Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Arne Says Common Core and Standardized Tests for Students with Disabilities

Dear Arne,

As I read the Federal Register the other day, frustration, disappointment, annoyance, more disappointment, astonishment, were just a few of the emotions I felt. I am still gobsmacked at the utter lack of understanding of students with disabilities. The lack of compassion. The lack of expertise. And, frankly, the utter meanness of your latest demonstration in lack of creativity when dealing with serious educational issues. Just force students with disabilities to do the same as their age peers with no regard for those disabilities and, magically, they will perform as though they are neurotypical. That’s your plan?

Do you have any understanding, at all, of the damage your policies, including this one, will have on children in this country? Any notion at all? Have you ever met a student with a disability…any disability? Have you ever considered, even for a minute, how your opinions on subjects you clearly know nothing about will impact millions of students? Have you thought about what their lives and the lives of their families will look like as they face wildly inappropriate curricula and testing – that are, ultimately, without purpose?

We do NOT suffer from a lack of high expectations. Just the thought of that is laughable. We do, however, suffer from policies that are meant to fail our children. We suffer from poor funding. We suffer from experienced teachers leaving the profession in droves. We suffer from the effects of professional development aimed at how to administer a test, rather than a true honing of teaching skills. We suffer from poorly written IEP’s and from districts that are more interested in “saving money” than teaching our children. We suffer from the notion that Common Core State Standards are good, well researched, and validated. We suffer from lack of support from the Office of Civil Rights.

It is impossible to take you and your policies seriously. If you truly wanted students with disabilities to succeed, you would insist upon and make sure that ALL school districts were well funded. You wouldn’t promote standardized tests as the only way to judge the abilities of our students. You would make sure there are certified teachers in ALL of our schools. You would make sure new teachers are well supported within their districts and that there is money to pay for continuing professional development.

So, when September 21st rolls around in a few short weeks, how many students with special needs will be well and utterly screwed as they are forced to face developmentally inappropriate curricula and testing? Do you even know the number? How many of them won’t have a prayer of graduating high school, much less be “college and career ready?” (Still waiting for a definition of that, btw.) How many of those will simply end up in prison or on welfare?

As I have said before, part of my job as a parent is to make sure my daughter is as well prepared and educated as possible as she enters into adulthood. I am trying to raise a well-rounded, curious, compassionate individual with something to contribute to the world. Arne, please stop making it so damned difficult and get out of the way. Please.

Julie B.

P.S. Thanks for adding yet another reason to Opt Out.

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