"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

What is going on with special education?

Something is happening with special education. Seemingly random reports are coming in, from parents with children who receive special services from school, showing that those services are changing. Is this part of a bigger picture? 

In one district they are consolidating IEP's for third and fourth graders because they are switching to a "standardized" IEP report. Even teachers are unclear where this "standardized" report form is coming from.

In another district a mother was told her special needs child no longer qualified for the summer program at school, one that he had attended every year previously without the parent even having to request it. The mother might have been content to accept the school's determination that her child no longer showed signs of skill loss following a break, but then she talked to other special needs parents.  It turned out all fifteen children who had been approved for this program before were suddenly "advanced" to no longer needing it. 

A mother in North Carolina petitioned her public school to opt her autistic child out of standardized testing.  She believed the frustration of not being able to pass the test would spur her child into self-harming behavior.  Through the entire chain of authority, all the way up to the superintendent, her request was denied citing federal mandates in No Child Left Behind. Her child would have to take the test, one that he would assuredly fail. That's an interesting requirement in a climate where children's test scores have consequences well beyond the child's academic assessment.

Below is a post from Blue Hat Movement with a video of this particular mom.  From Update and Video: NC Mother of Autistic Child Fights EOG’s:

"What is particularly onerous about her situation is that the school, School Board and Superintendent are going so far out of their way to force her Autistic son to take this test.  No offense meant, but Michelle has guaranteed me that her son cannot pass any version of a state EOG.  They are essentially forcing her son to take a test that he will fail.  This is in light of the fact that his school year has been filled with success.  Michelle went to some lengths to describe to me how many victories there have been for her son this year.  She describes many of them in the video.  I am sharing this video for two reasons.  Michelle personally asked me to do what I could to expose what is happening.  Secondly, this situation truly calls into the light and exaggerates just how misguided testing has become under NCLB and CCS.  Standardized Testing hurts teachers. It reduces the hard work and efforts of your child’s teacher into an assessment designed by people who will NEVER meet either your child or their teacher.  All the amazing things that happened in that classroom…like they have for Michelle’s son, deserve credit.  But with a standardized test, there is none.  The way the Common Core is set up, all that good stuff gets thrown under the school bus.  Testing is all that seems to count.  This is a slap in the face of how hard teachers work.

In fact, under CCS, standardized tests that are scored low, actually count against teachers.  Under Standard 6, teachers are being tested and given a grade based upon how their student’s performed."

It appears, from this video, that this district's interpretation of the requirements of NCLB differ from other districts. Who is right? I'd like to think that these administrators would be more reasonable and exempt this child if they felt the decision was entirely up to them. Where does a parent go to fight a local district's interpretation/implementation of a federal mandate? What would be the incentive to measure the degree to which a special needs child's performance is below that of his/her peers? It is times like these when the words of Linda Darling Hammond and Arne Duncan haunt me: Educational Equity, Redistribution of Resources, Reducing the Performance Gap. What is on the horizon for parents of special needs children?

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