Sunday, June 10, 2012

Muddied waters

School ended a couple of days ago.  The last few weeks were a mixed bag.

I found on the computerized grading system our school district uses (the Home Access Center/HAC) that my son had a handful of "zero" grades for classwork/homework activities.  When I asked him about them, he said, "I know.  I'm working on it."  Liar.  With only two weeks left, the handful had grown to a dozen.

OK, son, it's consequence time, more for the lies than anything else.  OK, son, it's time for your mother to talk with your case manager for the zero grades.  Ticked off, are you?  So sorry.  This means more parental oversight (i.e., Mom's going to be in your business) now and towards the end of every quarter/marking period.

This is part of my son's IEP; he needs to learn how to manage his time and how to advocate for himself.  However, unlike his neurotypical peers, he won't learn it by failing.  That's not who he is or how he learns.  That's why it's in his IEP, so that he can learn it through explicit teaching.  He also had a Study Skills class this year that was taught by his case manager, experienced in working with students with ASDs.  These skills are important for getting and keeping a job.

What really irritates me is that this is the exact reason that the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education (CACSE, but SECAC almost everywhere else) recommended to the Department of Special Education that special educators/case managers be given access to HAC -- at minimum to the "Classwork" tab -- so that they can monitor students' grades and assignments in real time, without having to chase down classrooms teacher(s) to report on grades/assignments.  

CACSE recommended it this winter.  The Director of Special Education responded that it couldn't be done.  CACSE asked follow-up questions and offered additional explanations.  The director responded:
  1. The feasibility of providing case managers with HAC access is never going to get better.
  2. The “workaround” is that a student can log in and the case manager can see/have access to HAC.  This sets up student advocacy for the student to track his/her own progress.
  3. The HAC/TAC lack of access for case managers was a trade-off:  General education teachers cannot have access to the online IEP.
  4. Parents may give their child’s HAC login information to their case manager if they choose.
CACSE members believe that these responses indicate confusion about the issue at hand.  Personally, I'd like to offer this:
  1. If parents have access to HAC and teachers have access to TAC (the Teacher Access Center on the other end of HAC), what is the technological barrier to allowing case managers to have access to HAC or TAC?  
    • Surely, surely, our technology people and/or the software company itself can come up with a solution.  
    • Case managers already have access to basic student information (name, attendance, etc.) on HAC.  Expanding that access to include "Classwork" should be possible.
    • And now that I think about it, if parents are divorced but share custody, don't they get their own HAC accounts?
  2. Student advocacy is a great thing.  
    • Not all students are ready for it.  
    • Case managers are limited to viewing the account only when they see a student for this purpose, not necessarily when they need the information.  
    • Giving students the login information may not be appropriate for all students, especially given that the password can be changed directly from the account.  
    • Case managers are very likely to learn login information when students log in, thus risking the security of the account.  (Yes, I know that our case managers are lovely people; it's still a risk.)
  3. Access to the online IEP and access to HAC/TAC are completely separate issues.  
    • This is not a question of fairness, equity, or parity.  To argue that case managers can't have access to a tool that they need to effectively and efficiently implement students' IEPs because general educators don't have access to a special education program is illogical.  It also muddies the waters.
    • Additionally, if both HAC and the online IEP were implemented at the same time and access was "negotiated" prior to implementation, I want to see documentation of such.
  4. Parents' giving their children's login information to case managers works, but it is a security breach.
    • We teach our children never to give out their passwords, but we're being told that this is the solution at the school system level.
    • Additionally, in cases such as my own, I'm giving my son's case manager access to my daughter's information since the accounts are linked under one login.  I just doubled the risk.
On June 1st, with five school days and seven zero grades remaining, my son's case manager said this, "I do not have access to [his] profile via TAC...I can only view his attendance and general information.  I would need permission and access to HAC from you in order to view his day-to-day progress.  If you are willing to give it to me, I would take full advantage."  

Until CACSE can break through the barriers that have been erected around this issue, I gave it to him for as long as he is my son's case manager.  I'm not happy about it.

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