My name is Andrea Rediske, and I am Ethan Rediske’s mother. Please Pass #EthansAct! #EyesOnDOE

Ethan Rediske, 11, who was born with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy, has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, but his mother, Andrea Rediske, says school officials told her she needed to provide more proof that Ethan was dying to exempt him from the FCAT. (FILE)

Dear Bill and Melinda,

A national wave of empathy and outrage was created when the state of Florida demanded a child named Ethan Rediske take the FCAT high stakes test.  Despite the fact that Ethan was on his deathbed at the time, and despite the fact that Ethan qualified for special education; Ethan’s family had to prove that he could not possibly take the FCAT. Unfortunately, this story needs a much better ending, as subsequently Ethan has since passed away as of February 7th.  We here at Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates extend our greatest sympathy for Ethan and his family.

Out of respect for Ethan and his family, we have offered to extend their appeal to all who read this:  Pass the Ethan Rediske Act!

We hope that by sharing Ethan’s story here, our readers can help give Ethan’s family their wish as they presented it to the Florida Department of Education in a speech shared with us today.

A  group called Opt Out Orlando escorted Ethan’s  courageous mother to speak before the Florida Department of Education.

Andrea Pratt Radiske spoke on behalf of her son, on behalf of all children with special needs, and on behalf of any children who suffer pain and suffering from high stakes testing.  Please watch the video of her speech and read it below.

We would like to broaden her message to call upon the common sense and morals of all corporate reformers, President Barack Obama, Secretary Arne Duncan, all legislators, governors, state school officers, school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students to stop the madness of high stakes testing of children with special needs.

Here is her speech before the DOE and the video of her speech:

“My name is Andrea Rediske, and I am Ethan Rediske’s mother. Before you peg me as merely an angry and grieving mother, let me tell you a little bit about myself: I am an educator. I have a Master’s degree in microbiology and have been an adjunct professor of microbiology for 11 years. I have a passion for education and I know how to write an exam that accurately assesses the abilities of my students.

Not only was the Florida Adapted Assessment inappropriate for the level of my son’s abilities, it endangered his health – the long, stressful testing sessions requiring him to sit in his wheelchair caused pressure sores, fluid to pool in his lungs, and increased seizures and spasticity that contributed to his deteriorating health. Only after climbing a mountain of paperwork and garnering media attention was Ethan granted a medical waiver for the FAA. Despite assurances at his IEP meeting that the waiver would be granted again for this school year, the school district demanded paperwork proving his continued medical fragility.

The insult to this injury was that he was on his deathbed – the school district and the state of Florida required a letter from hospice care stating he was unable to take the FAA. This incident caused anguish to my family and his teacher, and shows a stunning lack of compassion and even common sense on the part of the Department of Education. His exceptionally talented teacher faced threats and sanctions because she continued to work with him even though he wasn’t preparing for the FAA. I wonder if these administrators are more concerned with policy, paperwork, and their bottom line than the children they have been elected to serve.

You may ask yourselves, if this is such a problem, why isn’t there more public outcry from the parents of disabled children?

I am here to tell you why: Parents of disabled children are exhausted. We spend our lives simply keeping these children alive. We juggle doctor’s appointments, therapies, medications, and continually battle the insurance company to secure their medical needs. At the end of the day, we don’t have the strength to climb the mountain of paperwork to exempt our children from these inappropriate tests.

To the Department of Education: I hope a better understanding of how these tests were damaging to my family and to other families like ours will help you make better policy decisions in the future. Please don’t force any other family to suffer as ours has.

I call on the legislature of the State of Florida to not only pass the Ethan Rediske Act, which would exempt disabled children from the rigors of high-stakes standardized testing, but I implore the legislature to go further and to enact legislation that allows any student who experiences pain and suffering as the result of high-stakes standardized testing to opt out of these tests.

Thank you,

Andrea Pratt Rediske

The pain and suffering our children and families with special needs is already more than most of us have to endure. To be subjected to the bureaucracy and high stakes tests is inhumane.  Common Core is increasing testing by twenty fold.  This testing madness is inhumane.

Parents who wish to know more about opting out their children from high stakes testing in Florida may contact Opt Out Orlando or  United Opt Out .  Parents across the US who want to find out more about opting their children out of high stakes testing can find their state at http://www.unitedoptout.com .

Every state has children with special needs.  Every state needs to pass an Ethan Rediske Act!

What do you think?  Do you think children with special needs should be subjected to high stakes testing?  Should any of our children be subjected to labels as failures, denied graduation, and subjected to high stakes testing? Should every state pass an Ethan Rediske Act?

Susan DuFresne, Integrated Kindergarten Teacher – Special Education & General Education, Co-author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

*Update:  We have had a request from Ethan’s mom and Orlando Opt Out:  Please use the hash tags #EthansAct and #EyesOnDOE when posting this link.  Thank you!  

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About Highlighting Members' Needs

We are running for the following Renton Education Association positions because we believe in the following planks: Becca Ritchie, Candidate for REA President, Nelsen Middle School, Computer Tech Susan DuFresne, Candidate for Primary Executive Board, Maplewood Heights Elementary, Integrated Kindergarten ✅  Demanding a healthy work-load/life balance. ✅  Bargaining competitive professional compensation. ✅  Challenging the status quo test culture with: Less is more! ✅  Emphasizing our professional expertise. ✅  Prioritizing equity and access for all. ✅  Utilizing 2-way 21st century communication tools. ✅  Acting in solidarity with all unions. ✅  Supporting ALL members. ✅   Implementing developmentally appropriate K-3 curriculum/assessment.
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7 Responses to My name is Andrea Rediske, and I am Ethan Rediske’s mother. Please Pass #EthansAct! #EyesOnDOE

  1. Michelle says:

    The pendulum swings again… it was parents of young people WITH disabilities that lobbied hard, carried lawsuits forward, etc., to have students with disabilities included in the regular standardized testing, because before they were included, the resources and staffing for their education was marginalized. No, it makes no sense to use general education testing for severe and profound disabilities. But the reason it is happening is because of parent activism. I would ask that, before the pendulum swings toward full exclusion including mild/moderate needs, that the wording of the bill be carefully examined. I don’t agree with standardized testing for ANYBODY, disabled or not… it is not a valid measure of their learning nor is it useful to teachers for instructional decisions. However, to exclude all students with identified disabilities from inclusive practices, whether these practices are for the general good or not, is to push them back into the excluded world of minimal resources and as a staff dumping ground. Push for all standardized testing to be done away with, and use this issue as a “data point,” rather than an entire campaign.

  2. Deborah Pietropaolo says:

    My heart goes out to all the parents & families who are forced to act on these special children’s behalf. It should be common sense that if the majority of regular ed children in our schools are experiencing difficulty with these tests it should send a clear message to those who have more challenging health &educational obstacles. All I can say is Double SHAME on the state of Florida and all the others who do this to a special needs child & his or her family! The eyes of the nation will be watching & fighting for those who can’t!

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Deborah, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately this atrocity is happening in EVERY state! Is it against IDEA law? Is it constitutional? Parents of children with special needs ought to be asking the ACLU in their states for help. I think there are grounds for a class action suit, though I am not an attorney.

      Susan

  3. Nicole says:

    You have to note the ineffectiveness of a bureaucracy that would make a child’s educational services contingent on a test that is impossible for him to take. A doctor’s note should be enough. The money spent on creating and processing this paperwork, the hearings and appeals is money that taxpayers would rather see at work helping this child and his teacher.

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      We agree, Nicole! A doctor’s note should be enough for any child! Is this mandate constitutional, I wonder?

      Susan

  4. Tins Hayley says:

    The tests given to our children claim to be criterion referenced meaning that all students should be able to provide a correct response to any question on the test. Yet the questions for these are ‘field tested’ each year doubling the testing time. The test makers then exclude questions that most students answer correctly. The tests are not criterion based.
    If you were to be required to administer tests to special needs students, who cannot read the questions or the reading passages upon which the questions are based, your heart would break for them. They are subjected to taking the same amount of time testing as peers who are capable and know they have no chance of ‘passing.’
    Each and every year the state department assesses performance on the tests of the entire population whi took the test and then manipulate the ‘cut score’ number of questions answered correctly to pass. In Literacy 11th grade AR state exam the cut score has been raised each year. At last calculation this score equalled an 85 percent. The test is to be based on a minimum standard of performance. Should that equal a B. A student can pass a class in most systems with a 60 percent. None of what is happening makes any sense.
    The benefits are going to the test makers, internet providets and the computer companies whose sales will sky rocket when Common Core testing requires all students be tested online.
    How many of our special needs students have access to computers, can type, and read from a computer screen? How many schools have the needed resources to test every child in every grade online?
    Where in all of this testing is benefit for students? Does anything change instructionally based upon test data at a state or national level except for more constricting sanctions?

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Are you comfortable with us using your name if we post this great comment as a letter on our blog? Thank you for your comment!

      Susan

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