Alright, let’s see if I can tell this story…
In North Carolina and possibly all over the USA, students with learning disabilities, disabilities, or special needs big or small have plans that help them test to the best of their abilities.
These plans can give more time, more breaks, separate testing accommodations, large print, read aloud Math and Science, things like that.
Much like IEPs, 504 plans are reviewed by a group of professionals (teachers, principal, etc.) and the student and their parent/ guardian.
Together we discuss improvements and set backs we’ve noticed during classes and during testing. The goal is to ultimately, take the child off the plan because they don’t need it!
I was invited to such a meeting by our school to talk about Student E’s abilities in class and during class. Student E has been lying. He or She told his or her parents (divorced) that I wouldn’t let Student E take home his or her instrument because… well I was never told why because he or she knew they had been caught. I informed mom that yes, Student E has their instrument lent to them for the entire school year. I can’t tell them to not bring it home. I can only ask for it back permanently (like for the summer) or for repairs. Mom loved that, let me tell you.
Once the grades were spoken about we got down to business. Student E’s accommodations for testing are as follows; Student must test in a different room from his or her peers, receive extended time on all exams, with a break of 3 minutes for every 30 minutes of testing, and that the accommodations are only adhered to for the EOGs/EOCs. Here’s the problem, new laws state that we now must be consistent. If Student E receives these benefits at all, they must be for all testing period.
Mom wants student E to eventually be taken off the 504 plan because she doesn’t want him or her to be dependent on these rules for his or her entire life. Extended time doesn’t actually exist in the real world. Her thought is to have Student E weaned off these accommodations. You see so far this year, Student E has been testing with his or her peers. Student E has been focused, able to complete the classroom exams in the allotted time, and make fairly good marks on them too.
However, that huge, passing to the next grade level test is, well, huge. What is he or she needs that extra hour, those breaks of time, and the separate setting? What if by taking away the plan too early, we end up harming the child’s chances for promotion to the next grade level?
“Certainly there must be a way to test this? He’s/ She’s been doing well all year, couldn’t we just take these upcoming benchmarks and treat it like a mock EOG. Then if he or she does well, we can take him or her off the 504 action plan.”
I thought it sounded reasonable. except….
“No, that’s against the law. In fact, now that the laws have been adjusted we are really here to strike out the last accommodation. Student E can no longer test with his or her peers ever, as long as he or she has this 504 plan. Every test, every class must be separate, alone, with 30 minutes of work and 3 minutes of break time.
But wait a second. How do we know if he or she is going to be ready to be off the plan unless we test it? Why can’t we test if Student E is ready to go it alone?
“Because that’s against the law.”
“So how will we know he or she is ready?”
“Ultimately, it’s up to mom and Student E.”
Student E thinks he or she is ready. Mom is not convinced. Mom really wants for us to do a test to see of he or she can last through a test without having problems.
“We can’t he or she must be tested the same in every class. Even a mock test would be a test and therefore he or she would have to be separated.”
“Surely not,” I protest, “Student E tests in Band with his or her peers. You are saying I have to test Student E alone?’
“How? I cannot just walk away from my class and test him or her and come back, that’s against the law too.”
“Someone else will have to test Student E for you.”
“So uh, who here is qualified to listen to Student E’s playing test, know what notes are correct, what notes are not, how his or her posture is supposed to be, intonation, dynamic style, if the rhythm in the song is played correctly? You can’t just decide it sounds good, there’s a lot more to it than that.”
Which gave everyone pause. I mean, who is qualified to say an art piece is good if they don’t understand the element of art being tested or, if a dance is correct if they’ve never taken dance? I cannot just decide something sounds okay and give a 100%. That’s not how it works.
“You’ll just have to lose some of your planning.”
I already loose some planning to my lunch period (which no other teachers except Encore has to), to lunch duty (to give the normal ed teachers a duty-free lunch (which again, isn’t fair because they receive a separate lunch and planning period), and usually I have to go take care of something that isn’t my duty like watching classes. Giving other teachers bathroom breaks because they see me in the hall (its my planning, I can be in the hall on the way to do work), watching students because someone needs me too, answering the phones in the office, meeting with parents when it clearly states I am to meet with them after school, and the list continues. So the idea was unpopular to say the least.
We decide there must be something…. strange in this. The idea of testing at a later date, or separately in classes is put on hold. What matters is that we make sure to document the meeting happened and take the notes to the chair of the 504 and EC departments. There, hopefully, they will decide about Student E’s testing rights.
As of now, all teachers are required to test the student as to their accommodations, including me, unless it’s a playing test. Then it “Doesn’t Count.” as a test.
Uh… thanks, I guess? Backhanded pronouncement, to be sure. Less than, always less than the others. What can I say? Why get board certified or extra titles if it will be thought of as “less” and “easy” to obtain because my work is “easy” to do and “less.”
Ah well. Such is life. Just all around not pleased in the situation, or how things were “resolved.”