William Raspberry's May 31 op-ed column, "The Low Road to Better Test Scores," describes actions by public school districts to exclude from test results those populations likely to do poorly.
In Montgomery County, the 1998 public schools' Criterion Reference Test results for mathematics excluded scores for 50.3 percent of the 7,030 special education students who took the test. In reading, 48.6 percent of special education scores were excluded. While one can argue the validity of excluding the more severely disabled, the schools excluded the scores for more than 405 students with minor disabilities. Those with the most severe disabilities don't take these tests at all. Such data suggest that the Montgomery County school system is cherry-picking its way to improved test scores.
The participation of special-education students and their scores are not published in the annual Success for Every Student Plan. These things were not reported until after the Board of Education had already reviewed test scores and held its annual meeting on performance indicators.
The Montgomery County Public Schools officially report these exclusions under the demeaning student classification, "no fault." It appears that this self-described "world class" public school system outrightly rejects accountability for one out of every 14 students who attend.
William Raspberry's Memorial Day swat at learning-disabled test-takers and the extra time they are granted was off course. The most recent issue of Perspectives on Dyslexia, a newsletter of the International Dyslexia Association, cites scientifically gathered evidence indicating that, given extra time, learning disabled students will raise their grades substantially, but that other students do not.
Thus, the extra time levels the playing field. Of course, some learning disabled students, because of the severity and extent of their problems, will be unable to use time to their profit; submitting them to sacrifice for statistical purposes seems cruel. It discourages their efforts and frustrates the individuals who care most deeply about them -- their parents and their teachers.
WILLA K. LAWALL