"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, May 12, 2007

All Special Education Students Must Pass California Exit Exam

The day after Congressman Miller pointed out to the world the corrupt ineptitude of the Bushies at the Dept. of Education, Madame Secretary was off with Laura to announce a new database where high school graduation rates are available to parents and real estate agents. In her nightmare vision for American schools, she would order up more high-stakes testing for high schools and require their dropout rates to be a criterion for making AYP:

Spellings also announced that graduation rates will be incorporated into the federal No Child Left Behind law by 2012 as a measure of adequate yearly progress for every high school, along with test scores and other factors.

Schools will have to meet federal targets for black and Hispanic students and other statistical subgroups, as well, a requirement likely to stir considerable anxiety in low-performing school systems.

This, of course, is another slam-dunk privatization strategy for high schools, for as the high schools become testing factories, more and more students in the poorest schools will simply forego the humiliation and get a dead end job without a diploma, rather than waiting to do the same following graduation.

An example of this phenomenon can be seen in California, which began last year requring high schoolers to pass the state's new exit exam. After one year, the graduate rate dropped to its lowest point in 10 years, with a third of California high schoolers leaving school without a diploma. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

. . . .Attorney John Affeldt of the law firm Public Advocates, who has been lobbying against the exit exam for nearly a decade, said the latest graduation figures were a foregone conclusion.

"This unfortunately is fulfilling the prophecy that I laid out to the Legislature in 1999, which was that if the state did not adequately prepare our students to pass the test, then we would see a significant drop in graduation rates," Affeldt said. . . .

"There are thousands of students who have not been adequately prepared for this exam. The state has not yet earned the right to impose this exit exam penalty on them."

Adding insult to injury to California's special education students, the State Board voted on Thursday to require passage of the exit exam by all students, regardless of disability:

The state Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to make the high school exit exam mandatory for students with disabilities, rejecting alternatives and risking further litigation from critics who argue that the test does not measure those students' skills.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell recommended that the board reject other options such as breaking up the test into multiple parts or allowing students to present a portfolio of their work instead of passing the exam. . . .

And from the Sacramento Bee:

"If legislation adopts that recommendation, it leaves students with disabilities completely unprotected and it puts them in a situation where they're going to be penalized by the state's failures," said Roger Heller, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, which sued the state over the exit exam.

"All they're really doing here is forcing us to return to court."

O'Connell acknowledged that he risked a lawsuit, but said the test will help special education students get the schooling they need by bringing increased resources, expectations and attention from teachers.

"I don't make educational decisions or recommendations based upon what a group of lawyers may or may not do," he said. "We make decisions based upon what's best for kids."

For his part, then, in this latest institutionalized and officially-sanctioned system of child abuse, Jack OConnell, California's State Superintendent, is recognized as the heartless tough guy that his mindless decision demonstrate him to be.

Will the California Legislature earn their recognition, too? Their vote will tell all.

1 comment:

  1. Texas is going to have all special ed students take the TAKS next year in some form. As education moves forward for the average to gifted students, the below average are suffering.