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For Teen With Special Needs, Good Grades Prompt Outcry

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Typically parents are proud to see their child earning 90s and 100s at school, but a Georgia father whose son has severe disabilities says the scores are cause for concern.

Wes DeWeese says his son, Jared, is unable to speak, read or walk and has the mental abilities of a 6-month-old. Yet, the 18-year-old is receiving top grades in algebra, biology and other high school courses at his Gwinnett County school.

DeWeese believes teachers are deliberately giving Jared high grades in order to boost overall scores at the school.

School district officials would not comment on Jared’s case specifically, but said that students with cognitive disabilities are given access to modified coursework and graded on participation.

DeWeese, however, believes it’s unproductive and misleading to grade students like his son on skills that are well above their ability level.

“My goal isn’t for him to do algebra. My goal is to have him walk. I would love to hear him say ‘mom’ or ‘dad,'” DeWeese told WSB, the Atlanta ABC affiliate.

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Comments (24 Responses)

  1. theSeed says:

    I’m wondering why is this boy in classes that are teaching him things that the dad says are above his cognitive level?? Shouldn’t he be in classes that in which the instruction is developed to teach HIM?????

  2. Mom2Mom says:

    To answer the Seed’s question, here in Michigan special needs students HAVE TO be allowed in mainstream classes, otherwise it is discrimination. We currently have a severe Down’s syndrome child in 3rd grade with the mental abilities of a 2-year-old. He does not want to sit at his desk, is constantly interrupting other students and loves to eat hand sanitizer (from what I gather Down’s children have very limited items they can taste so obviously the sanitzer can be tasted). His parents refuse to put him in our local ISD, where he would be taught life skills. The teacher spends much of her time focusing this child’s behavior to the detriment of the other students. The teacher is not a special education teacher and is at her wit’s end. His parents want him to enroll in the band come Jr. High and he will have to be allowed….If you mention anything to his parents about perhaps it is inappropriate for him to be mainstreamed they immediately bring up the ACLU….

  3. KRod says:

    unfortunately, theSeed and Mom2Mom are issues on both extreme sides of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). In this particular article, the LRE might be appropriate for the student educational placement; however, the issue is about the way his academic performance is measured. Doing the “poor student” method and passing him just because of his disabilities is doing a disservice to the student. Now, Mom2Mom’s comment on the teacher of the student with Down Syndrome being at her “wit’s end”, I have to say it is an issue of educational support form administration as well. What support is the teacher receiving to effectively educate this child? You’re absolutely right in mentioning discrimination as the issue. The LRE begins in the general education setting with the PROPER academic supports; one cannot place a student in a segregated classroom just because of a “label”: Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc, etc. It is their educational right to be in a setting with their “non-disabled” peers would be; not only does the disabled student gains from that setting, but also his/her peers learn acceptance, tolerance, and sensitivity for these human beings that are part of our society. I say this respectfully, as the mother of a kindergartener who currently is fighting the educational system for his right to be educated in the general education setting.

  4. Darla says:

    It is completely dishonest for schools to do this, yet they will do almost anything to boost test scores. My daughter can’t have a conversation, yet the MD (in)Voluntary Curriculum mandates that her time is wasted on “The Great Gatsby” presented in 3-symbol sentences. She was actually on the honor roll in grade school, regardless of the fact that she couldn’t do any of the work anywhere near grade level.

  5. Tanya says:

    Mom2Mom, you have no idea what you are talking about…first of all children with Down syndrome are not Down’s syndrome children. I have no idea why you are posting on a Disability Awareness website and you do not even know about people first language. Second, children with Down syndrome DO NOT generally have issues with taste…where did you ever hear that??? You know he has the “mental abilities of at 2-year-old how??? I could go on and on about this ridiculous post but I will just say that INCLUSION can and does work. I have a 16 year old son who happens to have Down syndrome (and he appreciates good tasting food). He has been included in the general education setting his whole life. The only time his behavior has been an issue is when his needs are not being met with proper modifications and accomodations…the children in that 3rd grade class could learn more about life and humanity in that one year of school being educated along side a child with DS than they will learn in all of their “education” if the proper supports were in place. I am disgusted that you would blame the child (or the parents). Before you post and make yourself sound ignorant you should really know what you are talking about.

  6. Tanya says:

    Now for the reason that I originally was reading this post. I recently had a similar issue with my son’s report card. I demanded that they do not list him on the honor society (in our local newspaper). I also requested all of the work that was done to come up with the grades he received be shown to me. They seemed shocked that I was asking for the work but I told them straight out ~ I understand what my son’s delays are and I know he does not perform at a “typical” 9th grade level. I am ok with my son being graded on his modified work but the amount of independence has to be figured into that grade also and it is this fact that he should not be getting all A’s on his report card. My point to this is if he is getting all A’s they are not working him to his potential. Neither of my older 2 children got all A’s and they were proud of the grades they received because they knew they were working to their potential. This past semester my son received all A’s on his report card but made “very limited” progress on his IEP goals. I requested that they explain this.

    This is a transition year for my son as he just entered high school so I am giving everyone a little room to figure out how this all works but INCLUSION has worked for the past 9 years and I expect that it will work for the next 4 years in high school. My son will be educated in the general education setting with extra assistance as needed along with the proper modifications and accomodations and he will receive grades that are reflective of the work he does and effort he puts in. No one is getting away with “grade padding” and I think they now understand this.

  7. Jessica Wilson says:

    I just have to ask that commenters not add to controveries by putting out stereotyping and *false* comments like kids with Down syndrome can’t taste food and hand sanitizer is tasty to them as a result. That is untrue, unnecessary, and totally irrelevant to the conversation. If you’re on this website because you have a personal interest or stake in the disability world, don’t add to the negativity we all deal with daily by including stereotypes just to make your point.

  8. Tim says:

    I work with children who have special need. What I have not seen mentioned here that is an important fact, is that for children with moderate to sever disabilities, the child is NOT graded on standard criteria, but on their progress toward speciic IEP goals. A child might be in fourth grade but their math goal may be to understand the relationship between written numbers, and a countable quanity. So they might be in a class that is learning to add 3-digit numbers, but the teacher is grading the piticular child on if he undersands what 100 of something looks like. There’s a lot more than you see going on!

  9. deefreddy says:

    Earlier this week, I was in a meeting where this issue came up. Many of my colleagues who, like myself, teach students with severe needs, typically give A’s to their students for all subjects, no matter what their progress is in learning a subject or their level of participation. In most cases, they didn’t do this grading to make their overall scores look higher, rather, they did it because they didn’t feel honest grading was necessary. I personally think it is laziness, because it is hard work to document student’s progress on learning at this level on a daily basis. I strongly felt that this was discriminatory towards our students and dishonest — “mercy grading.” Our students can learn, and until everyone has higher expectations, educational discrimination will continue to happen. In this video clip, the administrator says they are grading on “participation.” This is not in the spirit or even within the law of what special education is. Students need to be exposed to the general education curriculum to LEARN, not just by sitting there and calling it participation! In high school, that means that the state curriculum needs to be greatly modified to meet most of my student’s functional needs, but it can be done. And yes, as the father wants, his child should also get help to meet goals such as communication and mobility. That’s what special education is supposed to be:modifying and adapting curriculum, teaching life, community, mobility, vocational skills, and getting students into the least restrictive environment WITH appropriate supports and services. DON’T blame the special ed student who is having difficulties in a general education classroom, blame the teachers, administrators, supervisors, BOE, DOE, and everyone else who is not providing the supports and services dictated by law to help that student be successful.

  10. Sharon Watson says:

    I totally agree with this. I have often questioned my nephew’s grades from my being there to help hime with his homework. I think that the school system needs to meet a quota showing that these children are learning at their school. I don’t know how much they really comprehend and I would love to sit in on their classes and see how they respond to the teachers. Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

  11. Joyce Olson says:

    I retired from education, but it is true we are no longer allowed to teach students the life skills. The states are simply following all of the rules and regulations mandated by the federal government and our great laws of No Child Left Behind. We no longer write Individual Education Plans but jump through the hoops so the states meet the requirements of the mandates by the feds. This stopped being about children a long time ago. Its time that parents cried out in protest.

  12. Marge says:

    We parents just want the schools to get it right. It’s not that hard really. Educate our kids to the best of their abilities, alongside their peers, with access to the grade level curriculum (but modified to their level), with all the proper supports in place. It can and does work. I agree though that it is unfair to just ‘dump’ a child with special needs into a mainstream classroom and expect the general ed. teacher to ‘figure it out’. As far as grading, most of us are realistic about what our kids are capable of. My daughter (with DS) has always brought home her regular report card with just about everything checkmarked as “below grade level” but has always “made sufficient progress” on her IEP goals. She’s nowhere near reading, writing or doing math at a third grade level…but she is reading, writing and doing math.

  13. Laverne Bissky says:

    Our child has a severe physical disability but not a cognitive one. So when she was integrated into the regular curriculum some of the teachers were concerned that her aide was doing the work. On either end of the cognitive spectrum there are challenges.

  14. KA101 says:

    Wouldn’t be the first time a school showed the scores it needed to show, rather than the ones its students would earn–the Wall Street Journal was reporting test-fixing years ago.

    Educational progress need not be full grade-to-grade advancement, but it does need to be meaningful educational progress. Can’t speak to this particular situation as I don’t have enough data, but grade-fixing is as much a problem as test-fixing.

  15. Dee Wheat says:

    You know, I’m sure this is going to prompt an outcry, but I have to ask why this child is in school. A public, or private, for that matter, school is not going to be able to teach him to walk, or to talk. He is not going to learn socialization skills, life skills, or any other skills. They are simply being used to give the parents a five day a week respite….babysitting, if you will.

    As a parent, and as a disability advocate, I am absolutely committed to the concept that every child, disabled or not, should have unlimited access to any and all education from which they can derive even the slightest benefit. However, as we all know, funds for supports, and especially supports in the schools, are very limited. Providing services for a child who clearly cannot benefit in any way denies support and services from another child who could benefit. It shouldn’t be that way, but in a realistic world, we all know that it is.

    While I sympathize with these parents and understand why they are sending their son to school every day, I have to question whether this is appropriate placement for him. I have to wonder if he would not benefit just as much, if not more, from a day care/respite care type placement which would not require that supports be stretched even thinner than they are in our schools.

  16. Karin F. says:

    Mom2Mom- you REALLY need to do about fifteen minutes of research before putting your thoughts to paper (or website)- your total insensitivity and complete lack of knowledge of federal law is appalling.

    Dee Wheat- you claim to be a disability advocate, but your comment appears to demonstrate anything but advocacy for kids w/ disabilities. It brings to mind the phrase, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” EVERY child is entitled to learn, to go to school, and be taught. This is the LAW here in the United States. EVERY child can learn. That’s EVERY child, not just those who you deem worthy. Who are you to determine just who can and can not learn and derive benefit?? How dare you call yourself an advocate for the disabled. How dare you claim to be committed to the concept that all children are deserving of an education- then immediately follow that statement with such appalling ignorance. Shame on you!

  17. Glen S says:

    Karin F. – If you wish to be more effective in your debating, you might want to actually point out specific fallacies in another posters argument. Where is the data that suggests that all children can learn high level high school science, or that padding grades is beneficial to a child’s long term success in life? Second, all laws have interpretations; and it seems your interpretation is unsustainable and has been demonstrated to be completely ineffective.

    As you your points to Dee Wheat: First, it is your advocacy that is ineffective and unsustainable. The discussion was not that children with disabilities can’t learn. The discussion is WHAT a particular child can learn. Asking a non-verbal, hearing impaired, low functioning teenager to sit in a high level science or math class at the age most children are in high school is an ineffective, waste of time. The entire reason for IDEA was to recognize that we are missing the needs of many of our children with disabilities. As such a particular child’s needs must be kept in mind when planning that child’s educational program. Continuing to espouse talking points about inclusion is meaningless to a child whose needs are not being met in that classroom.

    And while we are accusing an individual poster of that which he or she is clearly not guilty. Who are the advocates for full inclusion to say that all children benefit from full inclusion? Where is the data that suggests that fictitious passing grades in a high school science class is actually in the child’s best interest?

  18. susan says:

    Well, all I can say is that from my experience schools don’t necessarily do the right thing for students with disabilities. They produce documents and have meetings that comply with the law (in a limited, bureaucratic sense) and they comply with LRE requirements, but they don’t necessarily have anyone who is capable of putting together a program that actually benefits the student. Many schools have special education staff that churn out IEPs with one-size-fits-none goals and placements rather than an individualized education plan based on the student’s unique needs. It’s common for sped staff to never look at the goals (which frequently aren’t that meaningful anyway) once they are committed to paper, never assess whether anything is working or needs to change, and then do it all again at the next scheduled meeting. To get anything else requires incredible effort on the part of the parents, knowledge of the law, hours spent working on goals, an iron stomach for working with patronizing, condescending, mediocre administrators, and lots of support at home. And you have to be incredibly lucky to be able to stumble upon and figure out what will actually help your child and then go devise some strategy for obtaining at least some of that for your child..

  19. Kristen Miller says:

    Susan,

    Wow ! I am a special education provider who works with an amazing team of special ed teachers, therapists, psychologists, social workers, general ed teachers, administration, and last but first in terms of importance, students and their parents. We routinely devise special education plans tailored out to suit individual student’s needs, so I can’t help but feel sad with your impression of special education services. In terms of cookie cutting goals ? I can honestly say that I have never used the same goal twice in creating IEP’s with any of my students. Never look at the goal again ? How would I expect to achieve progress and know what I am supposed to be measuring ? Not appropriate for the student ? I am very confident you would not find a single student on my caseload who does not have an appropriate and individualized goal in place, in fact, most have at least two. In case you are not aware these goals are only a very small portion of what we actually plan and do work on with the student over the course of the year. The idea is to be accountable for measuring progress on couple of specific goal areas thought to be important for the student to achieve from each of the services that are involved in providing the specialized instruction. It is so we have a means of measuring progress at any given point in time, but it in no means represents everything we are working on. How easy that would be if that was all there was to be concerned about. We are concerned with helping our students catch-up, maintain, and fully internalize and integrate all they are learning despite the presence of an underlying disability. That’s not even considering all the things that come naturally to most students that most of our students require direct and implicit instruction to learn. We are required and are happy to provide parents with written documentation of their child’s progress a minimum of 4x a year, and as you can imagine that is just a very small portion of the paperwork we are required to do. We simply can’t add to the paperwork demands by documenting everything we are trying to accomplish, or it would be very nice to have a multitude of goals which we anticipate and plan on achieving over the course of the year. I am very sorry you have such a poor perception of special education programs, but it is grossly inaccurate to apply to my world. I wish you did not feel it necessary to stereo-type and generalize based on your personal experience, because you sure do discredit those who provide effective special education services who put their heart and souls into working with students both with and without disabilities. My biggest fear is that your comments do nothing to encourage and support parents who might be having a current problem with their child’s services. I would advise anyone who feels in the least bit like yourself to make certain they are advocating for their children and seeking out schools which are able to provide appropriate services. Your last comment of “being lucky to stumble and figure out what your child needs only to give them a portion of what they need” is partially a mystery to me, as most if not all of my student’s parents know exactly what their children need to be successful, and they are able to provide us with the greatest insight and direction into planning and providing for their child. I would have to agree that resources are not always readily available in terms of instructional materials/classroom supplies/staffing/technology/and environmental supports; however, you learn to be creative, innovative, adaptive, and advocative, because it is very difficult if not impossible to consider not providing a child with what it is he/she needs to learn.

  20. Annee says:

    When a parent says he wants his child to learn to walk, it raises the question- is school the appropriate setting for this child? Is physical therapy a medical or educational province? I am sorry to say, limited resources mean that we need to seriously concentrate on the students who have an honest chance to learn and be productive, tax paying citizens. That is the only way we can continue to support those who are majorly handicapped.

  21. amy says:

    same thing has happened with my son in the Pittsburgh Public School District. I am embarrassed for this district. Not only did they lose my son for two hours who ended up being found by a wonderful citizen 1 mile from school property two hours later, this district and elementary school. It took me 1 and a 1/2 years to get my son into an ASD classroom at a near by school who offered this class (his home school did not) it also took me an entire year just to change his original diagnosis on his IEP from OHI to ASD. it still took another 6 months for my son to get the okay to be transferred to an ASD classroom. At the home school he had to take PSSA’s for the state and he was found to be above average in math, reading, spelling and believe it or not reading comprehension. (My son still cannot even tell time, still!) They lied and lied and lied some more. It’s sickening! This school didn’t want to fail the PSSA’s which are mandatory by the state because of the numerous consequences this school would receive. (They pride themselves on the fact that they are a Magnet program focused on reading). My son lost a year and a half more of schooling because of Pittsburgh Public School District in Allegheny County mainly due to his (at the time) learning support teacher and guidance counselor. The only reason we got the appropriate help was because his 4th grade learning support teacher transferred to another school (within this district) and we were blessed with an extremely knowledgeable new learning support teacher and his new 5th grade homeroom teacher happened to be a mother of a 11 yr (just like my son) with the same diagnosis. I am so grateful for them both!

  22. Jim Taylor says:

    As a behavior analyst working in school systems I have come to look at this issue with an open mind. I have seen severely disabled students graduate with honors while the general education students who needed to study and work hard just to get passing grades asks “how did this happen?” I have seen very hard working students in classrooms have serious behavior issues when the SpEd student sitting next to them in class scores a 99 on their exam while they received only an 85. But can we really use the same grading scale for all students?? The perfect system has not been developed, and fair is not always fair.

  23. holly says:

    My daughter is total care, socially delightful, wheelchair. I wanted her so much to have the experiences of being with other classroom students with modified subjects. Attempts were made. Montcalm county special ed (Greenville,Michigan) did everything they could to not make this successful. My daughter is not disruptive. But is Cerebral Palsy and black. Special ed in Greenville has a separate building called the cider building where they like to place anything not to their liking. I am in Montcalm School District but live in Kent County where they have much better education. I have had to homeschool. Michigan rooked my kid out of any education that she could of had. I use to live in another state where the education was much better so I do know the difference. A lot of states such as Michigan do not pay any attention to any laws. I really doubt if this young man is getting any education or dad would know of such goals he is working on. I am all about modified teaching. I really doubt they are doing this.

  24. holly says:

    Oh by the way. You can teach almost any kid anything. Walking is learned. Bumping into things and not doing it again is learned. After so many years my girl is pushing herself all over the house. She is learning. She just can’t learn everything. If she was in the local school segregate building she would be stuck in a bean bag all day. Bored stiff and getting stiffer. She still loves to read. But she can’t hold the book. I believe our jobs as parents are to keep are kids bodies as healthy as possible and keep are kids brains as stimulated and filled with as many oppourtunitys that we can so that maybe one day when that miracle does come around our kids will be prepared for it. and we can say we did are best with minimal amounts of hind sight. Can’t do it every day just most of the time.
    sincerely,
    mom of special needs daughter in west mich

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