Evaluation Tale 002:
Two extremes cases of missed evaluation deadlines
1. Missed it by a lot
A mom contacted me because she needed an evaluation done. Well, several actually. Her many children had not had evaluations the past year. Nor the year before that. Nor the one before that. Nor even the one before that. And she needed to fix this. She hinted that she might be facing legal problems if she didn’t get it taken care of, though she didn't go into details.
Over Skype, she showed me the children’s portfolios. Her children sat by as she brought out stacks of three-ring binders--one stack per child. Each binder was carefully labeled with the child’s name and the pertinent school year. She assumed that because she was so late in turning in the evaluations that the school district would likely ask to see the records to verify them. She’d taken the time to organize each binder by subject area to show that math, science, history, and language arts had been covered each school year. She went through each binder, with the child to whom it applied sitting within view to listen in as she explained the records in the binders. Some of the children spoke up as she flipped through various binders, but some said nothing until the end when I spoke to them directly about their progress.
She was particularly worried about one of the children who hadn’t completed his curriculum in one subject for one particular school year a couple of years ago.
“You do know that schools rarely finish their curricula?” I asked. “They can’t require your child to finish their curricula if public schools can get away with not finishing theirs. Besides, he’s moved on since to higher grade level materials and has done fine. He’s finished the materials in everything else since then. So obviously he’s learned enough in that subject area to function at a higher level. That shows educational progress--which is what the law requires.”
Because she’d clearly separated the work for each child for each school year, doing evaluations for several previous school years wasn’t that difficult. In fact, at the end, she told me that she wasn’t sure why she’d put off doing their evaluations for so long. She’d gotten a bit behind due to various crises and had then been too afraid to deal with it until the problem seemed overwhelming, but the evaluation process wasn't nearly as difficult as she‘d feared. We got it done and then everything was okay with the school district.
I don’t recommend missing evaluation deadlines, but if you do, you can still go back and fix the problem. Portfolio review evaluations don’t have to be as difficult as you might fear (and you don’t have to have your paperwork as well organized as she did to make an evaluation work--I’ve done plenty of evaluations that involved stacks of papers or boxes of them with little to no organization).
2. Missed it by 3 weeks
Not all school districts were as long-suffering as the previous family’s. Another woman called me early one morning and asked if I could squeeze in an evaluation that afternoon. She’d gotten a letter from her school district because she’d missed her child’s evaluation deadline; the letter said they would have her arrested for her child’s truancy if she didn’t have evaluation paperwork in their office by Friday. She called all the way from north Florida, and was ready to drive 5 hours each way for an evaluation. I suggested a virtual evaluation as more convenient for her but she wanted to have original evaluation paperwork in hand to turn in the next morning; I reassured her that emailed paperwork would be completely acceptable, but she was panicked and was too frightened of the arrest threat. So she drove 5 hours with her child and the various workbooks her child had used; after the evaluation, she turned around and drove 5 hours back home with evaluation paperwork in hand to turn in.
She wasn’t arrested and that school district’s response was over-the-top. I’ve never heard of another threatening a parent with arrest for missing an evaluation deadline by 3 weeks.
But I’ll admit that her story is part of the reason that I turn in my own children’s evaluation paperwork several months in advance. I’d rather be early and avoid legal issues. So though my children’s evaluations are due in mid-August, I turn them in during April most years; once I even turned them in during March. Doing so doesn’t change my evaluation deadline; I could wait until August if I choose, but I’d rather not. Besides, I look at it this way: Public schools give the FSA (or, years ago, the FCAT)--which is their version of an evaluation for the public school students--months before the end of their school year. And they only have a ten-month school year. They will completely understand a parent turning in an evaluation four or five months before the annual deadline because that fits how public schools schedule such things.
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