So, my hairdresser told me today that her son's highschool RSP teacher/case manager told him that "if you want to go to a 4 year college, you should try to NOT use any of your [IEP mandated] accommodations?" I think the look on my face gave away what I thought of that comment but, as others didn't get to see that look of horror, and they may be getting the same advice, this is what you need to know:
IEP Accommodations are NOT bad for you! And, for almost all kids, they are actually not only necessary but good for them!
So, what was the RSP teacher/case manager actually doing? Well, I don't want to speculate but there is NO VALID REASON not to use necessary accommodations. NONE. (excuse the triple negative!) Your child's grades will not be flagged. There will be no note on his/her transcript that he/she was a student with a disability. When your child applies to college, there is no mandatory disclosure or even a box to check. You tell a potential college NOTHING about a child's status as a child with a disability until he/she is accepted. Then you can apply for accommodations at college.
And, here is the other side of the accommodations picture. If your child has extended time on his/her IEP and does not use it, he/she could later be denied an accommodation of extended time for high stakes testing like the SAT or ACT (or LSAT or MCAT or GMAT). So, your child should be told that if he or she has extended time, to use it so that there is a record of need. And, of course, they may actually do better if they take the extra time to re-read each question, to read it OUT LOUD to themselves to listen to it while they are reading (a great strategy), and to focus clearly on the answers (if multiple choice) and cross out any that they know are wrong and really hone in on what is the right answer. I had to prove to my own son how much better he did with extended time so that he would use it. What was his issue? He saw everyone else finishing early so he would get anxious that they would think he was dumb so he would just turn it in without thinking. He did NOT want to go to the resource room for testing (and that is a student's right - they can still get extended time by agreement - my son would finish the test in his general education classroom and write "extended time" on the top and they would send it down to resource and he would finish it in his study skills time.). If your child will go to the resource room, that is good practice as they will be required to do that in college. And the resource room is quiet, there is no pressure from seeing other kids finishing too quickly, and so getting the student the best results may include going to the resource room.
So, if your RSP teacher/case manager has told your child NOT to use his accommodations or is trying to give backward guilt "Do you really need this accommodation for this test", etc., or is telling you that "Johnny did not ask for extended time this test", etc., these are generally all code for someone who simply doesn't want to have to deal with the student coming to their class for testing. As a parent, until the child is 18, you can preempt all of this and just email all teachers and the RSP and say "My son/daughter has an accommodation for extended time and small group/quiet environment for testing". For anything other than a quick vocabulary test (or any brief 5 minute type test), he should go to the learning center for all testing. This is not an optional accommodation. He needs the extended time and quiet environment and if you ask him, he will think you are trying to make him feel bad so will say he doesn't need them and he does (and will continue to need them for college so he needs to get used to the process of going to the learning center now)."
So, you can dictate it or just call an IEP meeting and bring your child and make sure they know "He is going to the learning center for all tests". Tape the meeting. Don't be hoodwinked by comments like "don't you want him to fit in" or to "stay with his peers" or whatever they are saying. The extended time was included on the IEP for a reason.
Now, what about those short tests? Or, pop quizzes? The reality is that if your child has anxiety of any type, these may be even more compelling for the accommodation and more challenging for teachers to accommodate. You need to know from the teachers if there will be any such tests so that they know that your child's accommodations apply to those tests as well. My son has had extended time and small group testing for his entire educational career and now is in law school. He had a teacher who gave a pop quiz and my son had no idea what to do. He took the quiz and when class was over, went and spoke to the Dean. In Law School, the teachers have no idea if you have accommodations and it is all very hush-hush. By now, my son could care less who knows he has an accommodation and if it makes things easier for everyone, he just discloses. But, that is not the process for law school. There was a meeting with the Dean and the professor and she agreed that there was no real need for a "pop" quiz - she agreed to give notice on Monday if there was a quiz on Wednesday. One copy of the quiz then went to the Dean and my son showed up 15 minutes before class and took it in a separate room. They were 15 minutes quizzes so he got 30 minutes - 15 minutes before class and the 15 at the start of the class and then he returned to class and missed none of the instruction. Yes, the teacher knew because he was never there during the quizzes and when a classmate asked, he just said "I have an accommodation for testing in a different environment" and it was much ado about nothing.
So, yes, it requires schools to actually treat each student as an individual and meet the student's needs. This may be a pain in the butt for a typical RSP teacher in highschool. But, it is important for your students to get used to taking their time. Testing is more important in high school if for no other reason to get you ready for college testing which is very important. Taking time is a learned skill. Remind your student that the tortoise did win the race.
Finally, if you have a 9th grader with extended time, ask your RSP case manager to apply NOW for College Board accommodations for your student so they are in place by the time they take the PSAT (some schools have students take a practice PSAT in 9th and 10th grade). They generally start the process by filling out the paper work and then the parent just signs. The accommodations requested should replicate what is on the IEP - and if the amount of extended time is not on the IEP, they should put (time and a half or double time - whatever is needed. If your student has a word processing accommodation for essays or written output, that needs to go on the request for accommodations. It is the "best" accommodation for the SAT as it probably will get you a separate room which is a much quieter environment. If you just have extended time, you still go to the big high school, in a room with 100 or more other kids with extended time and it is daunting. My son had double time and a computer and he took it at his local school in the RSP room with one other student. Much more amendable to his needs! Once your accommodations are completed for the College Board, they apply for all College Board testing (PSAT, SAT and AP). You will have to separately apply for ACT accommodations junior year, but only after the student registers for an ACT test.
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