Special Ed and AYP – Does Not Compute

So it begins here in Maine, a high performing school from a higher income community meets all the NCLB requirements to meet AYP in all regards, except for their Special Education students. Who caused the entire school to not meet the NCLB guidelines and be considered a failing school.

Falmouth Elementary school fails to meet federal standards | The Forecaster –

“For the first time, a Falmouth school did not meet adequate yearly progress required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The third and fourth grades at Plummer-Motz School failed to meet the standard for the 2010-2011 school year, based on testing in the fall of 2010.

“We didn’t make AYP with students with disabilities,” said Lunt School teacher Joy Halligan, who put together the district report cards and Title 1 reports with a small group of other teachers.”

Read the link to read the entire article:  Falmouth elementary school fails to meet federal standards | The Forecaster.

I am no doubt biased as a Special Educator in a different district after reading this article, but I can read between the lines and hear if not for “those” special ed students we would have made AYP.  This article was in the local Falmouth paper and simply put the “facts” of their local school “failing” on the table.

But I have to ask how will those Special Education students feel when it is “pointed” out to them by their classmates that their school failed because of them? How their parents will respond when other parents start talking about how it is the Special Education students fault that their school failed? How will Special Education teachers respond to their peer’s “kind” comments. How will administrators respond to the negativity that the Special Education department and students will have as a result of “their” failure?

In the final paragraph the paper states that the

“The Special Education Department “is definitely looking at all kinds of ways to improve this,” Halligan said.”

Yes the Special Education there and in other communities will be under tremendous pressure to teach the Special Education students how to pass these “standardized tests”.  The paper does not discuss how previous testing accommodations or modification that were appropriate in the MEA standardized tests are no longer allowed in the NECAP standardized assessments, which decreased Special Education students scores even further than they were in the past. How will those standardized test requirements to meet proficiency on this test, meet the individual needs that those students have in their Individual Education Plan.  Who wins and who looses? Which is more important the student’s needs or the school’s need to meet AYP, is there a middle ground?

Think about the differences between the words:

  • Standardized
  • Individualized

There is a huge difference between the two and they are both are key to laws that schools have to apply to Special Education students, but which one has precedence? It sure does look like the standardized testing requirements of NCLB are taking precedence over the Individualized Education Plans of the IDEA in today’s world.

It seems to me that Special Education students are in Special Education for a reason, their other formal standardized test scores already say that many of them are not at or near grade level expectations and may never reach grade level and yet our present educational system is penalizing them.  Great system – yeah right.

The theory behind having Special Education students included in the scores was so that they will not be “neglected” or “forgotten” and that their instruction will become more rigorous and that the students and their teachers will receive more resources to see that they meet the grade level standardized tests if their scores affected the whole school.

This was the theory behind the requirement, but what is the reality of this double-edged requirement? Are Special Education students receiving the resources they need to make dramatic educational improvements to meet grade level proficiency standards on these required standardized tests?  I really don’t know, but I am not optimistic that it is happening in enough school systems or that something a little more likely is an unrealistic requirement for many of our Special Education students.

Which raises the question (that has been asked ever since NCLB was passed) if a student has been identified meeting the eligibility requirements for Special Education services, how difficult is it for them to achieve the required dramatic academic growth, needed to meet standardized grade level expectations from those students.  Whose formal evaluations have already shown them to be well below grade level?

This is the question that is being answered now, as the AYP standards are raised and Special Education student’s scores are not improving at a sufficient rate to meet the artificial standards, which is in turn “causing” schools to fail.

The public better get used to this kind of newspaper report on their local public school systems, no matter what kind socio-economic area,  it might be located in and be prepared for the consequences of what NCLB is doing to our educational system.  Which requires 100% of their students to meet the grade level proficiency on standardized tests by then by 2014 – a statistical impossibility that has been discussed ad nauseum since the law was passed and nothing has been done about it.  It almost seems like a certain part of our educational system or others want our public schools to be labelled as “failing”. If so that is a scary thought and what is their agenda.

However, these so-called failing public schools will not really be all that different than they were before or are today, when they were considered a successful school, it was  just that they couldn’t continue to meet the unrealistic requirements of NCLB.

Yet another example of how NCLB is educating our students, but what are they teaching them, that is the question?