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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mother Insists Her Third-Grader Needs Special Ed

Trasi Parrish can’t understand why Central Valley School District won’t move her 9-year-old daughter into a special education class.

Tasha Parrish, a third-grader at Greenacres Elementary School, is 2.6 years behind her classmates, her mother said. That’s what special testing for Tasha showed earlier this fall.

In reading, Tasha tests as a starting first-grader, her mother said. In writing and math, she tests as an end-of-the-year kindergartener.

Parrish believes the solution for her daughter is to leave her regular third-grade class and get into a special education class.

That won’t happen. At least not this year.

“I would hope that they’re going to get so tired of me screaming that they’re going to make an exception and put her in this class,” Parrish said. She has an older son who is doing fine in a special ed class, she said.

Parrish said her daughter did well in two years of pre-school. “She knew all her letters, her numbers, her colors. She knew how to write her name. She was computer pre-literate.

“But she hasn’t progressed since then,” Parrish said.

The district has given the student extra help.

Since first-grade, Tasha has been in the district’s well-regarded PIP program. PIP stands for Primary Intervention Program; it runs on a combination of federal Title I funding and state money. The program hasn’t worked for Tasha, Parrish said.

“You can barely read her writing. And she reads only simple first-grade books.”

She cannot comprehend simple addition and subtraction, Parrish said.

Finding answers for a student who isn’t progressing is something Central Valley takes seriously. But it’s not an overnight process, and parental involvement is crucial.

Parrish admits she has lost her temper with more than one educator. She refused to attend one meeting scheduled to discuss plans for her daughter. She also admits that when the district first suggested that Tasha be moved into special education, she refused. That was last year.

“But I said ‘No, it’s your job to teach her.’ I backed away. Now I’m trying to get her into special ed, and they won’t let her. Does that make sense?”

Seeing if a student qualifies for special education is a complex process. Under state law, school officials must determine if the student has a disability, or simply a need, explained Becky Imler, head of Central Valley schools’ special education.

Auditing is tight, to ensure that school district don’t bend the rules.

If the testing does not show a student qualifies for special ed, answers are sought in the student’s school. A group of educators, the parents and sometimes other professionals gather to discuss other possible solutions.

Sometimes a new teacher or a new school is the answer. Sometimes a student teacher can focus on a student with extra needs.

The PIP program is a short-term remediation program, working for four years, at most, with any student, said PIP coordinator Marcia Taes. The program gives students 20-minutes to a half hour a day. Under government guidelines, the program can’t spend more time than that each day.

It may be that PIP helps just enough that a student won’t qualify for special ed, Taes said.

It’s almost a Catch-22 for a student like Tasha, she admitted.

Imler and other school officials won’t discuss Tasha’s situation or the specifics of any individual student. Families’ right to privacy is all-important, she said.

The schools make every effort to help students who have fallen behind, Taes and Imler said. Extra materials are available for parents to take home. Parent volunteers are another resource. But even with all the help the district can muster, the parent must remain the child’s primary teacher, Taes and others said.

That’s understandable. But the question remains: How can a third-grade student have made so little progress in a Central Valley elementary school?

, DataTimes

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