Parent Teacher Conference

by beagooddad on November 22, 2010

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Recently, we’ve had some concerns over what has been happening in Pookie’s ILP classroom. Like big, sucky concerns.

I have been swamped with school, life, and eating fast food to cope with it all so I haven’t been writing much but BeAGoodMom just told me that I need to write a post about the Parent Teacher Conference that I went to tonight. BeAGoodMom stayed home wrestling the monkeys plus two neighborhood monkeys. I probably had the easier job.

I showed up at about 3:45pm and we got started right away. I left at 5:30pm with them practically pushing me out the door. I think they understand a few things now.

1) I am not happy with the things that I have seen in the classroom.

2) I am not happy with their inability to answer my questions.

3) I am not going to stop bugging them about what their plans are to improve the situation.

This post might take a little while to read by the time I’m done. I’ll try not to use any profanity.

A couple weeks ago, BeAGoodMom visited the classroom on a Monday and I visited on a Tuesday. We both spent the entire day there and saw a lot of things that bothered me.

BeAGoodMom has been doing a good job of documenting most of our thoughts.

Through all of that, my biggest biggest thing that makes me want to punch walls is the amount of time that I watched kids wandering around with nothing to do. I brought it up several times in roundabout kind of ways and was constantly greeted with the magic mantra of Down Time. They are in the building for 6 hours. Half hour of lunch. Hour for recesses (2 – 30 minute ones). Idle time for about 15 minutes before they actually do anything and about 15-30 minutes after lunch where they don’t actually do anything are not part of that down time. I would say they effortless have 2 hours of “legit” downtime. 1/3 of the day everyday. That is not the downtime I am talking about.

I’m talking about downtime because they are not interested in cooperating with circle time or decided they weren’t going to do their worksheet or what have you. Pookie easily had another hour or more of that. So we are up to half the day of him being in Down Time.

During Down Time, both the official scheduled Down Time and the unofficial I don’t feel like doing this Down Time, Pookie wanders. Not in a, look at me I’m over here playing with this and whoa what is that let’s go over there kind of way. I mean he slowly shuffles around the room or playground, sometimes poking something, mostly just not doing anything. Looking bored. Looking lost. Looking confused.

I can barely say those last sentences without my blood pressure rising.

This whole thing started with a Behavior Intervention where they brought us in to discuss their plans for getting his behavior under control. Between the stimming on computers during Down Time and the looking lost most of the rest of the time, what do they expect?

I had several points during that day where I would just blurt out, “He doesn’t know what you are expecting him to do,” or “You are not saying that in a way that actually explains to him the goal, the beginning and how he’ll know he got to the end” or “I don’t know why he got that reward, there’s no way he does” or “Why did he get that reward when he didn’t do what you asked him to do.”

On the playground, I watched in amazement as he shuffled around the playground and nobody walked over to try to get him to swing or bounce a ball (that they don’t take outside with them) or to get him to play hopscotch or whatever.

Missed opportunities everywhere.

Anyway, enough about that. Today was the end of the 1st quarter Parent Teacher Conference. When I showed up the teacher, the social worker, and the director of the program were all there. I didn’t expect anybody except the teacher so we are off to a great start. I can be a lot more confrontational if I think the person I’m arguing with is well defended by their friends.

They gave me a couple fluff art projects like you always get at these kinds of things and then started going through his IEP and saying how he is doing on each of the items listed there.

One of the early bullet points was being able to use pronouns. He is Making Expected Progress. Bullshit. (you didn’t really think I would get through this without any profanities did you?). I pointed out that this particular item is on the list because I brought it up at the last IEP meeting. It is extremely important to me because I think it is one of his biggest barriers in reaching his next communication level. How can you have a conversation if you can’t hear someone say “Does he want to go to the playground with you?” and not be able to parse that and realize that the he is a friend names whoever and the you is Pookie? We work with him on pronouns quite a bit and haven’t found the way to make it work yet.

They haven’t either. But he is Making Expected Progress.

So I said, “What exactly does is Expected Progress? I haven’t seen any improvement on his control or understanding of pronouns this year.” They didn’t really know. That was the speech teachers line item on the IEP status update and they were not able to tell me how that was quantified or tested.

Even on things that were not the realm of the speech/OT/PT people, they were not able to tell me exactly what progress had been made or why I should believe that he was going to be able to meet that goal by the time of the next IEP in Aprilish.

For example, they have something about being able to do single digit Math and Subtraction with manipulatives but no prompting. I have been working with him the last couple weeks very specifically on that and know for a fact that he does it almost exactly the same as he did when he started the school year. I don’t see anything that indicates that he is closer to achieving that IEP goal on time based on anything that has happened in the classroom and told them so. I asked what the checkpoint goal for this particular reporting period was that he met that indicated he was Making Expected Progress. They did not have an answer more concrete than “I think he is making good progress with this.”

I’m too lazy to walk over to the counter to look at the IEP, but he has about 15 goals on the IEP. I asked that type of question on about 10 of them. They did not have an answer on all but one of them. I responded that I had not seen the progress that I would have expected in the first quarter of the year over and over again.

They started to understand what I was getting at. The director of the program reminded me that if I was unhappy with the IEP, we have the right to request a new one at any time. I explained that I was very happy with most of the goals on the IEP but I had concerns that any of them were going to be met on time.

The teacher started saying that they are goals and that making progress is what they are measuring.

I asked what the point of having a yearly IEP that we are working off of each year if the goal isn’t to meet all of those goals each year. I picked up the IEP and said that my expectation is that at the next IEP meeting we throw this one away (I pretended to toss it over my shoulder) and start from scratch with a new one because we have an entirely new list of goals. I said that my expectation when we have the official yearly meeting in the spring would be to take everything on the list and either say Met Goal or Did Not Meet Goal because at that point there would be no more possibility of Making Expected Progress because the time line for that IEP would be over. Otherwise, why don’t we just have the goals be Calculus, Honors English Lit, Chemistry, 4th Year French and just make progress on all of the goals each year. That would save us all time with these meetings.

They started to rebut that by saying that the teacher that worked on the IEP last year was not there this year and the current teacher might not have put all of those things in the IEP. I reminded them that there are thousands of kids that move to a new class every year and the new teacher doesn’t have any real say in the IEP they are inheriting but it is their job to meet those goals. I also reminded them that I really didn’t give a crap what the current staff thought about the IEP. They were legally bound for those to be his goals by the very fact that they created the document and then signed it. Any deviations should be presented to us in writing.

As the meeting was wrapping up with me constantly repeating my personal mantras of “The kids have too much Down Time,” “I don’t understand how you are measuring that goal but I’m not seeing what I would consider Expected Progress” and “Based on what is presented to us, I have no idea of what concrete skills you are working on during a given week and how we will know that we learned that skill and are ready to move on” and “Why don’t you want to do a full carnival theme in the class? (Yes I actually got to say that at one point),” and we were walking out of the building nearly two hours later after literally conducting the meeting during a tornado, I mentioned that they should be ready for us to continue to ask these questions constantly for the rest of the year. I told them that we are in our second year of the ILP program and we need to determine if this is the best program for Pookie going forward and the only way to know that is to know the details of everything that they are doing on both the large and small scale.

So now we have to get ready for the pre-meeting for the big 3 year IEP re-eval that was tentatively scheduled for some undetermined time on Dec 6th but may in fact not be scheduled at all at this point despite me putting in for vacation time off for it today because I have to put in vacation requests two weeks in advance. We also both need to try to find a way to get into the classroom again to see how well the various changes they are doing are being implemented.

I’ve forgotten some things I’m sure, but when I remember them I’ll be able to write NEW POSTS!

Sorry for all spelling/grammar/logic errors. BeAGoodMom wants me to finish this post so she can read it. Go blame her.

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