Common Core Tests: Educational Malpractice for Students with Special Needs

Dear Mr. and Mrs Gates:

This is what is gong on in every county across the country as students with disabilities are forced to take tests they are not yet ready for and have not learned the content:

In about one week I, and my colleagues, will be asked to participate in educational malpractice. This malpractice will be in the form of administering the state mandated standardized tests. I have read many critiques about these new Common Core aligned tests. But no criticism I have read has touched on an issue of such fundamental fairness and decency that I must speak of it.

These tests discriminate against students with disabilities. They do this is many ways, but the method I wish to address today, is that they require us to give tests that cover material the student has not yet been taught. So imagine if you had taken French all year and were eager to demonstrate how much you had learned and felt ready for the French test. But the test you were handed instead was in Spanish. Your face flushes, you feel like you are about to throw up, but instead you shakily ask the teacher and she says, “well I know you have not learned this yet, but just do the best you can.”

This may seem extreme and unfathomable. But imagine a 5th grader with a severe learning disability in math. He needs to begin learning math facts and how to add and subtract accurately and place value. At the end of the year he has learned a lot and is so much farther ahead then when he began. But he is not yet at the end of the year 5th grade level. He is handed a test that contains decimals, percentages and fractions. He has learned none of this and we just shake our heads and say, “Do the best you can.” Right next to him sits the 5th grade girl reading at a 2nd grade level. After a year of hard work, she now reads at the beginning of 5th grade level! She is so proud. But the test she is forced to take is at the end of the 5th grade level, and she has not learned yet about metaphor and point of view. She’s heard of these things but has had no time to practice. She was busy working with her teacher on fluency, and difficult spelling and word patterns.

She looks around, feeling sick to her stomach. Her non-disabled peers are working easily and steadily. Some will do well and others not so well. She however will fail, and she knows it. She shakily raises her hand. Her teacher shrugs and says, “I know you have not learned this yet. Just do the best you can.”


Jane Lenk, Teacher


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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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2 Responses to Common Core Tests: Educational Malpractice for Students with Special Needs

  1. FLBAT says:

    Awesome letter!!! Exactly our issues for special education students. Add on to that –they can learn to do the math, but cannot do the higher order thinking that is now tacked on to those math problems–it is heartwrenching!! I literally watched one of my 7th graders curl up into a ball during the Math FCAT. What are we trying to assess???? It is definitely not math any more!

  2. kathy says:

    Same goes for state tests. I have taught many kids with learning differences in the past or those who could not read yet were made to take state exams and in special ed. I never thought it was fair. I said something to my administration however they couldn’t do anything as well. It is sad to see kids cry because it’s not their fault that they have learning issues yet made to take high stake tests with less accommodations because of the state restrictions. than what they are allowed to use during the school year.

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