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NCLB Fails Special Needs Students

October 21, 2006

An interesting article in the NJ describes the failure of the DSTP testing and the No Child Left Behind act to account for special education students in Delaware.

For those that don’t know, the NCLB act sets a standard of performance for public schools in the US. The performance of a school is measured with a standardized test; in DE, this is the DSTP. Failure of a school to perform to the expected level results in a an official sanction and the potential of being put on an improvement plan, which eventually could lead to replacement of all school staff or state takeover of the failing school.

There are many things wrong with the NCLB act and DSTP testing in Delaware, but this article concentrates on the effect of standardized testing on special education students. All students in DE take the same DSTP for their grade level regardless of whether they have special needs as a student. These students find themselves consistently failing to meet the standard, and this puts their schools at risk of sanction.

This is why Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Robert J. Andrzejewski has sued the state to make Richardson Park Intensive Learning Center an individual school, so it does not affect the performance of other Red Clay schools when these students inevitably fail to meet the standard.

It makes zero sense to me that special needs students should be held to the same standard of students unencumbered by learning disabilities. As if these kids didn’t have it hard enough, they have the onus of not only continually failing to meet the standard, but potentially negatively affecting their school as well.

The simple fact is, that it’s not a failure of these kids, but a failure of the system when special needs students are unable to be tested in a manner that is commensurate with their abilities. Standardized testing as it is does not measure progress of the student. This is why a school like Richardson Park or Colonials Commodore McDonough is doomed to fail no matter how much they are helping their students.

Maybe improvement of students should be as worthy a course as simply meeting the standard.

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