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May 3, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Joey Furlong, student asked to take a test in hospital, a symbol of testing debate

News that a fourth-grader in the hospital for severe epilepsy was asked to take a standardized test has angered parents and galvanized the anti-standardized testing crowd. As reported in The Washington Post , Joey Furlong was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an electroencephalography machine and being screened for possible brain surgery when a teacher walked in carrying New York State standardized test materials. Joey was asked to take the test.

There are two immediate problems, neither of which is the test:

1) Security:  The parents were not expecting the teacher, yet the teacher was able to get to the boy’s bedside. If the parents left the room to eat, sleep or otherwise carry on with life, whose responsibility was it to protect the child from visiting strangers?

2) Miscommunication: According to the story, the parents had made arrangements with the Bethlehem School District to have their son make up the test. Why wasn’t that information relayed to the teacher?

And where do the privacy rules embedded in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act fit? Could that be why the teacher did not know how sick the student was?

And the plot thickens. This MSN News report says the boy’s school district claims it neither sent the teacher nor shared any information about the boy’s absence with the New York State Education Department or Cohen Children’s Medical Center, the latter which has teachers on staff. Parents deserve to know exactly who the adults are standing over their child’s bedside. Particularly when the child is incapacitated.

Let’s point all of our righteous ire in the right direction. The test is a measuring tool, an inanimate object incapable of demanding anything of a hospitalized boy. The ham-fisted way standardized tests are sometimes administered is a real problem. So let’s find the real people behind the problem.

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