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They made him take the test

Nobody stopped it.

Nobody in Florida with the power to do so stopped the state from forcing a 9-year-old boy named Michael, who was born with a brain stem but not a complete brain, from taking an alternative version of the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

He is blind and he can’t talk, nor can he understand basic information, but, yes, Michael had to “take” the test.

I wrote about Michael recently when it became news that he was going to have to take the test. For those who didn’t see that post, here’s some background: Michael, shortly after birth, came into the care of a woman named Judy Harris who owns and operates an Orlando care facility for children called the Russell House. The facility is under school board jurisdiction and, therefore, is subject to the same rules and regulations as other schools, including the requirement that every child must take some version of the FCAT.

A News 13 story reported that the state provided a teacher to work with Michael twice a week for an hour, but his ability to comprehend is beyond extremely limited. News 13 quoted Judy Harris as saying:

Michael loves music, he loves to hear, and he loves for you to talk to him and things like that, but as far as testing him, or questioning him on what is an apple and a peach, what is the difference? Michael wouldn’t know what that is.

Still, in Florida, tests must be taken, and state education officials determined that he had to take the Florida Alternative Assessment. The Education Department’s website says this about the exam:

All Florida students participate in the state’s assessment and accountability system. The Florida Alternate Assessment is designed for students whose participation in the general statewide assessment (FCAT, FCAT 2.0, and EOC) is not appropriate even with accommodations. The Florida Alternate Assessment measures student academic performance on the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Access Points (NGSSS-AP) in Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science at three levels of complexity; participatory, supported, and independent. Access Points are academic expectations written specifically for students with significant cognitive disabilities. As part of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, access points reflect the essence or core intent of the standards that apply to all students in the same grade, but at reduced levels of complexity. It is expected that only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are eligible under IDEA will participate in the Florida Alternate Assessment.


State Representative Linda Stewart of Orlando told me she didn’t think that a young boy who can’t tell the difference between an apple and a peach should be taking any test, and tried to get officials in the Education Department to step in to stop the charade of Michael taking a test.

She said nobody did. “Nobody wanted to take the responsibility of stopping it,” she said.

Rick Roach, an Orange County, Florida, school board member who was following Michael’s story, confirmed that Michael was in fact forced to take the test, meaning that a state employee sat down and read it to him, as if he could actually understand it.

If this doesn’t turn your stomach, I’m not sure what will.





Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · May 5, 2013

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