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.