Not Quite a Walk in the PARCC

Last night was a PCAB meeting down at North Avenue, to allow for more discussion about the way that the PARCC exams are going to be administered next month.  Most of our discussions have centered on whether or not schools are ready to administer the exams, whether our students are really ready, and the technology issues around the test itself, since parts of it are slated to be computer-administered.

Bear in mind that the Monster is not old enough yet to be taking the PARCC – he’s in first grade, and the test starts in third.  But one of the things they tout with the exam is that it has features built-in to allow for accessibility for students.

So I came to the session armed with a sheet that the wife had gotten somewhere along the way that talked about how not all IEP/504 accommodations are supported by the PARCC exam, and that parents should be ensuring that their students’ IEP/504 lists the appropriate accommodations needed to take the exam.  (This isn’t, for the record, to say that the PARCC doesn’t seem to do a good job itself of covering all the bases – from what I can see on the sheet, it’s a fairly good list.)  But as the session went on, there were only the most minor questions about that aspect of it… and so I decided to get up and ask the question.

“Are parents being provided a list of the potential accommodations for the PARCC when they’re preparing the IEPs and 504s so they can make sure that their child is properly accommodated?”

Simple yes/no question, right?

The answer that proceeded to follow detailed the fact that the IEP coordinators are having sessions about the accommodations that are available, and that they’re going to make sure of this and that… but the answer never quite got around to a simple “yes, they are” or “no, they aren’t”.

And then the other parents came out of the woodwork, pointing out that there was no answer to my question, that there’s no guarantee that the IEP teams are going to bring up the matter, that half the time, the parents aren’t even able to attend in person… and it was on, and on, and on.  After a few questions, the chair of PCAB pointed out to them that I’d asked a simple yes/no question that really could have been helped with a straight answer… and I pointed out that it would help if parents got a list of the accommodations available.

I did take the opportunity after the meeting to make sure that the presenters understood that I wasn’t intending for it to turn into an ambush, but that I have enough experience with the schools’ IEP coordinators not doing their jobs properly – that they don’t get information to parents in a timely fashion, or schedule meetings late, or the like – that I felt it necessary to ask the question.

But it does raise the question on how we’re making sure that every student does perform to their best on these standardized tests, and the steps we need to take to make sure that they’re being short-changed without intending to.

3 thoughts on “Not Quite a Walk in the PARCC

  1. Hello. Please be aware that you have the right and/or the school can suggest that your son not participate in statewide assessments. It is an IEP decision. This decision can change each time you have an IEP meeting, so depending upon how your son is progressing in school should drive your decision. Furthermore, you may want to contact Dr. Diane McKelvey at 443-642-4262 and discuss having your son observed by her or one of her staff members to determine if he would be a candidate for the specialized program that the school system has for students with autism that may be extended for elementary school students next year. Finally, as a former special education specialist for the school system who has previously attended your son’s IEP meetings this past year, I would welcome the opportunity to communicate with you in order to make certain that your son receives the services that would benefit him. Thank you.

    • I appreciate the suggestions. The wife and I are planning on contacting Dr. McKelvey, among other options we’re thinking about for the Monster for next year. And we’ll definitely reach out to you as well – we appreciate all that you did this year to try to help him succeed.

      • Hello. The short answer to your question is no, as IEP chairs are currently struggling with how this assessment relates to what is currently written on the IEPs for students. Please reach out to Wendy Barnes who is a coordinator in my former office. She can share with you the following information:

        1. the accommodations that are available to all students;
        2. the accommodations that are available only to students with disabilities; and,
        3. the accommodations that are no longer allowed for this assessment.

        Her phone number is 443-642-4259. I hope this helps you.

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