This article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed the other day. You should read it, but I’ll summarize it by explaining that it’s by a mother of a 13-year-old girl on the Autism spectrum, who relates the story of how, despite her daughter’s varied and meaningful educational successes, the New York State Department of Education deems her a scholastic failure, as measured by her scores on the statewide standardized tests.
The article is compelling, and viewed in a mother’s eyes, the story is heartbreaking. Notably, the mother is also a teacher, and with that in mind, I think it’s a brave move to publish something like this. But then, she answers to her local superintendent and board, not directly to the state, and I know that many administrators and board of education members feel similarly about standardized test scores and their apparent failure to provide a holistic and accurate reflection of student (and district) achievement.
The one thing that really struck me about this article, though, is that it begs the question of whether this child’s school is fulfilling its obligation to accommodate her disability, including in the administration of standardized tests. Modified test administration may be required by federal and state laws, depending on the student’s individualized learning needs, and on the extent to which her ability to access her education is impacted by her disability. Maybe what’s really going is that her individualized education program (also known as an IEP in special ed lingo) doesn’t require modified testing — or perhaps, she does get the modifications — and the “ones” are indeed an accurate reflection of her abilities, as measured by this test, anyway. Especially since the author and mother is a teacher, I have to assume she’s aware of these issues. In fact, she is probably highly aware of her child’s legal rights when it comes to her education, but nonetheless finds them woefully lacking — a sentiment shared by many parents of children with disabilities.
Do you have a school-aged child with a disability who receives either an IEP or 504 Plan from your public school district? Has your child’s experiences with the statewide assessments been positive or not, and what if any value do you think your child’s scores provide in terms of measuring his or her educational progress — or your school’s efforts in terms of fostering student achievement?