In an incredibly frustrating move this past week, the Maryland State Board of Education rejected the possibility of opting out of standardized PARCC testing for Maryland students. Including special education students.
Now, the Yokels have made no secret that we don’t think Cindy Rose’s candidacy is anything special in itself. Over testing of students and onerous curriculum restrictions that impede teachers’ efficacy in their classrooms are concerns shared by absolutely all of the school board candidates running for election in 2016, even if Rose is much angrier and more aggressive in the tone she takes. This issue simply does not make her special enough to stand out from the pack –at least not in any positive light.
That said, just as we criticized her willingness to paint the special education students with a broad brush that could prevent their achievement, this criticism is equally true of the state board’s position. There appears to be absolutely no reason for it, according to the FNP’s editorial from April 30, 2016.
But looking at the statistics of students aged 6 to 21 served under IDEA, it appears unlikely that offering the opt-out option to the parents of severely mentally impaired students would threaten federal funding. According to the Maryland Board of Education’s own Fact Book for 2013-2014, which contains enrollment statistics, 102,578 students were in special education out of a total population of 866,169. Of those, 30,876 were classified with specific learning disabilities — about 3.6 percent of the total school population; 8,095 were classified as having developmental delays. While the fact book doesn’t outline specific details of how many severely mentally disabled students are served statewide, it’s hard to imagine they comprise more than a fraction of that 3.6 percent, and that not testing them would come close to violating that federally required 95 percent.
Special education and IEPs (individualized education programs) are antithetical to standardization. Individualized is not standardized. They are opposites. Why on Earth would you take a child receiving highly individualized services, and then try to make them function in a standardized situation? It defies reason. Wasting the time it takes to administer tests simply so they can check the “done” box when you are working with a student whose learning objectives have nothing whatsoever to do with the test is the very definition of absurdity.
We do wish that Mrs. Rose would take up her issue with the Maryland State Board of Education. They appear to need someone to come along and rattle their cage, and she seems like just the lady for a bull-in-the-china-shop sort of task. Maybe she can teach them a thing or two about the meanings of words (but lets keep the four letter ones she likes so much out of it). If she comes back to town with some educational experience to put on her resume, that might have a great outcome for everyone invested in Frederick County Public Schools.