With George W. Bush out of office, his signature education act--No Child Left Behind--almost seems like a thing of the past. But the act still requires teachers to test even special education students every year, and a court ruling last week reiterated the consequences of not doing so.
The teachers said that parents had told them that they did not want their children tested, and parents do have a right to opt their kids out. But the parents hadn't pressed that right in writing, as required.
Meanwhile, Griffith and Quarto indicated what they thought of the federal testing mandate. They called the test "ridiculous" and "not authentic or relevant for our student population." Quarto, in a note to a state administrator, said she considered herself to be the "voice that [her] students do not have."
Griffith and Quarto are not alone. Teachers and parents have complained for years about the requirement to test children with special needs--and to judge schools in part on those scores.
The law is intended to make sure these kids, too, aren't getting shoved into some educational holding cell. But as one parent told Associated Press some years back, such testing seems to be wildly inappropriate for some kids. "She just has to stare at this piece of paper," said the mom of a girl with spina bifida and associated learning problems. "She'll tell you she feels stupid. She feels absolutely stupid."
Still, special ed students don't necessarily have to take the same test as does everybody else. If their "individualized education program" calls for it, they can instead submit a portfolio of work, says Nathan Olson of the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
When Griffith and Quarto failed to submit even portfolios for their students, they were suspended for 10 days without pay. According to the state Court of Appeals ruling, such is the right of the school district.
It's worth noting, however, that that the parents of the untested students later submitted their objections to testing in writing.
The inherent problems with testing a disabled population is just one more reason why Congress should stop dickering and overhaul the well-intentioned but flawed act.