on school here) so I've been having trouble convincing myself that that is the case. However, deep down, I do hope that the school can help improve his reading in a way I haven't been able to. I just don't feel like I have the fortitude to do all the hard core remediation that is necessary right now. But I have concerns that the school won't do it either. I'm afraid that by 6th grade they are teaching coping skills and not reading skills in special ed. Time will tell.

They wouldn't just test him for an IEP on my word, so they are keeping him in regular classes for a week and a half to observe him. I meet with a group of people on September 6th to discuss testing. Originally I was pretty upset to wait so long to discuss testing him; he'll be in school for quite some time before he actually gets an IEP in place. But now that I've had time to think on it, I know it makes sense for the teachers to have the opportunity to observe and assess him. And since he clearly needs IEP, it will be nice to have them assisting me on getting his needs met. Hopefully I won't feel alone in advocating for him.

I hope he is doing well right now. The amount of guilt I feel is overwhelming. I can't help feeling like I've let him down. Intellectually I know that's not the case, but heart-wise I'm otherwise.

I searched for some reading on the subject after the bus pulled away this morning, and came across this:

A crucial part of making a smooth transition to public school is for the parents to have a positive and upbeat attitude. Reassure your children that they will do well in school and that it will get easier each day. If you are anxious and tearful, your children will be the same way! I had to really put up a brave front for my daughters during their first couple of weeks in public school. I held it together each morning while they were getting ready for school, and then I would cry as soon as I pulled away from the school.
It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there crying over the transition from homeschool to school.