Teaching Students with LD and ADHD

Grading special education students

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Joined: Mar 11, 2008
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Posted Mar 11, 2008 at 8:17:33 PM
Subject: Grading special education students

Hi! I am a first year special education teacher for 6th grade-I taught 4 grade for 4 years before. I work in an inclusion school and I am so frustrated about grades for report cards and retention. Unfortunately, our admin doesn't provide the special ed dept. with a lot of back up. My special ed director says that the students should not be getting below a 2.0. If they are below, the accomodations are not working or are not being followed. Many teachers are failing my students-most are not providing accomodations 100% of the time. ALso they don't understand why the special ed students can't fail a grade (though most have been retained at least once.) I understand both sides of the situation. I know I am the student's advocate, but I feel like the tension is getting to be too much between myself and the teachers. I am trying to approach it professionally, giving lots of help, direction and support to the teachers, but the teachers really don't listen to me because I am not their boss. Any info please would be greatly appreciated!

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Joined Jun 12, 2003
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Posted:Mar 12, 2008 6:58:23 PM

I work with 6th grade students as well; this is my . . . 12-13th year? I am involved in grading my students - I either do their report cards myself, primarily for reading, LA, and math, or I collaborate with the teachers. In the past I have basically, and as nicely as possible, said that if the poor grades were due to their disability I would not allow failing grades (D or lower) on their report cards. If it was due to no homework, no effort, etc., then yes, I would agree. Is there any way you can be responsible for their report cards? Most of the teachers I know would LOVE for someone to do a portion of their report cards every marking period - they are usually overwhelmed when that time comes around. You can offer to do your students' cards for them, have them give you their opinions on the grades, and you grade them, taking their comments into consideration.

Also, monitor how those accomodations in the classroom are being implemented. If they are not, a friendly e-mail to all the teachers who work with a particular student can be helpful. I've found that something like "Now that it's the second marking period I found myself needing to look over the IEP's and double-check the modifications/accomodations, and I found there were several I overlooked, so I thought I would mention it to all of you as well; please take a moment to look over the paperwork I've given you on the current 6th graders and review the classroom modifications. If at this point in the year you feel that some or all of those are not appropriate please get back to me ASAP so we can discuss it and if needed call a PPT to revise the modifications." That way I've written the e-mail in such a way that I'm sharing in having "overlooked" the accomodations, so it doesn't sound like I'm blaming them. I've also offered them a say in what is written and the opportunity to do something if they do not like them. I ALWAYS print those out after I've sent them and save them. You have done your part by providing them the paperwork and reminding them about it. If they are not following them you simply say, at either PPT's or report card time: "here is what I have sent you reminding you of these accomodations. If they had been followed 100% and the student was still failing I might agree with ____ grade; but as you are not following them I don't agree with ____ grade."

Finally, one of the classroom modifications I use for some of my students under Grading is "grade = to effort plus grade earned" or modified grading; that gives you some control over the situation and something to fall back on.

Good luck ~ hope this helps!


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Joined Jun 12, 2003
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Posted:Mar 13, 2008 4:48:27 PM

Jenn, I'm trying to see the logic behind what you are doing and how it relates to the question you are answering - which basically is how do you get the teachers to do what they, by law, are supposed to do.

Isn't what you are doing by saying 'a child with a disability will not fail unless it is lack of effort' grade inflation? Doesn't that in the long run hurt the student by masking the students unremediated deficits and unaccommodated deficits with good grades so that the next person that comes along looks at the grades and assumes the child is more remediated than he or she actually is? If the student passess from person to person each year and everyone follows your method, you end up with a high school student who has good grades, but has no skills. The reason for special education is to remediate and accommodate so the student has the skills to succeed.

Your solution seems to brush the problem under the rug and hide it from the parent and student. Ultimately it looks good for the school system, but is awful for the student. It allows for the fostering of teachers to continue to ignore accommodations because the student's grade is passing so no parent complains, the child is happy because they passed, and the teacher is estatic because they can continue with this method and be supported by their peers except for an e-mail that is just a FYI.

Looking at the immediate, you method looks good, but looking at the big picture, it is devistating to the student and his rights.

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Joined Mar 19, 2008
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Posted:Mar 19, 2008 9:35:02 AM

I, too, teach history to special ed students. I have one student in grade 6 and the sp.ed teacher is with the student and me during the class period. She modifies his assignment ,gives help taking notes,in essence she uses the IEP for modifications. I grade the work and must take into consideration his abilities and how he did with the modifications. I have never given him a failing grade because he puts forth so much effort. However, I have a 7th grader who shows up without materials, refuses to do any work even with modifications. He has learned this behavior because he has never had any consequences for not performing. He is failing my class.

Ann Worley

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Joined Mar 21, 2008
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Posted:Mar 21, 2008 1:36:02 PM

I teach history to 5th and 6th graders. Like most teachers I have several students in my classes who either have IEP's or 504's. I agree with the person who said maybe you could possibly deal with those students report cards. I also agree with not failing special needs students. If they try their best and do what they are capable of they deserve to go on. Why make them feel worse and want to give up by setting expectations that are unreachable. I believe with the correct modifications and an adequate teacher those students that put forth effort will succeed to the best of their abilities and deserve to pass on to the next grade.


Kayla O'Quinn

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Jennifer Fleming
Joined Apr 17, 2008
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Posted:Apr 17, 2008 3:11:36 PM

I am a special education teacher for 9th -11th grade. Previously, I have worked with 6th through 9th grade. I too have had a difficult time in getting general education teachers to realize the importance of accommodations for a student with disabilities. I had the most success when I have gone to talk with the teacher one and one and explain to them that an IEP is a legally binding document, and that they do not have a choice between following or not following an IEP’s accommodation. I do this professionally and inform them that an accommodation for SWD is a necessity. An accommodation levels the “playing field” for those students, and that though they may feel that it is unfair to the other students it is truly their only way to have success in the classroom. After taking this approach I have had their cooperation (sometimes with reluctance), but after they see that student can perform better they understand why I said what I did.

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Joined Jun 19, 2008
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Posted:Jul 13, 2008 5:39:43 PM

As somebody who was a Special Education Student, my IEP was a hotly contested between my parents and the school administration. My parents were borderlining pulling me out of the school altogether and putting me back in private school. Private school did not have a Special Education program and operated on a level that was at least two grade levels beyond my own.
I struggled with tests. I still struggle with tests even today and it's 20 years later. I'm probably older than some of you ladies teaching this group of kids. (respectfully speaking,of course) Tests were not a full measure of what I learned in the class. They were insufficient means to judge what had been learned. We did not have the Standards of Learning tests (SOLS) back then under Reagan and the first Bush.
What my teachers had to do with me was emphasize my participation in class. Not only did they have to count on how much I participated in the class but the way I carried myself in the class. What was my body language regarding the topic? Was I confident? was I skittish? Avoidant? How well could I carry on a topic in discussion vs. what I said it was on a test? Often times to converse with me, you would know I knew the topic to talk with me but the tests said something entirely different. I am one who does not test well. It's not that I didn't learn anything, I did but tests were unresolvable issues.
Normal kids don't have problems like that. Some of them can meet that challenge no problem at all but I was totally freaked out by it and couldn't and still have issues even today transposing the information from spoken word to putting it down for a test.
How do you grade that? Do you factor in participation in the class into it? Do you factor in attitude into it? Attitude is going to go a long way into the learning process. Honstly, my attitude is something I fight all the time because I take a pessimistic viewpoint on things. When ever positivity comes my way it is contrasted sharply by my pessimism. How do you grade that? Don't play favorites. Comparing one student to others is dangerous and will taint results everytime. A special ed student knows that there is something different about him. He will want to try to be normal like the others and will become frustrated in trying to reach that goal when he finds that he can't quite do it or understand it. He won't understand why he doesn't get it and feel like some aspects of life passed him by. Often the end result is a crash and burn that is usually not pretty.
I was a political football. Don't let your special ed student get caught up in that. That will hurt him in more way than you can imagine.
Set the goals for the student in half-steps. Don't take full strides. he will miss out on full strides and drop behind quickly. Do not exclude him from extra curricular activities/ field trips. The special ed student will enjoy that and it will encourage them to do better. Use those as attainable goals to work toward. Incentive works. Just some thoughts to share.

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Joined May 05, 2008
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Posted:Jul 23, 2008 1:12:50 AM

Inflating grades is a bad idea... Leveling an unlevel playing field, is basic ethics. You don't send the Keebler Elf into a sumo wrestling match with the fattest sumo wrestler in China without some modifications to the match. For example, people that fat tend to eat alot of crap food (though not always.) Let the little elf arm himself with a few yumyums and then he can toss them out to the fatso in exchange for the fatso throwing the match. Either that or i suppose he could poison his cookies so that his punches ultimately pack a harder hit..... The point is, what he does with the evening of the odds is what matters here. If he uses them to acheive the goal set before him to get the lesson everyone else is getting without having to overcome, a damn thing..... Then by all means... Pass the kid who is using his wits to put in effort. If the Keebler elf sits around instead having a lovely time laughing at the fatso while eating his own cookies and simply waiting for the knock out sumo punch..... Then he deserves the mark he gets. What is commonly not understood, is that the playing field for those of us with LD is not level or equal. We ask sometimes for modifications to make the playing field level. If we can't function sufficiently on a leveled playing field then it is on us. We failed rather than you or other teachers failing us. And make no mistake, it happens both ways. I put in almost 0 effort in highschool. I was annoyed that my constitutional rights were being violated and other places interested me more. Like the library where i would spend endless hours cutting class and reading about ancient societies or cutting class to sit around the chorus room messing with the piano or numerous other instruments. Today, i am multi lingual, multi instrumental, i read and write in both modern western music notation and that of the ancient greeks. I also do alot of transcription in my free time. I read the hieroglyphs and have quite a good education in my field of archaeology with an emphasis on egypt.

There are creative ways those with LD can use what small alterations they are allowed to help them to overcome. If they choose to not do it, that is on them. I failed a math class once. I hate math. But guess what? I compensated. My check book is well balanced courtesy of my husband a PHD in theoretical physics. And he hates the telephone. (He is from Finland and has quite an accent.) I am very verbal.Sooo I handle all that....

Teachers work under a mistaken premise in my opinion. They believe they are there to educate. The fact is, once someone is literate any education they desire is up to them and in their grasp if they choose to get it. Once a student can decode words, the job of the teacher changes. You are no longer there to educate. Not a single one of you. You are there to inspire your students to educate themselves. And you are as able to fail as any child with or without LD. Some of you try harder than others. It really sux that there is no way to recognize the effort some of you put in and the lack of effort others of you don't put in. I personally feel grading should go both ways. And as it isn't communism, those with lower marks for inspiring the minds of their students should be payed less and those that work their butts off and go to the matt and back to inspire their students should get raises. After all, for students an F is a 3 month grounding. An A is a celebratory dinner. You see there are consequences for us.

I will admit though some of us are harder than others to educate. For example, my senior year in highschool i was so totally disinterested i didn't even attend as much as i should have. And i deserved every bad mark i got. However, i tutored a kid in english lit, (my one good subject that year as i was not morally opposed since the teacher was inspirational.) Anyway, this poor kid spoke with an accent no one without musician's ears would notice. A french accent. He was from north africa. Though his english verbal skills were very good, his reading in english and comprehension of read english stunk. So they told me he was dyslexic and ordered me to try to help him. Soon as i talked to him i heard the slight accent. Then i took one look at his sentence structure and i cracked up. You see i speak french. A bit.... Not one of my 6 fluent languages... But enough... Anyway, to make a long story short.... I ended up giving him the books in french because no one bothered to notice his first language was french and then i translated all his papers to english had him re-type them and taught him about sentence structure etc that way.... But they wanted me to spend hours reading out loud to him because he is illiterate. Yes, almost illiterate in english totally literate and then some in his own language.... Some teachers are just idiots. They don't care. They just want this kid to be someone else's problem. When the reality of the situation is this, those of us with LD are just waiting for you all to inspire us. So inspire us and give us a level playing field and if we don't acheive, that's our own fault. If we do.... Be proud of yourselves because what you did not only took hard work but talent and patience and many other good qualities.Recognize, in such cases, that A isn't just belonging to that LD student. It is yours also and be proud.

Lastly, acknowledge the system of grading is unfair to us on account that each assignment given is the equivalent to your students of a flaming hoop that they must jump through to get their dog biscuit. However, those of us with LD have to jump through not 1 hoop but atleast 2 hoops of fire to get sometimes to the same place. Is it fair then to give such high marks to those it comes so easy to when there are those of us who may just squeek by through that flaming hoop you present to us when just to reach it we have had to jump through atleast one already and our legs are tired? But ofcourse those other flaming hoops simply don't count do they? Ofcourse not.If jumping through 1 flaming hoop gets a dog biscuit perhaps jumping through 2 even if your tail gets a little singed is worth 2 dog biscuits? But then, i have LD which pretty much nullifies everything i have to say as anyone with LD clearly is of lesser intelligence or reasoning ability than the rest of the world that you even need to have this conversation....

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