April 19, 2010. There is something seriously wrong when a 3rd grade math teacher tells us during our perfunctory CSE meeting that Peter understands the concept of angles and we counter that he can’t order a stack of playing cards, numbers 2 thru 10, from highest to lowest. With heavy prompts and cues, Lindy helps Peter get through a practice State Mathematics Test, which will be administered to him in a few weeks. It takes them two hours to work through 32 problems that are supposed to be representative of what he should have learned in public school to date. Despite significant hand-holding, Peter only gets 3 problems correct (one of which was a guess). No one wishes to discuss this, however, and they quickly move on to the next subject, reading. The meeting, where the “team” rejects with little fanfare our request for a different placement, takes place an hour before school lets out so the kids are surprised to see Daddy with me at parent pickup. On the drive home Peter announces, as though on cue, that he learned something new today -“obtuse”. I know from the CSE meeting that he must mean obtuse angle. I tell him that I’m impressed because obtuse is a big word for a little boy and he replies, “Mom, you learn different languages in 3rd grade. I know Spanish and Australia, too, where I got borned. Want to try with me? Come on, Mom, its fun!” I smile weakly as I think about asking him what an angle is but quickly change my mind. I also decide to skip pointing out for the thousandth time that he was born in Russia, not Australia. And because I don’t even know how to explain that Australians speak English, I don’t. None of this is Peter’s fault and I don’t need to highlight his perpetual state of confusion to validate our point. We know Peter doesn’t understand 95% of what he’s exposed to in his 3rd grade curriculum, which is why it’s ridiculous that the school insists on perpetuating this charade of progress. Pat and I are so aggravated at the CSE meeting that we spend most of the time deleting emails on our IPhones to whittle away the time as each “team” member drones on about Peter’s respective academic accomplishments. The reading specialist, who is dedicated and fair, struggles to meet her obvious directive to find progress where little empirical evidence exists. Despite the extra daily reading instruction, Peter has failed to progress a single level since the school year began. She has explained why he hasn’t progressed on paper but has given us detailed information regarding some “real” progress, especially with comprehension, which is vitally important. We’ve accepted this – we know she’s a gifted teacher, but the school must be pressuring her to show “paper” progress. The problem is a child must attain a certain reading rate and degree of fluency and comprehension, this time when reading both aloud and silently, to progress to this next tier. Peter can’t read silently at all – he either can’t understand what he’s reading if he can’t hear himself or he literally can’t read silently. This is virtually a direct quote from the reading specialist. So in order to show “progress” the school simply takes the conditions away. Because illustrations distract Peter, and the physical act of turning pages is laborious for him, his reading teacher eliminates those criteria by typing out the words on a single sheet. A bit of a cheat, but forgivable. The part I can’t stomach is that she also eliminates the half of the test that requires Peter to read silently and demonstrate comprehension. She let him read the whole thing out loud. Voila! Throw away the parameters and Peter magically progresses just in time for his annual review, which any way you slice it still indicates he’s reading two years behind his grade level. After that magic trick, another teacher concludes the mercifully short show by solemnly admitting our son continues to struggle with written tasks, including speed of production, letter formation, spelling, spacing and punctuation. But overall, the CSE team ensures us, Peter’s made tremendous progress and is completely prepared to charge full speed ahead into the adventures that 4th grade offers. To add insult to an already injurious situation, a letter from the district superintendent, in part chastising me for addressing our dissatisfaction with the school via the vehicle of these journal entries, awaits me when I get home. We live in this community, we raise our children here, pay exorbitant taxes, attend school meetings, contribute to PTA fundraisers, buy unneeded books at book fairs and contribute in a thousand other ways but this man has the gall to request us to sit back and suffer quietly as the school, with taxpayer dollars, proceeds to squash us like a bug? Is he serious? We’re running out of options, and when we’re out of options, so is our son. When a school and those who represent it are more interested in building a false record that’s easily and consistently proven invalid by outside evaluators, including those the school itself hires, to save a penny instead of a child, all involved deserve to be outed. What the school’s done to our family, in particular our son, is inexcusable and reprehensible. And now the herd has circled and is protecting its own. We have challenged them individually and we have questioned their wisdom collectively. That much seems clear. But don’t expect us to roll over and play dead just because they draw a pistol at a sword fight. We’re the ones who are raising Peter, who are responsible for his future, his happiness, his very ability to navigate what for him is a confusing, scary, and enormously complex world. We’re the ones whose reputations are being sullied because the school would rather dig in its heels than admit a mistake. And what about Peter? Do they really think they’re helping him by staying this course? We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we have given everything to this boy, to his cure, to his future, to his heart. How dare this man reprimand me like an errant school girl for expressing my outrage while he sits in his office and basks in the safety and immutability of small town politics and next to zero accountability. Until someone offers our son an educational option that embraces his incredibly complex mix of disabilities and strengths, as well as accommodates his unique learning style, my advocacy, and when warranted, criticism and public revelation, will continue, undeterred.