An 80 in Algebra, Not Good Enough

by JAC and Ben's Mom 25. November 2015 11:37

Today I am signing the papers to move my honor student with learning disabilities into an Algebra I class with a lab. We originally refused the lab so he could have an elective. We felt it was important in high school to have something to look forward to each day and also something to help define and direct his interests and passions for the future. I am taking away lunch every other day from a kid with a medical diagnosis of anxiety that needs his down time in the middle of the day. I am putting my son, who has been passing math for the last two years with quarter grades of 80-92 and who passed his math final in 8th grade with an 85 into a lab. I am adding more academic intervention while taking away more of his authentic high school experience and more time to make friends and acclimate to his new school. To do better on a test.  Math reasoning has been removed from his IEP, he has tested within grade level. To be sure, math is not my son’s favorite or strongest subject, but he has grown as a math student in the last two years thanks in part to wonderful teachers. He is not the fastest at finding sums, he has difficulty remembering the steps of those multi-step problems when he hasn’t done them in a few months. And sorting the math out of the problems with lots of reading is challenging, too. It may take him longer, but he gets there. He doesn’t give up.

Yet the 80 he has in Algebra I is problematic.  Why? It seems good enough. It's good enough for me, his Mom, I want it to be good enough for the world and let it go.  His homework is always done, he pays attention in class and by the second week of high school had arranged with the new teacher to attend extra help two mornings before schools every week. Every day he faces his fears, he goes to school, and he has become an advocate for himself. He is the bravest person I know. It should be good enough, no? He is already spending a whole period every day in resource room, must he give up time with friends, time to eat lunch to improve his math score even more? Is he failing the system? No. The system is failing my child. New York State Ed is failing my child. The flawed curriculum is failing my child. The flawed tests, set to fail so many, they are failing my son. You see my son, like many others can do math, just plain math, plain, old algebra. But this new stuff…well, that gets a bit tricky.  

80 should be good enough. But it’s not. It’s not because this is not about my child, or how he learns. It seems like the Algebra I isn’t even a math class in high school, it is just a test prep class for the Regent Exam.  It’s all about the Regent Exam at the end of year. That bunch of tests he needs to pass to get a diploma to get to do the rest of the things that he wants to do with his life. Passing these tests stands between my son and his dreams and his future. My child who learns differently and at a different pace, my child who is funny and creative and works unbelievably hard and twice as long at school to be as good as his peers who seem to put no effort in at all.

80. The message comes back again from SED, from the School District, from the parent that worries about the future…maybe we should add the lab. He would be more comfortable in the lab. A little more support would insure he passes “the test”. But the real message that we are sending again, and again, even with the 80, and it is not the message I want to send...BUT, the message comes across and our children can hear it loud and clear, even if we don’t verbalize it….you are not good enough.

Why is this the message we are allowing?

Why are we saying it is okay that only kids that test well are great? We cannot pound all other kids into that mold. It doesn’t work like that. We need to nurture the talents of all kids so that each and every one can shine.

At the end of the day, it will not matter how much extra help some kids go to, how many labs, how much money is spent on tutors—and we have given up family vacations to pay for the tutor since my son was in 2nd grade—the combination of learning disabilities, testing anxiety and flawed curriculum and tests that are a year or two above the students ability level will fail even kids on the honor roll. The honor roll grades will still scream, that they were not enough. After all the work of handing in every assignment on time for years, showing up to extra help, attending reviews, paying for tutors, they still may fail. The testing anxiety, the rigged test, the flawed curriculum will set them up to fail and they will not get diplomas. It is not okay.

We cannot go on this way inflicting failure on the kids. Putting them in labs, adding extra help on Saturday so they can pass the Regents exams because the State has made a terrible job of the tests and of curriculum that profit a few and gather our kids personal data.

And again I ask, why are we allowing that the message we are sending to our children is that they are not good enough?

My son is amazing. He blogs and does incredible art on the computer. He sings and performs. He is always there when I need help, he is happy to lend a hand. I don’t know anyone that works as hard as he does. He never gives up, he knows that somethings are hard and he is always willing to try. He is more than enough.


These exit exams do not show the great creative talent in children with testing anxiety and learning disabilities. My son is an artist. No standardized test can measure his creativity or his worth. There is no scale to measure awesomeness.


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