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Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh My!

Posted Mar 16 2012 10:05pm
Sweaty palms, dry mouth, nervousness in the pit of your stomach. It's not only the feelings you feel when walking into an IEP meeting, but what your 9 year old feels walking into the dreaded End of Grade (EOG) Assessment! Can you imagine? Playing with your superheros, combing your My Little Pony's pink mane one minute, the next being told that if you don't pass this test you will FAIL THIRD GRADE!! None of your hard work matters if you don't get a "3" on this exam!

Perhaps you have been sitting in an IEP meeting when the teacher says to you, the parent, "I can't give all these accommodations, he won't pass the EOG tests!" Or how about "If your child leaves the classroom to go to the EC room at that time he will miss test-taking skills in my classroom!" Even better, "She won't be able to go to 5th grade if she doesn't pass the Reading part of the EOG." Lastly, "If I modify the work for his disability, how is he going to pass the Writing Exam?" To these teachers I say, "learn the law, stop bullying children and parents and please, leave my child behind."

No Child Left Behind was the brain child of the Board of Education to monitor children's progress in schools. It was initially mandated to monitor our status in Global Education to show that ALL American children are smart, and more importantly, smarter than other nations. What this law has done instead, was create a generation of stressed-out test takers that place information into their short-term memory in order to pass a nonsensical test. They complete this task in order to demonstrate that the teacher did teach the State-generated components of the assessment long enough for the child to regurgitate the information.

What is even more fun are the nine-week assessments that the students are forced to take to show that the teacher is teaching congruently to the State-developed curriculum calendar. Humorously, the State Board of Education includes in the nine-week assessment information which isn't included on the nine-week calendar of information to be taught that quarter, but is included in the next nine weeks' curriculum. This gives the teachers the feeling of complete failure and doubt when they look at the assessment and see that they haven't taught 80% of the material yet. Even more fun is the students' feeling that they have failed before they even finish because they haven't seen the information before and have no clue what they are doing. Ah, this is where the teaching test-taking skills come into practice -- the trusty 50/50 and process of elimination and guesstimation come into play! Joy.

My last semester of teaching I had a lovely young boy with severe autism in my classroom. Actually, he was in the severe and profound classroom, but his IQ showed above average intelligence so I had the privilege of giving him his nine-week assessment. For three days his answer to EVERY QUESTION I read aloud was, "lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!" It became our thing. "If 1+2=3 then 3-1=???" Let me guess, "lions, and tigers and bears?" His response "oh my!" Sweet Boy and I had a good time for three days. Where were my regular students? They all completed the nine-week assessment in the library with another proctor and, after completing the work in record time, were sent back to the classroom to be with their "peers." I didn't get to teach my kiddos, but I did spend a great amount of time in Oz.

If a teacher says to you or your child that he/she will not advance to the next grade because they did not pass the EOG, they are lying. It's not the teachers fault, this is what they are told. I feel bad for the regular education teachers. I do. They are paid based on how their classroom performs during the school year. If their students don't pass, they don't get a bonus (the bonus is typically given to the school that shows growth). 

Here's a fantastic problem my school encountered in my last two years of teaching. We had 98% passing rate for our EOG's! Guess what happened... we couldn't go up to 100%. We went down (gasp!) to a treacherous and demeaning 95% passing. We lost our bonuses because we declined and didn't have a higher passing rate. I know what you are thinking-- was it because of my darling lions and tigers and bears kid? Did he take us over the edge of failure? No. We can't expect perfection all the time. Principals place so much stress on teachers to have their classroom pass that the teachers are as stressed out as the kids. 

I remember, clearly, being called into the Principal's office and seeing two third-grade teachers, whom I was supposedly "co-teaching" with, crying. Yes, they were crying, because they feared that my teaching style (of teaching to each child's learning style) would cause failure of the EC kids when it came to the EOG testing. Because I threw away (literally) textbooks and taught to each child's individual talents, skill set, and passions in life (lots of comic book creations going on that year), the hypothesis was that my students would not pass. This was in February. The EOG's are in April or May. Guess what? They all passed. The teachers received their bonuses and life as we know it moved on. The result of the meeting with the Principal, I had to use my precious instruction time to "co-teach" test taking skills. Didn't quite see that in the IEP's my kiddos had, and yet, there I was. Two days a week I taught "with" another teacher and lost time to teach to their individual goals.

As for my Wizard of Oz darling boy, he moved on to the next grade. Becuase of PL 94-142 (Public Law 94-142 states he has a right to free and appropriate education), he was integrated into the regular education classroom sparingly. It caused too much stress for him to deviate from his routine to be in a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Sometimes the LRE is restrictive if it promotes learning, structure and security. But we will save that for another time.

If you find yourself being confronted by a stressed-out teacher that is convinced that YOUR child will FAIL the EOG. Feel bad for her. Offer her a cookie or a brownie and a hug. Politely remind her that your child has an IEP. All he has to do is make advancements on the IEP, not the EOG. He/She only has to show growth in their grade to advance. Breathe. Your child will get there.

Now, meet me at the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat that Penny, Adrienne and Amy are organizing so we can work on your school experiences. Let's get you prepared for your IEP meetings. No more sweaty palms, questioning yourself or feeling nervous. Celebrate being a mother of a child with learning differences. Let's get you feeling like you "got this" with confidence in your place in the world. Do this, and I might let you pass to the next "grade".... the badge of honor, Confident MOM, Conqueror of IEP Meetings!
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