Monday, December 13, 2010

College Girl

My daughter is coming to the end of a successful first semester at college. And boy, are those words I thought I'd never say, both the "college" part and the "successful" part. As much as we try, as parents of children with special needs, to stay afloat in the sea of bad testing scores and professional predictions of doom, as much as we try to believe in our kids' abilities, there's always that voice that says, Maybe those experts are right and my children really won't amount to anything. You worry about hoping, and it's easy to doubt achievement.

In my last conversation about my daughter with her high-school case manager, the woman made sure to tell me that my girl would do poorly on the community college's placement test. I'd been led to believe, certainly, that good grades for special students in high-school resource and inclusion classes were mercy grading, indicative not of real ability but of the good will of teachers and the dumbing-down of work. As much as I feel my kids really have learned and grown and succeeded in their years of elementary and secondary schooling, there's that voice saying, Well, it's not like REAL work that REAL kids get.

And indeed, my daughter did crash and burn on the placement test. On the plus side, though, that put her into a program of remedial courses designed to motivate the bottom percentiles to perhaps make it to a second semester. God bless community colleges for taking our money even if they don't think our kids have a chance, you know? I mean that sincerely, because that's the only way my kids are going to get a post-secondary education. They're never going to prove themselves on a standardized test.

As is her pattern, my daughter is doing much better in the classroom than her test score would lead anybody to expect, with passing-or-better grades across the board. And interestingly, she's become the student the other students turn to when they need help. What an amazing position for a kid who's always had extra assistance herself to be in. She's answered Facebook and e-mail queries about homework assignments, helped classmates in the library to complete math problems, even scanned a syllabus and e-mailed it to someone who'd lost hers and needed details of an assignment imminently due. She always turns in her homework, has her speeches ready when they're due, gets her projects done on time. Those are skills that aren't well-evaluated in standardized tests, but I have to think they're going to serve her well in real life.

So now can I believe? She's succeeding in these classes without the help of curriculum adjustments and paraprofessionals and special-education teachers tweaking her tests. Does she get to own this achievement now? The case-manager voice in my head says Well, it's just remedial, it's not like REAL college. One of these semesters, we're finally going to shut her up.

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