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Officials Slam MEAP Scores for Epecial ed

Ohanian Comment: It is hard to believe the absurdity--and cruelty--that travels under the mantra high expectations.

At issue
The state released high school report cards last week and, for the first time, the reports rated special education centers. This has angered parents and school officials, who say the centers shouldn't be held to the same standards as regular education high schools.

FLUSHING TWP. - On a good day, Andrea Gould can barely grasp a crayon and scribble on a piece of paper.

Sometimes she can say "ma," "no" and "yeah."

But like every other high school student in the state, the 22-year-old severely mentally impaired student is being asked by the federal government to pick up a No. 2 pencil, read a question and sometimes write an articulate response on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test.

"That's crazy," said Andrea's mother, Barb Gould of Mundy Township. "That's extremely unfair to even compare my daughter to regular education. It's a different system."

A set of high school reports cards released by the state Thursday showed Andrea's school, the Crouse Instructional Center in Flushing Township, did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress - the federal method of accountability in schools.

It was the first time special education centers were included in the state report cards and having them on the list contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of state schools not meeting AYP. The number jumped from 297 last year to 436 this year and prompted harsh criticism of high schools by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Andrea's school and Knopf Learning Center in Mundy Township were among three special education centers in the Flint area and about 60 across the state listed as not meeting AYP.

Another area special education center listed as not meeting AYP was the Shiawassee Developmental Center run by the Shiawassee Regional School District, said Jan Russell, assistant superintendent from the Genesee Intermediate School District, which runs the Knopf and Crouse centers.

To meet AYP standards, schools must have enough students passing the MEAP test or show a certain level of improvement in MEAP scores.

"(Our students) don't take the MEAP, so we will automatically fail AYP status. There's no way we're ever going to make AYP," said GISD Superintendent Thomas Svitkovich. "It doesn't make any sense."

Even state officials said they didn't want to put the special education centers on the AYP list, but the federal government required it through the No Child Left Behind Act.

"This is one of the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind," said Martin Ackley, spokesmen for the state Department of Education. "I think the federal government realizes there are flaws in this system."

Not necessarily.

A U.S. Department of Education official said the government has already loosened restrictions on special education programs, and no additional changes are planned at this time.

"High expectations are the name of the game," said Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education. "We think by having high expectations it helps all students, and we've built in flexibility."

That flexibility is the government allowing 1 percent of a school's population to take an alternative test, but the rest are still required to take the state test, which is the MEAP in Michigan.

This doesn't help schools like Crouse and Knopf, where 100 percent of the students need alternative assessments, Svitkovich said.

"The way they're doing it right now destroys the credibility of the entire AYP system," Svitkovich said. "People wonder why in the world is this being done? How can we compare these centers to traditional high schools.

"What happens if this continues? They're going to see me in court, that's what'll happen."

Svitkovich said he supports assessing special education students, and the GISD does that regularly. But the assessments are catered to the individual needs of the student.

In Andrea's case, her mother gets regular progress reports on how she is doing. Andrea has cerebral palsy and microcephally (an abnormally small head).

"When we started, she couldn't hold a cup," Barb Gould said. "Now she feeds herself. She uses spoons and cups and does all the things she couldn't do. (After she was born) her doctors indicated we couldn't expect much. But here at Marion Crouse there's potential. They've given her everything."


— Matt Bach
Flint Journal


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