It’s been way too long in coming, but it looks like the right thing is finally going to be done. The Kentucky Board of Education adopted new testing rules today that no longer allow reading tests to be read to students with learning disabilities. With this action, the board sends a solid message to teachers that we really want them to at least try to teach learning-challenged children to read.
There are a number of good reasons for the change, which is now part of Kentucky Administrative Regulation 703 KAR 5:070, Inclusion of Special Populations in the State-Required Assessment and Accountability Programs.
Without doubt, the most important reason is the potential benefit to students.
Since KERA began, Kentucky’s schools have been allowed to create Individual Education Plans (IEP) for learning disabled students that stipulated every test had to be read to those students. This policy removed all pressure on the schools to at least attempt to teach these special kids to read.
Referring to the desire to educate learning disabled students as independent readers, Associate Commissioner Ken Draut explained today that with the old testing policy, “There is actually a negative incentive from an instructional standpoint to have an independent reader.” He continued, “Our system really incentivized not getting an independent reader because then you may keep a(n adult) reader with that student and score higher on the tests.”
With the old system the schools generated good looking test scores that made students and parents feel happy, but the students eventually wound up as adults who could not read. In this economy, that is a recipe for a very sad life, one that might be largely spent within our penal system.
Kentucky’s former reading policy had other unfortunate consequences, as well. As I pointed out many times before (here, here, here, here, and here, just for a few examples), this policy has been a major factor in Kentucky’s nation-leading rate of exclusion of learning disabled students from the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests. In consequence, as pointed out again today by Associate Commissioner Ken Draut, many think Kentucky’s NAEP reading scores are inflated to the point where it is doubtful they can be validly compared to scores from other states.
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday also pointed out today that lack of comparability of our NAEP reading scores could create an important legal issue for his department. This is because Senate Bill 1 from the 2009 Regular Legislative Session requires test results to compare Kentucky to other states. We need NAEP to do that, so if Kentucky’s NAEP scores are not comparable to other states, it could be considered a direct violation of Kentucky law.
So, the Kentucky Board of Education may have acted just in time.
In any event, this is a great day for many of the state’s learning disabled students. Now someone may finally start to make a serious effort to try and teach them to read.