Should Special Education Students Take Regular Education Exams?
Arne Duncan announced recently that the U.S. Department of Education plans to eliminate the so-called "2 percent rule" that allows up to 2 percent of students to qualify as proficient with alternate tests.
States are still able to use alternative assessments for grade-level progression and graduation but will need to use the standard tests as part of tracking progress under Federal legislation and grants. A different, 1 percent, rule will still be in place and unchanged for children with the most severe learning disabilities.
According to critics of the 2 percent rule, alternate assessments aligned to modified academic achievement standards (AA-MAAS) have lowered expectations and masked the needs of Special Education students in the United States. Schools, they claim, have been allowed to discount the learning of special education students and hide this failure.
In fact, many advocacy groups have pushed for an end to the 2 percent rule ever since it began.
Other educational experts and parents are concerned about the loss of this safety net and fear the impact of general education exams on students with learning disabilities. The new common core-aligned standardized tests are already causing anxiety for administrators, teachers, and students. Will a child who struggles academically and needs extra time be able to sit through a test that is already tiring and confusing for many regular education students? And if that child does not score proficient on the exam, will that further harm that child's self-perception and interest in school?
Although I welcome access to high expectations and grade-level content for all students, I worry about making this change in a climate of excessive testing and shifting standards. Schools are already struggling to make sense of the Common Core Standards. The amount of time students spend in testing has risen dramatically; not even counting the absurd amount of time spent preparing for these tests. I don't like this sort of pressure being placed on any students, let along those who have additional learning challenges.
Will this change provide access to grade-level content for all students or will it simply frustrate and damage those children who struggle academically due to learning disabilitie