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Last Updated: 04/12/2018

 Article of Interest - High Stakes Testing

A Hurdle Too High

by Noah Gopin, Boston Globe, August 4, 2002


I am not your average kid with a learning disability. I am a unique kid with a different style of learning. I did not choose to have this learning disability. It chose me. Because I am stuck with this, I am not going to let this problem get in the way of my success.

It is a fact that many of the geniuses, politicians, artists, and inventors throughout history have had learning disabilities. I know that one day I may be famous for an invention that will show the world that my learning disabilities did not get in the way of anything.

I may have a learning disability, but ... let me tell you that two years ago in the eighth grade, I took it upon myself to be the co-chair of the fund-raising committee for the graduation yearbook. This meant that I had to solicit, call, and collect ads from neighborhood businesses. My goal was to raise enough money so each yearbook could be free for every student for the first time in the school's history. Although I struggled with the writing and reading, I still managed. I am proud to say that I exceeded my goal.

I may have a learning disability, but ... in June 2000 I was chosen as one of the three graduation speakers from the eighth grade. Not because I had the highest grades, but because my essay was selected for the message of the many ways in which I learned to be a success during elementary school, despite many obstacles.

I may have a learning disability, but ... that didn't stop me from becoming the highest raffle ticket seller for the Driscoll School PTA two years in a row. In total, I sold more than $700 worth of tickets by standing day after day outside various grocery stores and becoming Mr. Super-Salesman.

I may have a learning disability, but ... in June 2000 I was awarded a community service award from the town of Brookline for my volunteer work at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and a local nursing home. I got great pleasure from these activities while knowing that my efforts were important to other people and animals.

I may have a learning disability, but ... at Brookline High School I make the honor roll most semesters. My teachers often say that I give 110 percent. This is because I have to. All of these accomplishments give me great feelings of pride and success, but they do not happen easily. I am fortunate that my teachers offer assistance after school, my parents help, and my tutor meets me two times each week. Often, I have to work harder and longer than most kids just to understand an idea or the reading assignment. I have gone to summer school twice just to keep up with math and reading so I don't lose or forget some skills. I also meet every summer with a private tutor when most kids are on vacation.

The MCAS is an explosive and nerve-racking topic for all high school kids. For me it is a big headache full of worry. There is much on the line, and I don't know what else I can do about it.

Some of the recommendations for kids that don't pass are:

Summer school. Well, I've been there and done that.

After school study help. Been there and done that.

Help before school. Also, been there and done that.

Private tutors. Been there and done that, too.

Do I deserve just a certificate of completion after all my hard work? I may have a learning disability, but in the long run, I am proud of my accomplishments and feel that I am a success regardless of what the MCAS test shows. I am more than a number.

My comments might appear to be articulate and well-written, but note that within the perfection of this paper there were many revisions and just a few editorial suggestions. Someone might say ''Won't this student be able to pass the MCAS?''

Since the beginning of the year, my teacher has taken on the extra responsibility of putting together an alternative MCAS portfolio. But what good are my chances if last year only 1 student out of about 700 passed the alternative MCAS? This outrageous statistic left me no choice but to consider taking the standard MCAS.

I am not proud to report that test-taking is my weakness. When I take a test, I unfortunately need extra time. I request this because reading questions once does not explain everything. I must go back and reread; going back takes time, effort, and energy - seconds and minutes for each item.

For learning-disabled students, taking standardized tests can feel quite overwhelming. I am not saying that this is a valid reason for failing a test, like the MCAS; I am saying that there is an extra challenge when you don't understand what is being asked.

On the first day of the MCAS, which just happened to be the Long Composition English Section, I felt physically sick due to stress. In my case, this led to an awful migraine headache.

I have come to the conclusion that many students with learning disabilities, including myself, have not stepped up to the plate until now. It is time for us to say that we deserve to be tested in a fair and appropriate way so we can get on with our lives after high school - with dignity and with a diploma. The outcome of my whole high school experience should not be based upon the results on one test, the MCAS.

Noah Gopin, 16, is going into the 11th grade at Brookline High. He took the alternative and regular MCAS 2002 tests.

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