Friday, February 21, 2014

What Testing is Doing to Special Needs Students: An NYC Teacher's Lament

I teach high school economics. Due to our absurd scheduling policy anyone can end up in this class, anyone from freshmen to seniors. Before I begin to tell the plight of my students it would be pertinent to mention that I am dual certified in social studies and special education, and I'm finally teaching what I am certified to teach. Out of all my IEPs a whopping 60% are out of compliance, and this is AFTER the blitz we had recently to make sure everything was up to code. Instead of telling you sweeping statistics I want to tell you about one of my students "J". J is a sweetheart more than anything. He has an IQ of 50, has a difficult time remembering who rode the bus with him that morning, and is registered for 5 regents level classes. FIVE. Five classes in which he is completely wasting his opportunity to learn life skills which he will desperately need in his lifetime. Five classes in which he feels like he is disappointing his teachers because he doesn't pass the regents tests given in actual exams. Five classes where he gets physically upset because he is expected to independently write a regents level essay. Let's keep in mind that when he fails the regents he takes the same classes the next year. Let's also keep in mind that he has so much extended time to take the tests that the teachers are scheduled to stay until 8pm. And then let's realize that this is child abuse. To demand from a child what they physically cannot do is abuse of the highest form. These students want to make their parents and teachers happy. They want to do well but are not given the opportunity because they are forced to do work way beyond their level. Please keep J in your heart. Especially around regents time (January, June and August). And please keep his teachers in mind. They are contractually obligated to read this exam to them countless times and not explain a thing. The only thing I can do is not in my contract... To give them a hug when they're so defeated they finally crack mid test.