Special-needs student may be barred from graduating because of two points on standardized test


Unless the Rhode Island House of Representatives goes along with a Senate-approved moratorium on the use of a standardized test as a requirement for high school graduation, Molly Coffey won’t be able to get a diploma. On that critical test, the 18-year-old, who has a form of Down syndrome,  missed the graduation cutoff by two points, and it simply isn’t enough that she passed all of her classes,  completed her senior project and plays in three sports and participates in the Special Olympics.

The Providence Journal reported about Molly in this story, which explains that the Senate in May passed a three-year moratorium on the use of the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (or NECAP, pronounced kneecap) as a graduation requirement. The vote was 29-5, and was passed after the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Adam J. Satchell persuaded his colleagues that the “implementation of high-stakes testing was too hasty” and that a slow-down was necessary.

House Speaker  Nicholas Mattiello has said for some time that he opposed the moratorium, but now he may have changed his mind. When I called his office in mid-afternoon, his spokesman, Larry Berman, said to “stay tuned” because the speaker might, in fact, bring the moratorium up for a vote after all. Late yesterday, the Providence Journal ran this story saying that Mattiello may have changed his mind after learning about Molly.

Molly’s mother, Terry Coffey, told me in an e-mail that her request for a waiver from the test for Mary was not approved, and the family was “devastated” by the denial letter but will continue to fight, even if it goes all the “way to the Supreme Court.”

This is one in a number of ugly stories in various states about students with special needs being forced to take standardized tests that are not designed for them and that are not a real measure of how much they have accomplished.

Let’s see what the Rhode Island House does before it adjourns.




Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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