Bridges4Kids Logo

Home ] What's New ] Contact Us ] About Us ] Links ] Search ] Glossaries ] Contact Legislators ] Reviews ] Downloads ] Disabilities ] IDEA ] Special Education ] Medicaid/SSI ] Childcare/Respite ] Wraparound ] Insurance ] PAC/SEAC ] Ed Reform ] Literacy ] Community Schools ] Children At-Risk ] Section 504 ] School Climate/Bullying ] Parenting/Adoption ] Home Schooling ] Community Living ] Health & Safety ] Summer Camp ] Kids & Teens ] College/Financial Aid ] Non-Public & Other Schools ] Legal Research ] Court Cases ] Juvenile Justice ] Advocacy ] Child Protective Services ] Statistics ] Legislation ] Ask the Attorney ] Lead Poisoning ]
 Where to find help for a child in Michigan, Anywhere in the U.S., or Canada
Bridges4Kids is now on Facebook. Follow us today!
Last Updated: 02/01/2018

Article of Interest - Special Education

Printer-friendly Version

Bridges4Kids LogoSpecial Ed Dilemma
by Claudette Riley and Diane Long, The Tennessean, October 29, 2003
For more articles like this visit


Advocates say holding special ed kids to the same standards as everybody else is a step forward, but critics say it makes no sense.

It produces dumbfounded stares and sighs of frustration. Yes, special education students now have to take regular tests.

And the kicker? They are expected to do just as well as students without the same problems.

''It just seems to be fundamentally unfair to give children an impossible test to take,'' said U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Nashville. ''There's no way for them to succeed.''

Under No Child Left Behind, nearly all special education students have to take the same tests as others their age. And they are all expected to score on par with their peers by 2013-14. Only 1% are allowed to take alternative tests designed to measure the progress of students with little or no academic skills.

''It's not fair to have any child take this test on their grade level when everyone knows they don't perform on grade level,'' said Donna Parker, supervisor of special education for Wilson County. ''It's very frustrating for a lot of the students.''

Advocates of the law admit they are asking a lot but argue that if they don't require students to be tested, they won't know how they are doing.

They also contend that the bulk of the nation's 6.5 million special education students are capable of taking and passing achievement tests. In fact, they say, special education numbers are bloated by kids who don't really need to be there because they often just have a small learning problem that can be overcome.

''The reality is that for too long, we haven't expected enough and we've made too many excuses that these kids cannot learn,'' said Robert Pasternack, the U.S. Department of Education's assistant secretary for special education. ''Some people are saying 'Oooh, we don't want to include those kids in our measurement standards,' and that's nonsense. That's not fair to the kids. That's not fair to the parents. That's not fair to the people who are paying the bills.

''What's fair is to see our kids making progress,'' he said.

Some educators agree that raising expectations could pay off if it forces schools to improve the way they teach special education students, which could in turn produce more graduates who can hold down jobs, pay taxes, and pursue their interests.

But others worry that because schools are now evaluated on how well they educate different groups of students, those that miss benchmarks because of special education students will be resentful.

''We're already seeing it,'' said Holly Lu Conant Rees, a special education advocate and mother of a 20-year-old son with severe disabilities. ''Instead of No Child Left Behind, it kind of feels like 'Our child shoved aside.' ''

Feeling the pressure

Robert Wilson worries a little about dragging down his school's overall achievement scores, but mostly he just dreads tests altogether.

It's one of the times he doesn't feel like every other kid. He feels weird. Out of place. Abnormal.

''When I am still taking the test and I see people get up, it makes me want to finish up and hurry. It takes me a while to process anything,'' said Robert, 16, who has an attention-deficit disorder. ''I hear noises and I look. I feel worried that I'm not going to get all the answers right.''

A talented artist and golfer at Nashville School of the Arts, he wants to go to college and doesn't mind putting in the work. He comes home from school every night, plops down at the dining room table and does homework for four or five hours just to keep up.

But he says it's a waste if he can't pass the Gateway exit exam in algebra, which is necessary for graduation and one of the ways NCLB measures student progress in high school.

He got an A in the class but because he struggles to pass the test, he may never get a diploma.

''I feel really sad, really different and hurt because all the hard work got kicked to the curb,'' said Robert, who worries that he can't get into Savannah College of Art and Design without a diploma.

If students like Robert are struggling with tests, what's it like for students with more severe disabilities like mental retardation or autism?

Educators point out that students can only be in special education if they're lagging behind their peers and need some type of help that they can't necessarily get in a regular classroom.

''There are a significant number of children out there that truly have processing problems,'' said Joseph Fisher, assistant commissioner of special education for the state Department of Education. ''It's unfair for children with disabilities to have to meet the same standards as all children.''

One of the loudest complaints about the new law is that it seems to have a different philosophy from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the trailblazing federal law passed in 1975 that champions meeting the specific needs of each child.

''We've spent all these years believing that we need to address the individual needs of students, but that's been pushed aside somehow,'' said Wilson County's Parker, who is also president of the Tennessee Association of Special Education Administrators. ''There could be times when the child's needs would not correlate with the requirements of testing.''

State Education Commissioner Lana Seivers, a former speech pathologist and the mother of an adult son with severe disabilities, said she supports high but realistic goals.

''These kids need to be measured based on their own abilities, their own plan. It doesn't mean lower expectations,'' she said. ''Just because you have a label doesn't mean you can't take a test.''

But will schools be able to keep expectations high for all students and still help 100% of them graduate with a regular diploma? Find out tomorrow.


back to the top     ~     back to Breaking News     ~     back to What's New


Thank you for visiting

bridges4kids does not necessarily agree with the content or subject matter of all articles nor do we endorse any specific argument.  Direct any comments on articles to


2002-2018 Bridges4Kids