Now, imagine a child with learning disabilities taking TN Ready.
Students who are below reading level must now prove that they need "text-to-speech" (aka read-aloud) accommodation. And get this... An IEP or 504 plan may not be considered as sufficient proof. And that concerns Momma Bears!!!
An IEP team is made up of the students, their general education teacher, their special education teacher, a school administrator and their parents. The people who know this student and are in the best position to make decisions about this child's education. But now the state has told the schools that they better have a darn good reason to be giving this accommodation or else!! Or else what????
Or else the TN DOE can take the accommodation away or worse, invalidate the child's test score. This is very upsetting since these kids usually have a lot of test anxiety anyway. It would be a crying shame to put a child through this test for nothing.
So, what's a parent to do?
We reached out to some of the most voracious momma bears ever—the SPED advocates. And this is what they told us.
Parents need to prepare for IEP meetings by learning what criteria must be met in order to get the text-to-speech accommodation. And remember, you don't have to wait until your annual meeting. An IEP meeting can be called anytime. So what is the criteria for text-to-speech accommodation?
Take a look at what's in a TNDOE memo dated October 14, 2015 and let's break down each question.
- Does the student have a documented decoding or fluency deficit which precludes access to printed text? If your child has an SLD in reading then the answer is yes.
- Does the student have a goal to address deficit listed in the present level of educational performance? Again, if your child has an SLD in reading the answer better be yes. The IEP team should have addressed a goal for fluency and or decoding based on the Present Levels of Performance.
- Is the student engaged in intense intervention to address specific deficit? Once again, if your child has an IEP then there should be goals for the reading deficit and in order to reach those goals your child should be in an intense intervention in a special education setting.
- Is inability to access printed text included in the impact statement? Now, this one might be the one you need to address but it is easy to do. Check your child’s IEP, does the impact statement say your child struggles with reading but comprehension is high when content is read aloud? You need a statement similar to that.
- Does the student need supported reading in core academic instruction? Does your child have read aloud for all of his/her classroom work and tests? Then this would also be a yes.
Got that? Text-to-speech requires a "yes" answer to all the above questions!! As long as the IEP passes the “stranger test” which means anyone can pick up the IEP and know exactly what the IEP is for and has passed all the criteria from above, the school should be good but we as parents need to make sure everything is covered.
Don't let schools say no to the text-to-speech accommodation without actually analyzing the situation. This could have a dramatic impact on your child's grades especially if your child is in high school. We do not want a situation where students reading below grade level are forced to read at grade level, or above on a test that will count up to 25% of their final grade.