School wants my teen with an IEP to take an Honors class


My son's learning issues became very apparent in elementary school and we were referred for an IEP through the school district. It showed my son had a mild learning disability, with key areas of weakness in math and English. In total there were about six areas of weakness and the rest were in the low-average range (85-95 for the most part). He is now in high school and the IEP has been repeated and the results remain pretty much the same. My son is in so-called co-taught classes in which a special ed teacher pivots to IEP students who need extra attention. My frustration is that since getting the IEP, his teachers tell me how well my son is doing and make light of those weaknesses, and frequently refer me to other tests that show better results. This seems very odd, because surely one-on-one IEP testing conducted by the school district is more rigorous than any multiple choice testing done in a classroom. 

Recently, I was told by the school that my son had been offered the chance to do honor's English, and that in order for him to do that I needed to sign a waiver saying that he would no longer be in a co-taught classroom with extra assistance. I have refused. (Last year my son was placed in AP history and he got great grades, but got a 1 in his exam.) I would welcome any feedback from parents in the same situation. I realize positive reinforcement is very important in learning and that kids do best when they see their efforts acknowledged, but want to avoid a situation where my son gets into college with his good grades and then cannot cope. I have looked at my son's grades and frankly they seem to be inflated, at least in some cases. I see paragraph responses that clearly show he does not understand the question. Yet he is graded 100%. 

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It sounds like your son needs testing accommodations. These can include a quiet environment, more time, chunking, access to notes or a calculator, etc. These can be specifically written into his IEP and are required to be followed by his teachers regardless of the level of his courses

Even if your son took honors English, he would still have an IEP and receive accommodations. The services would change, as he would no longer be in a co-taught English class, but the school would likely pivot his services to be check-ins, study hall, etc (aka non-essential learning time for working on IEP goals). At the same time, it's very possible that his grades seem inflated because the teachers are following accommodations. For example, if he has an accommodation that says that a teacher reviews his written work with him before turning it in for a final grade, then it would appear he's doing better than if he didn't receive that accommodation. The good news is that even in college, students can receive accommodations via 504 plans - IEPs can become 504s in college, as IEPs discontinue after high school. So if you're worried about your son not doing well without accommodations, then he can continue to receive support. On the other hand, if you feel like the accommodations are becoming a crutch, talk to his case manager about phasing out the ones that worry you. Also, the IEP testing you're referring to where he scored in the 85-95 range on most areas is a simple snapshot of his intellectual and/or academic ability, but it does not always correspond to school success. Sometimes students do really well on the testing but still struggle in school, due to many other factors. It sounds like your son has great academic coping skills to make up for his deficits in his learning abilities. Also, for what it's worth, 85-95 range is still within the average, meaning that your son is performing typically in those areas compared to same-age peers. Maybe those are the skills he's relying on more heavily to be successful in his classes.

Also, AP tests are very challenging and not always indicative of material/skill acquisition. As for your last point about grading his paragraph responses, it's possible that he was graded for completion and not accuracy. This is very common for nightly homework assignments. If it was a hardier assignment, I'd ask your son or his teacher about the grade.