Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Taking a Stand

Yesterday, the Mississippi State Senate voted to kill House Bill 745.  This bill would provide an exemption for public schools students with special needs to be promoted to fourth grade if they are meeting the requirements of their IEPs but do not meet the cut score on the high stakes standardized reading test.  It would also make the current school year the baseline assessment year for all third grade students, delaying for one year retentions based solely on the state reading test.

Today, I took a stand for my child with special needs!!

The following is my strongly worded letter I sent to my senators.

Senator Parker,

I am writing to express my disappointment in the senate for killing HB 745. As a parent of a third grader with special needs, I find this decision appalling and a slap in the face to your constituents. 
My son is 8 years old.  He was born with a cleft lip and hearing impairment. After several surgeries, he is able to function and hear like a normal child. However, he struggles in school. With an original ruling of developmentally delayed, we have also learned that he has a reading disability. I call it this because our "wonderful" state does not recognize dyslexia as a disability. For the past three years, we have paid for a private tutor to help our son read on grade level. He receives remediation through his school, and lots of time at home working on improving his reading scores. And while I hope this will be enough, as a mother I am in constant worry that he will not pass this high stakes standardized reading test. 
Yesterday, I met with his general education and special education teachers. My main question was how can I assure that he will pass this test. Do you know what I was told? They don't know!  We are a part of one of the top districts in the state and the teachers have no idea what will be on this important test. They have had no practice. They aren't even sure when it will be given. Well, I say shame on you!  Shame on a group of people who apparently have never stepped foot in a classroom for making decisions that affect children. Shame on the state senate for not giving schools adequate time to develop ways to help these kids. Shame on the state senators for causing students with special needs more worry. Did you know that my child, as well as many others, find themselves in tears over the PARCC testing?  Just last night it took him an hour and a half to complete 17 questions on a PARCC practice test. Do you know why? Because he struggles in reading. 
Stop making poor decisions!  You and the rest of the senate owe it to the good people of the state to better prepare teachers and students for the ridiculous decisions you all have made. It's time to be heard and to take a stand!  I hope that you will also choose this route!
Thank you,

Tobie Pillstrom