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
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.