THE SCORES ON YOUR SPREADSHEETS REPRESENT ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS!!!
By: Lorri Gumanow
After a week off from school, one would think that a teenager would be happy to go back to school. Not my kid!
Last night, my 15 year old freshman told me he hated school, he hated studying things that were not interesting, and there was too much boring writing. He hates all the talk and pressure about being “college-ready,” “this will be on your Regents exam next year so we have to get ready,” and “this type of writing requires a lot of practice.” But all kids complain about things like this, so what’s the problem? My son has an IEP, is in all general education classes, and realizes he isn’t going to make it. He is passing all his subjects and is working very hard, but knows that the tests he has to pass to get a diploma are going to be out of his reach. He gets great supports from the special education staff at his school. He is making great progress. And unfortunately, he also realizes he doesn’t have “the right stuff.”
This past week, he happened to see questions from the recent ELA Regents exam given in January, posted on Facebook. And his heart sank! He attempted to try to answer the questions, but gave up before finishing the first reading passage. His brain is not wired to do this kind of reading. And we can’t refuse the tests anymore because in NY State, students in grades 9-12 must pass specific Regents exams to get a high school diploma.
He’s got severe ADHD and executive functioning challenges. What does that mean? He has trouble juggling more than one idea at a time, and needs very specific types of instructional strategies that none of his teachers know, or don’t have enough time to use with him.
When asked to read three 3-page passages of single-spaced text on topics he is not familiar with, and compare/contrast, infer meaning, and answer questions like: on page 2, line 23, what does the author infer by… he completely shuts down. Can he orally read on grade level? Yes. Does he understand what he reads? Could he complete these tasks, independently, even with extended time? No. Could he complete these tasks with assistance? Yes. Would he choose to do this type of task, close reading and analysis, as an adult? No. Is this type of reading that is going to be required in his chosen career as a puppeteer? No. So he asks himself – why are they making me do this when I can’t do it?
Most of the parents of children with disabilities that are protesting excessive standardized testing are parents of children with severe disabilities. My child, by definition, does not have severe disabilities. We have always believed that through his hard work, our unending love and support, and the hard work and support of his teachers, he would be successful. Now that we are in the home stretch of high school, that dream has been destroyed. He feels like a failure that he has let everyone down, and he wants to give up. Getting a tutor would just be rubbing salt into a wound that won’t heal, and would take him away from the one thing that boosts his self-esteem – performing in musical theater. I won’t do that!
There is something very wrong with these standardized Common Core tests when only 5% of students with disabilities can pass them!!! We have built up our children’s hope, only to destroy them. From their perspective, we have lied to them and given them false hope. Forcing every child to adapt to the Common Core, with the wave of a magic wand, at their grade level, has taken away the dreams of many young people. They have become collateral damage, which is acceptable to you! “Well you have to start somewhere.” “It will take a few years for scores to go up.” THE SCORES ON YOUR SPREADSHEETS REPRESENT ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS!!! THESE ARE OUR CHILDREN! THEY ARE NOT SCORES! Did you hear me???? You are hurting my child, and my friend’s brilliant child with Asperger’s – with a 150 IQ who is now failing every subject in high school! There are hundreds of thousands of other children whose disabilities are NOT A CHOICE!!! Why are you doing this?? What are you doing to help them, other than testing them (which doesn’t help them) and punishing their teachers? My son’s teachers have no time to help him because they have to do test prep. Those who can’t keep up? … Oh well… They just need to try harder. What if your best wasn’t good enough? Ask yourself – would you do this to your own child? I wouldn’t do it to my own child either – but I don’t have a choice! As a retired special education teacher, I can’t afford to send my child to a private school where he wouldn’t have to take these tests.
I don’t care about my child’s scores on your tests! They mean nothing to me. I know, and my son’s teachers know my child’s strengths and weaknesses. My son has a disability – he is not in a competition to help the USA be #1 in the world. I don’t care about that! I care that he is happy, healthy, and will make a difference in this world. He didn’t survive extreme prematurity, 83 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, and get to this point in his life; to have you beat him down and punish him, for something he has no control over. It is not his fault. He is trying his hardest.