The President suddenly cares about children and too much testing. What about all the students with disabilities that have been tested poorly or unnecessarily for years?
I shouldn’t say his sudden remarks. As many bloggers pointed out over the weekend, he has a long list of comments against high-stakes tests from the past. His actions have been different than his words on this issue since he took office. Here’s just one example from ProCon.org:
…[O]ne thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world; you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that’s not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in. They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring. Univision town hall meeting on education, www.whitehouse.gov (transcript), Mar. 28, 2011
In special education, most parents and teachers understand the value of some testing, but it should be relevant and lead to results that say something useful. It should also involve teacher and parent input. Teachers know what kinds of tests their students need, and parents know best what kind of information helps them to better understand their student.
I think many parents and teachers would agree that that kind of testing taking place today is not beneficial. This includes the Common Core State Standard testing which includes PARCC and SBAC.
What does it mean, for example, to the students of New York, where officials pleaded last June for waivers for testing students with disabilities and ELL students—waivers that were denied by the U.S. Department of Education? What are parents of students with disabilities supposed to think now?
Many parents want real tests for their students with disabilities, because they believe their children can compete with students without disabilities. But if the tests are unfair for the regular education students, they’re unjust for the students with the disabilities too! All students should get fair tests.
President Obama’s words don’t change the fact that many of the tests today are more about showing students, and their teachers, as failures so public schools can be shuttered, replaced by for-profit charter schools. How have students with disabilities been used in this awful endeavor?
And what should the President’s comments matter to all those students who, in states like Florida, and now perhaps Michigan, were, or will be retained in third grade? What about the children who aren’t getting the right kind of support for their reading problems, who might have dyslexia, but they fail third grade anyway?
What do the President’s remarks mean to the students who get no resource class to address their mild learning disabilities, but who will also fail third grade? When, according to the research, the retained students drop out of school in the future, will the President’s recent comments matter? I don’t think so.
How many years has it taken the President to listen to parents and teachers who have pleaded not to test so much–whose children were forced to “sit and stare” when their parents opted them out of the test? Most see through his words.
Many children with disabilities are homeschooled now because of the high-stakes testing regimen.
Then there are all those children with disabilities who left their public school with a voucher, things got so bad, to attend a private, parochial, or charter school that lacks any kind of testing accountability? Will anyone follow up on these children to see what becomes of them?
How testing affected children with disabilities and families never seemed to matter to the Obama administration, like it didn’t matter to the Bush administration. But the truth, as we all know, is that it mattered greatly to keeping alive America’s democratic public school system and to the children and families that relied upon it.
That the President waited this long to address what was obviously a troubling issue to many parents and teachers, and still has not truly addressed disabilities, should win him no favorable points.
Really. The President had his golden moment to speak out about the terrible use of tests involving students with disabilities when Florida’s Andrea Rediske courageously stood up against lousy testing after losing her son, Ethan. Maybe the President was busy, but surely someone from the U.S. Department of Education could have bent his ear.
At this point in time, I personally don’t care what President Obama thinks about testing.
I do care what Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump think about testing, and I want more discussion on what testing will mean for students with disabilities in the future. I want them to fully disclose what testing will mean to schools and to all children if they become President.
President Obama’s education legacy, which includes high-stakes testing for all, has been pretty much written in stone. It is a little too late at this point in time for him to change it, especially for the students with disabilities.