Special Education

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Testy Response

The testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act do not make sense for children with disabilities, said most special educators responding to a recent informal survey by their main advocacy group.

Those who responded to the Council for Exceptional Children's survey, mostly special education teachers, said their students couldn't meet the "adequate yearly progress" standards under the federal law.

An informal e- mail query this past summer solicited the thoughts of 30,000 of its members on the school improvement law.

The group received 150 responses, only two of which were positive about the effects of the law on special education students, said Lynda Van Kuren, a spokeswoman for the Arlington, Va.-based organization. Most responses were dubious about what critics see as the law's one-size-fits- all approach.

"These children can make exceptional progress during a given year that may not be reflected by even one percentage point on a standardized test," Bonnie Mills, a special-services coordinator from Wynne, Ark., said in her response.

Most special educators who responded supported the idea of greater accountability, a central goal of the law. But they said students with disabilities should be given assessments tailored to showing how much they have learned, Ms. Van Kuren said.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires virtually all students in grades 3-8 to take annual standardized tests in reading and math.

Proposed federal regulations for the law would limit the number of students who can take an alternate assessment geared to other than a grade- level standard and have it count as proficient for purposes of calculating adequate yearly progress to one out of 1,000 students. However, about 110 out of every 1,000 students in U.S. schools have disabilities, according to the CEC.

Many of the teachers reported that students with disabilities were humiliated and frustrated by taking standardized tests. They also said students in special education could become the target of resentment for bringing down the scores of their schools.

Jennifer Patterson, a director of special education from Troy, Mo., said in her response: "This law is going to increase ill feelings and discrimination toward our disabled population."

— Goldstein

Vol. 23, Issue 11, Page 6

Published in Print: November 12, 2003, as Special Education

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