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Standardized testing mania is incredibly hard on students—trying to cram every student into the country into a series of test bubbles is a brutal endeavor. English language learners and special education students may face some of the hardest blows, being constantly measured against tests that don't take their needs into account. But that's not to say a bill making its way through the Louisiana legislature is the right answer.

The bill allows schools to lower graduation requirements for students with disabilities and exclude them from state tests as long as they meet the requirements of their individualized education plans. These aren't necessarily bad ideas in theory, but there's huge potential for abuse in practice, critics point out:

"We know from history, in Louisiana and other states, that policies of segregation like this one result in over-identification of students to special education –- especially students of color," the National Center for Learning Disabilities wrote Thursday in a letter to Schroder "strongly" opposing the bill. "Although students with disabilities in Louisiana continue to experience poor academic outcomes as compared to their peers and across the country, this should not induce the state to lower academic standards for these students." [...]

Also on Thursday, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates wrote Schroder to oppose the bill, saying it would place Louisiana "in direct conflict with federal law and would violate the civil rights of children with disabilities." The group said the bill "flagrantly disregards the rights of students with disabilities and disrespects their opportunity to achieve meaningful academic, social and emotional outcomes alongside their peers, through access to a regular high school diploma."

Indeed, given all the other stuff going on in the Louisiana schools, saying "trust us, we'll do the right thing by special needs kids and any kids we might choose to label as special needs" is just not a trust that's been earned.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Fri May 16, 2014 at 08:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just because something has a potential (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OrganicChemist, Rich in PA, Matilda

    for misuse doesn't mean that it is a conspiracy. I spent many years dealing with the issues of people with special needs and special education. There is never a perfect balance between the competing objectives of giving people individualized attention that lets them navigate around unusual challenges and maximizing social integration. It always has to be a compromise.

    The national trend towards assembly line education runs directly counter to the notion of individualized education for anybody. It creates strains for all sorts of education programs. People running programs for gifted students complain about it along with those working with people with defines disabilities.

    •  It doesn’t seem to me that Laura or (0+ / 0-)

      anyone quoted in the diary is actually suggesting a conspiracy at this point.

      •  The possibility is raised. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnny wurster

        The claim seems to be that it is reasonable to assume that such a law would be used for discriminatory purposes.

        •  It seems to me that the position (0+ / 0-)

          taken by the National Center for Learning Disabilities is that the potential for abuse is high enough and the historical evidence strong enough to warrant extreme caution.  This is a little different from assuming that such a law definitely would be misused.  To oversimplify for the sake of illustration, if one sees a 30% chance of misuse and only a small benefit if the law is used properly, opposing it is perfectly rational even though one thinks it more likely than not to be used properly.

    •  a spectrum (3+ / 0-)

      Special education is a spectrum, and a good teacher will be familiar with significant parts of the spectrum.  The common factor often is the inability to sit in a classroom, do a worksheet, and achieve the maximum learning.  Some need fewer distractions, some need more manipulative, some need more rigorous work to focus.  Some do well in a more application classroom, some do well in a dual credit, or the so-called advanced classroom.

      What is common is the standardized test, which are made for students in the middle, 'normal' part of the spectrum, do little  to tell us anything about the tails of the spectrum. So the so-called advanced student will achieved mastery with little teacher intervention, while the so-called special needs student, will tend to not achieve competency on the test merely because the test is not measuring anything meaningful.

      This would not matter.  We could measure growth, we could use another test to build an IEP, there are all sorts of things that could be done. But really all that is done is to use the test to separate students, teachers, and schools into competent and incompetent categories.

      Even this would not matter except that some schools are allowed to some degree filter students.  These schools are then compared to more comprehensive schools, and are made to look like they are doing a better job than the comprehensive schools.  Seriously, at some schools a dozens students can significantly change the rating on way or another.

      So yes, there are a bunch of students taking the test every year that if comparisons are to be made need not be included in the statistics.  Some of this is already happening.  And no, this is not going to make special education worse.  Special education is already abused to create a situation where undesirable students are not educated.  Testing just tends to make this abuse slightly worse.

      •  Agreed, and (0+ / 0-)

        just because gifted students can achieve mastery with little-to-no teacher intervention, doesn't mean they should be ignored or kept in boredom for 12 years.  All students at all parts of the spectrum deserve to have guidance to help them learn and achieve more.

    •  This former teacher sees something insidious in LA (0+ / 0-)

      This is how I see this conserva-grift working:

      School system identifies predominantly students of color as being differently abled.

      School then segregates said students to special schools or isolates them from students w/in the same school.

      School seeks reimbursement from the state due to the high number of differently abled students.

      State in turn seeks reimbursement from the state for SPED students.

      State and school either withhold money from the SPED students or syphon it off to another line item.

  •  The assumption of the diary seems to be that (0+ / 0-)

    the worst outcome is the most likely.

  •  Um, this is what got progressives like Ted K. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leslie in KY, johnny wurster

    ...to accept NCLB, which I think is now widely seen on the Left as a bad idea.  While it's possible (since we saw it happen!) that differential expectations can serve as cover for segregation or other forms of racism and classism, it's a dead certainty that uniform expectations have been disastrous for special needs children.  I'll go with what's behind the curtain rather than the piece of junk that's sitting out in plain view.

    And if anyone things there's gold in taking this as an opening to abolish testing altogether, they're delusional.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Fri May 16, 2014 at 07:21:35 PM PDT

  •  Students with modified diploma's (0+ / 0-)

    are not eligible for federally sponsored or subsidized scholarships post high school.  In context of further opportunity LA stance might make some sense for underprivileged students.  Especially since minorities get saddled with IEP more than whites.  Getting a 3.0 GPA on a modified diploma provides less post HS opportunity than a 2.5 to a protected class student.    

    Modified Diploma

    Minorities in Special Ed

    There are other ways to idenitfy and assist struggling students than SpEd.  

  •  misuse (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, Leslie in KY

    This is not an easy topic.  I was forced to give a science performance test to 2 blind children--first question--what temperature is the thermometer showing for the water in front of you?  Right away, I realized this was abusive--so I took the thermometer out of the water and said--the red line goes up to the 20C line--what temperature is it showing?  Both kids still got it wrong.  Their regular teacher was in the room with me and told me I was cheating.  I told him the test is inappropriate and abusive--and I won't hurt the boys.  The test continued--I went way above and beyond just reading the questions--they continued to get all of them wrong.

    Not all kids should be tested--but--this law will allow schools to excuse all low performing students from taking the test--making the school look great.  No easy answer other than tests should be used for in house information--not public consumption -- and not to rate teachers.  Wanna check out the quality of a school--have the superintendent and a state certified rater get off their asses and visit the place.  Don't compare the richest schools with the poorest--give the poor schools money for compensatory instruction--longer days--longer school year.

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Fri May 16, 2014 at 07:48:40 PM PDT

    •  Here students can have testing (0+ / 0-)

      accommodations written into their IEP which doesn’t necessarily restrict them to a modified diploma.  Of course it has to consider the disability, such as questions read to sight impaired...  If identified and documented by SpEd and the testing coordinator prior to testing it’s allowable.  The students can not be give answers of course.

      Maybe your state too?

  •  This sounds eerily familiar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matilda
    Standardized testing mania is incredibly hard on students—trying to cram every student into the country into a series of test bubbles is a brutal endeavor. English language learners and special education students may face some of the hardest blows, being constantly measured against tests that don't take their needs into account.
    Common Core opponents would agree with this statement I think.
  •  if he's fer it, I'm agin it. (0+ / 0-)

    Funny how an FPer trumpets ardent common core supporters just to oppose LA republicans.

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