Education Week reports that Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, (PARCC), of which Kentucky is a partner, is running into significant controversy about how its pending nationwide Common Core State Standards assessments will deal with students who have learning disabilities.
The fight has already played out on Kentucky’s own state assessments, including the new K-PREP reading assessments, since the early days of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA). And, the state has produced thousands of illiterate or nearly illiterate adults as a consequence.
The issue: lots of learning disabled student teachers want to be able to read the reading assessment to many of these students.
Sadly, that action destroys the ability of the public and state leaders to know how many students are being carried through the public school system as illiterates.
Kentucky already made a bad decision on this. Under KERA it has been permissible since the beginning of reform testing in 1992 to create education plans for learning disabled students that stipulate all tests, including reading tests, will be read to the student. That led to what many consider a significant abuse of this accommodation, with abnormally high percentages of Kentucky’s students getting the reading accommodation on reading tests.
According to data presented to the Kentucky Board of Education in December 2011, the state’s reading tests are read to around 45 percent of the students with disabilities in all grades from fourth to eighth grade. That same presentation noted this is way above averages for reading accommodation use elsewhere.
Of course, if schools can simply read all tests to a student, this destroys any motivation and accountability in those schools to continue to try to teach reading to those students. Those kids wind up leaving school as near to total illiterates. And, too many undoubtedly walk right into jail as a consequence.
PARCC now wrestles with the question: to read, or not to read. While it appears PARCC wants to impose very strict limits on the use of the reading accommodation, the EdWeek article reports some teacher groups are pushing back. So, at this point, there is no guarantee the Kentucky reading malaise won’t be forced down the throats of more enlightened educators across much of the rest of the nation.
On the other hand, if PARCC does uphold very strict restrictions on the reading accommodation for its reading assessments, would that lead to Kentucky dropping out of PARCC?
After all, Kentucky already has Common Core State Standards aligned reading tests. Of course, we read them to far too many of our learning disabled students.