Assessment Letter to the Editor

State Exams Offer Pathways for Some—Not All—Learners

April 25, 2023 1 min read
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To the Editor:

I was pleased to see Education Week covering the state of exit exams in this country in the article “States Have Soured on the High School Exit Exam. Here’s Why” (Jan. 26. 2023). I’m writing to add some context with regard to what is happening in my state.

In New York, our child’s development doesn’t follow the same trajectory as his allistic peers. His autistic learning style requires differentiated instruction, which we fight to attain. My husband and I are proud of our son’s determination and perseverance as he navigates systems that were not designed for him but heartbroken that he is made to assimilate in ways that do not suit his neurology. Takiwatanga, the Maori word for autism, translates to, “in one’s own time and space.” Unfortunately, my son has not been able to learn in his own time or space. From the first day of school, he has struggled to follow the academic timeline that the state has determined is appropriate for all—but which only serves one part of the population.

New York’s achievement-exam requirements are gatekeeping access to meaningful education. Many students with an IEP classification are placed on an alternate assessment pathway, eliminating their chance to receive a high school diploma. For other students who may have unclassified learning disabilities, they may get to high school only to find out when it’s too late that there is no pathway to a diploma for them.

While organized activism around decoupling the exams from graduation requirements has been minimal, I know that there are thousands of parents like myself who want educational justice for their children. I hope that EdWeek will bring more attention to what is happening in New York. The state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures has reconvened; let’s hope their work is not performative.

Sarah Seigel
Procurement & Logistics Coordinator
Columbia Mailman School of Public Health
Ossining, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the April 26, 2023 edition of Education Week as State Exams Offer Pathways for Some—Not All—Learners


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