How NCLB Damages Children with Special Needs
I am a Physical Therapist who works with Special Education with disabled children ages 5 through 21. The children I work with have a wide range of IQs and a broad range of physical impairment. I have now had the experience of being an "accommodater" for the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) for the past 2 weeks and a "supplemental tester" for the Alternative Maryland State Assessment (Alt-MSA) for the past 3 weeks.
For the MSA, the student I was working with had a significant physical impairment and a moderate cognitive impairment. I was both the reader and the writer for the student.
From my understanding of IDEA- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act--this student is to be educated in the least restrictive environment with accommodations and modifications to the general education curriculum as per the IEP. Since the student is in the Modified Curriculum and not in the Alternative Curriculum, he/she is required to take all state mandated tests. Because of the IEP, the student is educated in both math and reading based upon his/her current educational testing and abilities.
Let us say in this case that the student's current reading and math scores are around the 1st grade level. The student is receiving education on an appropriate level for his/her current cognitive and academic abilities.
Appropriate modifications are being made so that the student is learning, albeit slower than his/her age equivalent peers. BUT, because of his/her chronological age, this student is required to take the 3rd grade MSA.
So exactly what do you think the outcome will be? Is this tool an appropriate assessment of what this child knows? If a child is given
all of the appropriate cognitive, educational, speech and language, fine motor and gross motor testing, and has been "labeled" with a disability and is being taught on an appropriate level,in an appropriate placement, why is this student being given this ridiculously inappropriate test?
What if, for various reasons, this particular general education school has a high population of disabled children? Will the performance rating of this school be accurate? Will the performance rating truly reflect the success of the students or the proficiency of the teachers?
What about the school with a high population of ESOL--English as a Second Language students? What about the child who moved here from a
country in the midst of a civil war? The one who has never been to school in his own language let alone in a new language. (Not to mention the emotional and physical damage they have had to survive) And, even when they can "read" English, will it be good enough to understand the nuances of the BCR questions?
Here's a BCR Question: What is the "tone" of the story?
Answer: Maybe a B-flat?
My own children, who have a fine understanding of the English language, had a difficult time understanding the true meaning of the BCR
And if I haven't gone on long enough, I have major issues with the Alt-MSA. The Alt-MSA is given to children in the Alternative Curriculum. These children are severely and profoundly disabled. The Alternative
Curriculum (prior to NCLB) included IEP goals in 5 domains including Social/Emotional, Rec-Leisure, Pre-vocational/Vocational, Domestic, and Functional Academics. Functional Academics included any reading/math or communication goals that were appropriate for the student's cognitive abilities.
Now, because of NCLB, the students must have 10 reading and 10 math goals. The previous Functionally based IEP, which had goals that
addressed actual life skills that a severely disabled student may need to survive in the world, has been replaced with a more Academic IEP.
Now all of the life-skill domains are lumped under one "Functional" category and the IEP must reflect Academic Goals that can show Academic progress for meeting the requirements of NCLB.
The Alt-MSA has 10 reading and 10 math goals that the student must master with an 80% success rate. The student's portfolio must have
evidence of mastery of these goals and the portfolio must be submitted to the State for review. Why?
Is it more important for a severely and profoundly disabled child to be able to identify the difference between a fiction or a or a non-fiction story (actual goal) than to learn a functional life skill? Are we preparing
them for anything meaningful? Wouldn't the functional program prepare them for the "real world" better than an academic program? Isn't that why they are in an Alternative Curriculum to begin with?
Someone Who Works With Children Speaks Out
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES