The Third Rail in Education; Parents

Now we come to that third rail of education - parents.  I have said this a lot in person but naturally, it's a dangerous subject.  Just like the first rule of Fight Club is not talking about Fight Club, the first rule of parenting is you don't criticize others' parenting.  Everyone has their own ideas about what is "good" parenting. 

What might really help the education conversation - is for districts to express to parents what would help teachers/schools to do a better job.  This is NOT telling parents "here's what a 'good' parent does" but "here's what would help your teacher/district."  

(I know that there are documents out there but I'm not sure there has been a widespread effort to help parents - especially immigrant parents who may come from a different kind of educational system - understand what teachers/districts would find helpful.)

I will note that maybe there should be a letter from the PTA to the school/district saying what would be helpful for parents as well.  What would make your life easier as the parent of an SPS student?

And what's an over-involved parent?  I know from past experience that teachers/principals can both love and dislike AL parents.  On the one hand, those parents will work very hard for their child's school and, on the other hand, they get very much into the weeds of education.  But is that better or worse than a parent who isn't involved at all? 

Into this tough discussion, comes the Times' Lynne Varner with her latest education editorial.  She references an article by teacher Ron Clark at the CNN website about what would help.  He has some good thoughts.   But he does get into something of a pickle when he says this:

Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.

With all due respect to Mr. Clark, I WOULD ask my child - away from the teacher - for his/her side of the story.  I would ask the teacher for  the context of the problem.  Because if Clark worries about the weakening of the partnership between teacher and parent, then the reverse is also true.  If you take the word of every adult over your child, without context or asking your child for their side of the story, you will weaken your relationship with your child.  Guaranteed.  And, your child will be less likely to come to you for help if he/she gets in trouble.

You shouldn't say, "My kid, right or wrong."  But you also shouldn't say, "Well, if the teacher says it's true, it must be true."  I would need to hear my child's side and listen to all the evidence before I would pass any judgment on my own child.

He also said this:

And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.

Absolutely true, but as I have warned parents (and I'm telling you again), my experience is that in today's schools you will almost never have a meeting alone with a teacher.  If you are asked to meet with your child's teacher, take a spouse or friend because you are going to walk into a room that has the teacher and at least one other administrator/counselor.  Those extra staff are there to protect the teacher so you need someone who will be YOUR witness.  I don't think anyone should be threatening anyone else but if the teacher gets backup, you should have it as well.

Going back to Varner's piece, it's not particularly coherent and, for some reason, she decides to take a shot early on at activist parents. 

I still recall Kate Martin, a former Seattle School Board candidate and recent candidate for Seattle mayor, behaving so threateningly at her son’s school that she was escorted out by police.

As Charlie has pointed out, Ms. Varner cannot possibly "recall" this incident because she wasn't there.  Someone told her this story (which seems to have taken on mythic status).  I wasn't there but our kids were at Roosevelt at the same time and there were issues with several teachers on performance grounds.  Kate told me that she stood her ground in the office and was refusing to leave until someone talked to her about her son's teacher.  When she wouldn't leave, they called the police.  There was no "threat" to it; it was civil disobedience.  I believe her mainly because if she had been threatening anyone, they would have arrested her and they didn't.  Nor were any charges filed.

Varner finishes that paragraph with this (which I believe to be a shot at all activist parents/community members but likely aimed at this blog):

And then there are the parents who have made a second career, or their only career, out of the Sturm und Drang of public schooling, whether it involved their children or not.  

As I said in the comments, "Why the Times thinks citizens should turn their backs on children or supporting Seattle public education is beyond me."  Who gets to decide who is involved in public education?  Only people who are employed in public education?

I'm hoping the district will come up with some new ideas about how to help parents from elementary to high school.  I think no matter the frustration, parents should make every attempt to show their concern for their child's education.  As Varner does point out, every parent also has to learn when to back off and let their child advocate for his/herself. 

What is the best way to create a partnership between school and parents?  That's the challenge and it has to be met by both sides. 


Anonymous said…
Clearly neither Ron Clark nor Lynn Varner have a child in special ed. Their assumptions are insulting.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
sped parent-- pretty sure you are wrong about Lynn Varner not having a child in special ed, which makes her comments very difficult to cipher, as I would say that special ed is definitely an area where by law, either the parent or guardian has a legally recognized right to act as a student's advocate. Very strange.
--Sped Advodate
Anonymous said…
I never know the right level for advocacy. I have a kid in SpEd, bright but not gifted. I asked for a technological accommodation for him in test-taking and schoolwork, didn't get it. Then I saw on Donors Choose a Seattle Public Schools middle school teacher asking for funding of the same technological accommodation for her students with similar impairments. I would have paid for the accommodation for my middle school child. I'd think that if a district emphasized the importance of certain test scores, there'd be permission for assistive technology to make a student's answers and notes readable, but that may be a misguided perception.

Neither his teachers nor I believe the test scores, written work, MSP or MAP, reflect his potential or learning capability, so should I just shrug and think "as long as he does his best, and passes enough of the curriculum, that's all that matters?"

I do supplement at home, as some parents do, when their children are just outside the cusp of benefiting from appropriate placement and are not likely to achieve academic rigor in the standard classroom without interventions. Example: student scores 55% on a test. 100% of the short answers are correct, none of the word problems or essay questions earns full marks because the kid can't write and isn't allowed a scribe or an iPad. Given the same test on a computer the child scores 96%.

--Lowered Expectations
Anonymous said…
Lowered Expectations,
I have a twice exceptional child (gifted and special ed with an IEP) and it is hard to get needed accomodations at times. If you can afford it or if your insurance covers it, an outside evaluation or medical professional's statement can work wonders. If that expert says that your child needs to be allowed to use a computer for tests, then you should be able to get that. I would not give up advocating for your child, hard as it may seem at times. I know that the school district does sometimes have a hard time giving help to kids who aren't failing. Good luck and keep up high expectations!
Unknown said…
@Lowered Expectations, I would second what Lorna says. Your child is going to lose his or her enthusiasm for learning if he or she believes he is failing even when he or she knows the correct answer. If your insurance won't cover the evaluation, and you can't afford an outside evaluation, you could ask for a re-eval at school. Make sure you meeting with the person doing the eval so they know what the issue is. If you don't agree with the re-eval, you can request an independent educational eval at public expense. This process will take a very long time. The district has 25 school days from the day you request a re-eval to decide whether or not they will do it, and then another 35 school days after you sign permission to do the eval. This means if you requested an eval tomorrow and signed the evaluation permission the day you got it, that the eval results and meeting would happen by March 18.
Anonymous said…
Lorna and Mary, thanks for reading and sharing.
My kid has an IEP for his diagnosed disability, that's why he's in SpEd. Upon his diagnosis, which came from hospital testing via pediatrician referral, the pediatrician wrote a note asking for extra time on written tests, which I circulated to the school admin, psychologist, specialist staff and teachers but I don't know if I have to ask for the same letter from the pediatrician every year. I don't see the pediatrician's advice anywhere in the IEP.

I'm not kidding when I say I don't know how to advocate.

--Lowered Expectations
Unknown said…
The Office of the Education Omduds has an excellent publication for parent advocacy. It is available in English at It is also available in other languages on their website.

I haven't been a gen-ed parent for a while. It is hard for me to have perspective on the issues that Lynne is discussing. Mr. Clark and Ms. Varner are surely not discussing advocacy issues for parents of students who receive special education services. Mr. Clark's private school does not accept students who have IEP's.

On the whole, I would say that for parents of students who receive special education services, it is imperative that they act as advocates for their student. They know their student better. They often know more about their student's disability than the teacher. Many students with disabilities require intense services, and there can be a reluctance on the part of a district to supply them.
I could go on for a very long time, but I won't. I am going to end with this--parents of students with special needs who do not speak English as their native language have a very difficult time navigating special education in Seattle Public Schools. Resources for interpreter services are slim, and educators do not know how to access interpretive and translation services. Some local agencies report that IEP's for ELL students who receive special education services don't get changed for years. They also report that a student or sibling may end up attempting to interpret for parents in meetings. This is unacceptable. IDEA requires that evaluations, IEP's and disciplinary paperwork as well as meetings be provided in the parent's native language and that it is incumbent upon the school to provide an interpreter. SPS is aware of this issue but is still in a non-compliant state.
Lowered, you kind of break my heart because, for you, there's this nagging (and real) doubt that your child is achieving at his potential.

I might call the Sped office and ask what can be done. I can't understand not giving what appears to be a simple accommodation. My son got such ones and it made a world of difference (and it did not ask much of the teacher and the vibe I got was they were worried we would ask for more and we didn't).

Sorry, "not achieving" is what I meant to say.
Anonymous said…
Lowered Expectations,
If you have a letter from your pediatrician, ask for a meeting with your special ed case manager to discuss updating your child's IEP. You can also ask for an IEP meeting (and you may need this), but those often take longer to arrange because of all the notices and people who have to attend.
Share the MD note asking for accomodations and ask that this be put into the IEP plan. You can ask for extra time for tests and/or use of a computer or other device for tests, classwork, homework or whatever. If it is medically needed, then you should get that arranged. Take another adult along to your meeting. Record everything in email or other writing. You may also need to let his teachers know his needs. Theoretically, the SpecEd teacher communicates with GenEd for you, but I always email/call/talk and make sure we all know what we've agreed to.
I don't think you have to feel that the district is against you, but you do sometimes have to work very hard to advocate for your kid. Have your MD write a very specific letter noting the diagnosis and exact needs. Above all, keep cheering on your child and reminding him/her of his talents and abilities. We talk a lot about strengths and challenges at our house and how everyone has different ones. Let your child know he/she is smart and capable and help her/him get the kinds of grades he/she can with computer use or whatever. And again, good luck. It isn't easy.
Anonymous said…
Ugh! I feel for all the parents like Lowered who have to continually press for accommodations that should be easy enough to do. Why so adversarial, SPS?

On the other extreme though, I have heard parents in some elementary schools brag that the parents (and this is a direct quote), "run the school." If they really do or not is a different story, but there is the perception out there that parents have outsized power with regard to - in this case - hiring and dismissal of teachers. Very icky and I know that in some places, the staff has to deal with these parents.

After many years in SPS (with a 2E kid and kids who are not behavior problems but are flying under the radar), I have learned that no one is going to advocate for my kids unless I do. But by now, I have also learned that I don't know everything and that I need to pick my battles.

High School Mama
Unknown said…
@Lowered Expectations, please emails me off list at for some specific recommendations.
Anonymous said…
I know that there are documents out there but I'm not sure there has been a widespread effort to help parents - especially immigrant parents who may come from a different kind of educational system - understand what teachers/districts would find helpful.

This is exactly what CPPS does in Seattle and why it is such an important organization, even if it is not as publicly recognized as such by big funders and big media.

Anonymous said…
Lowered Expectations,

Your child should be able to show what he knows in a way that works for him. He should not be punished or graded down for a disability.

I have found a lot of help in learning advocacy as well as accommodations advice on the yahoo dysgraphia group. There are posters who are educational psychologists, OTs, ATs, etc. You can find them at:

One easy piece of advice is to bring someone with you to the IEP meetings, a friend, relative, or professional advocate. It helps if they have knowledge like a doctor or teacher, but even just someone to take notes can make a difference.

OEO is a good place to start too.

Keep trying. Good luck.

- sped parent
Ed Voter, absolutely agree. CPPS does more to help parents than LEV or Stand for Children.
Catherine said…
I find it frustrating that while the district wants to standardize everything the kids do, they choose not to standardize their processes for dealing with things like IEPs. Lack of a standard process, seems to be the root case for information not getting passes from one teacher to the next, from one school to the next. That's not the only problem, but really, there should be an easily followable set of inputs (pediatrician, professional evaluation, test results, etc) a standard process for going through the data, and a standard set of actions (with room for customization), but I would think that 90% of the accommodations are one of 10 things... that 90% should be a predictable process, and should be subject to a standard handoff between teachers/years, and a standard review process.

on a side note about an idiot, for two years I believe two SPS teachers and the principal who assumed me my son could read just fine, despite NO evidence at home that he could do so. Guess what, no, he couldn't read. Then because he wasn't two years behind, no school tutoring, so $10K later, he could read rather well. I tried hard not to interfere at school - but these were the same teachers who couldn't correctly correct K-3 math homework. Or the 5th grade teacher who didn't teach math all year. I firmly believe this was a principal issue, not a teacher issue. Sigh - none if this works perfectly well.
Anonymous said…
Catherine, I find that most teachers do not have time to think about students with disabilities and accommodations that are truly individualized. It puts tremendous responsibility onto the parents and as was said in the comments in Lynne Varner's editorial, sped parents as a result make few friends and a lot of enemies. Unless the right principal is in the mix who appreciates that this is not just parental hovering.

Here's the really discouraging thing:
someone wrote a comment at the Times' article (saying they were a school administrator):

Varner had said:
"But my husband and I also know our son better than anyone else and have an obligation to advocate on his behalf."

Old Crimson:
As a school administrator, I would say this precise quote belies so much of the problem. The reality, Ms.Varner, is that you do not know your child, in the context of school, better than we do.

Most parents do not necessarily know their kids better than the teachers that spend more hours in the presence of the kids than the parents themselves. The sad reality is that many teachers know children better than the parents do. Parents do not 'have a an obligation' or a right - to advocate for their kids above and beyond what the teachers see and recommend in the classroom."

This person goes on:
"Well-minded parents, of course, are involved in the educational process. But their involvement always - ALWAYS - begins with the questions "tell me what you see in the classroom from my child - and what do you think we can do about it?"

I wrote this was one of the most disrespectful things I've seen written by a "school administrator".

No one knows my child better than me (as a child, my sons are grown now). This person says in the "context of the classroom" but goes on to make sweeping statements about how teachers would know our kids better than we do.

And your job, dear parent, is to come in and meekly sit down and ask what you are supposed to be doing and not interject any of your own experience or silly opinions...about your own child.

I hope this person doesn't work in SPS. That kind of paternalistic attitude does not build a partnership.

I have a Part Two to this parents issue, a trend I'm starting to see. I'll have to get it written soon.
Michael Rice said…

If we could step away from the SpEd discussion for a moment. I have been teaching for 9 years now and I have had many parent meetings. With very few exceptions (less than 5), the parents have be supportive of what I am doing and just want to be helpful to keep their child focused on school. Ingraham has had the influx of APP students the past 3 years and I have to say that I have not had a single annoying "helicopter" parent yet. Now I readily admit that I have not had all the APP students, but I have had plenty of them, so from my vantage point, the addition to APP has been nothing but a great thing.

I realize not everyone shares this viewpoint, and I am not trying to get another anti-APP thread going. I am sharing one teacher's experience.

Thank you to everyone who supports public education in Seattle.
Catherine said…
Reader - thanks for that reply. I think, that if we made the process simpler and more predictable, thus faster, that it would be just a bit easier for teachers to find the time. But with an unpredictable process, and no standard toolkit - teachers are put in the position of reinventing the wheel every time. Not fair. They don't have the time for that.
Jon said…
I'd like to add two topics to this discussion.

First, I suspect it would be helpful if both parents and district staff more often approached an interaction with a teacher with the question, "What can I do to help this teacher succeed?" When parents and staff help teachers by removing things that get in the way of teaching, teachers are more effective teachers. Do others agree?

Second, I think it is worth talking about what struggling parents need, especially single parent families in poverty. One thing, I would think, would be a predictable schedule that is as close to a 9-5 workday as possible to prevent having to pay for, and especially having to scramble last minute to find, child care. Do others also think this is a problem?
Anonymous said…
Parent teacher conferences are depressingly short. And so far I haven't been at a school that had more than one. Does any elem. have a second round in winter or spring?

I have some suggestions for improving parent teacher conferences, after a pretty useless conference for 4th grader. I'm curious what suggestions others have.

The teacher was enthusiastic, organized, trying very hard, etc - but the format is against any depth or information or meaningful back and forth in conference.

At 4th grade the child is expected to "lead" the conference for the first part. Great, sure, but it was just a nice public speaking exercise. I liked it that my kid felt empowered, but there was ZERO time to get to anything individual or unique b/c it was a script.

What if parents had 10 minutes w/teacher and kid for the kid to give an orientation/script, and then parents and kid went to the hall with all the writing notebook, science notebooks, etc ... and parent and kid went over those in detail while teacher handled someone else. THEN when parent had time to have some real questions about progress or lessons or whatever, parent could have a second block with the teacher - frankly two short blocks separated by time to dig in depth into the stuff that is being fire-hosed at me by teacher would have been great. As it was, anytime I spent flipping pages in the science notebook was time I couldn't hear more about math progress, everyone was staring at me with "hurry up!" in their eyes, etc. No depth at all.

And could teachers PLEASE not waste time going over standardized test scores unless there's a meaningful reason! Kid's teacher showed me last year's MSP as if that had any bearing on 1) this year; 2) this teacher; or 3) I hadn't seen them. If there's a problem, sure, then use the standardized test scores to show something like "scores are high but in class work low" or "here is discrepancy" but w/high scoring kid? Time wasted. And really a good bet that in the last 4 or 5 months I saw the scores. Perhaps teachers should send reminder to go over standardized test scores BEFORE conference, rather than waste time presenting them to parents who already knew them. Going over this year's actual reading assessment makes sense, but last year's MSP?

With the really short time, and lots of time with the kid "leading" and the litany of "this is the math notebook" etc - we never got to the substance of the insane homework, the weird grammar curriculum that has every parent confused and looking things up -- and I'm talking parents with MFAs and professional writers who have to look things up, etc. Instead I was told to "set up a separate meeting" b/c we were out of time. That's what I thought conference was!

Sign me: bad parent
Anonymous said…
Your 4th grader is actually learning grammar?

-somewhat jealous
Anonymous said…
To somewhat jealous:

No, my 4th grader isn't learning grammar. They're getting worksheets to do as homework - no rhyme or reason or structure - one week it's compound sentences w/semicolons, another is plurals, then oxford comma, then possessives, etc. ... all without nouns, verbs, pronouns - so basically they're putting up wallpaper without having any floors, walls or windows. And "appositive phrases?" WTF?

I bought a great grammar book at Math N Stuff and we're doing those pages, starting w/nouns, and I'm going to staple them to the homework packet instead of the unfathomable stuff being sent home.

This, this is what civil disobedience has come to. I used to march in immigration rights rallies. Now I buy subversive grammar worksheets.

Signed: Bad Parent

"First, I suspect it would be helpful if both parents and district staff more often approached an interaction with a teacher with the question, "What can I do to help this teacher succeed?" When parents and staff help teachers by removing things that get in the way of teaching, teachers are more effective teachers."

Yes, "what can I do to help?" is a good first idea. Of course, are we talking about a parent-teacher conference or being called in because of an issue? Those are two different things.

I don't understand your second sentence in terms of "removing things." What would those be?

SolvayGirl said…
Sadly, the parents that have no time, energy or, in the worst cases, desire to be involved in their child's education are not reading this, or any other blog.

They come from cultures that keep school and home very separate. They are struggling with the problems of their own lives (single-parenthood, poverty, depression, poor health, substance abuse). Education was not valued in their home when they were growing up, so they see now need to value it now. They have a partner that is not in the picture (in jail, dead, never took responsibility). They cannot read their own language, let alone English...

The reasons some parents can't be this very necessary third rail are as varied as snowflakes. As a society, we need to be addressing the conditions that create a weak "rail" and work to eliminate them—a daunting, but necessary task.
Jon said…
Melissa, by removing things I just meant removing busy work and problems. Things like making sure the teacher has pencils and paper, helping with photocopying, or helping acquire books. And I meant this in terms of the overactive parents mentioned in the post, not the other important issue of parents who defend their child right or wrong.

On SolvayGirl's comment, I think we're talking about the same thing, how can the district help overworked, single parent families suffering from poverty? One thing that does not help is time out of school? The district should be trying to minimize the half days and other days out of school and keeping the school day as close to 9-5 every day as possible?
Anonymous said…
Bad Parent,

It took years for me to learn this. You can make an appt to see a teacher & discuss your child.

( I will often ask the teacher for a latte order since the meeting might be right after a long hard day for them.)

When I do this I bring returned work that illustrates my concerns. I ask my child what questions/concerns I should bring. I ask what the teacher sees in class; I tell what I hear at home, & I look for solutions to problems we identify.

Usually I only do this when my child is having problems. Most times we end up with better understanding that helps both my child & the teacher. Sometimes, I end only with some understanding of the teacher to give my child tools to make it work.

You don't have to depend on parent teacher conferences.


Anonymous said…
I am going to take a wild guess as to why a class is getting random grammar worksheets: The teacher is told to teach the Common Core, which includes grammar and vocabulary, but the district has not done an adoption or provided funds for materials. The teacher then finds some grammar materials, hands them out for homework, and checks done for those standards. Possible? Good intentions? Bad implementation?

-seen it
Anonymous said…
Another parent of a 2E kid here, another one who struggles with my role as advocate and when/how much to push in a district where there's so little to go around. The problem is that when you have a kid working at grade level or above there is just very, very little help available. Even with an ASD diagnosis. Even with social skills issues and rampant anxiety and depression. Everyone seems willing to provide accommodations in classroom and for testing, so far, but, it's up to me to come up with what those accommodations should be. I am working very, very hard (it's a second job!) to educate myself but I wish there was a coordinated approach for 2e kids (I know, get in line).
Kind of feel like this would be a great subject for its own thread, but maybe there's not much interest ..
Anonymous said…
==monkeypuzzled, I saw your comment on an earlier post but could not reply to you there as the post had closed down.

I swear I'm going to read the Ombudsman Office piece and reply to Mary Griffin, but I'd like to know how you got accommodations for testing (we're talking MSP, HSPE, end-of-course testing, right?). The teacher did mention the MSP scores at the student-led teacher conference but miraculously for me, the teacher is a 2E-parent and correctly identified why my child didn't do well on parts of one subject test, and why he scored 93 percentile among his peers in the state on another subject end-of-year test.

The good news for me is that I have six months to go through another circuit of accommodations requests, and at least three times as much peer counsel as I had the first time, thanks to this blog's commenters. I feel worlds better knowing I'm not alone.

--Lowered Expectations
12axaced said…
I'd say teachers frequently look at parents as merely additional students. Some are absent for better or for worse, some come by and are very needy, a few come by who really help with their child, then you have your volunteers. Ranging from pot of gold to more trouble than gains received.Teachers have to deal with parents whether they see them or not.
I am working very, very hard (it's a second job!) to educate myself..."

That's so true. It can be a tough road. If you aren't in the Sped PTA, you might consider going to meetings because you are likely to find more parents like yourself that you can trade ideas with and get strength from.

12axaced, very nicely said.
Anonymous said…
monkeypuzzled and Lowered Expectations--there is a 2E support group that meets once a month; there is also a facebook page for it. Stephanie Bower runs it; contact her to get on the list to be notified about meetings and topics. (I'm not sure I should post her email here, but I'm sure if you google her and 2E it will come up.) It's great to be able to connect with other 2E parents and not all have to reinvent the wheel for everything.... Last month's topic was 504s and we had someone from the district office there to field questions.

Anonymous said…
Lowered Expectations,

It sounds like the staff you are working with aren't use to dealing with kids with writing disabilities. There are many approved accommodations for MSP/HSPE on the OSPI website. These include using a scribe, extra time, typing, & voice to text software. You can find them at

They must be in the IEP or 504 before your child can use them on the test. Your child should be using the same accommodations on the tests that he is using in class.

I would research what accommodations would work for your child, then make the argument to the staff to include them in the IEP. You can call an IEP meeting at any time.

Sometimes parents have to educate teachers about disabilities because gen ed teachers often are not up-to-date in accommodations. Some of them are still struggling with the idea of 2E and don't have the experience to recognize it.

The goal is for your child to be able to show what he knows without the resulting answers being impacted by his disability.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
This is a response to monkey puzzled and sped parent and it is for parents of students who have disabilities that lead to sub-par performance on tests whether or not they're 2e.

The issue with accommodations is that our teachers pretty much have no experience or drive to individualize them to the student's individual disability profile. I have not yet met a teacher in special education or general education who understands how to help students with executive function challenges on tests. This is much much much more than giving the student a quiet environment or a set of headphones or any of the generic things you see in the MAP or MSP accommodations lists. You have to do trial and error and teach persistence and focus and organization and anxiety management in the meantime. as SPED Parent has said, you have to do this in the classroom regularly, not only on tests. None of this is the norm in Seattle Schools and it really is up to the parents to insist on something other than the most generic "off the shelf" approach to accommodations. This is another reason by Varner's op-ed was so out of touch with reality, at least with the reality for parents of students with special needs in Seattle Schools.

another sped parent
Anonymous said…
I thought I'd weigh in with another teacher's perspective on this. Not making any excuses, but I teach 170 students a day, so keeping track of accommodations and making sure everyone has the differentiation they truly deserve is hard. Again, that isn't an excuse, but it is reality. I do my best and always follow the general recommendations laid out in IEP's, but to truly individualize and find what works best for my students with IEP's I absolutely NEED parent input, and input from SpEd teachers. If I had smaller class sizes, I would be much better equipped to individualize instruction for students who need it. As it is, I usually feel like I'm already teaching three different versions (high, middle, and low) of every lesson I teach. Adding in further differentiation is truly difficult given my existing workload and the number of students I see each day. If Special Ed teachers and parents were more proactive in telling me what they have found that works, it would be SO helpful.

Kent Teacher
hschinske said…
You have to do trial and error and teach persistence and focus and organization and anxiety management in the meantime. as SPED Parent has said, you have to do this in the classroom regularly, not only on tests.

Yes. And while some kids need this sort of thing much more than others, all kids need some of it. The most organized kids are sometimes among the most anxious (they've learned how to use their anxiety as a driver, but that's not necessarily a good thing).

Helen Schinske
Kent Teacher, thank you for weighing in. A good reality check AND a good "ask" for teachers.
Jet City mom said…
If I could get the parent/guardian for every child to participate in a school function, whether it be chaperoning on a city bus, attending a PTA meeting or in the audience at a school performance every month, I could guarantee that they would be more engaged in the classroom.
Kids notice what we do, much more than what we say.
I realize that it is difficult to make such a commitment, but many things that make a difference, are difficult and it does make a huge difference.
When kids see their parents/guardians make time to enter their world ( the school) it resonates.
Anonymous said…
Jet City Mom,

If you could get employers to provide paid time off from minimum wage jobs, and then provide transportation so parents don't have to spend half the day on a metro bus getting to the school... Your attitude is very demeaning to parents who are invisibly involved in their children's education. Smacks of White Privilege. Maybe a cultural awareness class would help.

SPS staffer and parent
SPS, I think you were a little hard on Jet City Mom. I realize the challenges for many parents but showing up to one parent-teacher conference a year and/or one school event in a year isn't impossible for the majority of parents.

That said, there are cultural differences in how people perceive their role at their child's school.
Anonymous said…

JCM said "...attending a PTA meeting or in the audience at a school performance every month..." I wouldn't criticize a suggestion that parents should show up once or twice a year, but monthly? Really?

SPS staffer and Parent
Anonymous said…
Kent Teacher's "ask" is actually quite refreshing, and a radical departure from our experiences with a few middle school gen ed teachers. We have found that gen ed teachers have not always been open to our suggestions about what works. A lot of sped parents find have an uphill climb getting teachers to be receptive about accommodations. Too often, sped parents find that we're dismissed as being unrealistic about our kids, as hovering or over-asking. Too often it comes down to citing the law, rather than a collaborative team effort. We would much prefer the latter.

sped parent too
SPS, you read too fast or something. I didn't say "monthly", I said one event in the year.
Anonymous said…
Melissa - you need to re-read Jet City mom's post and I think you'll see where SPS staffer and parent's comment attributes the quote to Jet City mom, not you. The perception is you're being overly harsh with SPS staffer while giving Jet City mom a pass.

be fair
Jet City mom said…
Sure we can lower the bar of what we are aiming at. Why not just do away with any goals at all?
Or why not keep the goal, & bring in the supports to make it happen?
seattle citizen said…
I think Jet City mom was merely suggesting that if parent/guardians (more of them) simply attended (more) school functions then a) p/g would see how just being a little involved in the school helps the students (and not just their kid) by modeling, but also b) might lead to more involvment. I don't think JC mom intended to diss those p/g's who CAN'T attend.
Monthly? I know many educators, with families themselves, who volunteer WEEKLY by advising clubs, chaperoning dances, going on field trips, etc. They're not paid for any of that.

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