So the other night I attended a parent's association meeting at Buddy Boy's school. The majority of the meeting was taken up by the teachers explaining April's upcoming statewide test, which is mandated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act.
Now Buddy Boy is in the first grade, and these tests don't start in our state until the third grade, but it was interesting to sit there and listen nonetheless.
Two thoughts came to mind as I pondered what was being said. First, it was obvious to me that the test was going to be very challenging for a lot of kids on the spectrum (especially mine). The test is written, long, contains a lot of 3 step instructions, and there is no assistance or directions allowed from the teachers once the test has begun.
I can just imagine Buddy Boy, who has a lot of ADHD type symptoms, sitting and filling out part of the first page. Before he even gets to the second page I can easily imagine him getting distracted by something (how the paper smells, what kind of design the cover has, etc., and zoning out for the next couple of hours until they tell him to turn in his book. Without someone prompting him to answer the next question, I just don't think the test will reflect what he knows. Also, while Buddy Boy can write, his writing tends to be slower than his peers and takes a lot of his energy. Again, sub-par writing skills may lead to significantly under representing how much knowledge he really has.
Now, Wrightslaw,which I usually respect and pay attention to, seems to feel that NCLB will make schools stand up and take kids with disabilities seriously. Also, this site seems to agree with that sentiment. But it seems to me that unless a LOT of accommodations are made for special ed kids (and I can't see them doing that when they're testing large groups of kids at once, then a lot of our kids are not going to test well at all on these tests, and may be left further behind than otherwise.
There's another potential problem that I see with how all this is done. The school very obviously "teaches to the test", and devotes the vast majority of their manpower from after the winter break until the test to drilling kids for the test throughout the school. What this meant this past year, when Buddy Boy was in Kindergarten, was that the bare minimum of people were in his class for several months last year, as any available aids were pulled to help tutor/drill the classes that were going to be tested. You see, our school district actively opposes "paras" for individual kids, and instead uses what I refer to as a "zone defense", where they will have one or two aides per 5-7 kids. Since the aides are not assigned to a particular child, the school is free to assign them "temporarily" where they are most needed (such as drilling kids in grades 3 thru 5 for the upcoming test).
I imagine that any available personnel from the first and second grades were pulled, too, as neither of those grades were being tested. So for up to 4 months of the school year, the Kindergarten, first, and second grades are short shrifted teachers and aides. While NT kids may do all right with this, I feel certain that this led directly to increased meltdowns in class last year for Buddy Boy, because there were less people around to redirect him when he was in the early stages of having a problem in the classroom. This then resulted in less time learning for him, and him falling progressively farther behind. If it weren't for all the time my wife spends tutoring him outside of class he would be far behind academically.
So the bottom line is that my mind is not at all made up about this. I think that NCLB is a good idea in theory, and could indeed result in more attention paid to kids with disabilities. But the devil is in the details, and I'm somewhat anxious as to how this is all going to pan out.
And now, I draw the line on this blog
5 years ago