This year Tweaker-in-Chief Spellngs has grudgingly acknowledged the insanity of her department's policy regarding the impossible demands placed on special populations, so that in the coming year only 70% of special education students must suffer another round of failure. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
. . . . One of the bedrock beliefs of No Child Left Behind is that schools should be held accountable for the academic performance of all students and should test them - in grades 3-8 and at least once during high school - to determine if they are proficient in math and reading.
But since 2004, the law has allowed schools to exclude up to 1 percent of their students with severe mental disabilities from taking the tests their peers take. Some states, such as Ohio, granted additional waivers to districts to exclude more students from regular tests.
The new rule is aimed at "gap kids" - students who are academically below grade level, but are higher-functioning than students with grave mental impairments.
Added together, the two exemptions - the original 1 percent and the new 2 percent - will exclude as many as 30 percent of all special education students from regular testing.
While that percentage scares some advocates, many educators believe it is a modest accommodation for schools and students alike.
"For an urban district, 2 percent isn't high enough," said John Foley, interim superintendent of the Toledo schools and a former special education teacher. "Giving many of these children standardized tests is incongruous to what special education is supposed to be doing."
Federal education officials insist the new 2 percent regulation in no way backs off from the law's commitment to education for all children.
"We will still hold these students to grade-level standards, but give students more time to get there," said Raymond Simon, deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Education. "This is going to make teaching and learning for special education students a whole lot better."
More time to get there? A whole lot better? What does that mean?