ARD Meeting Success

Yesterday’s ARD meeting at the school was certainly a success. I went in feeling a bit nervous because ARD meetings are notorious for being arduous (ARDuous!) and frustrating for parents, plus my limited past experience with these meetings at the preschool level was excruciatingly negative. But I soon found myself at ease in the tiny conference room with my husband and I and 10 school professionals squeezed amiably side by side.

I got to know Mrs. Teacher a little bit and was very impressed with her. She’s older, possibly in her sixties, short of stature but not frail, and has short, stylish magenta-red hair. She reminded me a bit of Sharon Osbourne. While explaining her qualifications, she told us that in the past she’s worked for years in a special classroom for emotionally disturbed children, she’s worked in the life skills setting for many years, and she even taught in a prison for several years. She’s not a woman easily daunted.  I feel confident she will be able to handle Javan just fine.

Some grading and testing information was discussed. As far as report card grades, she explained that they can’t give grades higher than 85 in the life skills class, because since it’s a modified curricula it wouldn’t be fair to say that they did 100% of fourth grade work or some such. So an 85 will be the same as a 100. I wasn’t crazy about that but I really don’t give a hoot about number grades anyway.

I was very happy though about plans for testing. Javan will be exempt from all district testing. He will not, however, be exempt from state testing. In Texas, that’s the dreaded STAAR test. At first my stomach dropped hearing that he’d be expected to complete that awful test. But then they said he qualifies to take the alternate STAAR test, which I’d never even heard of. It’s a very simplified version of the test, pared down to only 24 questions on 6 different topics and students are given 2 weeks to complete the test. So two or three questions a day will get it done. And the test doesn’t look much different than what they’ll already be used to doing in class, so they might not even realize they’re being tested. I looked up a sample of the alternate testing from the Texas Education Agency website and was relieved to find that the questions would fit Javan very well. Each question involves a large picture and teacher’s can read aloud questions and answers to students. Then the student can respond verbally or by pointing to the correct answer. Here’s an example from the teachers guide for the test:

Screenshot_2016-02-05-10-47-26

So in this example, the teacher would say, “These are living organisms. Find a characteristic that us true for all living organisms.” The teacher would then read aloud each of the three answer choices while pointing to each one, and the student would point to or say the correct answer. Javan can do do that! What a relief for me, as state testing was one of my primary concerns with public schooling.

They also addressed my concern about why his IEP goals were listed as needing only a 50% success rate. I asked why it was set so low because I’d expect a much higher percentage of accuracy to call a concept “learned.” Mrs. Angel agreed and confided that they actually do expect a higher accuracy than that before they move on to the next concept. However, the accuracy requirements for general education students is 70% to be passing, so if they set Javan’s requirement at 70% or higher, the state would look at the paperwork and say “Then why not just put him in general education?” Ok, so it’s just a thing on paper to get him what he needs. I’m cool with that.

Other positives from the meeting: the life skills room has a 4:7 teacher/student ratio, and Hubby and I will get individual parent training at a minimum of 90 minutes a month plus occasional workshops and tons of online training.

Really the only negative I thought was that no extended services are being offered throughout the summer. I really thought they’d said that was being offered, but I guess it’s not. I don’t know how I feel about him having the entire summer off. The one time we tried that in homeschool, he forgot nearly everything he’d learned the previous year. I guess we’ll just see how it goes and if he backslides over summer break, maybe he’ll qualify for extended services next summer.

So, Javan officially becomes a public school student Tuesday! I’m so excited and nervous for both of us. More excited than nervous,  at least most if the time. This transition will not be easy, but hopefully it will be worth it. If you think about praying for Javan Tuesday morning at 9, that’s when his “bus” arrives to pick him up.

This weekend will be full. We need to go clothes and shoes shopping, due to a sudden growth spurt, as well as school supply shopping. And we’ll need to wrangle him up and hog tie him for a hair cut. Wish us luck!

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