State testing and IEPs

Since she’s homeschooled, Namine doesn’t have an IEP. But as we approach the time for her first state testing, we need to make sure certain accommodations can be met for her.

Technically, Namine attends a state school: Rural Virtual Academy, in Medford, Wisconsin. They send us curriculum and supplies, and we teach Namine and report back to Namine’s assigned teacher with her papers, tests, and grades. It’s not for everyone, but it works out great for us. It allows more flexibility with regard to lessons and the school day in general, since Namine still has plenty of therapy and hospital appointments that would interrupt a normal school day.

Back when she attended a brick-and-mortar school, Namine had an IEP. As you might conclude from the very fact that Namine is now homeschooled, it was not respected; on the contrary, it was grossly neglected by her teacher, who grouped her in with the rest of the special needs children in her class. (Therein lies the danger of the general label of “special needs.”) After months of trying to get her teacher to honor the IEP which she agreed to, we finally pulled Namine out of school and resolved to teach her ourselves.

Namine is now in third grade, and doing very well. I can say without boasting (well, maybe a little bit of boasting) that she is even doing some fourth grade coursework. The tale of woe that was our IEP struggle is ancient history, but it’s important to bring up now, with the first year of state testing coming up next month.

Without an IEP in place, the testing facility would not provide any accommodations. Or, to put it more accurately, the testing facility would not be able to, legally. How would they know what to provide? That’s what an IEP is for: it dictates the terms of what a student needs. IEPs have a poor reputation, and sometimes for good reason, but when they’re respected on all sides and implemented well, they are a great tool to be used by both parents and teachers, and a boon to the students for which they’re written.

Namine, in her attendance to RVA, cannot have an IEP. To properly implement one, the school in question must be able to provide any third party assistance, such as the physical therapist Namine’s preschool was supposed to supply. As a virtual school (more than five hours’ driving time away from where we live), they obviously cannot do this. At any rate, we handle Namine’s transportation to therapy, rendering otherwise in-school services unnecessary.

As for the testing, Namine’s teacher (the one at RVA, to whom we turn in Namine’s grades) worked with the facility staff to set up accommodations for her this year. As a result, we won’t need an IEP in place for the time being. Next year we will need one, but only for during the state testing; since it’s a year from now, we’ll have plenty of time to hash out the details.

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