Talked with Joey's teacher today. I really have a lot of confidence in both of Joey's teachers. He is having a fabulous time at school and clearly coming along. But I have to say, testing is a crock.
It would be one thing if the goal of testing was to understand what a child knows and understands, and what requires more work. When I give a test, this is what I am doing. Testing is a tool. But most testing in the schools is not geared to understanding what children know. It is geared to finding out what non-disabled children can recall within a certain format.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has implemented something called the Standards of Learning. I sure there are many excellent blogs on the subject, pros, cons, and everything in-between. I will say that having looked over the SOL goals with some care, there are pros and cons. The main pro is that kids have definite things they are learning throughout the year, following set "guidelines" so that I as a parent can determine what my child is learning in school in any given month, and can support those lessons at home. And they are good lessons, like learning about the senses and the world and the basics of academics. The con comes from a lack of flexibility, overwhelming children with material, and the measurments used to determine whether the children are learning the lessons. Testing my child with a verbal-heavy test where he has to carefully fill in little "bubbles" isn't going to help much, other than to tell me he's not very good at that kind of a test because of the auditory processing and the question processing. I already know he's autistic, thanks. What I want to know is does he know the material? And do we have an effective way for him to communicate that information and use that information? Another con is that the standards are so set and inflexible, Joey ends up having to do what to him is busy-work. He already knows his shapes, colors, numbers and letters. Yet here they are again. Is he not answering these questions about community helpers because he is bored? Or because he can't process the question format? Or because he genuinely has no clue what a fireman does? It is impossible to tell.
We do have some basic accommodations in his IEP, like one-on-one testing, visual prompts, and flex-testing (if he's clearly not going to test well, or gets tired, the teacher can stop testing for that day and try again later.) I think I'd feel better if more signing was used and permitting during testing, but I don't think the teachers are trained and know enough sign to do that. I just fear people who are not special ed folks- ie, most of the school teachers and admin- are going to dismiss him as stupid because of state-mandated tests which are poorly designed (at best) for students with special needs. This child is not stupid, and assuming he is will only frustrate him.
I think what I like most about this teacher (the one I spoke with today), though, is her assumption of competence. She expects Joey to do what she knows he can do, and she knows he can do this work and understand what is going on. Now we just have to figure out how to communicate effectively- both ways.