Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stupid on top of stupid

Remember the old movie, Dumb and Dumber?  I think the US Department of Education wants to bring it back.  First a bit of background.  In 2002 Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the "Wishful Thinking" act. Oh wait!  It was called the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act.  Among other magical thinking components was the idea that all children would be on grade level by 2014- get it no child left behind.  Of course, anyone with any sense knew that would never happen because- well because kids are different from each other and have differing abilities.  To prove that all children would be at grade level NCLB required that kids be tested each year to measure their progress- or not.  This great idea became known as the "Standards Movement".  Who could be opposed to higher standards right?

Well before too long it became obvious that some kids were not going to be at grade level this year or ever.   That did not stop us from putting those kids through the rigors of a testing program that essentially showed them how far behind their age mates they were and battered their self-concepts further into the dust.  So the Department of Ed in an act of mercy, decreed that 2% of the children taking the test could be tested on grade modified standards.  This meant that states could create alternative tests for children with very limited abilities.  Of course, those modified tests still needed to assess grade level content even though that content had no relevance to their lives.   Ok, that was the first "stupid".   So if kids couldn't read Anne Frank, they were given a version of Anne Frank rewritten on a 2nd or 3rd grade level.   Never mind that once you do this the book is no longer Anne Frank.  And never mind that for a child who is still struggling with recognizing coins or community safety words, time should not be spent on Anne Frank at all.  But the US Department of Education thought it was helping and many states developed alternative tests.

Now comes the second "stupid" on top of the first.  The US Department of Education is removing the policy that allowed states to consider some students with disabilities academically proficient without meeting grade level standards.  "We believe that the removal of the authority for states to define modified academic achievement standards and to administer assessments based on those standards is necessary to ensure that students with disabilities are held to the same high standards as their non-disabled peers," the agency said in making the rule change that will take place on September 21.

Have these people not learned that achievement by decree does not work?!  Next perhaps the Department of Agriculture will make a rule that squirrels will give milk and cows will climb trees.  Children with severe disabilities are not choosing to be that way.  Their disabilities are not the result of poor teaching or lower expectations.  They are considerably disabled.  They need to be taught the skills for independent living, holding some type of job, using money, reading for safety.  The current Common Core curriculum was not handed down on tablets from Mt. Sinai.  When will we stop piling stupid on top of stupid and teach and assess kids according to their differing abilities and needs.

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