Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Side Notes! TAKS and Adequate Yearly Progress

I have learned much more about the relationship between TAKS and No Child Left Behind since my last post about how Sarah Palin might help bring some attention to the subject. Unfortunately, we will not have the advantage of having Governor Palin in the White House, so changes to the system will probably not occur as quickly!

My original argument has been substantiated by the superintendent of Fort Worth ISD. Melody Johnson was interviewed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a story published on October 15, 2008, titled, "Fort Worth, 5 other area districts miss mark." Johnson said that the AYP conflicts with the IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act, 1975) which requires that each student in special education be provided an individualized plan for education. According to Johnson, only 3 percent of the student population can be exempted from TAKS testing in order to meet AYP requirements. Many of the school districts, including Fort Worth ISD, have more than 3 percent of their students enrolled in special education. This means that many students who have an individual education plan are being forced to take standardized tests and the school districts are being held accountable for the scores. School districts will risk losing federal money if they do not take actions to meet AYP each following year.

This is becoming a serious problem each year that the law is in place because more sanctions are placed on school districts for every year that they miss their AYP. At some point in the future, teachers and staff may lose their jobs as the districts try to comply with AYP requirements. I believe this situation is out of control and it sounds like many school district leaders feel the same way. I am surprised this ever got passed into law with this kind of conflict between the laws.

Beginning this year there will be several levels of standardized tests that a school can choose from for special education students to take. Each level of test has a corresponding number of points that can be awarded to the district if the student passes. The harder the test, the more points the district can get. I fear that schools will be motivated by points rather than the educational needs of the students. As a therapist, I continue to work with teachers to address the needs of the students even as we are distracted by trying to teach academic concepts that may not be useful to some of our students as they prepare for life after school.

Related Post: Side Notes! Sarah Palin: Overture for Special Education

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