Category Archives: staar

Special Needs Struggle

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All over social media proud parents are sharing STAAR testing success stories. Well here is mine!

Number one-my son showed up. No opting out. No playing sick. No fear or dread. We took the test and did our best.

Number two- he had no chance of passing unless he guessed well and then that would have been a shocker but no indicator of his reading or math level.

Number three-this test does not even almost tell me what he is capable of doing independently and hardly accommodates to his disability of being a slow learner 2 grade levels below 3rd grade or his IEP. If you want to know what he can do then give him a first grade test.

Even growing next year just proves he guessed better than last year. All this test does is gives a number to a failing system and makes teachers test prep as a form of curriculum.

We can do better Texas.

Never Count out Creativity

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My son has autism.

My son has ADHD.

My son has epilepsy.

My son’s IQ is too low to be considered having a learning disability.

True story. Too low to have a learning disability. If my son, did not have the other health impairment a public school system would not qualify him for special education because he does not have enough strengths to receive services.

Let that sink in. “Not enough strengths”. As a teacher this breaks my heart. My students that get this information are basically being told find a good trade or marry a rich spouse because according to the SPED system you are too low to receive our help. We cannot help you.

Low IQ is 70-79- my son has a 54. But if you ever met him then you would know something is different but 54 does not describe him- autism and distractedness make a difference on these tests. Combine that with lack of motivation and in his world “these tests suck”. STAAR is a joke for him-he cannot logically reason or read those words (mind you in a home with two parents with a masters degrees)…he is below grade level with an other health impairment. The test does not fit him.

The state should differentiate their testing. Supports are not enough for some kids.

But God.

God knew what this kid would need. God knew what our education and finances could offer that he was not born into. God knew what faith, hope, love, early intervention and stubbornness could provide. God chose us to adopt him…a hard calling, but an important one.

You see my child thinks outside the box. He sees things not for what they are, but what they can become. He sees a rinse cup and creates false teeth (it works). He sees a happy meal can be turned into a computer. He sees foil can create 101 different toys. He will make the world better….mark my words….by creating something so simple, but no one saw it.

Someday public education will rethink their testing and accountability but until then…

Never count out creativity.

Virtual Learning Teacher and Home School Mom

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My campus was on Spring Break last week, so online learning started for us this week. Last week, I struggled to wrap my brain around what it looks like and this week I have been busy executing the plan. Crandall ISD has stepped up to give us a united vision of consistency and leadership. Today the first day of school at home begins!

It started with lots of online conference meetings which sound way more fun than they are. A great way to bridge the distance another tech tool that I can now use for the future.

Later came two days of connecting to the families, creating assignments for the Google Classrooms, creating videos to teach parents and forgetful students how to access those classrooms and lots of extra things to put the plan in place. I have a 7 year old that has really had to fill his time (un) wisely while I work 9+ hour days sorting it all out. Again, thankful the vision was already in place so I could execute my part.

Just when I thought I had had enough the Flipgrids started rolling in with their sweet faces and voices and then my first video call to try out the class. Breathe. This is worth it. The kids need the interactions as much as I do and it reminds me why I teach. Their faces remind me why I went back to the classroom after leaving it for leadership and more money. Their smiles are my why and their need for something normal is my motivation. For them the work is worth it.

God is doing something big in all this that I know will be missed when it is all over. Families are reconnecting, educators are innovating, kids are really learning for life not a test, and we are appreciating the roles we all serve and sometimes take for granted. God is moving in this stop and slow down moment in history. I believe in his promises!

Is this the hill you want to die on?

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I have worked for some good principals, but the one I had 5 years ago was undoubtedly the best. She always put her trust in the teachers that she hired and always saw us as humans first and employees second. When tough conversations were present, she would always say “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Most times, I sheepishly said no then I would turn and just stay silent knowing it was not worth the fight.

But now, I have a situation where I have discovered that I will indeed choose to die on this hill.

The issue is small for most teachers in the education world, but it means everything to this reading teacher. The issue: how we prepare students for reading tests.

Our reading education has come down to test passages and standardized tests and my feelings always have and will be that building lifelong readers comes first. I have done my job if students leave my class loving or tolerating books more than when they walked in. I regularly incorporate reading time in my lesson plans and only read children books so we have something to talk about. My hero is Donalyn Miller and her thoughts give me passion.

But doing this kind of reading means test scores take time to grow. In the beginning, the scores are low because we are not taking test prep passages all day and getting good at tests. We.are.reading! Shocked I have to defend the act of reading to teach reading, but I have literally planned with teachers that have a lesson plan of legit reading passages all.day.long. Well, good for you that your scores are good, but sucks your kids now hate reading.

So spring forth to this week where I have a lengthy conversation with a colleague encouraging me to test prep, do a lengthy list of reading strategies geared for only making them more tired while reading and to read the questions first before reading the passage so we can improve test scores. Forget comprehension or reading for meaning…what was I thinking? We are about passing tests. I sat in shock and explained that some of your strategies will exhaust my advanced readers as they do their magic without all that extra work (aka they read a lot) and my struggling readers may never finish the test. Then while they are thinking about the questions they just read, they are missing the main idea and inferences required to answer the questions and evaluate the author’s craft. But I only have a Masters in Reading, A Master Reading Teacher certificate, 18 years in education with all 18 years getting 80% or above passing STAAR in areas of Texas with high poverty rates so what do I know? (For real, despite my multiple years of reading success-last year over 90% grew from the year before…I am still getting this talk.)

So I sit here and ask myself change my plan to fit their (admin) needs and completely destroy myself as an educator and lover of literacy…maybe the scores will go up or maybe not…or stand firm in my belief that tests will come and go but lifelong readers will not.

You can find me dead on this hill.