Brendan’s homework this weekend was to read for 20 minutes, with at least 10 of them being aloud. So, Sunday night Brendan and I worked together on his reading. I had him read aloud first. He struggled the entire 10 minutes. What I found interesting was that he would work (and succeed most times) at reading the large or difficult words, but then would mumble or skip over the small words in between. I stopped him many many times and had him go back and read the words he skipped. When I stopped him he was able to read the words, so it’s not like they’re words he doesn’t know. I realize it’s early in the school year still, and we weren’t as dilligent about reading aloud as we should have been over the summer, but it still seemed to me that he was struggling harder than he should have been for his age.
So I decided to email his teacher. I explained my concerns and asked for her input on his skill level. Since I had an email going anyway, I looked through the cirriculum for the year to see if there was anything else I wanted to ask about. There was. This year the students will be expected to participate in 3 different standardized tests. Standardized testing is something we’ve discussed many times with Brendan’s special ed team because he doesn’t have they dexterity to fill in the bubbles, and we are concerned he wouldn’t be able to read the questions quickly enough during a timed test. Last year they only took one, it was a math test, and it was done on the computer so the school didn’t provide any special accomodations. He scored a perfect 70/70 on it. Two of the tests this year will also be done on the computer and I think he will be okay for those, but the third test is a writing skills test. I remember taking the writing test in 8th grade and 11th grade, but I couldn’t remember what exactly they would grade on (I was worried that penmanship might be one of the factors, and again because of B’s dexterity his penmanship is awful–even compared to kids his own age) and I was concerned that it would be timed (he writes super slow).
I sent that email around 9:00 in the morning, right after I got home from dropping off Cameron at school. I expected to get an email the following day, or at best that evening. Well apparently she checks her email during the time the class is at specials and lunch because about 4 hours later I had a response. And now I remember why it is I love this teacher so much.
In just 3 days of school she had noticed the problems with Brendan’s reading as well, agreed with my assessment of the issue and was sending home a packet for us to work on at home each week. The packet is called Fluent by Friday, and it basically has the student practice the same passage over and over again during the week, so that by Friday they’re “fluent” in it. She did the same program with us in first grade and it seriously helped improve his reading skills. We liked the program so well we asked his second grade teacher if we could continue with it last year. She said that she didn’t feel Brendan needed to because he was able to keep up with his peers in reading…but then she scored him at a non-satisfactory in reading during third quarter last year. (I’m not bitter about that…not at all…grrrrrrrrrrr). So, one problem solved.
As for the assessment, she admitted she didn’t have the answers to my questions but would loop in his SpEd team and find out what we could and should do based on his needs. By the end of the school day I had my answers to this as well. It is not a timed test so he can take his time completing the work. They also do not grade penmanship (phew!!). They do have special paper to write on for this test however, and Brendan will be accomodated with larger paper to complete his work. Problem two solved as well.
I realize this is her job, and what she should be doing for my child. But in my experience her attitude and willingness to accomodate Brendan is the exception and not the rule. I admit, I email his teachers frequently. I’ll provide them an update of things we are seeing at home in case they bubble over into his school day, I’ll ask for an update on what they’re seeing at school to see if something there might be causing issues at home, if he’s struggling in any subject I’ll ask if there’s something I can be doing at home to assist him in succeeding. I’m a very involved parent, and in talking with some of my friends that teach I’ve found that is a very rare thing. But, except for this teacher, my constant communication has annoyed his teachers. I would think more of them would be grateful to have a parent partner with them in the education of their child.
I guess I’m just old school.