Son failed big assignment - need advice

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by svengandhi, Jun 4, 2009.

  1. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I apologize at the outset because my son's issues are at the opposite end of the usual spectrum and please, I don't want to seem like I am bragging - it's just background.

    My 14 year old son is a 9th grader. He has been classified since pre-school, first with speech and language and in grade 3, he was changed to ED. He essentially has a school-based anxiety disorder along with a disorder of written expression. With much hard work, we have gotten him to a point where he is doing well in school. His major issue was that he would rather fail than admit he had trouble with something.

    He is in Honors Biology, a college level course, and earned B+, A and B+ for the first 3 quarters. He had an A average until this assignment and in his last review session for the SAT 2 in Bio (like the old SAT Achievement tests) he earned a 780 out of 800. This is a multiple choice test. His IQ was tested at 137 and he was deemed to have not been fully cooperative on that test. His labs and HWs are up to date and his class participation is good.

    The main project for quarter 4 was a research paper. In years past, parents apparently wrote these papers for their kids (I live in a very highly competitive SD) so this year the task was changed to require students to write the paper, without their research articles and with only the notes they could put on an index card, in the computer lab. My son was reluctant and handed in one part late so he had only earned 19/30 points before the writing portion began.

    He sat in front of the computer for the full period and did not write. Needless to say, he failed.

    We appealed to the school and they have declined to give him an alternate assessment. I have requested an emergency CSE meeting and came here for advice.

    His IEP states that he has great difficulty with writing and that he sometimes in unable to do assignments that are novel or in a format he is unfamiliar with. He is a very poor typist and does not use the computer at all to this point. He failed computers in grade 8 because he could not do a Power Point and refused to hand in the one I did for him because he said it was cheating (class did not count for HS credit). His IEP also states that he is of superior intelligence and needs to be challenged, which is how we got him into Honors in the first place.

    I want him to be able to write this assignment at home. Frankly, I can't even understand his research so there's no way I could help him out and unlike the computer class, this one does count and it would be cheating to help him.

    The school says all of the students have to be treated equally. I disagree and think that his IEP and his classification allow for modification of an assignment. It is common knowledge that he has this issue. In the first quarter, he failed Health(!) because he could not get up and share his feelings with the class. His teacher modified his asssignments after that and only required him to hand in his paper but not to publicly share it and his grade went to an A.

    The stakes in my SD are very high and the competition is very intense. I am not asking for him to be given a pass but merely for his playing field to be level. It is clear from his grades, etc. that he grasps the material (unlike many other kids, he does NOT have a teacher from an adjoining district tutoring him).

    This is a child who last year I was afraid would be in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC). He has come SO far (he is also in honors math and will be taking AP History next year and was selected to be an Intel participant, he is on the chess team, etc.) and he is college bound. I don't want to see his transcript trashed because of his disability.

    Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks in advance for even reading this lengthy post.

  2. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    1 - The law states "Fair and Appropriate Public Education".
    2 - The IEP states that accommodations must be made for this child.
    3 - The school stating that all students must be treated equally is specifically denying a FAPE for the child and thereby breaking the law.

    The emergency meeting is a great idea. I would also inform the school, in writing, that as accommodations have been agreed upon in the IEP, they must honor their agreement. If he has issues with writing (so does my son), something must be done to allow him to complete the assignment in an evnironment in which he feels more comfortable writing. If they don't like it, go to the Board of Education. Take it up the ladder till it's made right. Because they are cheating your son.

  3. eekysign

    eekysign New Member

    If this was true, in the way that the SD was using the term, an IEP would be meaningless.

    Oh, you're deaf? Well, you can't have a version of this lecture as a text, that wouldn't be fair. Oh, you're blind? Well, you certainly shouldn't have anything read to you. How silly, Sven, for you thinking that your poor boy's disabilities might get in the way of his education occasionally. Boy, it's a good thing parents like you can't get....some sort of individual education help their children be SO UNFAIR to the other kids. Gee.

    AGHGGH. This kind of response from the SD makes me furious. Set up a meeting. It's even IN his IEP? Agh. *hugs* to you.
  4. house of cards

    house of cards New Member

    If you don't find success with a new IEP meeting, I'd try speaking with the director of special needs, then the principle and then the school board. I think you have a very valid reason and IEP starts with idividual so don't believe the "we have to treat them all the same bull". I'll be thinkinggood thoughts for you and ds.
  5. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Unless your son has an IEP, no special accommodations are required to be made.

    Ask for an evaluation via IDEA regs to see if he is eligible for an IEP. If you do not agree with-the sd findings for any reason, request an IEE.

    Kids at extreme ends of functioning are difficult to get help for. I know. My son's ability ranged from 3 yrs old to 26+ yrs old at one time..... Sd just couldn't understand why he excelled at X but couldn't do Y.....
  6. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for your input and encouragement. I have been scheduled for a CSE on June 23 and am formulating my strategy which I would like to present to you for advice, comment, etc.

    To summarize: My son, formerly known as difficult child 1, is 14 and just finished 9th grade. He has been classified on an IEP since K. In grade 3, he was changed from speech and lang to ED with a school based anxiety disorder. After grade 6, a "disorder of written expression" was added.

    He failed an assignment in his Honors Biology class which required him to do research out of school, submit articles to the teacher and then come to class one day and using only an index card of notes, type a research report on the computer. He was unable to do it and failed. He sat there, shut down, and wouldn't even answer his teacher (this was his MO, he was deemed ODD because he shut down and wouldn't respond).

    His IEP acknowledges that he experiences anxiety with "novel situations" (a direct quote) and that he requires support in the areas where he experiences anxiety. My intention is to ask that he be retested with an oral examination to ascertain his knowledge of the subject or that the two research essays he did at home over the year be averaged and that score used as his grade for this project. He got a 72 on the first essay at home, so it's not like I am looking to get him an A for this project. I just don't want him to get screwed over.

    Am I out of line to think that INDIVIDUALIZED means that the school should, within reasonable limits, accommodate a child's specific learning needs? If my son needed to scribe this essay, he could have done that. If he needed to have someone color in the circles on a Scantron that could be done. If he needed his articles read to him, that could be done. Just because his need is not an ordinary one or one that is frequently seen, doesn't mean his need isn't there. Is it unreasonable to ask a teacher to spend a period with a child listening to him explain his research, asking followup questions and determining if he had the requisite understanding of the material? Adults defend masters' theses and doctoral dissertations in oral argument so I think it's an appropriate solution for an honors student whose testing shows superior abilities in verbal thought and expression with deficits in non-verbal expression, including the physical ability to write or keyboard.

    Am I on the right track? Am I out of my mind to think that my son has a right to be given an alternative assessment or should I just accept his failure on this project? He doesn't know we have this meeting coming up. He told me: "Mom, I just couldn't do it, I don't know why. I am just going to take my failure, I failed."

    Thanks again for all of your help.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Your sons problems are similar to my oldest sons though he could have probably typed something. My oldest son has a disability in written expression too. Teachers dont even want to have to decipher anything that boy has handwritten!

    I would be making a complaint too. I think your IEP leaves it open to interpretation that this would be a valid use for Individualized need.
  8. dadside

    dadside New Member

    Based just on what you wrote here, it is not clear that the teacher failed to follow IEP-specified accommodations – because there was no mention of a particular accommodation for the thing at issue. It does seem that the intent of the IEP as well as your son's particular needs could have been given better consideration. I don't know that the law would require that every class requirement, such as typing a paper, be modified if your son couldn't meet them though. Still, an accommodation at this point seems in order and need not go against the high standards of an advanced class.

    That your son “has great difficulty with writing and that he sometimes is unable to do assignments that are novel or in a format he is unfamiliar with” indicates an area of concern, but doesn't require “everything” be modified to accommodate his disability so that he can get “top” grades – or even necessarily that he get to take every class of interest. The point is that I think you need to proceed cautiously, although with determination. You are looking for a technical modification of the way by which he can demonstrate what he has learned and how well he can express that. You are not looking for a lowering of the standard of subject mastry to be demonstrated for a given grade.

    Certainly, at the 6/22 meeting you should see that changes are made to his IEP so that any similar situations in the future will be covered – perhaps by letting him write (rather than type) the paper, even giving extended time and/or different space to do so. Preparing the paper at home seems out of the question to me though, notwithstanding your personal knowledge or lack of knowledge on the subject. (Also, simply as a matter of the world today, you should seek help for him in typing and computer issues. Those might reasonably be part of an IEP and the school's services.)

    I think that the paper/report and resulting grade (and course grade) may take the principal's direction to the teacher or maybe even the Superintendant's direction downstreamed to get changed. I doubt that the CSE can do what it takes on that now past matter. If not successful at that level, I'd certainly take the matter up the line as Wise Warrior suggested.
  9. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member


    We did not prevail at the CSE but he managed to get a B+ for the quarter and the year anyway. Had he passed this assignment, he'd have had an A for the year. He got a 98 on the Regents' exam and a 720 on the Bio SAT 2.

    He says he's learned his lesson and will seek help if he ever feels this overwhelmed by an assignment again.

    I appreciate all of the thoughtful comments and suggestions.

    Had I it to do over again, I would not have sought the CSE but would have just let him swallow it up, as was his desire.
  10. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    It is a good thing to hear that your son said he learned from this. That is a great outcome!

    But looking ahead, you may want to clarify a mod/accom in his iep in case something like this comes up again. My son has the same written expression issues and his iep calls for oral assignments in lieu of written and this is all decided upon by difficult child - in other words, if difficult child is comfortable, he can do it written (if he's not comforable, the anxiety begins to kick in and we have shut down). He also has access to "organizers and flowcharts" that were provided by the Occupational Therapist (OT) in our school system that help him organize his thoughts for writing - this was also put in his iep.