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NCLB Outrages

Official: No Child Test Contradicts Disability Act

Ohanian Comment: The second half of this account gets to the heart of the issue--that No Child requires special ed students be tested at their age-appropriate level. This is a guarantee of failure.

STREATOR -- The federal No Child Left Behind concept sounds great, but when it leaves children in tears because they are feeling left behind, it needs fixing, according to Streator grade school superintendent Ed Allen.

The progress of students will again be measured in March to determine how students are doing, but the No Child testing is in direct contradiction with the Illinois Disabilities in Education Act that mandates how special education students are tested, said Allen.

Success with the Illinois law requires disabled students to do better than they had in the past, something Allen said Streator schools have no trouble meeting for the 26 percent of students in special education.

The federal measure, however, requires the district include special education students in its overall testing. The progress of special education students has put 200 school districts in the state in jeopardy of funding because they have not met the standards.

To make matters worse, 2003 test results for No Child Left Behind did not become available until 18 months after they were taken, long after the 2004 test was finished and just months before the 2005 testing.

"Those approximately 200 districts did not make AYP (adequate early progress) simply because of the special ed subgroup," Allen said.

Seven districts in LaSalle and Bureau counties were notified they did not make AYP, which eventually could hurt funding. Allen is now exploring the best approach to take in appealing because of the late notice and contradiction of approaches with the state law.

Each of the seven districts have been contacted by Ottawa High School about joining a federal lawsuit to change the way special education progress is measured. The Streator district board has not decided whether it will join that lawsuit

"Many of these students will never meet or exceed the standards," said Allen. Among the problems that can't be addressed is that No Child requires students be tested at their age-appropriate level.

If they were able to perform at that level "they wouldn't be in special education in the first place," said Allen.

Of the 1,900 students in Streator grade school, 450 are in special education. Of those, 76 percent have severe reading or comprehension problems and cannot adequately be tested under No Child guidelines. State law requires in a special education student's plan that they be instructed at their functional level.

"They simply cannot read the test," Allen said. Other special education students cannot process the information because of communication disorders.

This makes the process of testing these students frustrating to the district and heartbreaking to those being tested when students go from being satisfied with themselves to "breaking down in tears" when measured with students across the nation, Allen said.

"It makes no sense at all," he said.

— Greg Stanmar


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