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.
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!