Sep 19, 2011 0 Share

Eye Off the Ball


Hand reaching out to catch baseball.
iStockphoto

Can't a mom get a break? I worked so hard to find a proper placement for my son, I thought I could rest on my laurels for just a second. When my family and I repatriated, I spent the final months before the move researching schooling options. There was a short list that became even shorter after trial visits. One clear choice presented itself, and I was pretty confident with the decision. I was further vindicated in my choice by having the local school district make initial placement at my chosen school. No due process hearing. Yay me!

We have three years down at this school and I realize I have pretty much been coasting since the decision to enroll him. One might even say I took my eye off the ball. At my son’s son's IEP/eligibility meeting his sophomore year, I happened to notice his eligibility “expired” in two years. (This is where you'd hear sound of the needle being ripped from the record player.) Somehow, my son—who reads at the 4th grade level on a good day—had a target graduation date already set, and he had somehow miraculously caught up the year he repeated kindergarten. This is a "regular" diploma program we're talking about, not modified, not a certificate of completion.

I have often pondered when reviewing my son’s report cards, full of mostly A's and B's, who is actually being assessed by these grades? If a student with learning disabilities can't earn a decent grade, does that mean that the IEP wasn't followed closely enough, or accommodations weren't extended in all circumstances? With so many students, each having an IEP, meaning individualized strategies for every student, how is a special ed teacher to keep up? If a student is failing, won't that reflect poorly on teaching abilities? Is it in a teacher's best interest to report good grades, regardless of performance by the student? 

Skeptic that I am, I decided it was time to push up my sleeves and see what was really going on. I’ve prided myself on allowing my son to take ownership of his academic life as he entered high school, but now I find myself walking a fine line between pushing my son to be more independent at school and being the helicopter mom, hovering over his shoulder, checking every homework assignment. I realize that certain things are out of my control, and I need to focus my energy where it is most effective. Worrying about each and every assignment and assessing his comprehension of the curriculum is not something I can do on a daily basis. What I can do is build in day-to-day activities that provide me with feedback of how he is doing. For instance, I cut out a (very short) article from the newspaper each day and attach one or two questions to it. This has shown me how challenging it is for my son to draw inferences. As I learn tricks to getting him over these hurdles, an email goes straight to school. I’m not trying to do the teachers’ jobs, but trying to keep an open dialogue on what’s working. I’m not only keeping my eye on the ball, but I’m keeping my position on the field as well. I hope my teammates are with me!