To all that read this blog …

The Commissioner of Education has responded to my request to have my daughter excused from the MCAS. Basically he says he cannot do it. He also responds to one of my points but not the others. No one has yet to explain why my daughter needs to have a concept of history (defined as events previous to 1990) and to be tested in any way within the context of that subject. Just one example of testing her to the Curriculum Frameworks.

It is interesting that the Commissioner references the IDEA laws but not the NCLB.

As my staff has shared with you, state and federal laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), require that all students be provided access to and the opportunity to make progress in the general curriculum. In addition, you may be aware that the Department has created a guide to the Massachusetts learning standards specifically for students with significant cognitive disabilities. This guide outlines tasks and activities at varying levels of complexity in each content area, and includes skills appropriate for students with even the most severe disabilities.

This statement shows that the Commissioner unfortunately does not have a grasp of the category of “severely disabled.” The idea of my daughter making “progress in the general curriculum” is absurd and MCAS-Alt testing for her does not and cannot show that she is “provided access to and the opportunity to make progress in the general curriculum.” The guide he refers to for students with “significant cognitive disabilities” does not include anything that is relevant to my daughter as far as I can find. It is obvious that the concept of a child who has absolutely no communicative abilities, no ability to perform any task requested of her is one that did not play a part in any of the design or planning of this assessment. I would do anything possible to have the Commissioner and his staff spend just 30 minutes with my daughter. If anyone knows how to arrange this, please let me know!

Nancy Hanson of the DOE has told my daughter’s teacher that if she raises her head for five seconds while she is being spoken to in English, that counts for part of the English requirement. What on earth counts as part of the History requirement is unknown to me, but it has been made clear to my daughter’s teacher that it MUST be in the context of history. Maybe if she drools while being told of the nuances of the Emancipation Proclamation she will pass.

The Department of Education is apparently bound by the laws of the Commonwealth and the NCLB as well as their own lack of understanding of this particular population. We must work to modify the laws and regulations concerning the MCAS, especially and specifically how it deals with the severely disabled student.

The idea is for accountability and assessment, as far as I understand. That will NOT be accomplished by testing my daughter in Math, English, History and Science. There are other ways. Accountability and assessment are vital, I agree and support that. But not at the expense of these students. Not testing and grading her in absurd ways.

Please help me modify the NCLB as well as the laws in the Commonwealth to take into account one population that cannot speak for itself, the one population arguably in the most need for valid accountability and assessment. Accountability and assessment of those responsible for the “education” not those who are “learning.”

I have run out of options through the educational channels and now turn to our law makers. The Honorable John Rogers, State Representative and Majority Leader has agreed to meet with me to discuss these issues and I greatly appreciate his time and look forward to our meeting.

Please write to me with any ideas and information.

One Response to “To all that read this blog …”

  1. I commend you on your courage to move forward with the battle that I have been fighting for the last 4 years for my own daughter. Although my daughters disabilities may not be as severe as your daughters she still lacks the cognitive ability to make any functional use of even the lower level strands of the cirriculum. At age 14 she is still not able to complete her own toileting routine, brush her own teeth, dress herself, shower, cut up her on food, etc etc. Also, she is non-verbal and has made great progress in using a speech device for making requests for things she wants but still cannot communicate if she is in pain, how she feels, say Hello and goodbye or converse on the most simplistic terms. However, due to the requirements of the MCAS her education and valuable teaching time must be spent on things that will have absolutely no bearing on her life in the future. Last year she was taught to identify in rote – matching skills the animals and sights of Eygpt. She was taught to find Eygpt on a world map. This is one ridiculous example of the time wasting education that the MCAS insists that teachers focus on so that they can send in portfolio’s to the State to prove that my child has been given the opportunity to learn the general cirriculum. May question for the lawmakers would be, when she is 22 and becomes a “full burden” on the State would they rather she know how to fully complete her toileting routine, shower herself, cut her own food, dress herself, etc or find Eygpt on a map!
    Obviously for those able to use the education that is being made available to them for a functional future everything has to be done to make every opportunity available for a full education for them. But to mandate that ALL students have to learn the general cirriculum when that cirriculum by passes their most basic needs.

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