Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Standardized tests for profoundly disabled children : Accountability or lunacy?

According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, "Testing for profoundly disabled children gets increased attention",  2/26/2014,  Florida parents  are having difficulty exempting their children with profound disabilities from taking state standardized tests: 

"While her 11-year-old son Ethan lay dying last month, Andrea Rediske had to convince the boy's school district he could not take the state tests.

"Ethan's teacher made daily visits to assess his progress — even when he was in hospice care.

"'Seriously?' Rediske wrote in a Feb. 4 email to Orange County School Board member Rich Roach. 'Why is Ethan Rediske not meeting his sixth-grade hospital-homebound curriculum requirements? BECAUSE HE IS IN A MORPHINE COMA. We expect him to go any day.'"

"The boy died three days later."

Parents and teachers of these profoundly disabled students - students who cannot see or communicate who are required to answer questions about pictures they are shown, for example - are getting increased attention from the Florida legislature. 

There is an alternate assessment that can be given to 1% of Florida's school population, that better measures progress for many students with disabilities. Even the alternate standardized test, however, does not correlate with the performance of students with profound disabilities. Many parents feel the testing is disrespectful of their children and irrelevant to measuring the benefits of their educational programs. A bill has been introduced in the Florida legislature that will make it easier to exempt these students from standardized testing. Consideration is being given to changing teacher evaluations to give teachers of disabled students some slack so that they are not penalized by their students' test scores. 

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart defends the use of assessments for all students:

"'We all know that the only way to guarantee success in any endeavor is to set goals and measure our progress,' Stewart said. 'Measuring progress is key to successful learning, and I firmly believe that every child enrolled in a public school in Florida deserves the opportunity to have access to the best education possible. It would be a moral outrage to deny that opportunity to any child for any reason.'" 

Is standardized testing for these students accountability or lunacy? I vote Lunacy - 100%. And excuse me, while I go bang my head against a wall.

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