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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 12, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Helping students with learning disabilities graduate

No high-stakes testing

Michele Lehosky watches as her son Kyle checks out his reflection in the mirror in their Gig Harbor home after trying on his graduation gown. Kyle was born with Down Syndrome. [Ellen M. Banner, The Seattle Times.]

Michele Lehosky watches as her son Kyle checks out his reflection in the mirror in their Gig Harbor home after trying on his graduation gown. Kyle was born with Down Syndrome.
[Ellen M. Banner, The Seattle Times.]

To qualify for a high-school diploma in Washington, students must pass the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE).

If a student has a learning disability and fails to pass the HSPE, they may take an easier version known as the Developmentally Appropriate Proficiency Exam (DAPE). In my experience, most students with verified learning disabilities also fail the DAPE; such is the nature and definition of their disability.

The final option is the Washington Alternate Assessment System (WAAS) Portfolio. This is an individualized and very subjective assessment created by the teacher to match the student’s abilities.

In a nutshell, we keep giving easier and easier tests until we find something that the student can pass. How does this time-consuming and expensive process really help these students?

Florida has recently passed a law that allows parents to request an exemption from state testing for students with severe disabilities. This makes sense.

Washington Administrative Code 180-51-115 already allows exemptions from any state requirement that “impedes the student’s progress toward graduation and there is a direct relationship between the failure to meet the requirement and the student’s limitation.”

An academic test that can easily become an obstacle to graduation seems to meet these criteria. I say, no high-stakes testing for students with learning disabilities, period.

Jim Strickland, teacher, Marysville Pilchuck High School, Marysville

Comments | More in Education | Topics: assessment, high school, learning disabilities

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