Alaska exit exam suit
- To: <"Undisclosed-Recipient:;"@interversity.net>
- Subject: Alaska exit exam suit
- From: "Susan Allison" <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 09:36:35 -0500
Here's where all our Thornton money will be going -- lawsuits over the MD High School Assessments. Let's spend our money in the classroom - not in the courtroom! Let's keep high stakes exit exams out of Maryland. Support HB 762 - a hearing on this bill is scheduled for this Thursday, March 18 - 1 PM - House Ways & Means committee.
Sue Allison, Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing -- www.geocities.com/stophsa
March 17, 2004
Disabled Alaska Students Sue Over Exam
By TAMAR LEWIN
isabled children and their parents filed a federal class-action lawsuit yesterday against the Alaska Board of Education, the latest in a string of challenges to laws of various states requiring students to pass an exit exam to earn a high school diploma.
The suit charges that Alaska's exit exam discriminates against students with disabilities, making a diploma hard - or impossible - for them to obtain. The complaint said the state had created widespread confusion by repeatedly changing its regulations for disabled students and what testing modifications they can receive.
Under the current rules, the lawsuit argues, more than two-thirds of the state's disabled high school seniors will not graduate in June.
Harry Gamble, a spokesman for Alaska education officials, said they had not yet seen the complaint.
"We're obviously very concerned any time the state board is implicated in not serving children well," Mr. Gamble said. "We need an opportunity to review the suit and take a look at our laws governing the exam."
Mr. Gamble added that Alaska had already postponed the requirement for two years, making this June the first time it will be in effect.
Under federal law, students with disabilities have a right to accommodations on school tests. Students with learning disabilities may be allowed to use a spell-checker or a calculator, for example, while a blind child may have the test questions read aloud.
The lawsuit, however, charges that Alaska is not allowing students that same range of accommodations on its exit exam. If a student uses a grammar-checker or has the questions read aloud, for example, state regulations require the results to be invalidated.
The suit charges that many disabled students have already dropped out in discouragement.
A movement toward high school exit exams has swept the nation in recent years, with almost half the states now requiring, or soon to require, passage of a standardized test as a condition of graduation. One legal group handling the Alaska case, Disability Rights Advocates, of Oakland, Calif., has successfully challenged proposed exit exams in California and Oregon.
In Alaska, the exam has three parts: reading, writing and mathematics. Students start taking the test in 10th grade, and twice a year thereafter can retake any part they do not pass. This June, for the first time, students cannot graduate without passing all three parts.
Many parents and advocacy groups say such requirements illegally discriminate against special education students, immigrants and minorities, who have disproportionately low passing rates for the exams.
"For the class of 2004, 20 states will require graduates to pass an exit test, and four more are adding them," said Keith Gayler, associate director of the Center on Education Policy. "But in a lot of states, they get right up to where they're going to withhold diplomas and they back down a bit.
"They take out the more difficult sections, readjust the standards, allow waivers, let SAT scores count or put off the consequences. It's politically very difficult to have, say, 20 percent of your kids not getting diplomas."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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