fail. Once he sees the consequences, he’ll be motivated to improve.”
So how can this possibly make sense?!! Usually a
child is referred for special education or Section 504 because they have been failing.
They have failed more than once. In fact, it is usually a succession of
failures. So is it really an issue of motivation?
Or is it a lack of appropriate specially designed instruction? What is
the school’s definition of specially designed instruction? Let’s
hope it’s not “let him fail”.
Letting a child fail will not magically induce him to perform.
It would seem that a statement such as this demonstrates an extreme lack of understanding and knowledge about the child’s
disability and the express purpose of Section 504 and IDEA. The child is failing
because there is a specific and unique need that is not being met or addressed. There
may be a processing deficit, a need for assistive technology, or a need for an educational strategy to help the child compensate
and utilize his strengths. And consider the fact that due to the disability,
the child may not fully comprehend the consequences of failing anyway.
Letting a child fail without deconstructing the process will only serve to exacerbate the disability,
trigger secondary disabilities, lower self-confidence and self-esteem, and inhibit the desire and ability to ask for help. A child may decide that is it better to figure it out on their own rather then risk
the “pain” of asking for help. Asking for help, to many of these
children means being labeled “unmotivated”, “lazy”, “disruptive”. Their request for help may be continually met with agitated or frustrated responses. Our children do not need a higher level of anxiety that prevents them from learning and succeeding in school. The level of stress can be overwhelming for some and is certainly not conducive to
The child has an IEP or 504 plan for a reason. A
valid reason. Schools will take this “let him fail” approach because
it points the “finger of accountability” at the child rather than themselves.
You can thank the school for their opinion, however, you’d like the team to explore the specific reasons why
the child is still failing. If the child is getting F’s or 0’s on
assignments, but A’s and B’s on tests, then the team has to deconstruct the process to discover the reasons why. Once the IEP or 504 team does this they are in a better position to offer a viable
solution rather than letting the child fail so he can magically acquire motivation.
It is also of value to ask the team to discuss the definition of specially designed instruction
(as per IDEA) and motivation so everyone is on the same page. The child has an
IEP or 504 plan for a reason and needs supports and strategies to succeed. If
experiencing failure was the answer the child would have gotten it the first or second time he failed.
specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with
Motivation to Learn: An Overview
So when you are told, “Let him fail. Once
he sees the consequences, he’ll be motivated to improve.” your response could be, “I believe we need to sit down
and deconstruct the reasons why he is continuing to fail with an IEP or 504 plan. Then
we can write and implement an appropriate IEP or 504 plan that really meets his unique needs.”
“Children do well if the can.” Ross