Special Education/Standardized Testing

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Question
My son has a diagnosis of autism and attends highschool in a self-contained classroom with three teachers and several aids.  We were recently notified that about half of the students at the school will be participating in standardized testing on April 19 (PARCC).  Since my son will not take the tests, the day is a "non-attendance" day for him.  I should mention that the same instruction is being made to the students without disabilities who will not be taking PARCC.  

My question, is this a violation of FAPE?  Why should my son lose a whole day of instruction just because other students are testing?  He doesn't do well when his school routines are changed, not to mention that my husband and I both work, and neither of our other two kids has the day off.  How can they justify doing this?

I realize that I will probably lose this fight, but I would really like to call the school to task on this.  We have my son's IEP the day before on April 18th, so I will have a full audience.

Many thanks for any help you can provide.

Answer
If the only reason that your son isn't taking the PARCC test is a result of his disability, which I am assuming that it is, then his right to a Free Appropriate Public Education is being denied.  However, if there are some non-disabled students not taking the test for other reasons, that it gets muddy because the tests are statewide intended to satisfy the regulations of another federal law, and in this case they are bumping against each other, thus I suspect a hearing and a court fight would not end in your favor.

There is also the Koenig case, which states that upon the tenth day of being denied school, a student is considered to have a "program change."  Which requires the approval of the IEP Team.  This case is related to discipline, which this is not, but other cases have used it.  The kicker here is that the school can discipline for 9 days, either cumulative for that school year or consecutively, but on that 10th day then the IEP team decides if the suspension, expulsion or other denial of school is a result of the disability, if it is then the child returns to school.  I doubt this is the 10th day of exclusion, so based on this part of the law, the school has 8 more days to work with.  

Technically, however, I think your son is being denied FAPE.  Realistically, you would need to get to a pretty high level of court, at least appeals before the ruling would get that fine.  I suspect at a lower court level they would not want to open this can of worms for future similar cases.  You might want to call your State Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services and ask them what they think.  The law itself is a bit inconsistent in this area, especially when you look at the discipline clauses, so I think it is really splitting hairs.  

I also think it is much better for your son to NOT take the PARCC Test.  It would be very frustrating to him, as I believe it is for most students.  Therefore, I would be grateful that my son doesn't have to take it and find a situation where he can be cared for and still experience learning.  

One more thought, however.  I wonder if every student who doesn't get a day of school because they aren't part of the test, disabled or not, are being denied their right to a Free Appropriate Public Education.  That right is every student's, not just disabled students!  Hum!!!

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Dr. Norm Bishop

Expertise

I have spent nealy 40 years in the area of Special Education. I have had the pleasure of teaching pre-school, elementary, middle, high school and college levels, as well as, served in school district administration buildings in classroom/legal support positions. I have also spent some time working in a State Department of Education Exceptional Student Services Office and am now currently Division Head and Director of Institutional Research at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. I also teach special education classes on campus. I have also taught full time teacher preparation at Northern Arizona University on the Tucson Campus, Seattle Pacific University, and at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. In addition to that I have taught adjunct at Seattle Pacific University, City University in Seattle, Ashford University, and Grand Canyon University.

Experience

I have experienced directly special education legal issues, process and procedure, and have taught at all levels in every special education category except gifted. My major expertise is diagnostic prescriptive teaching, literacy as it relates to disabilities, technology in special education, and Educational Leadership. My greatest passion in the field is building new programs, implementing and doing the research to see how they work. My Dissertation and principle research interest is in the area of inclusive education, primarily co-teaching of students with disabilities in the general education classroom.

Organizations
Council for Exceptional Children, Association for the Supervision of Curriculum, National Reading Council.

Publications
Teaching Exceptional Children, Published computer assisted instruction, titled PAL, Special Education Basics, college Textbook, Teaching with Precision, college Textbook, Various devotionals at the website, Preachitteachit.com.

Education/Credentials
I have a B.A. in Secondary Education, a Masters in Special Education (cross categorical), administrative certification, and a second B.A. in Elementary Education. I completed my doctorate in Educational Leadership at Northern Arizona University.

Awards and Honors
Best Summer Program in the Nation (Honorable Mention, when I was Teaching) Multiple local awards

Past/Present Clients
-Confidential-

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