One Test for All? States Leaders Debate the Validity of Testing Some Special Needs Children on Par with Average Students. Does NCLB Unfairly Prescribe

By Pascopella, Angela | District Administration, May 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

One Test for All? States Leaders Debate the Validity of Testing Some Special Needs Children on Par with Average Students. Does NCLB Unfairly Prescribe


Pascopella, Angela, District Administration


In decades past, many children in special education could have been coddled and excused from being pushed mentally and academically.

But now, most people would agree that every child's talents and academic potential should be cultivated and stretched to its highest limit.

But when it comes to children with special needs, many educators believe that by definition of "special needs," some are just not going to perform on grade-level with their peers. And the federal government is saying, "Wrong."

After two years of existence, the federal No Child Left Behind act has drawn great opposition due in part to its requirement that all children be proficient. Specifically, leaders in a few states are asking Congress to ensure that certain children with cognitive disabilities be excused from taking a regular annual test and instead take an alternate test that would better gauge how much the particular student should and could know by a certain time.

The federal government already changed a regulation under the law in December, allowing up to 1 percent of all special education children with the most severe cognitive disabilities to take an alternate test. The original regulations allowed only one half a percent of those kids to take the alternative.

But some educators and state leaders had complained that 1 percent was not good enough because many districts have more than 1 percent of school children with severe cognitive disabilities and they will never be proficient under regular testing guidelines. So in March, the government gave states even more flexibility by allowing them to seek exemptions to the 1 percent cap on the number of proficient scores from alternate assessments that may be included to determine adequate yearly progress. The district must prove how more than 1 percent of all students in the district's tested grades have the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Waivers and Complications

But at least one expert says the upgrade only creates more complications. If a district applies for a waiver, claiming, say, 3 percent of its children need an alternative test, it will put the entire state over its 1 percent limit. "The state would also have to get a waiver," says Terri Duggan Schwartzbeck, policy analyst with American Association of School Administrators. "The process is more complicated. It's sort of a catch-22."

Many districts are not making adequate yearly progress under No Child simply because their special needs students are failing reading and math tests taken with their peers, experts say. When a subgroup, such as special education children, fails to reach adequate yearly progress, the entire school is labeled and flagged. And it only exacerbates the problem, creating low morale among staff and teachers and alarming parents who might yank their children out of neighborhood schools and send them to a better performing school elsewhere in the district, educators say.

What is especially frustrating to educators is the near ignorance of the Individualized Education Program that educators have created for every special needs child and which is approved by the teachers, parents and school principal. The plan is specific to every child's needs and challenges, while a one-test-for-all under No Child is anything but, some educators say.

"I think there is great frustration over kids having to meet these standards at all," Schwartzbeck says. "And they are frustrated going outside of the IEP. Educators are very well set on the idea that IEP trumps everything."

Schwartzbeck says under the newest regulation, any number of children with special needs can take the alternate test, but only 1 percent of the school's population would count. The remaining scores on the alternative test would not be considered proficient, putting the entire school at risk for not making adequate yearly progress. This is the federal government's way of ensuring that schools don't make it too easy for some children with special needs in allowing them to take an easier test and making sure they push some children to their utmost potential, she says.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

One Test for All? States Leaders Debate the Validity of Testing Some Special Needs Children on Par with Average Students. Does NCLB Unfairly Prescribe
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?