Dear Bill and Melinda,
Katie and Susan would like to ask you some questions about this powerful video created by a parent:
Katie: In this moving video, a 3rd grade boy with special needs struggles to complete just one of the math problems given to him for homework. It resembles test prep work and the student ultimately shuts down. Imagine what it must be like for his teacher trying to give him individualized instruction with 26 other kids in the class. This is our reality: teaching-to-the-test to a diverse group of students and overcrowded classrooms, to name just a few of our struggles. This boy needs meaningful work that addresses his particular needs, not standardized test prep.
– Katie, ESL teacher whose students include ELLs with special needs (they have IEPs like this boy)
Under IDEA, as a special education teacher, I am responsible for writing Individualized Education Programs [IEPs] for my students in all of the areas they qualify for based on the standardized testing in the evaluation process completed by the school psychologist and all related service professionals.
Students who qualify for an IEP have already demonstrated they are 1 1/2 to 2 years behind grade level in specific skill areas: Cognitive: Reading, Writing, Math – Social/emotional – Behavior – Adaptive – Communication and Motor [Gross or Fine Motor].
If a child already demonstrated [evaluation results] they are 1 1/2 to 2 years behind in a specific skill such as Math, as is the case for this child in the video, then why are they subjected to the high stakes grade level standardized test and test prep for that skill area at all?
The child in this video has IEP goals in mathematics. That means he is 1 1/2 to 2 years behind his typical peers in math skills. He has individualized goals and objectives for math skills at his present levels of performance in math.
Special education teachers are already required by law to maintain frequent data, as well as monitor and report progress at stated reporting periods frequently throughout the year.
Are the high stakes standardized tests forced upon this child through No Child Left Behind against IDEA law? This article, Are NCLB and IDEA in Conflict discusses that possibility.
“Which law takes precedence? And who decides? Parents, lawyers, educators, judges, or politicians? Will IEP [Individualized Education Program] teams decide which law to follow at every IEP meeting? I’m not sure. I’ve asked several people who know much more than me, and they don’t know…
Politicians pass laws and educators implement them – [or say they are] – laws intended to improve educational outcomes. But it seems the apparent conflicts between NCLB and IDEA are having the opposite effect on many students with disabilities.” ~ Kathie Snow
Why aren’t more parents objecting? Why aren’t more teachers objecting? Why aren’t ACLU and the Office of Civil Rights involved in protecting children with disabilities from the damages of high stakes testing?
Why would we want to frustrate children who are already stigmatized by society, then make them feel like failures by forcing these tests and test prep on them? Clearly, children who are on an IEP have already proven they are not meeting grade level standards in this/other skill area/s.
Students who have already qualified for an IEP should be exempt from these tests.
Who thought of forcing children on IEPs to take grade-level high stakes standardized tests anyway? Are NCLB and IDEA in conflict or not?
-Susan, Dual Endorsed – Special Education and General Education teacher, IEP Case Manager for children like the young boy in this video