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Accommodations and High-Stakes Testing
Q: I read this article in the newspaper that says disabled students will not be able to use calculators, audiotapes, and other aids when taking California's new high-school exit exam. Passing the exam will be required to earn a diploma, beginning with the class of 2004. Federal law allows students with learning disabilities or impairments to use special accommodations to keep up with their classmates. Students can work under an individualized education plan that details what help is allowed, including extra time on tests. California Board of Education members voted to disallow these accommodations. Other accommodations, such as special furniture or lighting and large print or Braille versions of tests, are still allowed.
What happens for our students with 504 Plans who require special accommodations, let alone those with IEPs? What can we do? The whole idea is to have our children graduate and be successful human beings in our society. What are we doing to our next generation who will be leading our country? We've worked hard to make our children self-reliant.
A: The emergence of "high stakes testing" as a national movement has threatened the progress advocates for students with learning disabilities and other handicapping conditions have made over the last 25 years. Many parent advocacy groups are gearing up to protect the accommodations and modifications that have been guaranteed so that all students can participate fully in their educational settings. Many of the new mandates that have been put forth by states are unlikely to survive the legal challenges of these groups. Go to the websites of parent LD advocacy groups including the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities at http://www.aboutld.org, Learning Disabilities Association of America at http://www.ldanatl.org, the National Center for Learning Disabilities at http://ncld.org, and Schwab Learning at http://www.schwablearning.org. You will find out the latest developments relating to this important issue.
Also, you might have a look at Attorney Lawrence M. Siegel's book, The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child. Siegel offers many resources for making sure your child secures the accommodations and modifications he is entitled to.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.