Letter: Fairer testing for special ed
The New York State English Language Assessment and math examinations are finally behind us ["NY 8th grade science scores below average," News, May 11]. In a few short months, the results will come in. After just six days of testing, will we know which school districts provide the optimal delivery of instruction, and which are falling down on the job? Will we know which teachers are highly effective? Most important, will we know definitively which students are successful?
Although these tests affect every child in grades three through eight, there is one group that has a greater challenge. Children with a reading disability are not having the standardized tests read to them. Although this accommodation appears on the students' Individualized Education Program, New York State guidelines limit accommodations for students with special needs. These guidelines engender unfair and artificially skewed results.
This has been the practice for a while, and in my mind it has always been controversial. However, given the changes in teacher assessments, it is becoming more controversial.
Although these students are cognitively intact and, with appropriate support, are successful members of the school community, they may never read to the level of mastery. Regardless, the student may be judged as a deficient learner, and the teacher viewed as ineffective.
If we want to truly measure the effort and success of these special needs students, we must foster a level playing field and allow the tests to be read aloud to them. To do less suggests that these tests are designed to satisfy an objective that has nothing to do with standards or assessments.
Stuart Grossman, Roslyn
Editor's note: The writer is the director of pupil personnel services for Roslyn Public Schools, overseeing special education.