Although it has been a few years since I received my daughter’s high school standardized test results I still cringe every spring knowing that it is testing season and parents of special needs children are about to be slapped in the face just as I was. I remember receiving the letter in the mail and being very curious of what it said. I knew my child had no chance of passing and I knew that is what the letter would confirm. I was curious however of how they would break the news. What I didn’t know was how seeing my child’s results in black and white would affect me to this day years later.
The letter said my daughter was failing math, English and science. Let me tell you right now, my daughter is NOT a failure. When my daughter left kindergarten she was only able to count to 17. This is far less than what her peers could count to. My daughter’s disabilities however, impede her ability to learn like her peers. By the time she reached tenth grade she was able to add and subtract double digit numbers. This is an example of a question on the tenth grade math exam: Albert drew the line represented by this equation on a coordinate plane. y=-1/2x+5 On the same coordinate plane, Penny drew a line that is perpendicular to Albert’s line and passes through point (-4,3). Which of the following equations represents Penny’s line? A. y=2x+5 B. y=2x+11 C. y=2x-5 D. y=2x-11 There was not one double digit addition or subtraction question on that exam. Well listen up. My daughter spent endless hours with a tutor year after year learning basic math skills. And we spent an endless amount of money on attorney fees to have the school district provide that tutor. You can score her standardized test but let me say this again, my daughter is NOT a failure. Your test has no idea of the amount of time and dedication my child’s teachers spent to ensure my child made progress.
Another thing that makes me angry about the test is the amount of time that teachers and staff have to take out of their schedules to sit one to one with my child during the test. Going into the test we knew she wasn’t going to pass but our state mandates that every child must take the test regardless if they have learning disabilities or not. The test is supposed to ensure that no child is left behind. If your test scores are accurate then, my child has been thrown under the bus. According to you she is failing everything.
My daughter took her first standardized test in third grade. I remember her coming home and being proud of herself for answering all of the questions. She said the answer to question 1 was A…question 2 was B…3 was C…4 was D…5 was A…6 was B… Some years she didn’t take the written test but a portfolio was submitted by her teacher to show the progress she had made. The state mandates that if a child doesn’t take the actual test they must submit a portfolio. Teachers spend hours working on these portfolios. The state however doesn’t grade any of them as passing. Our children don’t have a chance.
Standardized testing should be optional to children on IEP’s. Whether or not to take the test should be a decision made by the IEP team. When my daughter took the test I already knew the best path for her to follow was to receive a certificate of completion and not a diploma when she graduated. She would stay in a post graduation program until she aged out at 22. Passing a standardized test wasn’t important to us. She took the test only because she wanted to be like everyone else. For other children on IEP’s however, passing the test and receiving a diploma is a goal. For a child that is struggling but really wants to pass, the test is a good thing. They can receive extra help and tutoring to help them reach that goal.
Every child should not be made to take the test. Just as my child is on an “individualized education plan” it should be an individual decision to take the test or not. I don’t need the state to decide if my child, who they only know as a name on paper, is failing or not. Success can not be determined from a standardized test score. By the time my daughter was in tenth grade she had accomplished so many things that when she was younger we never thought she would do. Dressing herself, tying her shoes, making a purchase at a store, ordering from a restaurant, being happy. Only other parents of a special needs child can truly understand just how amazing these accomplishments are. My daughter is NOT a failure. She is a huge success.
Special education teachers are overworked, over stressed and under appreciated by the general public. A teacher should not have to spend endless hours preparing every one of their students for the test knowing that for some it will be impossible to pass. A teacher should not have to spend hours putting together portfolios knowing that they will never be passed. A teacher should never be judged or evaluated solely on their student’s test scores. Special needs families understand that there is much more going on in their child’s classroom than just math, English and science lessons. Do not say our children are failing. They are so much more than a test score.