Friday, March 6, 2009

Seattle special-ed teachers suspended for refusal to give test

Wow, just wow! How ridiculous is that? Sheesh...

From the Seattle Times:

The Seattle School District suspends two special-education teachers at Green Lake Elementary for 10 days without pay for refusing to give their students the WAAS (the WASL alternative for special-needs students). The teachers say they're honoring parent wishes and that the test is inappropriate for their students, who have severe physical and cognitive disabilities.

"With any students, but particularly those with special needs, and especially in instances when we have a federal and a state mandate to follow, documentation is essential," Seattle Schools spokeswoman Patti Spencer said.

Stahl and Griffith are teaching partners at Green Lake, with a class of 11 special-education students. Many are far below their various classifications as kindergarten through fifth-grade level. Some are prone to seizures or have respiratory issues.

McKean's son Jackson, 10, has hydrocephalus and uses a wheelchair. In four-plus years at Green Lake, he has learned to feed himself, hang up his jacket and not to scream when he hears loud noises. "My kid is basically the equivalent of a toddler," McKean said. "You wouldn't ask a toddler these questions when they can't do it. ... You wouldn't give a kid a test that is years beyond what they can do."

According to Nate Olson of the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the WAAS can be tailored to students' individual needs, but parents and teachers dispute that. Because the test is grade-level-based, they say, it's inappropriate for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

"It's really not a one-size-fits-all for kids," Stahl said. "It doesn't mean we don't have high expectations; we do. They're just not there yet."

She and Griffith first raised concerns about the test last fall, Stahl said, after parents told them they didn't want their children taking the exam. The two teachers wrote the district asking to work together to create a more appropriate test for their children, but received no response, she said.

Many of the children had taken the test the previous year, Stahl noted, and all received zeros. "They're automatically being set up for failure," she said.

When McKean's son was given the exam last year, she said, he just sat there. "He doesn't read or write," McKean said. "... He's just learning how to draw straight lines. But doing a two-plus-two math problem, he doesn't really understand."

When Principal Cheryl Grinager directed the teachers to complete the required exam preparation, they refused — again, Stahl said, in deference to parental wishes.


Torina said...

Man, I can totally relate. We moved to have Tara take the alternative test last year because she cannot do the regular one and it totally freaks her out. She is developmentally SIX and they want to give her a seventh grade test with geometry and algebra. She doesn't even know how to subtract. So the alternative test is just as bad and she ends up totally bombing it all and freaking out the entire week she has to do the tests. I hate it. Those two teachers in your article are my heros.

Shea's Mom said...

I am pretty sure that a parent does have the right to opt out of the test. The schools don't like to do because they get a zero and they may not make it open knowledge that you can.

This kind of thing just burns my bacon. As if the Special Ed teachers don't already have a really hard job, let's make the jump through all sorts of asinine hoops too!

Ok, done ranting...for now.

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